Leon's No News-Letter 239 My Visit to Barcelona
A Postcard from My Aunty Mona of guards outside Buckingham Palace 1950
(for the reverse side, see below)
Two weeks ago Ettie and I returned from a wonderful, but short, 5 day visit to Barcelona, one of the cities that I had dreamt of visiting since my childhood. I had forgotten that I had dreamed about visiting Barcelona until now after the dream had become a reality. I remember dreaming about visiting there and other places and how I came to have these dreams when I was a child.
Today many children, like my grandchildren actually visit these wonderful places and tell me about them. Even so they also dream of visiting foreign places and get excited when their parents take them there.
Aunty Mona was the first person that I had heard of as a child, who travelled to foreign lands. She was the first person to arouse my longing to see those places and I try to pass on this longing to my grandchildren.
Tired as we were after our flight we dragged ourselves to Palau de la Musica de Catalunia, near Las Ramblas to a flamenco and guitar concert.
I wasn’t surprised to find that practically ever stone of the building was strikingly colorful, being covered with glazed ceramic tiles of every hue and color, because I had heard about Gaudi’s constructions in Barcelona and naturally assumed that other architects, like Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the designer of the Palau de la Musica, would be influenced by him. Inside the concert hall was like sitting under the stars and all the golden glories of heaven.
Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, is a never ending building project of towers reaching up to heaven. Gaudi once said that his client was in no hurry. His client of course was God. It’s still being built, getting higher and higher each year. Perhaps one day it really will reach heaven.
After seeing a few more Gaudi constructions like the amazing Park Güell, on the lower slopes of Montjuic, I came to the conclusion that Gaudi was emulating nature, which is forever growing and always gives humans the good feeling of being a part of it, reminding them of their mortality, like the mortality of all natural things.
Only now after thinking about these wonders I remembered Aunty Mona. It pains me to realize that I took her for granted and never expressed my gratitude to her. I grew up and left her memory behind. I realize that she thought about us kids as nobody else did. I hope that my cousins, the other recipients of her attention were more considerate and aware of how much she stimulated our imaginations and that they managed to show their gratitude. Although I don’t think that Aunty Mona expected us to make a fuss of her. She did things for us because it was in her nature to teach children to be curious. She encouraged us to be inquisitive about the world.
My childhood dreams of visiting foreign places began with Aunty Mona.
I remember Aunty Mona now, because when I was a little boy she used to travel regularly to foreign countries and always returned with gifts for me and I presume for my cousins, her other nephews. In fact Aunty Mona never entered our house without a gift of a book, crayons, coloring book or a toy of some sort.
Foreign travel was not common in our family; back there in Krugersdorp in S.Africa, where we lived and which I felt was cut off from the rest of the world. So it was exciting to think that someone I knew was traveling to other, distant, mysterious and romantic parts of the world that perhaps I would never reach.
It was the source of many a day dream, which consisted of mental pictures of ships, high speed trains and colorful busses, which, compared to Krugersdorp in those days seemed as futuristic as science fiction. Not to speak of the romantic mental pictures I had of palaces, theatres, kings and queens etc. which were unheard of in my simple world.
Receiving a post card all the way from Aunty Mona in London or Brussels, addressed to me was an exciting occasion. I would lie on my bed, reading it over and over again and wearing out my weak eyes in looking at a picture of Buckingham Palace with a soldier of the light horse guard on his black steed guarding the gate, or a palace in Brussels or the Champs Elyse.
Aunty Mona was a teacher who lived in Springs, in S. Africa, which to my young mind was far away from Krugersdorp. I knew that she was one of my mother’s four sisters; Aunty Sara was the oldest, then Aunty Anne, then Aunty Mona and Aunty Lily, the youngest. Each of them influenced my life in different ways, all of them positive.
Aunty Sara was jovial, Aunty Anne strict and stern but also smiling always, Aunty Mona was the teacher, although Aunty Anne was also a teacher, but for me Aunty Mona was the best teacher because she didn’t arouse any desire in me to rebel against her as I did against most of my teachers; she was that unusual kind of teacher of those days, the kind and friendly teacher who taught me with me not even being aware that I was learning. Aunty Lily was full of kindness and concern for me. She took care of me when my mother used to be at work in the family business. She took us to shows in Johannesburg, like the pantomime at His Majesty’s Theatre.
Only now, after all these years and after I have travelled a bit do I begin to appreciate how wonderful Aunty Mona and my other aunts were; it takes thoughtfulness about children to write a postcard to them or to buy a dinky toy or a book for a nephew. It takes wisdom to realize that kids are inquisitive by nature and get excited about mysterious, foreign places and to know how to encourage that curiosity.
I think that the mental growth of children was her passion. She used to travel from Springs to Krugersdorp, a distance of about 100km, in her blue, slip back Chevy and I used to be in a fever from the excitement of waiting for her arrival. Sometimes the excitement was so great that I had to close myself in my room and watch for her arrival from my bedroom window. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to hide my excitement and would end up being considered a kind of nerd.
Even today children of that age don’t like to openly show affection and enthusiasm. I wanted to show Aunty Mona that I was “grown up” and things like coloring books didn’t make an impression on me, but I was excited.
I kept all her postcards and they formed the nucleus of a great collection of postcards which I kept in a shoe box, which somehow disappeared when I left my hometown, Krugersdorp in the 1960’s.
The one showing the light horse guard is the only one to survive, because I had used it for a bookmark and it had escaped the shoe box destiny. It has become one of the symbols of Aunty Mona and my childhood that l cherish.
Aunty Mona sent it to me all the way from England now it has come back to me after I have visited Barcelona and have begun to fulfill the dreams she instilled in me.
Wishing you a great No Newsday
The text of the postcard that my Aunty Mona sent me from London, when she visited there in 1950