Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: Goodnight

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Big Brother died peacefully yesterday afternoon after a far from peaceful weekend, seizing a moment - as often happens - when none of his family was with him.

Like everyone else in the family - some, of course, his immediate family, more than others - Granny is grieving.

She thinks of her father, aged 80 odd, at the funeral of the last and youngest of his siblings, in her 90's at the time. Granny was out of the country, but her twin reported that their dad sobbed loudly, throughout. 'It was excessive,' she said. Granny at the time agreed that it sounded excessive.

Listening to music today - to her preferred grief music - she wasn't quite so sure. Twenty-five years on, she's learned the hard way that as you grow older, as the deaths mount up, each one comes ever more freighted with past deaths, old griefs, with whole lives lost in the past; lives leaving little but photographs behind them- the odd object - the odd reminiscent piece of music - to remind you of how things were. At that funeral her dad was, she's sure, weeping not only for his sister, but for his long-dead parents, for his two much older brothers swallowed up in the killing machine that was World War One, for his wife, her mother, dead at 53: for all those lost lives - his lives - that theirs contained. At such moments the past reaches away behind but is also very close, close as the stratified layers in an archaeological site: whole centuries lying one on another, a mere whisker or two apart, in a single wedge of earth.

Granny's music was what it always is at such times - has been since her own twin died - Purcell's chamber opera Dido and Aeneas, written to be sung by schoolgirls and containing feelings well beyond theirs. It swells in the end through cello chords - or viola da gamba chords if the instruments played are old ones - and into Dido's Lament, one of the most wonderful pieces of music ever written. Its last words - 'Remember me, but forget my fate....' are a good epitaph besides for those who, as in Granny's family, die all too slowly and miserably of cancer. The tears well up when she hears Dido at the best of times.... as for days like today - you can imagine. This is all very self-indulgent of course, not to say sentimental but SO WHAT? The music isn't either of these things - far from it - even when accompanied by the tinny crowing of the bantam cockerel outside that Granny doesn't think Mr P ever intended as part of his orchestra; the bantam didn't have a clue about singing in time, let alone in tune. The wind in the beams and doors played better; whereas the blessedly silent sun through the high glass did its thing regardless, just like the bantam, flooding granny with light and warmth at the most inappropriate moments.

"Remember me but forget my fate."

Tragi-comedy all of it: tragic because life really is so short and we are each of us so insignificant- comic because we persist for long in thinking life is long and that we are, each of us, at its centre. Big Brother's life did not seem so long today, for sure, even though it was at the centre of Granny's, of his family's thinking, without a doubt. He was a pain in the arse in certain respects - but then all in her family can be pains in the arse, all are obstinate idiots - including her - but still a living breathing man with a wealth of good qualities, a not always happy life - far from it - and with four lovely kids who could be as maddened by him as his sisters could be, but who loved him to bits none the less. It says everything important, everything that was good about him, that they loved him as they did, that they are who they are, every last one of them.

Goodbye Big Brother. Granny too did love you after all. She does so wish you were still out there, playing golf and bridge, despairing that England had turned socialist, being your own true self: that you'd been given a few more years to enjoy your life in the sun at last. She hopes there's chocolate mousse up there for you - and a golf course or two. Sleep well.

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