A Sort of Eulogy

My gran died on Tuesday 10th of December, and today we laid her to rest. My mum asked me to write a few words to say at her funeral but the whole thing ran over, meaning I didn’t get a chance to say what it was I wanted to say. So for the benefit of my family, and perhaps friends too, here it is. I was going to close with W.S. Merwin’s excellent poem “Good Night”, which I may well save for another post.

I love my nana. My old granny. She never seemed to age. Always with white hair, glasses and a slight stoop. My lasting memories of her will be like series of Polaroid photos, one after the other, as she pottered around her house. Always asking if I wanted food, always palming me a fiver or a tenner when we were sitting alone, always ready to make you laugh when you least expected it, be it through an anecdote from her life, or simply as a reaction to her rousing, infectious, whooping laugh.

Sitting alone with my nana was something I cherished. It’s strange, as time went on I felt like my life was oddly dull. I never had much new to tell her from week to week, yet she smiled all the same. And moaned. She did love a good moan. I always knew she was actually feeling alright when she was moaning about something – the state of the roads, David Cameron and the Tories, the lack of jobs, the state of Noel Edmunds’ beard, how there was never any good news anymore… there was always something. And it was always funny.

I feel it’s somewhat fitting that a lot of my memories of her are of her at home because she was very house proud. It was never in a snooty way though. For example, from when I was a wee guy up until what must have been about ten or so years ago, she had the same old horrific 70s carpet in the hall and up the stairs. It was pretty dreadful, a strange frayed mix of black and red and yellow which had been worn over many years by many different feet. It was positively terrible. The day that was replaced with the carpet which is in her house now, she told me that it was something she had always wanted to do. Such a simple thing that made her happy. House proud she was. And then followed the new kitchen, bathroom, TVs, appliances and whatnot. Most of my memories are of my gran being at home. Not house bound, just in the place that she made her own over many many years.

Memories are funny things. They bend and warp over time, yet nana was always on hand to regale anyone with a story from her youth. She loved film, you see, and she would often speak of the jaunts she’d take every week to one of the cinemas in Shawlands, those which no longer exist, to watch the biggest stars of her day. She once told me a story about how she took her brother Alfie to the cinema with her, and all she wanted to do after the film had finished was sit and watch it again, but he started crying and she managed to pacify him by giving him the chewing out of her own mouth to stop him crying. Sometimes she’d go even further back to when she was a child in Govan. That’s when we knew the stories were going to be laden with either laughter or songs, often both. I’ll miss that laugh and I’ll miss those stories.

We all worry that when we go, we go alone. I can tell you that she did not go alone; she was surrounded by those she loved. If one could be so bold as to measure a life, then the best measurement I can think of is by counting how many lives one has touched. As I look out here today, I can see the many lives that she’s touched and I think that’s some pretty good going. The stories that we all have, those snapshots, the intimate portraits of a woman we all loved, those too are a measure of how much my nana touched our lives and how her light has, in part, been passed on to us. And perhaps one day we too will regale our kids, grandkids, friends and maybe even strangers, with the stories, with the memories, we have of a funny and kind hearted woman. A wonderful light has gone from our lives, and the world has become slightly darker. It’s up to us to make sure that the light she left with us burns for many years to come. 


Day Three Hundred and Forty Seven: Remembrance

Today marks the second anniversary of my grandad’s death. I still think about him a lot and whenever I go to my dad’s house I always expect to see him sitting in his old seat at the head of the dining room table reading the newspapers with his spectacles on and using a magnifying glass to see the words properly. Just sitting there, occasionally with a beer or a guinness, chilling, reading the paper or doing the crossword.

It’s easy to be pragmatic about death, I think. We experience it every day in some way or another and we’ll all surely experience it at some stage in our lives. When someone close to you passes away it’s hard to be prepared for the emotional maelstrom that follows and although time shapes that whirlwind of feelings into something more manageable, that feel of loss never really disappears.

He was in his 89 when he passed meaning that he, of course, served in World War II. He was stationed on two ships which were sunk in the war. My grandad wasn’t the type who spoke often or about his experiences in the war. Although I wasn’t present when this particular story was told, it later turned out that when he was diagnosed with cancer he relayed a story to his doctor and those that were in the room with him about one of his experiences during the war.

My memory is a little hazy here and no doubt I’ll get corrected by family afterwards but here goes.

When one of the ships he was one was bombed (torpedoed?) by a German U-boat those who survived the blast abandoned ship. Having gotten himself to safety, one of his crewmates was still in the sea calling out for help. They were unable to save him despite their efforts. This was a story that had obviously stuck with my grandad for a long time but quite why he chose to tell it then is a mystery.

Nevertheless, the last thing he said to me and my brother as he was swept in and out of consciousness by waves of morphine was “Try to help people in any way you can”, advice which was perhaps influenced in some way by what he’d seen in the war.

I’ll never forget that moment when he imparted that final piece advice to us. It was late evening and the side ward he was in was very dim, the off pink colour of the room and its curtains had taken on a sort of soft burgundy hue. The bleeps and boops of the machines around him permeated the silence whilst my aunt sat beside him holding his hand. When he told us that advice it was a quiet, breathless voice. It’ll always stay with me.

The only tears I shed were on that night, in one of the waiting rooms next to his ward.

A few days later I was awoken with my dad phoning me telling me that he was coming over to my flat, something which had never done before and hasn’t done since, to tell me that he’d died.

Strange memories. Strange times.

Anyway, I didn’t want this post to become a sad one.

After the war my grandad received a few medals. Below you can see his record of service, medals and various other things relating to his service in the navy. Rather than focusing on his departure, today I’ll be remembering what he gave for this country and what a fine gent he was.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day One Hundred and Twenty Nine: No Levity

Where have you been,
With your gaze so pristine,
When we took turns
sat at the end of your bed.
The daylight comes and goes
with your muddy mood,
But you’re left with nothing to show.
You’re in and out,
We’re oOut and in,
Talking and writhing and moving.
And spitting, and slurring
And waiting and waiting.
I see your curtains are drawn,
I see the ward lights are on,
and you’re going,
and going,
and gone.

Day Six: Sort Of

Although I’m loathe to put a post on here that is not creative, I’ve spent most of my day cleaning my mothers loft and had no time to properly sit down and pour over something creative.

I’ve made a video but alas, I do not have time to edit it. Instead, I took some pictures to show that I’m still making some kind of effort.

The state before the clear out.

There was a whole load of toys from when I was younger. I was particularly amused by these two:

THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR! With arm moving action.
TAXI! A toy London taxi in unusually pristine condition.

Found a ton of photos, including this one – the first photo ever taken of me.

Circa 1985

And a charming first school photo.

Circa...1992 or something.

I’m also doing the same thing tomorrow, but by then I’ll have a ton more stuff to show you. Hopefully.

That video will follow soon, I suspect.