Archive for September 11th, 2010
And The Gnomes Shall Inherit The Earth

Alone in my parents Oxford house as I gradually emptied it of a lifetime of memories I could have been forgiven for imagining things in the night. The sadness surrounding my dads death and my mothers enforced move to a care home seemed to hang in the air, and then there were “the others” in the house.

My dad loved gnomes and had a large collection of them, they stared out from cupboards as I opened them and a whole army slumbered in the shed. The most surprising of the pack was in the kitchen, arriving at 7am on a sleep starved Sunday morning I was wary of what I would find, walking into the kitchen a loud shrill wolf whistle nearly converted me from blonde to grey in an instant. The red hooded fiend was one of those movement sensitive types, not quite the greeting I wanted.

Although the two weeks rank among the most emotionally raw of my life I did manage to sprinkle in a few lighter moments between the constant grinding fight through the legal and paperwork jungle. A trip up to London on Bank Holiday Monday was a sunny treat, especially meeting up with the lovely Cathy. The Baker Street area is an old favoured haunt from the days of the Wembley ice hockey weekends, and my early arrival allowed me to revive a few memories. Turning a corner I was greeted by the iconic GPO Tower, as a small boy I went up the tower several times but alas they no longer open this great viewpoint to the public. A few old familiar pubs reminded me of past sessions and a rack of the new “Boris Bikes” seemed to be popular with many of the parking slots empty as commuters used the cheap hire bicycles that can be picked up and left at many points across London.

Oxford was much the same as ever, roadworks in High Street and reckless student cyclists on the pavements and footpaths. The first week was warm and sunny but the clouds swept in and heavy rain storms peppered the two day annual St Giles Fair in the city centre. I walked through in the day and was scared just looking at some of the cloud scraping rides, the helter skelter, a towering centrepiece in my youth was looked down on by many bigger and spectacular rides. Oh for the simple joys of the dodgems and the jets and weird sideshows like “Lady In a Bottle” , the rotor was another missing favourite, a spinning cylinder would make screaming youngsters stick to the walls as the floor was lowered away, I once saw someone be sick on it, a very amusing sight to a young boy.

I dreaded my dads funeral but got through it and at least the rains held off. It still didn’t seem real, I spoke to the female vicar a few days before to give her some background info at the vicarage next to the old Littlemore church, two lovely historic buildings of character being slowly squeezed in by new housing developments. I noticed on my earlier travels that even my old junior school had now been wiped away in favour of a residential home, another slice of my past gone. The legal paper trail was a nightmare, you can’t actually talk to big utility companies like BT and Thames Water, it’s just a maze of phone options and website templates with very narrow choices. One of the worst was Age UK, my Dad used some of their financial services when they were just Age Concern, now they are a beaurocratic splodge of far flung offices and sub divisions that don’t know how to return phone calls, remind me never to get old.

Tenerife has never looked so lovely as when I arrived back at 3 am from my four hour delayed flight, I need some sun, I need some Dorada and I need to rally my memories and cherish them. It looks like another Oxford visit will follow very soon to chase the slow grinding machine of legal red tape and to make sure whats left of my family are ok. Maybe if I get time I can liberate the gnomes and send them out into the community, I have some daft ideas of places to plant them to cause maximum mischief, my Dad would have approved of that with a smile and a chuckle.