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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A fraternal chat

Nick called yesterday. He's my younger brother and not well. But he lives in Harrogate (the Goring of the North), a 300-mile round trip.

My Christmas card to him is sitting on the newell post awaiting a stamp. He chortles mildly, having already posted his card to me.

He hates to impose and I know he'll ring off unless I can extend the conversation in a natural way. As we talk I tick off subjects I know will interest him.

The typeface of Gorgon Times, he says, is too small to read easily. I tell him not to apologise. He reveals - to my surprise - he keeps a copy of our mother's book of poems on his coffee table. We agree she wrote pretty well (one poem came second in a nationwide competition) excepting the one about Douglas Bader, the WW2 fighter pilot. "It's as if... " he ponders a comparison. "It was written for the Beano," I say and he laughs despite himself. I tell myself Nick is alive and my mother is dead. Besides, she admitted the poem was unsatisfactory.

As a yachtsman he gives genererously to the lifeboat charity but has latterly become disenchanted. Once, sailing alone in the Channel he found a floating headless body. On the coastguard's instructions he circled the body for hours listening to the lifeboat coxswain tell the coastguard over the VHF he didn't want "that" on his boat. Nick forgets a lot, but not that.

We wander over well-worn reminiscences and I try to provide joky punchlines. He laughs at quite a few and these are greater triumphs than anything I've ever written. When he finally does ring off I pretend to myself he does so reluctantly. One never knows. 


  1. A dire experience in a lifetime does affect the desire to talk, I think. Some I have met talk and talk and talk afterwards,while some I have known do not talk much about either the dire experience or much else from then on. It's good when laughter can be shared still. And when understanding somehow happens, even in the quiet parts of a chat. Here's a wish for Kraft, dear RR!

  2. Such sweet awkwardness between brothers. Perhaps English men (and I know some Finnish men) are afraid to show emotions. Glad for you both that there was laughter, that eases pain and sadness,

  3. RW (sZ): Thanks for your good wishes.

    M-L: There's a cultural thing involved. I hope we've cleared this up.

  4. My Mother who had memory problems towards the end of her life didn't lose her long term memory. Short term was a problem. But the best thing about memory is it capacity to retain important things from the past like that poignant story of the floating corpse.

    anti robot tag as a good word like the refrain from a song "herwaywa"

  5. A good phone call can be such a treasure. I used to try to get my grandmother reminiscing on the phone, and then take scribbly notes of the call to see if I could somehow capture the grace of her southern phrases and the stories that she told.

  6. Joe: I suppose if one were faced with the choice between long and short term memory, long would be the richer experience. Short-term memory spends an awful lot of time in supermarkets and en route to railway platforms.

    Julia: The benefits (of a "difficult" phone call) may be sparse but the rewards are above rubies. As to your southern grannie, you should be writing fiction, you know. Or I shouldn't. I never did anything as farseeing as that.