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Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley »


It’s Sunday 20 January 2002 and I thought it would be a good thing to look back at the year and do a report for the memoirs.

It’s been a good year on the whole, I think I’m getting the hang of retirement. I hear people saying they are bored and whilst I understand it, I feel sorry for them, there must have been some big gap in their education or life experience somewhere. I suppose one investment is to take up golf!

The older I get the more interested I am in what motivates people. I suppose it’s a product of doing so much thinking about my own life and trying to tease out what actually happened and why! I am struck by how so much of our lives is ruled by chance, we live in a chaotic system and the trick is to have an instinct about which bits to grab as they float past you. I always remember seeing the gravestone in an Accrington cemetery which said ‘Here lies ?, killed at the age of 8 years by a falling slate in the Great Gale of 1867’ Now there’s a lesson for all of us, who knows when the slate is going to fall. Seize the day!

Part of the chaos this year was the slight local problem with my testicles. Ever since I had an operation for hernia about five years since I’ve been conscious of the fact that they were getting bigger, particularly the right one. I decided to do something about it this year and eventually, after returning from the States, went in on November 22 and had them trimmed back down to size. A great Thanksgiving Day gift! Not the most comfortable of procedures but two months on, what a difference, instead of carrying a couple of oranges round I am back down to two walnuts! Wonderful improvement.

2001 was my last year for teaching Carleton College’s Cambridge Seminar. I decided in 2000 after Martha and Roger and I had that wonderful trip round Europe with the kids that it was time to get out while we were at the top. As we move into 2002 I hear whispers that the man who is ‘organising’ it this year is making a right royal cock-up of it. Not my problem but the slightly worrying thing is that I think it’s hilarious, they have got so used to it all being arranged and going like clockwork for the last twenty years, now they have it all to do themselves they are in a mess. Indeed, given the fact that they haven’t booked accommodation yet, it’s doubtful whether they’ll even get the Keele segment off the ground. I heard the other day that they expect me to do a couple of lectures for them. Problem is they’ve never asked and I shall be in Northfield while they are in UK. Tough!

This year should see the end of house painting in Northfield. I shall fly out there at the beginning of June and stay until mid-August. It will be nice to get it finished, it has been a mammoth task and M says she is going to get a brass plaque made to fix on the house when we have finished.

While we are on the subject of Northfield, my old mate Bob Jacobsen, the ex-tailgunner, had a narrow shave this year, he had a leg ulcer that wouldn’t heal and it triggered off a small heart attack. Three months later he is on the road to recovery and I’m so pleased. Bob Bliss in St Louis did a similar thing. He suddenly found he had kidney failure due to some problem with the nerves controlling his bladder. He reached the stage where medical opinion said he ought to be dead, or at the very least, hallucinating. Two months on, with strict diet and exercise he is slowly climbing out of the hole. Not there yet and he will never have perfect kidneys again but thank God, he has survived. Problem is, it’s a bit like Three Men in a Boat. If you recall, they read a medical dictionary and found they had everything except housemaid’s knee! Every time I go for a pee now I find myself wondering whether I am experiencing any restriction and thinking that perhaps I should get to the doctor and have my kidney function tested! I might even do it actually, it wouldn’t harm and they would probably let me have it after the operation on my knackers, they will be thinking that perhaps they have upset something.

It was a red letter year in other fields. Margaret and Mick, together with Katie and Laura of course, set off for a new life in Australia at the end of October. I am delighted they have done it and wish them well. I don’t see any prospect for young people in this country as things stand. I’m not thinking so much of Mick and Margaret, more about Katie and Laura. They must have better prospects over there than here. At the moment they are living in one of Janet and Harry’s houses and finding their feet. Mick is doing agency driving while he gets into the swing and Margaret has the chance of a job in an accountants office doing admin. We shall see how it pans out but I reckon they will be alright.

As Margaret moved out, Susan moved up to Earby where she has bought a house so I still have a daughter within hailing distance. She has got a job at Keighley as an educational mentor, she deals with disruptive kids who would otherwise be expelled. Sounds like a lousy job to me but horses for courses I suppose and Susan really likes it. It’s nice having her near and we are getting on well together.

As for me and my mental state; who knows? I feel OK and am happy with my life. I sometimes think that I am too solitary but I am very seldom lonely, I seem to enjoy my own company and the peace makes me very productive as regards the research and writing. I suppose that it’s a form of displacement activity, I put the energy I would otherwise expend on a relationship into my work. Is this a good or a bad thing? I don’t know but what I am sure of is that Barlick will benefit in the end.

I’m doing my bit for the town now actually. I write 2000 words a week for the local paper and have done two years worth up to press. Someone asked me when I was going to publish and I said that I’m publishing now. About 2000 people a week read 2000 words of serious history. This is quite a significant achievement. How many college professors could guarantee that they could get that many students to read that much history every week?

The nice thing is that I never lose the interest, I find it all fascinating and as I dig and find answers I am just like a bloke fishing, every catch is a bonus. Wonderful!

The consequences of writing my memoirs and making sure the kids had a copy still unfold. In terms of my relationships with them, I think it was a good thing. They now have the chance to understand what drove me and how I took my decisions, particularly in respect of Vera and I splitting up. In terms of the affect on my own life, I am now certain that writing it all down was good therapy. I’m not saying it solved all the problems and answered all the questions but it has allowed me to start to put a handle on some of the knottier problems. Mo Jex told me that it would be productive and she was right.

Funnily enough, the process of self-discovery still goes on. Bit like historical research, evidence pops up and views have to be modified. I was having a conversation with Susan the other day and when I came away I found she had triggered me off into a line of thought which re-examined my version of what was actually going on when Vera made her decision about Cyril Richardson and we split up. Vera and I have never talked about this, I doubt if we ever will and so I am in the dark as to what her feelings were when I decided I couldn’t accept what was going on. Was she surprised? Did she expect me to ignore what was happening? More deviously, and I have to say that I don’t think this was the case, was it a ploy, subconscious or deliberate, to ‘bring me to my senses’ about going to university? All interesting questions but I have no clues.

However, something new did occur to me. All the time we were wed, Vera had never been forced to go out and get full time employment. She took part time work but basically, even though we were poor, she was free to keep to the house secure in the knowledge that she had a good provider. It struck me that she might have seen a danger that if I went to university she might have to go out to work. Suppose this was the attraction, suppose this was actually where I was seen to be failing, I was going to stop being the provider.

I realise that I have shied away from this scenario for years because I have never imputed any blame to Vera. I have to say that I begin to wonder. One thing is certain, this theory would fit all the facts. That’s it, I’m not pursuing it any further because it actually doesn’t matter a damn but in private, I find it an interesting speculation. All I’ll say is that if it is true, I am sad but since it occurred to me it has been nagging away in the background and I suppose it could make me angry. Best left at that I think.

So, there we are, we enter 2002 and in February I’ll be 66. Eigg is 17 this year I think and we are both warm and well and enjoying life. Things could be much worse! As the man said when he passed the third storey after falling off the 50 floor skyscraper; ‘So far, so good!’

SCG/21 January 2002
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!
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