Saturday, 11 February 2012

What if?

Things came to light this week within my family that have made me think what if and that’s always a good question for a writer.

What if HMS Rye hadn’t run out of smoke canisters whilst escorting a convoy in the Med in 1943? Well I wouldn’t be here and neither would my children and grandchildren.

What if my mum hadn’t persuaded me to go to a works dance with her in 1973 and I’d gone to the disco I’d been planning to go to with my mates instead? Could I have ended up married to someone else?

Life is full of what ifs and when you really start to think about it, it snowballs and you just end up thinking of more and more.

What ifs can get you started on a story.

What if all the people in this photograph were still alive? Well it would be a miracle – my grandad, his younger brother Willie and older sister Olive would all be well over 110 years old.

What if my great aunt and her daughter hadn’t rented a flat in that house when they were over here on holiday (they lived in Sydney)? That very glamorous looking blonde lady (I remember vividly how in awe I was of her) owned the house and I’m pretty sure that after their conversations with Aunt Olive they made the decision to emigrate and went to live in Perth.

I only know for sure that three of the people in that photograph are still with us. That poor unfortunate child at the front in the frothy yellow dress is definitely still with us. She’s sitting here right now, on my chair, using my computer and wondering why her mum made her wear a party dress that day, or perhaps it was her decision, too long ago to remember.

And that pretty young lady at the front on the right is my cousin Pat, one of the nicest people I ever knew and one of the best friends I ever had. She died much too young, much too soon and I will never stop missing her.


  1. Oh yes, so many what ifs that you could drive yourself bonkers. Lovely memories for you though. I had a favourite red dress made of a shiny silky material with gold stars all over. Sadly, no picture of that dress exists.

  2. As you say, 'what if's' are the very back bone of fiction. We would have little of interest to say if we did not use what if's...
    great post, Teresa.

  3. There are so many real 'what ifs' in life, aren't there? And if you put some of them in fiction, they would be called too far fetched to be true.

    There's an award waiting for you over on my blog, Teresa, though I have a feeling you might already have it!

  4. Hi Teresa, I thought immediately how glam and graceful Pat looks. The yellow frothy dress looks perfect, that little girl looks proud as punch in those socks!!

  5. 'What if' is indeed a great way to start a story and the best thing is we can answer it in as many different ways as we like.

  6. It is quite dizzying thinking about what might have been, A bit scary too because you realise how much chance there is in our lives, even though we try to make the best of what fate hands us. I am often glad I wasn't born in certain countries , for instance. People in some places have almost no chance of a happy life.

    In fact, I can't think about it for long, it makes me feel quite weird :)

    I wonder if indeed you wanted to wear that dress - it is a real little-girl favourite type of dress and my daughters would both have loved it.

  7. Hi Teresa,
    A heartfelt tribute to your family that resonates within the passion and the 'what ifs' that make up all the twists and turns of our lives.
    Here's wishing you a peaceful weekend.
    In kindness, Gary :)

  8. I know, Maggie and once you start you just can't stop! Your red starry dress sounds lovely x

    Thank you, Pat. I don't know where we'd be without the what ifs x

    Thanks for the award, Gail - no I don't have it and I appreciate it :) I have had stories which were based on real events turned down as being "too far fetched" - mad isn't it x

    Ah Suzy, that word graceful, it so perfectly sums her up. She was such a graceful person, a wonderful friend and she had a wicked side which I loved too x

    True, Patsy, you can go off in any direction from that question can't you - what if you were drinking champagne on a boat and fell asleep and woke up to find yourself on board alone and in charge ;-) x

    I often think that too, Jenny - how glad I am not to have been born in some other countries. I think I probably did want to wear that dress - I used to like dressing up x

    Thank you, Gary - so many very loved people in that photograph now sadly gone, but never forgotten. A lovely weekend to you and Penny too x

  9. Your blog has made me think about the 'what ifs' in my life. Gosh there are so many, I don't know where to start.

    What if my family hadn't moved house when I was 11 years old. I think everything in my life stems from that one point in time....

  10. It is amazing the impact one action can have isn't it, Eileen, not just on us but on so many others. Like a stone dropping in a pond x

  11. I love that our lives are made up of 'what ifs', Teresa - such seemingly random events and decisions that become life-changing. Cute dress! I wore a frothy lemon one as a flower girl at my sister's wedding (she's 10 years older than me)

  12. I loved party dresses, especially the matching frilly knickers. I would have loved to have your yellow one. It's inspiring me too, because my latest attempt at a novel is set in the sixties and I would like a scene with a party.

  13. Awww how lovely! A picture full of amazing people and strong individuals. I like the pretty little girl in the yellow dress - she shows a lot of promise and has such a beautiful face with a genuine smile! Take care

  14. I wore a frothy blue one at my sister's wedding, Rosemary - she's eleven years older than me :) And my cousin whose hand I am holding in the picture was also a bridesmaid - my mum went into hospital soon after and had a photo of us as bridesmaids next to her bed - everyone thought we were twins. Oh my goodness, once you start on these memories... x

    I'd forgotten about frilly knickers, Joanna! I am so chuffed that this is helping inspire you with a scene in your novel x

    Thank you, Kitty - you are very kind - you've made my day x

  15. Our lives seem to have a constant knock-on effect on those of others, don't they. If I hadn't gone to see The Battle of Britain in 1970, there are 11 people who wouldn't exist. (Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of their father/grandfather).

    Oh, frilly knickers! I remember a pair of mine, with bows!

  16. That made me stop in my tracks, Frances - what an incredible if.

    Perhaps we should reinstate the frilly knicker - with bows :) x

  17. Teresa, I was going to comment about the what ifs, but Frances reminiscing about frilly knickers distracted me. 'Can-can' knickers, we called 'em. Mum and I had red and white ones with black polka dots and big undrslips to match.

  18. ...and as for the yellow party dress, I was once forced to have one like that. To make things worse, it had two front pockets with little white baskets on with flowers in them. I remember having such a strop in the dress shop; I wanted the black dress with the small flower pattern on it. I was 6 or 7 at the most at the time, if I recall.

  19. What if? Mmmm... I bet we've all asked us ourselves that many times through our lives and our fiction. Lovely post Teresa. Thank you. Cute dress :-)

  20. I read a news item not long ago about a car driver who almost knocked down Adolph Hitler before he became party leader. I'm going to be thinking about 'what ifs' all day now.

  21. What a lovely post, Teresa. Now 'what if' you had decided not to post it - well I wouldn't be smiling now! :-)

    I had a dress very similar to yours when I was a child, but pink!

  22. There was a big change in such things when we were about 7 wasn't there, Jac. I can remember some of my peers wearing far more "grown up" kind of clothes x

    Thanks, Diane x

    I hadn't heard of that, Keith - now you've got me thinking on that one too x

    Thanks, Mandy. I do remember my dress was quite scratchy! And I think it had ties that did up in a bow at the back - my mum often used to dress me in yellow, I don't know why x

  23. What a lovely family photograph. And another great post.