So what do Bill, Jack, Guy and Mark have in common? Give up?
They are all examples of names which are also nouns. I expect you now have all manner of names swimming round
in your heads. It's an uncomfortable feeling.
Yesterday saw Mr B and I travelling to the home of my Little Sister Maggie and her fella, Baz, for a Brothers and Sisters Day. As in, a day when my two brothers,
my sister and I get together over a meal provided by one or other of us and spend an afternoon asking each other: "Do you remember when...." As we all grow older, the extent of our memories tends to shrink, but fortunately between the four of us there are
plenty of reminiscences to go round. I feel a little sorry for our partners who have to sit through this maze of memories - but they bear it all with fortitude.
It was Baz who introduced the challenge of coming
up with names which were also nouns in their own right. In other circumstances the challenge might have stayed just that: a challenge. However Tony, the elder of my two brothers, was not prepared to let it lie. All through the afternoon, every time there was
a slight lapse in the conversation, he came up with another suggestion. Having taken the bit between his teeth, he wasn't about to let it go.
Our dear Mum would be so pleased to see that we still manage to
meet up like this. She, after all, set us the example by meeting up with her own brothers and sisters on a regular basis right up until she died. It was the least we could do, we agreed, to preserve her memory by Doing Likewise. At our very first Brothers
and Sisters Day, held at our house twenty-one years ago, I served up two of Mum's staple dishes - meat pie and rice pudding. As children, we used to call rice pudding "365" because we had it every single day of the year. In my Mum's defence, I must explain
that she always made at least two puddings a day for her large (and hungry) family. Rice pudding was just one of them.
There was no rice pudding yesterday but there was a magnificent pavlova and a trifle of
such a boozy nature that those of us who were driving home had to give it a (highly reluctant) miss. Not to worry, we were hardly deprived - my Little Sister and her fella know how to put on a Good Spread.
younger brother, Phil, was accompanied by daughter Paula, grandson Daniel and Paula's fella (and husband to be) Chris. I couldn't resist telling Daniel a story about his Grandad, involving Mrs Cook, who used to live next door to us, the ball which went over
the fence into her garden, and how my brother sent me round to ring on the door-bell and keep Mrs Cook talking while he nipped across the fence to rescue our ball. Unfortunately when Mrs Cook answered the door, I stood tongue-tied on her door-step - at which
she dashed back into her garden and caught my brother, red-handed in the gooseberry patch. I did try to excuse our behaviour by explaining that (I) we believed Mrs Cook to be a witch and (ii) that she would never give our balls back but saved them up in her
garden shed until she had enough for a bonfire. Young Daniel gazed at me with disbelieving eyes. Maggie wanted to know why she didn't figure in this story and couldn't believe I was ever tongue-tied.
then reminded me how we used to pounce with enormous pleasure on the wrappings from a new bar of Palmolive soap - providing us with a small piece of tissue paper for tracing purposes and a similarly tiny scrap of paper on which we could write. Treasure, indeed!
I reminded her how our Mum used to spread polish on the linoleum which covered our floors (carpet? what was carpet?) at which we would pull on our Dad's football socks and play at being ace ice skaters until the floors were shining.
Maggie produced the fabulous present from her elder son - a copy of an anthology of our Mum's favourite poems. Mum had written them out painstakingly in exercise books in her beautiful handwriting and our Dad had found a book-binder
to draw them together into a "proper" book.
Tony read the poem "A Crabbit Old Woman" about a hospital patient bewailing the fact that the nurses who tended her and her fellow patients did not seem to recognise
that they were people with lives and loves in their past which had shaped them. Baz took to Google to find the response penned by a nurse explaining that their patients were many and they, the carers, were few.
my sister's request, I read one of our childhood favourites "Somebody's Mother."
"You know I'm going to cry?" I warned her, half-way through.
"I know," was
her response, "that's why I asked you to read it, not me..."
Brothers and Sisters Day. An opportunity for shared family experiences, happy childhood memories, a few tears, lots of laughter.
Our dear Mum would be, oh, so pleased with us.