Great Expectations

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Academic effort was a minimum expectation in my family; the beard and barnet were just a bonus…

Another week and another Charli Mills prompt.

October 15, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that has an expectation met or missed. It can be an implied expectation to your reader, or a character’s expectation for an outcome. Think of how expectations can direct a story.

Expectations are high. What will we write?

Let’s start with the word itself. It reminds me of my hubristic youth, my sesquipidalian tendencies. See, like Stephen Fry I enjoyed losing myself in the dictionary, digging out new words. It might have started at the smutty end – discovering priapic was an unalloyed joy; and callipygian was not far behind (yup, a deliberate pun) – but the love of words has never left me. Spelling though is different. I’ve always been a somewhat inconsistent speller. So while I loved showing off my new found vocabulary, I rarely did as well when I wrote them down. In one essay I said (if memory serves) ‘Great Expectorations is one of Dickens’ best loved books’. Quite why I made that error I know not. It’s not even a word. It gave my English master yet another moment to treasure as he ladled humiliation on me: ‘So Le Pard the great master’s classic is about what exactly? A long anticipated spitting contest?’ For my classmates it introduced them to the concept of schadenfreude even if the little toe rags didn’t know the word.

One relative, of the half empty variety admonished me to ‘Expect the worst even if you hope for the best.’ Pre the jubilation and liberation that came with the 1960s (when it wasn’t only hopes that were high) it was thought better to constrain expectations, hold people in their place, stop them getting above themselves. Better to stifle hope than risk disappointment. I’ve quoted him before, John Cleese as Brian Stimpson in Clockwise: ‘It’s not the despair Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.’ That was to be avoided at all cost..

Fortunately I grew to full maturity during a more enlightened time when hope was encouraged as was an expectation that you would do something with it. An expectation that I would take advantage of all the world had to offer was placed on me by my parents. While my father set the family temperature my mother set its philosophy. She had many life lessons she intended to pass on to the Archaeologist and me, one of which she repeated at length. We did not owe our parents anything. They wanted a family, and they were lucky enough to have two sons. It was they who owed us for giving them that gift. It was her way of reducing the burden of guilt that she knew children tend to have towards loving parents who they inevitably and rightly abandon as they grow and spread their wings. She expected us to leave and get the most out of life. She damn nearly demanded it.

It’s a philosophy I buy into. My two treasures are their own people. I expect of them high standards in their effort to use all the skills they have. I expect them to experience as much as life has to offer. So far so good. But I don’t not expect them to feel obliged to come and visit me. Hell, I just bribe them. Fantastic when they do come but it is their call.

The time will come when there’s a clash, when we test this idea. It happened with my parents. When I expected them to be there for me and they had other plans. Part of growing is to realise you mustn’t burden others with your own expectations and be disappointed when they aren’t met. ‘Always be pleasantly surprised.’ That’s my philosophy. If you do something and expect a return or reward then, unless there is a contract, you might be disappointed. Better therefore to do whatever it is for it own sake.

I know that is a mighty big piece of motherhood and apple pie. I know we are all bartering and bargaining with our own and others time and emotions, but to achieve otherwise is my goal.

This has become a bit serious so, to lighten the mood, what about a bit of Python and expectations…?

And so to Mary, who we left in Scotland trying to come to terms with her family in turmoil. If you haven’t followed the story so far, a weekly episode in 99 words, here is the link.

One step forward

Mary sorted through the holiday post; Paul made tea. He said, ‘The lawyers?’

‘No. ‘Rupert.’

‘What’s he want?’

‘He has dropped the court case.’

Paul sighed. ‘Thank God. That’s it then, is it?’

Mary folded the letter carefully. Why did he think everything could be so neatly tied up? Had he forgotten she was adopted? Rupert, her half-brother was her Father’s only natural child.

‘Are you ok, love?’

She let herself be held. ‘I need to know, Paul.’

Paul stroked her hair.

Mary wiped her eyes. ‘We’d better have him round.’

Paul shivered as a cloud crossed the sun.

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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12 Responses to Great Expectations

  1. Charli Mills says:

    I understand the bequeathing of wings and the feeling of watching the solo flights, wishing I could be there, too. But it is good to give our children the world to make their own. I like looking at what they make of it and am delighted when I’m asked to share in it. My eldest joined me in Rock Creek which sent me over the moon! The middle child I do bribe to see and the youngest will ask for Mum at the oddest of times. Thanks for sharing some terrific words! Glad your English master at least had a sense of humor. 🙂

    Ah, Mary is taking unexpected steps. The last line not only foreshadows, but reflects the change in her stoic stance. Husband and wife now stand on uncharted ground and she’s willing to step into it. Great addition to the story!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. avalinakreska says:

    Really enjoyed this post and you getting lost in the wonder of words. I didn’t have such an encouraging childhood as you, in fact I would say the extreme opposite yet we both end up in similar places, enjoying and discovering writing. I didn’t have children but then, there are so many other ways to give birth… xx


    • TanGental says:

      Thank you Avalina. A very generous comment. I’m struggling to comment on your posts due to my blogging inadequacies. But be assured I am reading and enjoying!


  3. Annecdotist says:

    Well, Geoff, you’ve taught me a new word and now I’m wondering how to use it. It’s a pity I’ve already posted my review of The Narrow Road to The Deep North in which one of the images of the slaves was of their emaciated buttocks – I might have said they weren’t at all callipygian.
    I love the way you write about your parents and that line about your father setting the temperature and your mother the philosophy sings out to me. Not all parents understand what the job entails and we should celebrate those who do.
    And so to Mary, is she about to be reconciled? I’m sure you’ll tell us in due course via whatever convoluted path Charli’s wonderful prompts take you on.
    Great post, really enjoyed it.


    • TanGental says:

      Love learning new words. The Archaeologist gave me gongoozling at the weekend, when he found out we were doing another stretch of the Thames path. As you say, now to find a place to use it!


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  5. Sherri says:

    I missed this post for some reasons Geoff, sorry about that, but I had it bookmarked to read so don’t know what happened…anyway, better late than never and all that. I really loved reading this and nodded furiously about the letting go of children. Ever since my boys left home for uni and then beyond I’ve missed them and never take for granted when they visit. I hope it’s because they really want to but I’m sure the full fridge and supply of cider helps…not that I would ever dream of bribing them, of course not…
    Love your school ‘daze’ stories.. I studied Great Expectations….but I think I like your title the best 😉 Great photo of you…and your flash has opened up an unexpected response by Rupert…? What’s next I wonder?


  6. Ah. The schadenfreude has reappeared. I suspect everyone (or most people) know someone like that even if the toe rags don’t know the word. 😉

    I love this whole post but am especially taken with the paragraph about your mum. Thought-provoking. I don’t know many people who have that attitude or who were raised that way. It’s wonderful.

    Gah. I missed a flash somewhere. Last week? I’ll look. But first, I’m going to enjoy some Monty Python. 😀


    • You made a compilation. Missed that. Sorry. Loved reading the flash together like that. The story grows… Excellent.

      Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks Sarah. Mum didn’t say a lot – Dad kind of got in the way – but when she did it was worth listening. I’ll have to post on her ‘ten things my boys must know before they leave home’ sometime.


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