What a maudlin header! What I’m really talking about are the people, most you’ve never met, but who have a place in your personal nostalgia, a place of warm coziness or horrid starkness somewhere in the memory banks that creeps up.
It happened at the weekend for me with the Sunday Times Last Word. The wrestler Jackie Pallo, a bad guy for me watching at 4pm on Saturday afternoons on b/w telly with my Nan who was a great grapple fan. He even went on to profile in the Avengers.
The other was Peter Benchley. There’s a bloke who left his personal mark upon me. It was was 1975 and I took my then girlfriend to see Jaws, still one of the best tales and book adaptations to my mind, though what it did for the life-expectancy of the Great White is anyone’s guess.
It went like this: As you know, the film built suspense and the rubbery-jawed one didn’t put in an appearance for an hour or so. It was the bit where they are diving looking at a ruined boat where there’s a hole, and as they look closer, a severed head appears.
The girlfriend holding my right arm dug her nails in at this, and just north of my wrist is a scar that comes out mostly with a touch of sun. Looking at it now, I’m not sure how she managed to miss an artery. But she is gone, over the hills and faraway.
Still on subject: One of my Nan’s adhering traits was buying the local paper. And the first page she turned to was the obituary column, who of her friends had passed away as we comfortably have it — our euphemism for death.
It made us smile, then you find yourself doing it yourself. Like Sir John Page. I can’t say I knew him, but I did. He had his tricks.
The first was his desk, back to the westerly window, the sun over his shoulder and the light in your eyes, his face in shadow and yours screwed up.
I had the bravery of youth. I shifted the chair leftish away from the interrogating sun. John just smiled.
His other trick was the pregnant pause. I’d go in there knowing what I wanted to say and say it, then find myself filling the distance with things I hadn’t planned.
The worst thing is that, though I knew him, I never ‘really’ knew him, at least not the real person. Or perhaps I did.
I hope so.