Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Grandfather.

My Mother: Shall we walk the dog down to the allotment together?

I blink briefly and agree. Something I’ve inherited from my mother – and she from her father – is an emotional distance. We've never really had a traditional mother-son relationship, being very close in age.

I hold the lead of her dog as we walk. We chat about nothing much and gaze across the valley, not acknowledging that this is odd. We get to her allotment.

As a child I would visit my Grandfather’s house every Sunday with my father and younger brother – post-divorce we’d stay with my Father in his rank bedsit, top-to-toe in a double-bed with sheets that had not been washed in living memory  - and have to get used to a couple of days of bad food, poor hygiene and the loneliness of pub lounges whilst our father drank in the bar with his friends.

We would then return home to our mother and her new husband who also drank and despised me. I dreaded that also.

Sunday was another matter. My Grandfather sang opera, painted, read, gardened, acted in his local amateur dramatic society, listened to Radio 4, played the piano and was the opposite of any man I’d ever known. And each week my father – who did this much – would take me to see him.

They were precious hours. In later life I would take the still very young Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter to see him of a Sunday and Favourite Son would inform his mother “Guess what Mummy? We went to the big house today!” And it was a big house, filled with art, books and peace. It was an escape, a refuge and was presided-over by an absurdly strong-willed man who constantly smelt of cigarettes, gin and learning.

“They call me ‘Great’ of course.” He would inform the family. They didn’t, but they couldn’t quite manage “Great Grandad” and he liked his version.

He was the only person who wrote to me when I left home for university – typewritten, signed by hand, naturally – the only man who took me to one side and offered me his wisdom before I did. But a cold, distant man who was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

He was a frightening and impressive man who commanded every room he was ever in. There was always an easel in his front-room with a work-in-progress, a new piece he was trying to learn for the piano (he wasn’t very good to be honest) or something new he was trying to cook, his garden was an oasis and he was a joy to be around.

At this point he had died two days previously. Practicalities aside, we'd not spoken of it.

My Mother and I both gaze at each other for awhile. We smile at each other.

My Mother: Anyway. Shall we go back?

William Kemp 1915 - 2014

Saturday, December 06, 2014

“Previously, On ‘Tired Dad’…

A little over six months have passed since I last updated this foolish web-log (I hold the term ‘blog’ in some distain and will not entertain it) and – partially inspired by the excellent Belgian Waffling and her ‘forty updates over forty days’ thing – I have decided it is time to make some sort of effort myself.

Normal service will, therefore, resume shortly (ie: weekly, fortnightly or maybe monthly posts depending upon events and/or my mood) but it seems only reasonable to briefly update my no doubt now limited readership on the events of the past few months. So, in no particular order:

  • Made redundant by Evil Multi-National Media Corporation (last week in fact). People of my acquaintance have argued that if one decides to work for an Australian media mogul of limited morals then one gets all one deserves. They can fuck themselves.
  • Fell in love. With an actual real-life woman. Anyone who has ever met me will be unsurprised to hear that this did not end well.
  • Afflicted with a brief attack of labyrinthitis (look it up, I can’t be bothered to create a link.). Colleagues, paramedics and Accident and Emergency doctors all thought I was having a stroke. Not embarrassed to admit that I’ve never been so scared.
  • Also had a similarly dramatic epileptic episode in my place of work. Unsettled some people, but it did have a positive outcome. Unfortunately, I have also had more related incidents in the past six months than in any time since my diagnosis.
  • Have spent more time this year with my Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter than at any time since Tired Mam decided everyone’s life would be improved by moving four hundred miles away without me. “It’s been a ‘Daddy’ year” Favourite Son solemnly intoned whilst discussing this.
  • I do not normally give much time to Halloween but, as offspring were staying with me at the time, we had what they described as the “best one ever”.
  • Met Tired Mam’s new ‘fella’. He seemed alright, to be honest. Nodded his head a bit too much but nobody’s perfect.
  • Got my VHS video-recorder to work again.
  • Appalled by the fact that my now twelve-year-old Favourite Daughter has become – without any consultation – a Young Woman, resplendent with hips, bum, tiny waist, vest-tops and constant flirtatiousness.
  • My Grandfather died. Being a massively self-involved person, I didn’t realise until after his funeral that he was the only constant elder-male figure throughout my life and the only man I’ve ever looked-up to. I still haven’t cried.
  • Finally figured-out the SCART leads at the back of my television so I can have the VHS, DVD player and Freeview box all workable at once. I don’t watch television much but, you know.

That’s about it, I think. I can elaborate upon any of the above on request (aside from the ‘falling in love’ thing) – assuming anyone now reads this – otherwise the next update will involve an unusual encounter I’ve recently had with a gentleman of no fixed abode.
Go to newer posts