Thursday 30 July 2009

Always and Forever, Brother...

My Godfather, J, died of a brutal cancer a week ago tomorrow. It was to be a quick parting. Little did we know it but we had only five weeks from diagnosis to his passing to say goodbye.

J will be much missed. An integral part of all my family's life. A solid fixture in the Hexham way of life. I know now that when I look at the rolling Northumbrian hills - I will think of him.


My parents had known him from school. He was my father's best friend. And as I write this I feel the tears welling up inside me.

This is my father's tribute to him, at his graveside, two days ago:

"I'm going to talk about J and friendship.

He was cheerful, encouraging and appreciative.
He thought well of others; he did not criticise or condemn; he was unselfish to others - happy to praise their good qualities and abilities, and able to enjoy their good fortune if any came their way.

He was big-hearted. His loyalty was unstinting.

He was open-hearted. He was always welcoming.
I used to phone on alternate Sunday mornings to call in for a coffee and a discussion.
"Alright to come along?" I would ask. He always replied, "You're most welcome".
If my wife, or one of my daughters came with me, he would say, "Nice to see you, pet".

It was never just a chat and a gossip with us - after an initial prologue of minor things we got into the state of the nation, educational system, and the world of ideas - heavy stuff.
B, when present in his teenage years, would roll over on the couch, cover his head with a blanket and go to sleep.

J was nobody's fool - with his intellectual ability and clear sightedness he saw through most pretence, prejudice and affectations.
He was his own man with measured thought and measured opinion.
Popular enthusiasms and fancies were not on his road.
Those, who demand others to say and do as they thought proper, were to him - using his phrase - "Liberal Fascists".

That is not to say he was without his foibles. He had lasting enthusiasms - in very active years - golf - with a famous victory at Turnberry - he scooped the sweepstake and wined and dined in the hotel later - on the proceeds; but always horses and betting, films and books and what came most naturally - talking.

One might say, at times, these passions lead to a certain repetitiveness. I have heard some of his stories on more than one occasion.

As regards films he could get carried away. As Secretary to the Film Club in South Shields he produced a showing of the Franz Kafka's "The Trial" - a hard two hours I might say both on the mind and on the backside - most of the audience did not wait that long. J, of course, was unrepentant.

His favourite film directors were Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford and Kurasawa. His favourite Ford movie was "The Searchers". John Wayne, as Ethan Edwards, spends years searching the Indian lands of the mid-west for his abducted niece. In the final scenes she is returned to her family. John Wayne stands watching from the open doorway with the wide, bare country behind him. He then turns and walks off into the distance - his job done, he has finished what he set out to do.

I'd like to think that of J - he has left with his work and life as a whole.

And again another film he enjoyed was "Some Like It Hot". He smiled delightedly at the final line - when the millionaire multi-married Joe. E. Brown finds his new girl-friend (Jack Lemmon in a frock and a wig) is not a woman and says, "Nobody's perfect".

His progress in life was not without its ups and downs but he carried on with cheerful fortitude. He came from the Stoic school of philsophy learned from his childhood in the less well-off working class areas of South Shields. You just got on with it.

After retiring, he gave much time to the Hexham Music Festival and part time teaching to young children who needed help with their early literacy. He was most affectionate and concerned for them. They were encouraged to call him "J". Each was special for him.

Clever as he was, he was modest and depreciative of his abilities. He admitted he was not the world's best at Do-It-Yourself. I think he only ever used a pen - no hammer or spanner I ever saw. Yet as a student, during the summer holidays, he worked in a shoe-repair factory and dry-cleaning works. His father made anchor chains in the shipyards. His mother made the best mince pie I ever tasted. He never allowed his Oxford education to get in the way of his appreciation of people no matter what their background or abilities.

It's good to say that his last decade with M brought great love and comfort. He was latterly able to enjoy and celebrate J Junior's marriage to E, and B's success in his final exams and his enrolment for a future MA degree course in Music.
In his final days, his sister, G and much-loved niece, C-A, were with him (from Canada).

He was a good man, a gentle man - a special friend.

To finish, I will go back to the years when J and I did Latin verbs together, and I shall borrow from Catullus my parting words -

Semper in perpetuum, frater,
Ave atque vale

Always and forever, brother,
Hail and Farewell


Maggie May said...

I am really sorry to hear this news.
What a wonderful tribute to a good friend who you will surely miss. He sounded a right character and a really good man to be with.
Seems to me, the best get taken.

DeniseinVA said...

I am so very sorry you lost your dear friend. He sounded an absolutely wonderful man. Your tribute to him was a loving one and so beautiful.

Ladybird World Mother said...

What a loss for you...I'm so sorry. A wonderful tribute to him. I'm glad he loved Some Like it Hot. One of my favourites, as is the last line!

Dan said...

Those are lovely words. I'm sorry for your loss.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

I am so sorry for your loss Hadriana - you have written beautifully about your friend, who will be greatly missed by all who knew him. It brought tears to my eyes but also made me smile and when I read "nice to see you pet" I could almost hear his Northumbrian accent - a wonderful tribute. A x

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Yes, Maggie, the best get taken far too soon. He was only 69! Thank you for your warm words.

Denise, thank you. The tribute was written by my father and it summed him up perfectly. That's why I wanted to put it up here.

LWM, you like "Some Like It Hot" too? Super. It's a family favourite. I particularly like it when Tony Curtis does a Cary Grant impression when he tries to chat up Marilyn Monroe. It certainly is a classic.

There were a few mentions of his "business associates" (his fellow gambling chums) at his funeral. That made me smile and made me think of the gangsters in "Some Like It Hot".

Dan, welcome to my blog. Thank you for your lovely words.

SJA..."Nice to see you, pet!" brings tears to my eyes too. They bring him back so vividly. You wrote that so movingly. We should not weep though...he was a very cheerful man. His mum was like a grandmother to me when I was little. I shall be writing a post about them both in September when there will be a big wake for him at Hexham Race Course. Like Maggie said...the best ones get taken. I'm also happy that my Dad's tribute made you smile. :)

kestrel said...

Sorry to hear the sad news, cancer takes many people away. From your post, he had lived a wonderful and interesting life.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

A fitting tribute for a great and characterful beloved man...

~I'll bet he knew how much you all loved him, and that is such a wonderful parting gift to give... With love, and wishing you luck and forebearance... x

French Fancy... said...

What a lovely tribute your father wrote. J sounded a wise and loving man and it will be hard now that he has gone from all your lives. I suppose also that Sunday mornings will be especially difficult for you dad too.

Re SLIH - I love the 'I'm in oil' scene on the beach,

Nota Bene said...

Safe onward journey J

Willow said...

I am sorry to hear about your godfather. It is always harder for those of us left.

When we are in Northumberland again, I'll be sure to let you know. And anything you post about the area will be so very interesting to me.

I am more likely to check my willowscottage blog than the simple pleasures one, which I share with my daughter. See you there.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Dear Kestrel, WoNI, FF, NB and Willow

Thank you all for your wonderful words about J. I must admit it is a bit of a struggle at the moment. Not least because I cannot believe that he is not here any more. I'm guessing it will take me/us a long time to come to terms with this.

I have my good moments and my not so good moments. As you know, I'm sure, the thing about grief is that it creeps up when least expected!

FF - Sunday mornings will be very tricky for sure.

Willow - I've made a note of your blog. Please do contact me if you can.

I start my guiding at The Roman Army Museum on Wednesday afternoon and I'm looking forward to that.

I also took a trip into Hexham on Friday (a week after J's death) on the AD122 bus (which I had not used before). There was a guided commentary, fantastic views, a very friendly guide and bus driver.

In Hexham park the sun shone and the bells rang out from the Abbey. The perfect way to remember J. He would have been happy. We should be too.

It was amazing to have known him and loved him and to have been loved by him.

Lynne said...

A lovely tribute.
I think your words on your last comment are particularly poignant,
It was amazing to have known him, loved him, and be loved by him. I think that is a good way to think of someone that has passed on.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thank you so much, Lynne :)

Expat mum said...

Aw Pet! It's hard to lose lovely people. I'm happy for him that he didn't suffer for too long but it's a shock for everyone he leaves behind.

Rosaria Williams said...

I dropped in intrigued by the title, and found a beautiful eulogy to a wonderful man-friend. I usually don't crash funerals, but, I'm glad I got to meet this family.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing and my condolences to you and your family for your sad loss.

CJ xx

Hadriana's Treasures said...

expatmum, lakeviewer and CJ:

Yes, it is getting easier day by day.

I still can't believe it but J was a practical, pragmatic man and he would have just wanted us all to get on with it.

I miss him though.

Harry said...

Would that I be remembered with half that love and affection when it's my time. My condolences on your loss, and my envy of knowing a person like that!

Tim Atkinson said...

That's a wonderfully heart-felt eulogy. Clearly a great man, sadly missed.

Iota said...

He sounds a lovely man.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Saco-Harry, The Dotterel, Iota...aah you say such wonderful things!

We spent last Friday in Hexham in remembrance of him. A trip on AD122 bus, lunch on the market square, played in the park on the swings and plenty of ice cream munched and melted (and that was just me!)

It was a brilliantly sunny day. We looked at the band stand in the park (restored by Smith & Co. Ltd. from South Shields) in 1897. First time I'd noticed that. (Funny and strange coincidence.) The bells from the Abbey rang out and my little boy said "Ice cream van!"

J would have loved that. :)

Dumdad said...

A very touching tribute for obviously a very special man.

Suburbia said...

So sorry for your loss.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thank you Dumdad and Suburbia. Thanks for popping by.

Anonymous said...

I didnt roll over and fall asleep!!! It was like a superior episode of question time twice a month! Fond memories, ive still yet to hear two more eloquent speakers.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Many thanks Ben! I'll let Dad know...he'll be chuffed for sure. :-)
Catherine xx