Run that past me again, would you?

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

It might be old age creeping on but you hear things and you have to stand – it’s the opposite to sitting – and think: Now did I hear that right? A glowing example was recently, when somebody said to a friend of mine: “Was it you or your cousin that passed away the other week?” To be fair, the slick response was: “Must have been my cousin, I was on holiday at the time.” In this instance it could well be a simple case of “word befuddlement”, though you never can tell of course: at times it does take a trained ear to spot what is going on or in some cases, not. Some years ago, towards the end of the last century, there was a certain “blockbuster” film called “Titanic” doing the rounds and when I saw it, it certainly lived up to its hype, more so towards the end when the ship meets its fate. The special effects (FX) were amazing and I always remember sitting in a full-to-capacity cinema and you could almost hear a pin drop as the audience were silent during this sequence of events.

That said, a week or so later I found myself, although I wasn’t lost, in Mum’s kitchen, having the usual cup of tea and catching up on the family stuff, as her friend Barbara arrived and was kitted out with the same but different drinking equipment, but with two sugars. During her discussing the usual who’s died, run off, or come to their senses, or in extreme cases, being greedy and all three applying, she did point out that she, with her hubby Harry, had decided to go to the pictures (cinema) to see “that Titanic film thing”. It seems the last time they went, Sean Connery was still James Bond and not a clue that there would be more clones of him to follow on.

So far so good, then, as she waffled on about how long the film was, how Harry kept wanting to go to the toilet as the sight of all that water [the sea type] “made him want to, you know, go”, and then came the ultimate clacker ... Barbara went for gold as she then said that – quote – “I was quite unprepared towards the end as that big boat [ship] SANK in all that water [sea, lots of] – it SANK! – in all that water [sea] – and also that little Leo [De Caprio, actor] bloke drowned at the end in all that water [sea, again], and that was it, really,” but assume Harry missed that bit, what with his toilet requirements. She further pointed out that it was caused by an iceberg thing (not the breed of lettuce) – the sinking that is, not Harry’s condition.

Dad wandered in towards the end of the discussion and wryly intimated that there was not much chance of there being a sequel, and Mum pointed out she must have known about it sinking as it was in all the newspapers and you know how word gets round, so I made a mental note to pop into the nearest bookmakers on the way home to put a crisp fiver on the real Titanic still making it to New York at this rate.

Some years ago now another mind-stretcher was the following: I was half listening to somebody going on about their “past experiences” (future ones being tricky to predict or discuss, I suppose) and it went thus – bear in mind this is the bit leading up to the end of the saga: “Yes, we had the cold and the wet, as it was constantly raining, and when it wasn’t raining, there was the cold to contend with… life in the trenches was always hard, as remember, we only had shovels to dig down with, no fancy machines, just a shovel apiece, and the hard toil as we sweated away, me and the rest of the lads...” and then a pause for a sip of his beer and then he continued: “You see, those ‘higher-ups’ didn’t really have a clue as to the hardship we suffered, never knowing what might be falling into the trench as the next shovel of earth was lifted, the harsh conditions we toiled away under, because if we didn’t carry on, the outcome was not one to be thinking about,” as he paused again and supped more from his glass. “The biggest problem was that those running the show had little or no idea as to what we were going through, as usually all they wanted was to get the credit and glory when it was all over and done – they stood at the top of the trench waving maps and plans about and shouting about how quick we should be digging...”

At this point, a listener who was obviously engrossed so far as it unfolded, apologised for interrupting and said he felt very proud that such folk had sacrificed so much, so that we might be free by their actions in trench warfare, and to be in the presence of somebody as the speaker was indeed humbling, to which the speaker replied: “No – I wasn’t involved in warfare, as such – I worked for the electricity board laying underground cables before I retired, but it’s all done by machines nowadays of course.”

Oh dear. Suddenly the supply of free drink dried up, unlike the trenches, of course.

Ron had passed away and here we were at his funeral service. His dear wife was grieving, as could be expected; the congregation consisted of family, friends, old workmates and Gerald. It should be pointed out that Gerald was, as they say, not quite the ticket, or, not the brightest knife in the drawer, but we carried on anyway – it was never really established as to his position, as in was he family, close friend or scrounger ... but then again, possibly all three.

As we sat there in the pews waiting for the coffin to arrive, one of the family leaned over to Gerald, and to “soften the blow”, as Ron was a keen hobbyist and DIY enthusiast who spent a lot of time in the garden shed, he explained that Ron was not really gone, but was “still in his shed”, and Gerald did his staring into space routine and after a moment or two of thought (or that’s what we put it down to) he spoke: “Well if he’s still in his shed, why can’t he spare the time to come here today like the rest of us?” Saviour came from another mourner overhearing his response; he offered the following by way of explanation.

He explained to Gerald that Ron was indeed “still in his shed” but would be along shortly as he was finishing some varnishing off and the process was quite intricate and so once done and cleaned up, he would be with us soon.

As the coffin came in, Gerald pointed out that Ron should have a word with the chap responsible for the long wooden box just brought in, as that had got a smashing finish.

Amen to that.