For the last two years I’ve joined in the #atozchallenge, namely to post every weekday in April using each letter of the alphabet in turn. In 2015 it was places I’d been to, in 2016 it was London themed. This year it is a dictionary of my family, recounting incidents small and large that have taught me lessons down the years, caused me consternation or generally seared themselves into my memory. I hope you enjoy them. To find other bloggers doing the challenge and maybe be inspired yourself, check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge Blog, here.
As a child I was big on fairness. Towards me. I had a heightened sense of injustice. Against me. This is the result of my parents and their unconscionable and, frankly, cruel decision to copulate so soon after my brother appeared. There are barely 15 months between us. Take our names. He is Gordon Francis and I am Geoffrey. See? No second name. If you want the bitter detail, click here.
My gran, however, was a perceptive woman. Not sweet and twinkly eyed; she was far to shrewd and cunning for that but she could read me like a book. And she liked to spoil my brother and me.
For instance, Gran gave us our first watches. But before she handed them over we had to prove we could tell the time. ‘It’s not an ornament’ she might say. My ‘test’ came in a cafe on, or near, Waterloo station, before we caught a train, probably to her house in Herne Bay where we often holidayed. This would have been circa 1963 when I was 6 or 7. I expect the Archaeologist got his when he was 3; precocious little sod.
Ha, and there’s another grievance; we caught this train several times before we got a family car – only to be procured when Dad passed his test which he did in 1963, while he was between employments. Back then the trains were often steam; and which of us two boys was allowed on the footplate and which had to make do with standing on the platform and watching his smug little toad of a brother helped up to discuss rivets and pressure gauges and governors with the driver? Funny I recall that incident and not any others – well apart from the time we went to collect our Boxer dog, Punch, who used to travel in the guard’s van – the guard was staggering as he handed him over with what I subsequently learnt was a massive erection – I knew mum was mortified only not why. And before you ask, no, I wasn’t jealous of that.
So, gran. She loved going to the local Herne Bay auction. As kids we weren’t allowed into the auction room but we were taken around the Lots before it started and it was like being inside a museum cabinet – every conceivable thing seemed to be piled hither and yon.
The Archaeologist spotted a globe; but not just any old globe but one showing the night sky and the constellations. To be fair, he was fascinated by the stars and the planets and such – while I was still musing on the type of cheese that made up the moon’s geology and why the man in the moon seemed to be permanently wearing dark glasses. Gran didn’t say anything but she bought it for him – he was delighted.
But a grand-parental dilemma must have ensued. If she bought that for him, she had to buy something for me. And I was, according to family lore, devoid of interests and hobbies; actually I liked stuff most children liked back then – playing Cowboys and Indians and soldiers and kicking a ball and making dens. It just wasn’t the sort of intellectual pursuits my 8 year old sibling enjoyed since he was already into proving the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, disproving Santa using Pythagoras and Fibonacci and critiquing Jane Austen. So she bought me this:
Leo the Lion.
A small garden statue. I recall being bemused but taken with the notion I now owned something so solid and, well, pretty unbreakable – believe me that was a very important criteria. It became a door stop and a talking point. I liked that too.
Mum painted it and kept it close while I shuffled from home to uni to flats to a house and on. When eventually we bought our current place some 25 years ago, I got it back. It’s in my hall. It’s rather ugly, poorly made and bloody heavy. And we have no doors that need propping open.
But I am buggered if I’m going to get rid of it. At least not until the Archaeologist gets rid of his night sky globe. This is a brotherly thing. It’s all about recognising fairness.
At school I’d often try and end a discussion by following my killer point with ‘Fair’s fair’. Until a boy called Richard Trillo started hitting me to stop me saying it. I felt that rather an extreme reaction but the fairness equilibrium kicked in eventually when he absent-mindedly emptied a pipette of acid onto his leg in chemistry one day. Justice had been served if a tad delayed.