Unexplained Memories

This entry is prompt #10 of The Book of Me, Written by You project.

This week’s (Week 10) prompt is Unexplained Memories


Do you have an unexplained memory or memories?





Things and times you can remember, but you are not sure where they fit into your past

I have been mulling this one over all weekend and genuinely haven’t come up with any unexplained memories to write about. My memory is shockingly bad anyway, but I do have lots of glimpses of things from my past – odd flashes of images, scenes, smells, sounds – but nothing that I can’t explain or that doesn’t fit into what I know of my family story.

However, I was talking about this with my mum and she came up with her own unexplained memory so I thought I’d mention that – and perhaps if any family members ever read this they might be able to solve the mystery for her!

Mum has a very strong memory of being a young child and either being in a room, or walking into a room, where a very old lady was sitting up in bed, wrapped in a black shawl. She didn’t think much about it at the time but has since wondered who it was. Mum thinks it was probably one of her her great grandmothers  but when she asked her mother about it she was told that there was never a time when she would have seen anyone matching that description ….. so it’s a real mystery!

(Update: Following me adding this post Mum had a long chat with her cousin Michelle, who is a few years older than her. Michelle said that their grandma’s mother (GG Turner)came to Halifax on occasions and stayed with their Grandma and Grandad at the baker’s shop.  Michelle remembers an occasion when she and my mum were at the bottom of the stairs – Mum was about 2, she thinks, – and their great grandmother appeared at the top of the stairs, a very stern looking old lady dressed in a black dress with a high collar.  So Mum feels it is likely that she was taken into a room where she was at some time as well.)

While I’m writing I want to add a couple of stories my dad told me about his grandparents. I’v never really spoken to Dad much about family but we had a long chat yesterday and I found out all sorts of things, including these two stories, which I know don’t fit into the topic at all but I wanted to record them somewhere! So here goes …

My dad’s grandmother (his father’s mother) was a professional cook and till the day she died she swore blind that she had cooked for the Sultan of Zanzibar. In fact the “Sultan” was actually a Cambridge undergraduate and member of the Bloomsbury Set, Horace De Vere Cole, who set up an elaborate hoax. The real Sultan of Zanzibar was visiting the UK at the time, and a telegram arrived with the Mayor of Cambridge saying the Sultan would be visiting Cambridge the following day and could arrangements be made to welcome him. On the day the Mayor and a group of dignitaries greeted the swarthy-looking “Sultan” and his entourage from the train, showed them round parts of the city and university and offered them refreshments, cooked by my great grandmother. All seemed fine until a couple of days later when one of the people who had met the “Sultan” read in the papers that he was actually in another part of the country that day. In fact, the person he had met was Horace Cole and his friends, blacked up and wearing turbans and robes! Cole sold the story of his hoax to the Daily Mail but despite it being national news, apparently my grandmother refused to believe it and remained convinced for the rest of her life she had cooked for the real Sultan of Zanzibar!

My dad also tells stories of a couple of occasions when he was sent to stay with his grandmother because of illness in the family. The first time she took him to the cinema to see Pinocchio. it was the first time he had ever been to the cinema and while they waited for the film to start he was fascinated by the Art Deco mouldings round the ventilation shafts – he thought they were there to see something dramatic and the shafts were involved. He was quite disappointed when a curtain opened and revealed a flat screen …. not nearly as exciting as he expected. However, he watched the film, and his grandmother fell asleep as soon as it started, snored all the way through it and then declared it “very good” when she woke up at the end.

Another time he was staying with her she promised him a day out to see “sailor work and a wreck”. At least, that’s how he heard it. He was really excited about seeing ships and treasure and shipwrecks …. in fact what they went to was a “sale of work” (crafts, mainly) and the rec … the local recreation ground. Apparently he was very disappointed!


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