Friday, 5 May 2006

Ruddy Ducks at 12 o'clock

For a week when I should be taking it easy, I had quite a lot that had to be done; routine hospital appointments two days in a row in different locations, east yesterday, west today.

Afterwards my PA and I went for a 'walk' at the RSPB at Radipole Lake. A bird nature reserve, originally marsh land down to the sea at Weymouth. Now surrounded by dual carriageways taking the traffic to KFC, Carpets-R-Us and the like, the constant traffic noise a distraction.

Despite the background noise, the reserve is peaceful and the paths along the water; with willows, hawthorn, blackthorn, and through the reeds, are accessible, with reed warblers very vocal, cormorants lined up on poles, swans, swallows, and a pair of grebe. I was quite pleased, never having seen a grebe before, I don't think. Then just as we turned to go back, I said "Ruddy Ducks at 12 o'clock" meaning straight ahead (when the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 12 - on the clock) which made my PA laugh.

I explained that when I was a little thing, my father (ex-RAF ground crew) used all sorts of phrases from his airforce days. If we were out and he wanted to draw attention to something he would say; xxx at 3 o'clock (to your right) or xxx at 9 o'clock (to your left). However, like many mysteries of childhood, he had never thought to explain to his daughter what he meant by the o'clock thing.

I had been thinking of my father all day, since a phone call this morning, planning a 'walk' in the woods tomorrow, the bluebell woods. My father died in 1998 (I hope that is the right year, my memory !) and was buried, typically, at the time of the solar eclipse, the ambient light dimming to dark grey as we left the church. 'Typically ?' - yes I know, he only did it once (being buried) therefore it could not be a typical act, but the combination of circumstances that led to him being buried on that day at that time was 'typical' of him. He had bipolar disorder and was a very forceful character, who made an impact on the world around him, often pedantic but, also, often positive. Being buried at the time of the solar eclipse was typical.

My mother, being the daft mother she is, had arranged the funeral for the day before the eclipse (naturally being unaware of the everyday world events at that time), then panicked when she realised she had arranged the funeral for the day of my birthday, so she made a huge effort to change the arrangements to the following day; and rang me to explain. Then my sister rang and said; "typical, you know what day that is !" Oh my ..... no, that is just going to be too weird, said I, but we cannot change it again. So, typical. "Ruddy 'ell", as my father would have said.

'Ruddy' was the only expletive he would allow himself, being a god-fearing teetotal-er who gave up drink and cigarettes after his brass band playing days, but only after he had the honour of playing a solo spot on his trombone at the Royal Albert Hall in London ("bye, 'eck, our lad, yuv dun al'reet thee-r") when the village band won the National Brass Band Championships - yes, just like the film 'Brassed Off' !

Back to the Ruddy Ducks. The male was such a beautiful ruddy red colour, like dark terracotta brick dust, or that deep brown tinged with red on a wizened Egremont Russet keeping apple that hasn't kept and has, unnoticed, slowly rotted to a soft pulp still in its skin. As this is mating time, the Ruddy Duck had dipped his beak in sky blue gloss paint and was wagging it from side to side to catch his lady's attention.

Therefore, when I saw the Ruddy Duck I unconsciously used a term my ruddy father would have used. This morning's phone call arranging the 'walk' was from a young relation with M.E. and I am glad she suggested it, as she does not have the stamina to do such things usually; this is a good sign. The fact that I am not my usual self at present, does not come into the equation, so she will not know this.

In the woods each spring, before the bluebells, are daffodils, not in naturalised clumps, but in straight lines, outlining invisible rectangles, deep in the wood in slight clearings that have only recently in the last sixty years or so, begun to grow trees again.

The connection of the bluebell wood with my father is that the woods are adjacent to a World War II airfield site, now returned to farm land. The air force base accommodation blocks were sighted in newly made clearings in the woods, presumably offering some camouflage. The air force personnel must have planted these daffodils in lines around their accommodation. I first came to this south west shire twenty years ago, before disability, and explored extensively. When I made that connection about the daffodils, I dug around a bit on my daily dog walks, and found the concrete bases still remaining from the accommodation blocks.

When I moved south, from the midlands, via London, and other inland counties, and my parents first visited me here, I drove them around to show them the area I felt fortunate to have moved to. My father said: "I know where we are .... that lane leads to the airfield." Now that was, and is, weird.

My father is, was, a Geordie, but lost his Geordie accent as his family moved south when he was a boy. My great grandfather was the fishing town's lifeboat coxswain, awarded a silver medal for bravery.

My aunt, who married a navy man (to keep the sea in the family), told me she was a babe of a few days old when her grand father the coxswain was buried, and the whole town closed down and turned out to line the streets to pay their respects. My aunt tells me their family history, because the treatment for bipolar disorder in the 1950s and 60s was electric shock 'therapy' which wiped many of my father's memories. Once I witnessed him weep when he heard someone playing a 'squeeze box', the small accordion that was the folk instrument of the fishing community, but he could not tell me why, and later I made for myself the connection with his childhood.

When the fishing industry declined, my grandfather moved south, relatively, to the midlands, and I was born from a mixture of Geordie connection to the sea, with a smattering of Irish and French ancestry, slaked with the mannerisms and dialect words of my Derbyshire maternal ancestors. I was born in Yorkshire, that is where 'we', my immediate family are from. We knew nothing of the south country.

In the war preparations for 'D-Day' my father was stationed for a few months on the south coast with the glider regiment, but for security purposes they were not told where they had been posted. He had always assumed it was on the south east coast. He did have this memory, and it was a memory that was very special to him; he said he had always dreamt of living in such countryside. He remembered small farms and many dairies, fields of cows and water meadows. Now he knew it was south west, not south east. Now his daughter was living here. He was very pleased for me. He said it felt right.

He died of a brain tumour. It coincided with the start of my ill health and I was struggling to pay the mortgage; he was concerned that he was leaving when I was not settled and secure. In his condition, all we could make him understand, and eventually accept and take comfort in, was that I was: "... living near the airfield, remember Dad ?" and he was at peace.

There are connections in this world, of people, places and things; mysterious connections. As Carl Gustav Jung explained; Synchronicity: an a-causal connecting principle. There is a connection, and no-one caused it. Of synchronicity, Jung says: take notice, then keep open and attentive, to know what meaning it has.


Blogger Charlesdawson said...

A very interesting post, Sally, and moving as well.

It's a rare thing to meet someone actually born in this county, don't you find? Nearly everyone I know, including myself, comes from elewhere.

Saturday, 6 May 2006 at 20:01:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Thank you for reading and commenting Charles.
My PAs are both Dorset bred, from deep country, long established stock; so when we are out and about and I am looking around, they always have something local and interesting to tell to add to the drive.

Saturday, 6 May 2006 at 20:57:00 BST  
Blogger BloggingMone said...

I agree to Charles, that IS a very moving story. I always enjoy listening to local people and learning more about the place I live in (I have been moving several times!)

Sunday, 7 May 2006 at 09:42:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Thanks BloggingMone,
I was thinking of you at the time you posted your comment on my blog, (although I am not sure if there is a real time difference on Blogger) after reading your comment on Charles's companion animals; so see my next post.
Charles, its Sunday, the sun is shining and the birds are singing, I hope this makes up for working on Friday.

Sunday, 7 May 2006 at 10:22:00 BST  

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