Sole Sister

Cruising in the single lane

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Put that in writing

A recent newspaper feature under the heading “Remember this: we’re losing our memory” caught my eye. No, it wasn’t about experiencing “senior moments”. It highlighted the peril this era of fast-moving technological change poses to safeguarding precious records so future generations can benefit from the accumulated knowledge of the ages.

I’m definitely a “digital immigrant” yet it doesn’t seem long ago we stored stuff on things called floppy discs. Remember them? If I had precious memories, or records, locked away on a floppy I would be hard pressed to find a PC old enough to reveal the contents – and that’s only going back 15 or 20 years.

Given the historical treasures locked away in centuries’ worth of written records, what irreplaceable chronicles will future historians, or biographers, or candidates for Who Do You Think You Are? be able to mine to reveal the past secrets of this era?  According to the article the Russians authorities are aware enough of this dilemma to invest in 20 old-fashioned portable typewriters so their most sensitive data can be typed and stored.

In a nostalgic reminder of the value of the written word my delightful, almost-90-year-old aunt returned to me, 45 years after it was written, a Christmas-greeting aerogramme (remember those?) dated London, 3-12-69.  It was accompanied by a beautifully penned letter from her, putting to shame what passes now for my barely-used handwriting. What a treat it was to reread the long-forgotten adventures of my 20-something self from the capital of the Swinging 60s. My mother had similarly saved a box full of letters from my early overseas travels recalling my three-years of tripping around in the UK, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, and working in PR in London.

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I wish my handwriting was as neat as my aunt’s. 

As my aunt said: “One day in the future there will be no more letters written…So, to my mind, letters are irreplaceable, and those that mean something to you really need to be kept.”

I’m not tempted to invest in an old Remington, or likely to put to pen to paper more often than necessary,  but I really will try to make more hard copies of important communications. And I really must get cracking on that project to store precious old photographs.

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Remember these?


Have faith

Tolerance of other religions was an aspect of the Islamic Republic of Iran that surprised me, although I admit my preconceived notions were influenced by having lived in another fundamentalist Islamic state, Saudi Arabia. There, no other religions are condoned and non-Moslems seeking to practice their religion are forced to do so in utter secrecy, and at their own peril. For instance “non-believers” are not allowed to enter Mecca, and an early experience of life there was the need to take what was termed “the Christian Bypass”, a highway which skirted around Mecca, to travel up the Escarpment from coastal Jeddah to the much cooler summer mountain retreat of Taif.

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Watercolour – Taif mosque. 

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Ester and Mordechai Tomb, Hamadan; Zoroastrian Fire Temple, Yazd.  

So I was pleasantly surprised when our planned Iran tour itinerary included sites such as the Jewish tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan, Zoroastrian temples and ancient remains in Yazd and other locations, and the rich and ornate Christian Vank Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter of Isfahan. Lonely Planet makes reference to the long-standing tolerance of Iranians to other religions, especially those of “The Book”, but this acceptance does not stretch to their largest religious minority, the Baha’i, a Shia-based faith whose creed includes the equality of the sexes and the unity of all humanity. Education is a Baha’i priority.

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The rich and ornate Armenian Christian Vank Cathedral, Isfahan. 

The film Rosewater, the directorial debut of former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, currently showing in Australian cinemas, is the story of Canadian Iranian journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari who falls foul of the authorities in his former homeland while covering the 2009 Iranian presidential elections for Newsweek, accused of being a spy, imprisoned, placed in solitary confinement and tortured.  Like Bahari, Baha’is in Iran are often arrested on trumped-up spying charges so it’s fitting that following Bahari’s release, apart from writing his memoir, he made a film highlighting the plight of the Baha’i.  In a timely release with the international run of Rosewater, the English-language version of To Light a Candle had its premiere in Canada last week. I hope I get an opportunity to see it in Australia before too long.