The subject of my mum’s family in Canada used to crop up from time to time as I was growing up in Corby. I began to wonder just who these people were, where they lived and how they lived. In those days my only real contact with anyone overseas were my two pen friends (a popular form of encouraged communication skills exercise for children at that time) Charles Kakunya in Africa and a lad in Toronto called Robert Scott. We’d exchange air mail letters written on postage-paid toilet-tissue thin pale blue paper. One day we had word that my mum’s cousin in Vancouver was to visit his relatives in Scotland, Walsall in the west midlands and, Corby. I remember being so excited at the thought of this man travelling all that way to our home in Thoroughsale Road. John Carmichael Nimmo was one of the most genuine people I think I’ve probably ever met. A big man, kind and generous to a fault, who’d been born in Scotland and had moved to Vancouver with my mum’s aunt Nettie and uncle Tom when he was a small boy, though he’d retained a slight ‘lilt’ in his otherwise Canadian accent. That first contact with an overseas relative had a profound effect on me. The realisation that one could travel, given the means, to the other side of the world yet still find others within one’s own extended family, lit a ‘fire’ inside me that would live with me for the rest of my life. Following that first visit by John I decided that it wasn’t enough to keep writing as I’d continued to do with my ‘pen friends’. There had to be a better way of communication that would allow for more freedom of speech with almost limitless time and with the added benefit of actually hearing voices from the other side of the world. I needed to put voices to the faces in photographs. Out came my trusty Philips reel-to-reel tape recorder. In those days people were less used to hearing their own voices on any recording device leaving my family feeling very uncomfortable. It was 1968 and my brother Tom had accompanied John on his trip to Scotland, and my idea was to record the rest of my family saying hello to all our relatives in Vancouver. This would then be posted off to Canada so that, when John eventually returned home, my little tape of family greetings would be waiting on his doormat. My dad was the most relaxed about the idea and spoke beautifully ‘off-the-cuff’ into the small microphone. My mum and grandma were a different kettle of fish, insisting that anything they said must be scripted in some way. Listening back after all these years they both sound as if they’d listened to too many Christmas broadcasts by the Queen, giving their delivery a somewhat stilted ‘I’m not really reading this’ feel. To this day they are the only existing examples of my parents and grandma’s voices.