My dad passed away in October 2006. That is significant because it predated the smartphone. In those days cameras on phones were a new and expensive add on. As a result most of the photos of Paddy are old style paper photographs, and there are not many digital ones. I never got around to scanning all my old paper photos, but I managed to find this one in my archives.
Paddy and Maura were preparing for a trip. It may have been the holiday they took in Dubrovnik. I know this because my dad was doing up his cabin bag when I took the photo. Paddy was the ultimate boy-scout, being prepared for every eventuality. It was a product of his upbringing in a military household. On camping holidays when anything broke Paddy had a spare in his “magic box”. His in-flight bag was a treasure trove of travel “must-haves”.
My parents grew up during WW2, or “the emergency” as it was called in Ireland. Born in 1927 they were 12 when the war began. Ireland suffered a similar rationing regime to Great Britain, which meant frugality and food discipline was central to their lives from age 12 to around age 20 when rationing eventually tailed off. They never lost their discipline in relation to waste.
Here is a story that illustrates their mindset. When they were newly married my father bought a good coat for his wedding. It was a fine heavy wool tweed coat. Good Donegal tweed is tough stuff and lasts many years.
Over time the coat began to wear and my mother had to turn the cuffs and put in some repairs. Eventually Paddy said it looked too shabby to wear.
Maura agreed, so she took the coat apart, panel by panel, and reversed the material and made up the coat again. She put in new lining and the whole garment looked brand new.
When you turn the fabric it looks fine for a while, but it is worn thin and within a short few years the coat looked beat again. Paddy said “Maura, this coat is finished, I need to buy a new one.” Maura looked it over and sadly agreed. “Yes” she said, “it’s finished, you can’t wear that any more…….I’ll cut it down to make clothes for the children”.
Were he still with us Paddy would be 90 today. My dad shares his birthday with William Ernest Henley (b. 1849), the Victorian poet made famous all over again by Nelson Mandela. Mandela would read “Invictus” to his cellmates in their darkest days. He gave the poem to the South African Rugby Union team in 1995 to spur them on to win the Rugby World Cup for the new South African Nation. Clint Eastwood directed Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the Springboks captain, and Morgan Freeman as Mandela in the 2009 movie centred on that poem. Here is another from Henley more along the theme of “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”.
Oh gather me the rose; by William Ernest Henley
O gather me the rose, the rose,
while yet in flower we find it,
for summer smiles, but summer goes,
and winter waits behind it.
For with the dream foregone, foregone,
the deed foreborn forever,
the worm Regret will canker on,
and time will turn him never.
So were it well to love, my love,
and cheat of any laughter
the fate beneath us, and above,
the dark before and after.
The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
the sunshine and the swallow,
the dream that comes, the wish that goes
the memories that follow!