My favourite journalist is a guy called Simon Kuper – he writes a sports column in the Weekend section of the Financial Times. Kuper finds human interest in the most mundane of stories.
He wrote with a touching passion about the Dutch cricket team a while ago. He knew many of the players and noted that they were coming to the end of their playing days. Kuper’s closing line was, ‘the sad thing is, five minutes ago, we were all fourteen’.
Simon Kuper’s words came to mind earlier today. My uncle, of whom I have an endless of fond memories, died suddenly last Saturday while returning from a holiday. He was one of those figures who would always loom large in a young boy’s imagination; sometimes he could be very serious, but often there was mischief and humour. His mouth would be set firm and then crinkle into a smile before a roar of laughter. He did things that other people wouldn’t do. He would get in the car and go on holiday in the middle of the night. He would shout with delight at silly situations. He would have no care as to what people with disapproving faces thought.
I think I went on holiday with him and his family three or four times between the ages of eight and thirteen. Visits from him were always a very welcome interlude in my very rural life. There was always an air of excitement when he was around – anything might happen. Even on my wedding day he came to me at the end of the reception and said ‘Well, Ian, fancy going camping?’ At any other moment I might have leapt at the opportunity.
Today as I booked my airline tickets to attend his funeral next week, I thought back on those moments and smiled.
Next week, we will gather in a medieval parish church to bid ‘goodbye’ to him. My cousins will be there to mourn the father they loved deeply and who was wonderfully close to them. The memories will once more return, memories of so many happy moments.
The sad thing is that five minutes ago my cousins and I were all fourteen.