A couple of weeks ago, an old mate I hadn’t spoken to for a couple of decades tracked my real life self down. He’s dying of a lung condition, poor bastard. Since then we’ve been corresponding via e-mail. Me trying to cheer him up with a few less than socially responsible anecdotes. Him bringing me up to date with the fates of a few shared acquaintances back in the old country (Remember so-and-so? A wall fell on him back in ’99). Playing the old nostalgia game as you do with old drinking buddies. What with one thing and another, it’s making me feel, not nostalgic because I don’t have fond memories of some people, but thoughtful. Mindful of who I am and how easily I could have shuffled off this mortal coil any number of times in my half century of life. Right! Who was that who shouted “Shame!”? Spawny eyed wassuck. Go stand in the corner. I hope you brought enough sarcasm for everyone.
Also mindful of my ancestors, who, it turns out were not exactly villains, but let’s just say consistently non-conformist. My parents. My Grandparents. Great Grandad was a right tearaway so I’m told. Always in trouble which almost, but never quite, ended with him hauled up before the beak. Including an incident over a spring gun set to scare water cress poachers. A few great Uncles who were less than pillars of society. A couple who never made it back intact from WW1. One who went down on the Lusitania (and we’re not talking about sex here). I think he was one of the Deck or Engineering crew, family history is a bit fuzzy after almost a century. Granddad kept his bedroom as a bit of a shrine at the old family farm. I recall seeing it when I was knee high back in the early sixties. A sepia portrait of a young man who never came home and an ageing poster of the liner itself. A made up brass framed bed and net curtains over a small window are the only other impressions I recall.
Other family legends include a Great Aunt who ‘took to her bed’ at the age of seventy something, only getting up for that last ride down to the graveyard thirteen years later. From her family memoirs came the wonderful little tale of the late Victorian era couple who never married despite raising eight children. She took in laundry and he worked as a road mender. Constantly managing to thwart the efforts of the local Minister, who apparently thought that having such a well known couple ‘living in sin’ on his patch was a personal affront. My Great Aunt’s version of the tale ends with the couple finally agreeing to walk up the aisle (in their 70’s with great grandchildren no less), then on the day the little old road mender goes missing. The local Minister, irate at this breach of promise goes searching for him, finally finding the little Parish Road Mender at his usual resting place, lying as though asleep at the side of the road with his road mending kit and sandwich box nearby. Dead as his flask of cold tea with a smile on his face as though he’d cheated the forces of conformity.
Then my own parents and the hows and whys I got brought into the world. Which makes me aware that all of my immediate forbears have been self employed and small business owners, yet Dad wanted me in an industrial ‘job for life’. Which never really worked out as such employment doesn’t really exist any more. Nor am I really employee material, I’m a maverick from a long line of mavericks. A self motivating self starter who can self manage and just hates control freaks looking over his shoulders all the time. Nor do I play well with others, mostly because I’d rather not play their games at all.
Wonder where I get it from? (Not)