Saturday, 21 January 2012

Dog siren

I was told this morning that my Great Auntie Winnie had died in her sleep last night. I didn't know her particularly well, but found myself shedding a few tears because it signifies the end of an era. Winnie was the older sister of my Grandfather, Harry, and the only remaining member of that generation  of my family. 

She was a staggering 103 years old and will have had memories from the time of the First World War. She may even remember the Titanic going down. It was her mother who started the pork pie business which  shaped the fortunes of my family.

I'd love to say she'll be sadly missed, but I'm pretty sure when you die at that age, all of your close friends, and half of your children are probably long gone. If I ever get to her age, I'm just going to sit on a comfy chair, alternating aspirins with magic mushrooms. It's the only way! Rest in peace, Winnie.

I got back from Manchester last night to find an enormous box from Amazon waiting for me with a kindle inside. A kindle! It was a gift from Matt to say thank you for taking pictures back stage at Les Miserables. I was incredibly touched and a little angry because the photos were meant to be my way of thanking him for countless generous gestures in the past, so his thanking me means I'll have to find a way to thank him for thanking me. Ah, the cycle of friendship!  

I met a very old friend today at the top of Parliament Hill. Daniel and I were at university together and haven't seen each other in years. Literally years. 

It was curious to find out about Auntie Winnie's death today, because she happened to be a friend of Daniel's grandfather, also called Harry, who, by sheer coincidence was also in the same form at school as my  Grandpa. It's strange how life creates these cycles; wheels within wheels.  

There was a very strange man doing Tai Chi at the top of the hill. He was doing sound effects in the style of a child swishing a light sabre around. It was a fairly embarrassing thing to be doing in such a public space. His dog was waiting patiently and slightly forlornly with a frisbee in his mouth. His look said it all, "come on, Dad. Everyone's looking at you. Stop making the weird noises or throw the friggin' frisbee so I've got an excuse to run away..."

I don't think Daniel and I have changed a great deal  in the 19 years since we last met. I take great comfort from this thought. We're still passionate about life, still great optimists. Perhaps we're both a little calmer, a little greyer, blessed with a few more crows feet, a little less head hair, a little more on our bodies...

As we parted, an ambulance screamed past, making a horrible racket. I am a man who finds it very hard to hear any sound without mimicking it, so was greatly relieved to hear someone next to me doing a rather bad impression of the siren. I looked to see who it was, and was delighted to find a dog, head raised to the sky, howling like a wolf. Delightful.

I'm now heading to my god daughter's birthday party in an aircraft hangar filled with trapezes, silks and ropes, which promises to be mayhem. God knows how I'm going to get to Woolwich! 

350 years ago and Pepys spent the day working in the Navy office. There's not a great deal else to say. A fleet of boats was sailing to Portugal, one assumes to pick up Catherine de Breganza, daughter of the Portuguese King and future wife of Charles II. The wind had changed direction, which made Pepys worry the fleet would be pushed back in the direction of Ireland. He went to bed after studying the art of composition. 

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