Cultural roots carted around with no place to go
The battered old suitcase is not leather, but of solid enough material, with metal corners and a handle that still holds its weight and contents, which are more than clothing and less than groceries.
It is a case that has no place, so it is routinely stored in remote regions of the many houses I have lived in, only just out of reach of damp and vermin.
It contains my long dead maternal grandfather’s papers; the detritus not merely of a man, but an age of still powerful, even if declining Empire, with enough time left in it to claim his whole career, just.
It is hard to open this case, for the old man I knew was not a pleasant character; bitter, marginalized and a maliciously spiteful bully of my long suffering mother, who put up with him after her sister threw him out.
It is a hard to open this case because it holds a life much of whose point was lost when the serried ranks of global bureaucrats, businessmen, missionaries and armed servicemen were driven back to their little islands in the North Sea, not long after the last World War
It is a hard to open this case because there is at least a year’s work just to read the meticulous, spidery, yet often indecipherable script, on subjects as diverse as his accounts, letters to his family, reports to government instrumentalities, business agreements and finally, his querulous claims for government compensation, for property expropriated by the Egyptians after Suez.
It is a hard case, open or shut, as it reproaches me every time I heave it from one place to another. It indignantly demands that I do my duty; that I owe it to my immediate family, to my descendants and to the world to sort and analyze its contents, and put the acts that it records into some sort of context, which will in some measure, tell those who follow me where they come from.
Here, in this case is a piece of history waiting to be told and I like to pretend to myself that I am some sort of historian. Liar! Time Thief! History Denier!