Sunday, 25 February 2018

History One

My paternal Victorian grandfather – Albert – was a master saddle maker turned tent maker. My dad left school at 13 to work for his dad in 1926 and despite wanting to be a forester he ended running his dad business when his dad got ill 5 years later and never escaped. And that was it for him apart from his Second World War service in the navy (But that’s another story). So my mum worked part-time for my dad and my sister worked full time for him after leaving school at 15. I worked for my dad every summer holiday from aged 3 – I have the photos to prove it until I left Uni. My godmother worked part-time as a secretary for my dad in the evenings and on Sunday afternoons. So he worked 7 days a week! I had a few honorary uncles and aunts who worked for my dad and members of their families babysat me and my sister.

 But this wasn’t the life for me especially after passing my 11+ and going to the local grammar school where I wasn’t able to do wood or metal working and my dad would never share his practical skills with me. I felt trapped and desperately wanted to escape and find people to share ideas with.

To escape I choose the hip new world of computer programming – this was in 1968 – and hoped to make a career there. I loved history but did not want to teach it and maths so computers seemed a good choice. I enjoyed figuring out flow charts and algorithms but really hated coding. When I got an NHS job as a computer programmer in London in 1971 I spend 15 months writing coding like: 101.72,78,4. And if the typist misread my figures the programme would not work and a day would be wasted! This was long before personal computers!
So I quit moved to Notting Hill Gate and eventually got heavily into therapy. But that’s another story.
The point of my story which I seemed to have lost(!) was how I did not feel I belonged in my family – I used to think I was adopted as this would explain things (quite a common fantasy among counsellors apparently). And when I left there was no going back. I have returned for funerals and felt a strong sense of community which I have birth rites to but can’t live in. And living in a fashionable part of Manchester that is forever changing I feel something is lost.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Poem for Caroline


Oh God
What am I going to say
To you
Who are dying?
Words are hopeless
I have my presence
Deep breath
My task is to be with you
You are going too early
But I feel that way about everyone
Called to their own death
What next?
We sit in silence
Connected by spirit
I sing you a chant
We both know
When I speak to you
Your body moves in response
From the depth of your pain and morphine
You know I am with you.
I walk back to the train station
A local man with a fag and a walking stick
Says ‘Cheer up, it may not happen!’
I smile ruefully.