As a cousin reminded me, it was Nan’s birthday on Saturday. Nan would have been 106, had she not decided that enough was enough at the age of 94, dying in her own bed on the farm to which she had come as a young bride seventy-two years previously.
Returning to England for Nan’s funeral in 2007, I met someone I hadn’t seen her for thirty years, but her name rang a bell as soon as I heard it. Larger than life, she used to sit halfway down the school bus. I remember her being always good humoured, always laughing. It was her own choice not to finish the course. She was well able for the studies, but preferred beginning a job to spending another year at college.
I didn’t recognise her when I saw her. I suppose, if I had thought, I would have assumed that she would still have been working for the same firm with which she had begun when she was seventeen.
I stood and asked if she remembered various names; it was a moment filled with laughter because the people who came to mind were the “characters”. She was always a character herself and still recalled with glee encounters with teachers. “My physics teacher asked me, that with all the subjects I could have chosen, why I had to be in his class”. A comment that was followed by loud laughter, I didn’t ask her physics grade!
She was running a small hotel and obviously took delight in her job and her staff obviously enjoyed working with her. “They have been watching our conversation on the security camera at the front desk,” she said, “They are baffled about what I could possibly be talking about with a vicar.” Another burst of laughter followed.
Thirty years had passed between our encounters and we had both grown inexorably older. I had never achieved my ambitions to be a journalist and MP; I never asked if the hotel had been her ambition, or where time in between had brought her.
It is odd that a dozen years have passed since Nan died. Inexorable processes can seem depressing, an unstoppable slide downwards, a decline that could not be reversed. I don’t much like the inexorable, at times.
But driving across Sedgemoor at quarter to six this evening, there was still a tiny chink of light in the sky and I realised that the spring was moving inexorably onwards, that the long days are coming back and the summer warmth will return.
Inexorable processes can seem a decline into gloom or an ascent into joy, maybe it depends on where we start and where we end.