When I was 8-years old, I got to know a very elderly neighbour, Mrs Crawford, a lady who was approaching her 100th birthday. I had very long hair at the time and she used to love to brush it while telling me tales of her youth. She told me that she came from a very large family who originally came from France, and she lived with her siblings, her parents and her grandparents in a huge house just outside Paris. When she was an eight-year-old like me, her great grandmother was also alive and she was also approaching her 100th birthday, but didn't quite make her centenary. It was extremely rare for anyone to reach such an age back then, so she was something of a local celebrity.
I remember her telling me that her great grandmother had brushed her hair just as she was brushing mine, and telling her stories of her own childhood and teenage years. She remembered being given a graphic and horrendous account of a very unpleasant time in Paris, when people were being killed in the streets and the roads were flowing with blood. They were executing all the rich people and even the rich people's servants, and including children - it was terrible and her great grandmother witnessed this dreadful spectacle, including almost wading through the blood running down the street and having to wash it off her boots when she got home. Being an 8-year-old, I naturally found it horrible and shocking, but it didn't mean much at the time and my older brother told me to take no notice of this "batty old woman".
A few years ago, as I got older, I reflected on the conversations I had with Mrs Crawford and I started to wonder what events she was talking about. Was it the Germans in World War II, when they occupied France? Didn't sound like it. So what was she describing? Then I did some arithmetic.
I worked out that I must have had this conversation in 1965. That means Mrs Crawford would have been born somewhere around 1865/1866. But she was talking about when she was eight-years-old, so that was around 1874. Assuming her great grandmother lived to be 98, that would mean she was born around 1776 - wow! So she would have just reached her teens in 1789 - the year of the French Revolution and the Great Terror, when they were guillotining aristocrats and others on a daily basis (about 200,000 people in total).
I have spoken to someone who has received a first hand account of the the French Revolution in 1789, and that really does make me think of history, and even the passing of time, in a completely different way.