Write on... Photographs on the piano

【明報專訊】I had no problem seeing pictures of rooms and furniture and changing landscapes as I closed my eyes and listened to my grandmother's stories. While it was more difficult to put faces to names one had not seen, in that respect I was fortunate for there were always a number of uninteresting sepia prints of my forbearers on her piano. They stood there in their bronze, silver and gunmetal frames for as long as I could remember, silent tributes to my grandparent's pasts. In my childhood I always thought those unsmiling men and women belonged to their pasts, never to mine. That made sense, of course, for being young I had no history. The photographs had been taken in a studio before the turn of the century, and all the men and women stood stiff as boards looking absorbed in what was going on within the round eye of the camera. The men were dressed in dark suits, and they all had moustaches. The ladies wore white blouses with high collars and frills down the front. Grim determination was spelled on their faces.