I record below a snapshot, a brief sketch as it were of the mundane doings of your parents.
It is an illustration of what age and alcohol can do to two people, one of whom has a brain the size of a planet and the other of the common or garden, pea. Note: Mine is the pea as I’m sure you had gathered.
This is not sent as a warning more as a glimpse into how years together mold a relationship and the strange ways that the mould grows, rather like in a ripe Roquefort.
The time: Just after six of the clock in the evening, before supper and as the first libation is being gratefully consumed.
The place: At the great table, which as you all know would be found suitable for a baronial hall or refectory, but which takes up over three quarters of the floor space in the converted shed which is the dining room of No 41.
Note: this splendid piece of furniture at which you have all sat during your childhoods and indeed majorities, along with spouses and children, is not, as usual, either groaning under the weight of platters of food and battalions of bottles, or indeed the piles of papers and files that cover it when your dear mother uses it as an office. No it is almost clear of all clutter save one glass and accompanying bottles of gin and tonic for me, one small glass half filled with watered brandy for your mother. There is at the end of the table, against the wall a somewhat large music device that grips an i-pad in a mechanical embrace.
Thus the scene is set.
It has become a welcome habit to every evening at this time, ‘clear the decks’ get out the drinks and tune in to some gem from the wireless. Just as I suspect we both did as children.
The machine is playing an old radio program much beloved by your mother and I, ‘Beachcomber …. by the way,’ a Radio Comedy first broadcast in the 1990s. It is one of the highlights of our listening week.
For us and our generation it is pure delight. I doubt it would appeal to any of you and would be as impenetrable to your ears as ‘rap’ is to ours.
We sit down to listen. Bliss.
Then leaping arthritically up on the table lurches Flo that mad and scrawny cat, who if she were in human form, would be a skinny old lady with mad eyes, clothed in soiled rags under which protruded stick thin legs encased in wrinkled stockings that looked like the sloughed off skin of a snake. She wandered across the clean surface of the table either looking for some morsel or driven by visions, it’s hard to tell these days. Her fur as usual matted into great tangles and lumps as though she has been rolled in porridge which has been left to dry.
The wireless played on.
Without missing a beat, your dear old mother took hold of the cat, gently stroking and caressing the rancid fur, the cat purring loudly in deranged satisfaction.
Isobel then began to tease out some of the larger clumps of fur and piled them next to her on the table. Then with some slight of hand, with the skill of a magician, a small pair of scissors appeared in her grasp and she began to attack the huge noisome clumps that lurk around the tail and arse end of this feline wreck.
The wireless played on, I supped my g&t, we didn’t talk.
After a while the cat grew restless, the pile of fur next to your mother had grown enough to stuff a medium sized pin cushion, the cat dropped to the floor and slunk away.
Not a word passed between us throughout this process, we were engrossed in the radio show and what had passed between Isobel, the cat and I was a common occurrence.
It was only later, much later, that I saw this as being either something out of a Gillray print or a description by Boswell of some passing hospitality found in a dark rural bothy by him and Dr Johnson in their journey around rural Scotland. Whatever way you looked at it, this was not the normal domestic pursuits of a middle class couple in their senior years. I realised then that our future together was to be a far more rich and interesting tapestry than either of us could imagine.
Thus it was that I have decided to share.
‘What is bred in the bone is born in the flesh’ is indeed most prophetic and on the basis that all of you reading this share not just a bit of DNA from both of us, each to your fashion, but you also collectively share the ‘nurture over nature’ influence in your upbringing. That being so.
It’s not just pictures and bits you will inherit!
We love you all – and all of yours