Sunday, 29 May 2011

Tales from Elsewhere - The Tough Guy and the Sis

John was the youngest of four children – three brothers and a sister, and was somewhat younger than his closest sibling in age,  Peter, who was 5 years older.  Despite this gap they were good friends and had a complex language and series of games invented mainly by Peter which they continued to joke about right up until Peter died in 2010 at the age of 87. 

When they were young...
Left - Peter
Right - John

One of them was that they called each other the Tough Guy and the Sis (i.e. the sissy) – but who was what was open to interpretation.  It generally related to the luck of the draw, who was first to perform a particular action, who was fastest in a particular activity, and so on. 

It was clearly the most enduring one of their mutual teasing games, which Peter’s wife Eva and I joined in with because we the women would sometimes answer the phone when they rang each other.   Peter would ask to speak to The Sis, and I would hear John say “You must have a wrong number, there’s only The Tough Guy here”. 

I would reply to e-mails on John’s behalf because his computer is only used for card games and indignant letters to newspapers;  on my contact list Peter was listed as The Sis, and when he e-mailed John he would sign his messages as TTG. 

This good natured banter kept their brotherly relationship warm and often on the edge of laughter, and it was a very sad time for John when his brother died.  He had intended to make the long journey to visit him but we heard how ill he was, and hesitated too long.

We attended the funeral in Southwold, Suffolk, where the family foregathered the night before at their beach hut and lit Chinese lanterns in his memory.  As the delicate, glowing  paper boxes drifted up into the night autumn sky many stories were told about his life, his quirks, his humour – it was a healing time for all. 

The following day at the funeral various tributes were read out, including John who gave a very moving account of his much loved brother, with anecdotes of their incomprehensible language and their Tough-Guy-Sis mantras.  It was strange yet comforting to hear the sound of laughter among the formerly subdued congregation who had come to say goodbye.  Peter’s children, John’s nephews and nieces, told him later that he had made their father live briefly for them again.  These are the final paragraphs of John’s speech, which was given at the lectern of St Margaret’s Church in Reydon:

“Just once in my life, as a spoilt, petulant schoolboy who was furious at not being allowed his own way by his elder brother, I played a dirty trick on Peter, inserting a pin into one tyre of his bicycle.  Our maid – a buxom, earnest Irish lady called May East (who had nothing whatever in common, I might add, with Mae West) saw me lurking near Peter’s bike and accused me of plotting mischief – which I hotly denied, as schoolboys do.  Later on she told me suspiciously that Peter had found that he had a flat tyre and had been in trouble for being late for school.

These childhood memories stay with us for the rest of our lives, and in recent years it has bothered me that I never confessed to Peter and apologised.  Believe it or not, this troubled me so much in recent times that I was determined to confess to Peter this September when my partner Caroline and I hoped to visit Peter and Eva.  So what can I do now except to say –

Peter, I’m truly sorry; and as part of that final confession may I add that you, Peter, are and really always were the real Tough Guy.  Right now it will probably be obvious to everyone present that I am indeed “The Sis”.”




Photo Finish -
from Lonicera's non-digital archive

Some more images of Bristol



OneStonedCrow said...

Great story and images - I love the wooden ships ... where was that taken?

Lonicera said...

Thanks Graham. That pic was taken in Bristol Docks, when we had a Tall Ships Festival several years ago. It was too dark and remained in my slide box, but with Photoshop managed to lighten it sufficiently to show it - but it's still very grainy.

Lonicera said...

I should also have added that the one in the middle is The Matthew, a replica of a 15th century ship, except that it probably has an engine somewhere in case of emergencies... but crews have sailed it successfully across the Atlantic several times. To me it looks just like the ships Columbus used to sail to the Caribbean in 1492.

Vagabonde said...

I have just spent a while reading your blog. I was fascinated by your 6 part tale of the O’Gormans, then the psychic tale involving your partner. I really enjoyed my time reading your updates. You also have the most beautiful pictures – I love that squirrel. Thanks my dear for coming to my blog while I was away and writing such nice comments – I appreciate it.

Lonicera said...

Thank you Vagabonde! It's lovely to get feedback on the stories.

Nola said...

Another story enjoyed immensely by me!! My favorite out of those photos is the "boat gnome":)

Lonicera said...

Thanks Nola! The wee gnome is on a houseboat in Bristol docks. I'm always amazed why people should want to live there...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...