The A to Z Of Life

I read a lovely post from the compelling fingers of Jennie Fitzkee, early years teacher par excellence. It lead to a short comment exchange that recalled my missing out of a place at Oxford University and ending up in Bristol. But that was where I met the current Mrs LeP (indeed the only Mrs LeP as it stands) so it was a satisfactory sliding doors moment.

But then, I pondered, it wasn’t just that one piece of bad/good luck that worked in my favour.

You see, looking back on some events, you realise their importance immediately: my wedding day, the birth of my children, becoming a partner in my law firm: these were all defining events in and of themselves – a sort of holy trinity of importance – you knew they were going to be important, they were and, in retrospect, they have remained so.

05 BOX-020
Great knees, mine are on the left, the Archaeologist’s on the right…

Yet each, their way, was the culmination of a process and my wedding was the stop on a long and winding path, that goes back before a long courtship (how Jane Austen); before I met the Textiliste at a law fair in October 1976 and commented on her ridiculously long scarf (I was a fashion influencer even then); before I failed my entrance interview and exam at Hertford College Oxford; before I put Bristol second on my university application form (the dreaded non intuitive UCCA form); before I decided on a law degree as my chosen subject; before I took my A levels and passed enough to warrant that place; before…

It goes back to being a boy scout. It hung on the outcome of one specific Bob a Job week in the spring of 1971.

Bob a Job was a UK Boy Scout event which inflation and health and safety zealots ruined. The idea was as a Scout you offered yourself to do small jobs for a Bob, a shilling in Jacob Rees-Knobhead’s current purse, 5 pence since 1971. I don’t know when the price was set – probably when the Scouts were founded after the Boer War, in 1903 or whatever. Anyway, by 1971 it was just a label for raising funds for your Scout troop – or it should have been – one old sod offered me a shilling for scraping mold off his caravan. He was the exception and Dad was livid but as with a lot of Dad’s ‘this is appalling’ moments, it didn’t translate into anything as constructive as telling the old boy where to stuff it or subsidizing my efforts

I’m the huge cub on the left. No idea why I stopped growing… or perhaps I lied about my age…

Anyway, one job I secured that Easter was to do some gardening for a friend of Mum’s – Iris Gostling . Iris and Mum were what were known as stalwarts of the local Woman’s Institute in much the same way that Kim Jong-un is a stalwart of the North  Korean government.

Mrs Gostling paid well, beyond a bob anyway and was impressed that I said it would all go to the Scouts. She liked my ‘ethic’ – I remember her saying exactly that and not having the first clue what she meant beyond she was pleased with me. She offered me a regular job, two to three hours on either a Saturday or Sunday gardening. I think I was paid half a crown an hour – that’s 25 pence today. It seemed a good deal to me especially as Sundays tended to be filled with homework and home chores for which the rate of pay was zero.

Mrs Gostling lived with her husband, a bluff hearty lopsided man in an enormous house and an even bigger garden, on the corner of Silver Steeet and Vaggs Lane in Hordle in Hampshire – Silver Thatch, I think. With luck that lovely blogger Derrick Knight who does me a great service by living about a mile from here and regularly stirring memories of my youth with his sumptuous pictures – you can view him here – will confirm the name, assuming it hasn’t changed.

05 BOX-033
Mum had me practicing for Mrs Gosling

Over the next four years until I went to University I worked for Mrs Gostling and learnt a lot about gardening and life. The ‘life’ bit came from David, her son, his various and varied girlfriends, his attempts to rebuild a Triumph 4 and his musings on life.

David was in his twenties, a qualified solicitor who appeared to be having the time of his life and most of it spent with a  range of gorgeous women. To me he was an exotic who saw his legal career as no more than a way of earning the money and respectability that would allow him access to some beautiful people and interesting times. He had done a law degree at Bristol University. If he could and end up with such an epicurean lifestyle, then, it followed, I could too.

I never did push the boundaries as David. He married a lovely woman called Maggie, ended up in an Oxfordshire village with oodles of children and framed pictures for reasons that escape me.

Such is the naïveté of youth. I lost contact with David a while back and doubt he will read this blog. Were he to do so then thank you old fruit for unwittingly being the cause of my life’s most defining moment; meeting Mrs Le P and not putting her off.  I owe you a curry; you know where…

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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52 Responses to The A to Z Of Life

  1. Sadje says:

    Fate works in mysterious ways 😻

    Liked by 1 person

  2. joylennick says:

    Thanks, Geoff. It’s usually… interesting raking over the past, but if I were Mrs. LeP, I’d question the words ‘only’ and ‘current’ (the choice of words my jovial other half would use too…(“To keep you on your toes!”
    Tee hee.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ThingsHelenLoves says:

    What was your comment about the ridiculously long scarf, can you remember?

    Love the WI getting a mention. I joined our group here in Wiltshire, it’s a bit of a trendy thing now apparently. I suspect from my limited experience that each group still has ‘stalwarts’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      There were several adjectives you might have applied to Hordle WI circa 1971 but trendy, modern and forward looking weren’t amongst them. How much jam do you generate?!


  4. willowdot21 says:

    I love these blogs about your life , the twist and turns of fate… Lovely story and as ever great stories!
    I can’t believe that the year I got married that you were still in the cubs! ..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a delightful reminiscence Geoff. I thoroughly approve of such pondering and enjoyed it immensely. Strange how happenstance can have such a profound and lasting effect on our lives!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ritu says:

    There’s always a reason why things happen!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Darlene says:

    Like always, I enjoy these snippets of your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am reminded of the old saying from Yogi Berra: when you come to a fork in the road, take it. One’s life is made up of so many forks, some chosen, some not. I think you were fortunate!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I enjoyed this look back. I get an enormous kick out of some of the terms of endearment you use. “You old fruit “got me this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. joylennick says:

    Just a thought, but you could always take up ballet if you grew bored. The tights may be OK, but I don’t know about a tutu?! x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. JT Twissel says:

    Cute knees you boys had! I’ve heard goofier comeons then “my, what a long scarf you have.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. gordon759 says:

    To make a typical comment.
    Half a Crown was two shillings and sixpence, or 12.5 pence.

    Incidentally I thought it was you that had the ultra-long scarf, two Brock college scarves that mum sewed together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Your memory is correct I did and I thought I would beat all comers until that fateful day when Ms Jones appeared with hers that was at least six for longer. I’ve never really recovered my poise….

      Liked by 1 person

  13. tootlepedal says:

    I like your view of the past. When I look back at my murky youth, I keep reminding myself that if I hadn’t been a complete dickhead and made a lot of mistakes, I wouldn’t be in the happy place that I am now.

    They wouldn’t have me in the scouts.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jennie says:

    Geoff, thank you. It’s quite wonderful when something triggers memories and inspires writing. I’m glad I got you thinking. Your post was a memorable reflection, and I enjoyed it (twice.) Life has so many avenues. Yours have been the path well taken. Your Boy Scout stories and father’s stories are really fun to read.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. petespringerauthor says:

    Great post, Geoff! My most successful students were those who developed a great work ethic. I still remember when I first bought things with “my own money.” There is something much more satisfying about knowing we did it ourselves and became self-made men. I always tried to communicate this notion to my students’ parents. Some understood; others continued to give their children whatever they wanted. They weren’t doing their kids any favors in the long run.

    Jennie is a teaching guru.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Suzanne says:

    I remember looking up to someone a few years older for her ability to create clothing with her sewing machine and how “cool” she was with her long hair and psychedelic shift dresses. Funny, as I became pretty efficient with a sewing machine years later. An enjoyable read, and the lovely post via the link.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yes I understand that early reverence and how they influence. And Jennie’s blog is so very readable

      Liked by 1 person

      • Suzanne says:

        I know you do and you are an excellent storyteller, Geoff. No doubt why I follow your blog 🙂 We just spoke with good friends in Devon regarding the Queens passing [they are royalists]. A very sad day, not all I suppose though a fair chunk of us.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I think, even those who feel the institution has had its day admire what she did over 70 years. I can be ambivalent about some of the individuals inside the bubble but on balance I don’t want us to experiment with another system, because experience says they’ll be unexpected consequences if we do. Be careful what you wish firm better the devil and all that… I’d fully understand why you guys, Oz and Canada decided to be republics – it makes much more sense – but for us, I’d like this ermine clad nonsense to continue, even if there is a whiff of Truman show slavery about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Suzanne says:

        No family institution is ever perfect and to live in a fish bowl would be extremely difficult. Unlike most of us we could close our front doors and what happened between closed doors was not questioned. Yes, I agree the devil you know. Again, what system will ever be good enough that all of us thrive within that society. I think the passing of the Queen reminded me the good parts of that generation have gone.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. The mention of Jennie drew me right in to this lovely story. I see where the love of gardening started. Scouting programs can do a lot of good things for youngsters under the right conditions. I had some good experiences as well. Doing odd jobs is a way of testing lots of things out to see what feels the best. We get led to the places we should ultimately be and somehow get connected with those we should be with. It’s a winding path but the right one.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. HI Geoff, Bristol is one of the universities my son looked into applying too. Covid messed that up and now he is settled at Uni here in South Africa. Life does work in strange ways. I met my husband on my very first audit. He was my senior.

    Liked by 1 person

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