I have a suitcase full of photographs from the house in France, and at some point I need to sit down and sort through them all. Many of them are of people who may or may not be relatives from four or five generations back, but among them are some other delights, such as the note written in 1915 for my grandmother on her first birthday, with ribbon still intact, and the photograph of my great grandfather and father on the former’s 93rd birthday as a guest of honour aboard a submarine.
There are many, many photos of people who I remember well and who are no longer around – grandparents, godparents, other friends and acquaintances – and, even though I do not think of them every day, having them reappear, captured in specific moments that I still recall, has been an experience. I remember their stories too, such as my godmother’s who, according to legend, worked at Bletchley Park as a codebreaker, something I had dismissed as optimistic gossip until I checked their online records, and there she was.
Ultimately, though, today is all there is, and, whether as a result of the reinforcement of that notion or not, I have done some serious writing over the past week or so. Not only are the Three Songs To Poems By Emily Dickinson (nearly) finished, but I also managed to knock up an organ piece for a deadline, over ten minutes’ worth too, and while it may not quite be as I had intended it to be, at least it is there and with a double bar at the end.
Meanwhile some items are still hunting for their final places of repose, such as the paintings by my grandmother’s cousin, currently in the back of my car, and the photo of my father as Little Bo Peep, dancing happily in black and white, presumably still as an undergraduate at Oxford. Actually, maybe that one should remain hidden.
The photo below, though, reminds me of my father the most, and as I say goodbye to him for the last time, his ashes scattered, his house about to be sold, I think that this is the memory I shall retain above all. Not the fading invalid, but instead the man with the wayward, impish and slightly absurd sense of humour that bubbled under the surface, only to emerge at the most inopportune times, often providing the most amusement to himself. At least in this case I really do hope that the apple does not fall too far from the tree.