Friday, 18 August 2017

MYSTERIES, MUSINGS, & MEANDERINGS...



In previous posts I've bored you all rigid with ponderous ponderings on the nature of time, as well as rambling reminiscences of my childhood and how I've never been quite able to comprehend how I went to bed one night as a teenager and woke up what seems like the very next day as the grumpy curmudgeon I am now.  Well, the bad news is that it's more of the same, I'm afraid.

As a child I was always looking backward.  When I moved from the first house I remember (but not the first I lived in), I made little pilgrimages to my old street to look at my former abode and derive some comfort from the familiarity of its presence.  What's odd about this over-developed sense of nostalgia is that I only lived three or four minutes away and was a mere five and a half years old.  Wow!  Not even six and already hankering after the 'good old days'.


This compulsion to revisit the past has been a prominent feature of my personality all through my life to this very day.  I recently added photographs of the views from the windows of my previous houses to my screensaver facility so that I can again gaze on familiar scenes whenever the mood takes me.  At the click of a key I can re-experience any one of several landscapes that once met me when I drew back the curtains in the morning at various stages in my life.

However, there was one particular house (the third after the aforementioned ones above) I lived in for several years that I didn't miss 'til over a dozen years after moving out (and two houses down the line) and I've often wondered as to the reasons for this 'delayed reaction'.  If you're interested (or aren't currently engaged in watching paint dry), feel free to join me as I explore the possible explanation for the curious complexity which has puzzled me for many a long year.


When I moved from the house in question (back in 1972), my life still revolved to a great degree around the neighbourhood it was situated in.  I continued to attend the school just across the road from it for another two and a half years.  I still went to Summer and Christmas fayres in the church at the top of the street, and my mother dutifully trotted along to the Sunday services every week, even though there was another congregation of the same denomination just around the corner from our new home.  (In fact, it was from this group that the one my mother went to had sprung.)  My friends all lived near or around my old domicile and I continued to frequent the area for quite a few years after.

It wasn't unusual for me to come home from school (and later, work), have my tea, and then return to my previous neighbourhood to hang about the local shopping centre (about thirty seconds away from my old front door) with my pals.  Perhaps that explains why I wasn't consumed with the same rabid pangs of nostalgia I nursed for previous houses;  I saw it so often that I simply never had a chance to miss it.  The ambiance of the house was preserved in our new home by the presence of the same furniture we'd had in every place we'd ever lived in - plus, our new house was similar in many respects to the first one I remembered, hence it conjured up a feeling of familiarity that pre-dated the dwelling we had just recently vacated.


It wasn't until we had again moved house (in 1983) and were ensconced in yet another new residence that I gradually started to miss the one we had quit way back in 1972. What's strange about this was that I was simultaneously wallowing in nostalgic notions for the homestead we had just left (to say nothing of the ones which preceded them both), so it certainly can't be denied that I was spoilt for choice when it came to such sentimental self-indulgence.  Maybe I'm just greedy?

Perhaps another reason I only started to miss this particular house when I did had something to do with running into an old classmate from primary school in the neighbourhood shops across from my old home in 1984 or '85.   ALEX LOWE by name, and as fine and decent a bloke as you could ever hope to meet.  We exchanged greetings, enquired after one another's well-being, and then Alex asked:  "Are you still living across the road?", nodding in the direction of my previous abode.  He was surprised to learn that I'd moved away about twelve or thirteen years earlier, and it made me wonder how many other people I knew still thought I lived in a place I'd left almost half my life away at that point.


Talking of Alex (and veering wildly off topic), I hope he won't mind me recounting that he once appeared in our secondary school play as a fairy, uttering the immortal lines:  "I'm a fairy, bright and gay, helping others every day!"  I don't recall anything else about that play, but Alex's turn got such a huge laugh on the night that everyone remembered it - and constantly quoted the lines back to him in lisping, falsetto voice over the course of the next few terms.  (I know I did, little bastich that I was.)  He always took it in good humour, being the fine fellow he is.

I'd planned to expand the scope of this topic and try and explore (in an epic exercise in tedium) wider themes than I actually have.  For example, what it is that draws us to our past and connects us to where we came from, and whether or not it has any bearing on the direction we take in life.  Can a house in which we once stayed shape our perceptions of ourselves, or would we be precisely the same as we are regardless of the bricks and mortar which shield us from the elements?  However, the realisation has now dawned on me that it's simply too big a concept to concisely and competently capture within the confines of a blog post - in an interesting and entertaining way, at least.


I'll have to content myself with the hope (slim as it may be) that I may have prompted some readers to indulge in a little quiet contemplation of whatever memories reside within the repositories of their own minds.

Or, failing that, helped cure them of their insomnia.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

CHILDHOOD CAPERS - CHAPTER THREE: THE 'AMAZING' UNCLE WILLIE...



I used to have an uncle;  nothing unusual about that - lots
of folk have uncles.  I had more than one uncle of course, but it's
one in particular I'm going to talk about today.  Let's call him Uncle
Willie - mainly because that was his name.  Although, in the interests
of historical accuracy, it behooves me to admit that I'm unsure whether
he was an 'actual' uncle or merely an 'honorary' one, in that convenient
bracket that older male relatives are placed when it's not known exact-
ly what their title should be.  He never struck me as a very nice man to
be frank, and he was eventually sectioned under the mental health
act for beating up his wife - who, unsurprisingly, happened to be
my aunt.  They were both quite elderly when all this was
going on, which is all rather tragic I suppose.

I remember being through in Edinburgh with my family
back in the late '60s, visiting one of my father's sisters (another
aunt), and Uncle Willie and his wife were there too.  We all left at the
same time and I remember Uncle Willie put his hand in his pocket and
slipped some coins into the hands of my other aunt's kids.  I was sur-
prised to see this act of generosity, because he'd never done that
with me or my brother.  I liked him even less after that.

Uncle Willie was a bit of a blowhard.  Full of tall tales and
unlikely stories designed to portray himself in the most flattering
light.  Anything anyone else had ever done, he'd done first or done
better - and sometimes even both.  He and his wife were visiting our
house one night, and he took the opportunity to regale my brother
and myself with tales of how fit he was and how he was able to
expand his chest to nigh Olympian proportions.

He could see from our expressions that we remained un-
convinced (nor were we much interested, truth be told) so he in-
sisted on demonstrating his 'amazing ability'.  At first he stood in a
stooped position with his chest as far back towards his spine as pos-
sible, then slowly stood up, thrusting his chest out as far as he could
and, arching his back while leaning forward, attempted to create the
impression that he'd achieved his stated goal.  When he was finished,
he proudly announced:  "Mabel, I've just expanded my chest by 11
and a half inches!"  He hadn't of course, all he'd done is made a
tit of himself.   We were too polite to say so, but we had a
good laugh at him after he'd left.

 I'm glad I've no nieces and nephews, because at least I know
I can never be regarded with derision or disdain in the way that
me and my brother discreetly regarded Uncle Willie.  So I suppose
the moral of this story is that if you want your young relatives to be
left with a good impression of you when you're gone, then you
should avoid trying to impress them while you're here.

Monday, 13 February 2017

MAN IS A DOG'S WORST FRIEND...



Not long after our dog TARA died, a friend asked me to
look after his four-legged friend for a while, so I did.  Two weeks
after my doggie-sitting term had ended, I bought a puppy, ZARA,
who was the final dog out of three that my family had over a nearly
26 year period.  Let me tell you something - people who don't like
dogs - or any animals in fact - and are untouched by an animal's
death, are unnatural.  There's something missing in them and
they're very probably latent serial killers.

But that's another subject.  When Zara was a few months
old and still in the process of getting her jags, I was sitting in the
vet's one evening and a dog could be heard whining behind a door.
The vet came out to speak to me, and I caught a glimpse of a black
dog which must've been tethered to a table leg or something.  As I
was speaking with the vet, the whining increased and the dog start-
ed scratching at the door and yelping.  I asked what was wrong
with it and the vet replied "It's getting put to sleep."

Anyway, after my business was completed, I made my
way home feeling a little sorry for the dog, but too delighted with
my own pup to dwell on it.  A few years later, I ran into a friend, who
mentioned that he'd been given the very canine that I'd once looked
after, because its owner couldn't keep it any more.  "What happened
to it?" I asked him.  "I had to get it put down because..."  I forget the
reasons why, but I asked him where he'd taken the poor dog, and,
sure enough, it was the very vet's where I'd taken Zara for
her course of injections.

I checked the timeline with him and it matched.  It was then I
realized that the poor creature had been the dog behind the door,
and must have recognized my scent or my voice - hence its frantic
scratching, whining and yelping in an attempt to be rescued from
what it must have sensed was its final fate.  And I had failed it,
and it had gone to its end unloved and unwanted.

Looking back now, I'm not sure what I could have done, if
anything, but it still bothers me every now and again to this day.
I'd only looked after it for a fortnight or so, and it wasn't as if it was
'my' dog, but that poor creature must've hoped I'd rescue it and I let
it down, unaware of its identity 'though I'd been.  Humans are often
pretty useless when it counts, and I was found amongst that par-
ticular number on that sad and pitiful day.  Alas, I no longer
even recall the doomed dog's name.

Regrets?  I've had a few...and this was one of them.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

GARDENS OF THE MIND...



was passing my former house in an old neighbourhood
 yesterday and, acting on impulse, decided to 'catch a swatch'
at the back garden.  I was saddened to see that the clothes poles
and lawn were gone, and that the garden had been re-slabbed to
cover the whole area.  It was a bit of a shock as the last time
I'd seen it, it was pretty much as it had been in my day.

I'm glad I'd managed to get photographs of the garden
back in 1988 and again in 1991, and preserved it as it used to
be in the halcyon days of my childhood.  For 20-odd years after
we'd flitted, the house and gardens (front and back) had remain-
ed mostly as I recalled them, but since then several significant
changes have been made, and things as I'd known them are
now a mere echo in the hallowed halls of history.

If I were ever to win the Lottery, I'd buy every house in
which I've ever lived and restore them as much as possible
to their former glory.  In a completely self-indulgent wallow in
nostalgia, I thought I'd take another walk around my old garden
and permit you to accompany me.  It wasn't much, but it was
mine - and shall forever remain so in the mystic bands of
memory.  Now, follow me - the past is this way.










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