Lifting life’s stones

Lisa Reiter is, once more, capturing our imaginations with her latest Bite Sized memoire prompt.

So, the prompt for this time’s Bite Size Memoir is:


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Beachy head, butterfly hunting

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Beating for larvae

Her post makes good use of the hungry caterpillar story. This triggered many childhood reminiscences involving the insect world. The caterpillars we bred; the ‘bug’ hunts we went on; chasing butterflies with our nets; the morning ritual, before school, of emptying the mv moth trap. We dug around the base of trees looking for pupae; we turned over countless leaves looking for ova and larvae; we waded into murky water to access reeds to see if a China Mark moth larva had eaten its way in. I ran miles along shingle at Dungerness, across heather on Thursley Common, into balmy winds above Beachy Head all in pursuit of butterflies. I lifted rocks and logs and turf to see what lived underneath. My childhood was one of constant discovery of the small, the creepy and the things that scuttle.

Ever since I have spent any walk studying bushes and trees, hedgerows and verges to see what lay within and on top; and to this day the urge it lift and peer remains strong.

Discovering the natural world was exciting and fun, like trying out a new flavour of ice cream. Discovering people in their myriad complexity was more of a shock; rather  like being offered chilli for the first time and finding something you expect to be cold is in fact off the scale hot. As a boy people didn’t seem complex. They could be nice, or nasty and sometimes one then the other but you could see the change coming, there would be a reason for it. In particular my family was straightforward. Parents were the law makers, uncles the law breakers, and grandmothers the chocolate-bearing audience.

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Uncle Les is spliced…

When did I first appreciate that this wasn’t so? I suppose I realised the world was full of a wide and weird variety when I started at secondary school but I hung on the myth of the harmonious family until, at about 12 I went to my uncle’s wedding.

Uncle Les was a black sheep. To me he was just fun. First he was in the navy, which caused my grandmother angst but was cool. Second he subverted my mother’s (his sister’s) carefully laid out rules when he came to stay. I thought  everybody loved him even if he irritated them. The day before his wedding I stood outside the kitchen door in my grandmother’s house and listened as my grandmother, my mother, my aunt and two or three others listed his many failings. It wasn’t done with affection. I was amazed and horrified to find he was far from loved for his behaviour but despaired over and disparaged. ‘He’s lucky to have her’ was the conclusion. I ‘discovered’ the reality of families and that, probably, was my first step towards adulthood.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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19 Responses to Lifting life’s stones

  1. Charli Mills says:

    Ah, I’m so delighted to see Bite Size Memoirs return as I do enjoy reading these snippets of life. The ladies in the kitchen gossiping about the rascal black sheep is an old tradition, I believe. Women clucking. Interesting how it was a step toward adulthood for you, that realization that family harmony is just a myth. I married a black sheep and I can’t count the number of times his family has said those exact words, “He’s lucky to have her.” Did it ever occur to them that I’m lucky to have him?

    Liked by 3 people

    • TanGental says:

      No never. He remained relatively unloved by the women in the family but with some reason in that he left his two wives with young families. My mother never forgave him for that behaviour though my cousins by his first marriage are delightful and cherish his memory (no one knows a thing about his second – I have cousins out there about which I know nothing). He was always lovely to me and my dad secretly enjoyed his company and my mother always welcomed into our home. I suspect, looking back, it was so she could chide him. Complicated. In his latter years when I visited him at his home he had two girlfriends who doted on him. The ultimate old charmer cum old rogue I suppose who couldn’t do commitment.


  2. Mel Hickish says:

    He was very lucky to have her! 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mel Hickish says:

    He was very lucky to have her! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lisa Reiter says:

    ‘Black Sheep’ would make a rich prompt wouldn’t it! I’m not sure if I’m the black sheep from my husband’s family’s point of view – I’m certainly a bit too unconventional for their taste but he says he chose me deliberately because he needed help breaking away.. being different isn’t always a bad thing, but can be lonely when no-one can see the good in you and delightful when you find appreciation. I imagine Charli, for your own reasons, you are very lucky to have that black sheep in your life 🙂

    And Geoff, I’m sure your uncle was in many ways a good man. I wonder if someone else was responsible for the fear of commitment.. Often those little bits of cause and effect are lost in the story telling.

    Meanwhile at least you had some innocence! I’m not sure if I remember when I realised adults had these ‘views’ about other family members. As my folks aren’t backwards in coming forwards with negative points of view, I’m guessing they were always around me!

    Lisa xx


  5. TanGental says:

    He was kind to me. Generous and funny. A bit too fond of the booze. He lost his father before he was old enough to remember him and was sent to boarding school at 7. He didn’t grow for years, it is thought as a result of an air gun pellet lodging in his neck or something so was always small. All those things might have contributed. And his daughter who responded before you is a delight so he did Something right


  6. Annecdotist says:

    Interesting story, Geoff, and the comments and embellishments make it more so. Now, as fiction is more real to me than real life, I wonder how this black sheep uncle has impacted on your writing?


  7. willowdot21 says:

    This is a lovely post. It stopped me in my tracks though. It made me think about how painful growing up can be. One day all that you believed in, held dear is ripped from you. I was babysitting our Newbie today. I feel sorry that he will have to grow up one day too just like is all. Great post thank you. Xc


  8. socialbridge says:

    A very interesting and thought-provoking read, recommended by Willow. Thanks and look forward to reading more of your posts.


  9. Mel Hickish says:

    It’s lovely to read about your memories of my Dad. As his daughter, being only 8 weeks old when he left, have never understood why? For my brother who was just 2 years old at the time, it must have been harder. Almost like as soon as I had come along, Daddy left. Why? Like you Geoff, I have two half brothers that I have very little memory of as I was also very young when my Dad’s second wife left him. Again, I wonder why he had no contact with them. Too little to understand I guess. I often wonder if they think about me or my brother like I do of them. Maybe one day I’ll get to meet them… Perhaps. I also had a family, (aunts, uncles, cousins, 2nd cousins) that I didn’t get to meet or know until I was old enough to do so off of my own back. Let alone a Grandmother that I have absolutely no memories of. For this, I felt resentment towards him.

    I wasn’t hard done by, not by any means. My mother naturally found things very difficult to deal with at the time. That said, she did a fantastic job holding things together for the sake of us, her children. We were lucky that by the time I was 5, she remarried my ‘Dad’. A good man for taking on someone else’s children and being there for us at times when a Dad should. I find it sad that a man should take the place of ones father, but that is exactly what my step father did. Perhaps that is why I did not feel the emotions that I ought to have when my father sadly passed away. Sad? Yes. Do I miss him? Sometimes. Sad really, isn’t it?


    • TanGental says:

      That is beautiful, Mel. My regret is that, because of the distance between my mum and your dad, physical as well as emotional, we never got to know each other until we were adults. And I am also sad you didn’t have the chance to enjoy our uncle Ted as I did who was easily the nicest man in our family bar none. However life is what it is and we are now in a better place to make sure Ewan and Hickish No.2 enjoy the benefits of an extended family (as well as ensuring you and Craig feel part of the tribe).


  10. Mel says:

    Thank you so much Geoff… You and your family have done everything you can to make us feel welcome and for that I am truly thankful for. It’s an absolute pleasure to have a cousin as great as you and though I didn’t get the chance to know uncle Ted nearly as well as you did, I feel like I’m getting my chance with you, as you are, one of the nicest most genuine man that I know and I quote ‘bar none’ just like uncle Ted. xx


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