Monday, 10 July 2017

Family Reunion

Carol (Wood) Hensley is my oldest friend. We met in 1965 (mid-teens) in the Fourth Form at Ribston Hall High School For Girls, that bastion of middle-class privilege that let we working-class girls in to teach us our place. I have touched on this before, but even now I amazed that I STILL categorise myself as, 'a working-class child,' why the hell do I continue with it? Never again. So, getting beyond the basis for my socialism: we were friends right back when I swooned over Bob Dylan and she the Pretty Faces. She scratched 'Pretty Faces' on her desk and inked it in, I remember regarding such behaviour as curious, without wanting to do it myself.


Today was her mother's memorial service. Carol casually invited me, as I was one of the few people around who remembered the Wood family back in the sixties, and I was pleased to go.


The chapel and crematorium are in my old stomping ground, Coney Hill, Gloucester. My brother Adrian and both my parents are buried there, so I combined the memorial with a visit to their grave to tidy it up and put some fresh flowers on it. I also tidied up Baby Annabelle's grave next door, as my mother always used to - it is tiny, and overgrown: the little Cherub and the Father Christmas much in need of a wash. There must come a time when parents of a baby no longer feel the need to come where she isn't, but my mother was sentimental, and so, I guess, am I.


I was an observer. There for Carol, certainly, as in weeks to come when we talk about it, I'll know how Penny has aged, and how good the children were, and what a good job the humanist celebrant made of the service..


An observer soon knows the groups. The distant relatives not seen since Leslie Wood's service back in 2003, relieved that no-one mentions the promises to meet up that were never kept.


Kathleen's friends, ripe with reminiscences, some of them, judging by the shushing and giggles, not entirely respectable.


The immediate family, pulling together. Their politeness to me: "Well, Dominic, the last time I saw you, you were a gangly teenager with very blonde hair!" It's been a while.


The most interesting character, to me, was Steph, a women in her fifties, I'd say, a first cousin, who had never been allowed to mix with Carol and her sisters. Aunty Betty had married above herself, and all contact with her family was forbidden.


Steph's parents are dead, and she is delighting in her discovery of the only family she has now, she being an only child of a father who was an only child.


How strange it must be to have been forbidden a family! What kind of snobbishness, what degree of awful compliance, could possibly lead to such a nonsensical state of affairs? People are peculiar, families particularly so.


I was in conversation with a Canadian on Saturday who marvelled at how we Brits cling like Velcro to the ridiculous class system. I seconded her amazement. She would have been very entertained by this family and it's story of wealth, estrangement and inestimable loss.

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