Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Everything Is Painting Pictures





A phone call comes, brings the news in low voice. We knew he was old, of course, not immortal, but our picture of the world has an Uncle Den as a building has a foundation stone. With his passing, a puzzling gap appears. We have stories, of course, like how he loved to paint, he liked rum, he wasn’t so keen on the gout; we paint him back with our words, with our gratitude. He knew the world before we came to it. He knew the world at war. He knew to be kind. He was happy. He was a grand and gentle role model for a flock of children.

Into the car, we go. We fit one granddaughter, one godson. Find, at a train station, one son. Gather at a house; children are spilling everywhere. Sun shines, draws us out. There’s the usual comedy of one car following the other and being lost at the traffic lights and a car park reunion. Tiny ones are strapped to a pram, they kick their legs, sometimes each other. The older three bounce like Tiggers, all the way to the ice rink. We can hold them still for a moment only, to snap the skates shut on eager feet. None of them can skate: pah! A mere detail! As well as skates we hire two helpful penguins and a ride on banana. Every penny counted out for this is well spent. Maybe the tinies don’t agree; one sleeps, one snacks, slightly bored. Fat Beagle sits, would like to snack. The older three slide, eyes wide; Uncle Chap flies the banana sledge so fluently the rest of us are sacked from that job. Our feet hurt in the mean old skates: pah! A mere detail! We laugh anyway. There is ice and open sky and sharing.
After this we turn our aching feet towards the sea. One of the tinies is loose, she runs through the city pigeons, whooping. I scoop her up to cross the road. Everyone holds someone’s hand, or pushes the twin pram, or holds a dog lead. We find an open space, let all the children run crazy till their tummies rumble. There are cafes in a row, we take one that allows Fat Beagle to sit in hope under a table. Two highchairs please and a dog treat and room for three more bonkers children and five grown ups: into the quiet room we bring our jollity. It befuddles the waitress. As she takes back the misunderstood scone, Grandchild 3, loud and clear, chimes out: ‘Silly lady!’
‘You shouldn’t call people silly,’ her Granma says, quietly, advisory; ‘it might make them feel sad.’
‘Don’t say that Granma,’ she whispers, ‘you’re making me feel sad.’
Also, her ice lolly is too cold. She gives it to her cousin who gives me his ice cream which has bits in it, so Grandchild 2 has the correctly buttered scone but doesn’t like it and swaps again for a sausage from her Uncle’s sandwich. A piece of scone falls to the floor. Fat Beagle wags his tail.
Back to the house, after a harbour walk, for dishes of slow cooked stew. Uncle Chap is fast asleep on the sofa. The children puts dolls’ clothes on him and a nappy on his head. Grandchild 1, puffed with pride, calls us to look. 





5 comments:

  1. Sounds a perfect way to celebrate someone's life.

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  2. I think most have an "Uncle Den," and such a lovely way your family celebrated his life. Sending peaceful thoughts. (smile)

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  3. A perfect tribute. And I would have ridden the banana.

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  4. "Bouncing like Tiggers" is a great descriptive phrase - I can immediately see Tigger flopping about.

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