William Byford indulges himself
One of the plusses of blogging is the freedom it affords. On any day of your choosing you can bequeath the world your musings upon either some great issue of global importance or, if the mood takes you, some petty detail of your personal life.
The ability to make the arrogant assertion that ‘youth is wasted upon the young’ is an easy default position for someone of my advanced years.
However, when I think back to the little publishing ventures that I engaged in as a student or later in my twenties – the typing upon on carbon paper and then what we called ‘roneo-ing off the results’ at school … or typesetting (and letra-setting the headlines) … going to the printers or photocopying shop … and then mailing out the results to your mates engendered a huge sense of achievement and triumph.
Every lovingly-produced copy of each magazine that saw the light of day felt like a physical work of art capable equal to anything created more recently by Damien Hirst (he didn’t exist, of course, when we were spewing out our little gems).
Sometimes, looking back on those heady days with an inevitable tinge of regret, I cannot but help reflect upon ‘what might have been’ if modern means of communication like the internet and smartphones had existed in the 1960s. Given the effort and enthusiasm we put into our privately-circulated periodicals, surely my mates and I could have had the chance to become media tycoons to rank alongside Murdoch, Gates and whatever the guys’ names are who came up with Facebook and Twitter.
But there’s the rub, isn’t it? We didn’t have modern means of communication back then and I’m too old and weary to try and get involved in some new vehicle capable of ‘doing the business’ now.
[Shurely shome mishtake? – what about National Rust? ED]
All the above aside, my subject today is a mundane family one.
For the last decade, because of his profession as a yacht skipper, my son Barry has lived in various places abroad and visited the UK on average probably only once or twice a year.
Inevitably, in all long-distant relationships, there is a degree to which absence makes the heart grow fonder. Since he went into the marine industry, Barry and I have become closer and closer and – I’m probably kidding myself saying this, but – our relationship now is more akin to that of ‘best mates’ than father and son.
It wasn’t always thus. From the year dot, Barry had a strong independent streak and was a law unto himself. As a result, until he left school, he and I clashed repeatedly.
When I was a child, whether within my family or at any new establishment, my natural tendency was to identify the ‘house’ rules and adhere to them because of a natural desire to fit in (albeit, of course, allowing for the occasional bout of mischief or act designed to test the boundaries).
Barry came from a different mould. His attitude to rules and authority was quite different. His instinctive reaction to any rule was to ask “Why?” and, if the article in question seemed arbitrary or ridiculous, he would simply ignore it – whatever the consequences.
His other key quality was strength of character. They say there are two types of bravery – that where someone appreciates the potential dangers of a situation and deals with it by overcoming any fears he or she might have … and that (perhaps more dangerous, even to colleagues?) where the individual concerned doesn’t seem to register fear at all.
Barry is in the latter camp.
Arguably, the bravery exhibited by the former is greater – this on the basis that, at its core, ‘bravery’ should involve a process of overcoming one’s fears. After all (the argument would run) if you have a low – or indeed no – appreciation of ‘fear’, how can any act you perform be described as brave?
Equally, on the other hand I suppose, one might challenge the notion that bravery must involve overcoming fear. Surely a person is either instinctively brave or he’s not. Furthermore, just because someone is brave, it doesn’t mean that he has always (or ever) ignored the risks inherent in any given situation.
I well recall the first time that Barry was collected early from his primary school, on the occasion he blocked all the school toilets.
We got on well with the headmaster, who inexplicably had a soft spot for the dyslexic Barry and offered mitigation even as the miscreant was handed over. He said that, in such cases, there was usually a mastermind involved in such japes, who stayed in the background – and then a ‘doer’, less bothered about punishments, who carried them out. Apparently, Barry was the school’s ‘go-to’ man in this respect.
Please excuse my indulgence. I only mention Barry today because overnight I received an alert from a marine traffic-following website that the yacht Barry captains has just arrived at the island of Kronshtad.
A few weeks back, he emailed to report that they would departing Gdansk soon. For ‘owner security’ reasons, yotties are not allowed to reveal details of their vessel’s movements in advance but, from our previous conversations, the fact they were applying for Russian visas and the course they have been sailing (via a stop-off in Helsinki), my hunch is that they are en route to St Petersburg.
That’s yet another place I have never been.