Such is Life

By the time I met him Jack was not a young man. He lived a quiet life by the sea with a cottage which faced onto the harbour. It was his pleasure to sit by the window watching the boats going back and forth. In his youth, he told me, it had been largely trawlers but now it was pleasure boats with the odd fishing vessel making it’s appearance. He called the pleasure boats “meringues” because they were made of plastic and sat on the water rather than in it. Meaning their draught was minimal in proportion to their size . “Such is life” he said.

“Such is life” was one of his favourite sayings, and he had seen a lot of it. He fought with Montgomery in the desert as a nineteen year old boy. He complained about the heat a bit and said servicing trucks in it had been difficult. “You could fry an egg on the bonnet of the truck if you were lucky enough to have one” he said. Eggs were in short supply but other than that he spoke very little of his time there. It is a common characteristic of war veterans unless they are in each others company.

For most of his life Jack made models of famous boats; the Cutty Sark, Victory, The Ark Royal. Each boat took forever to make and was a work of art in its own right. Meticulous, detailed and beautifully in scale. He also did birds and soldiers from eighteenth century regiments: again correct in every detail and researched with  thoroughness. Meticulous was one of his key characteristics. He hated sloppy workmanship, or manners for that matter.  Like the trawlers he loved so much there was much more of Jack below the waterline and out of view than above it and on show. He used to shake his head at show-offs and boasters or people exclaiming they were “in senior management” with a multi-national company. He talked of what he knew and left the formation of poorly researched opinions to others. I loved him for that.

With passing time his reputation grew so that he made a very decent living doing what he loved. Collectors ordered his work so that he always had on more than he could ever do. He never seemed to want that much. “marmalade and cigarettes, they’re my luxuries”  he used to say  and he was often to be found with a cigarette in his mouth; the smoke curling up past his face with  one eye half closed in silent protest.

The movements of stock markets and the strategies and lofty pronouncement of politicians were things he took little interest in. Once when I was watching television with him the prime minister stepped out of 10 Downing Street to make some announcement Jack said, “I suppose he’s having fun”. Jack could see no other reason for doing the job.

Catering was not his strong suite and seldom moved beyond sausages and mash with apple pie to follow. He didn’t have much time for unnecessary variety. If you came round at the right time he would always ask if you fancied some sausages and mash. “If you’ve got enough” I would say. “I always keep a few in reserve” he said and so he did. His fridge was full of them. In moments of intoxicating celebration he might add brussel sprouts to the plate, “to round it off” he said. If you bought him a bag of brussel sprouts on some random day in the year he always looked quizzically at you, “Is it Christmas” he would ask. “No, I just fancied some greens” I would say and he might shake his head slightly as if I was going off the rails. Making too much fuss of yourself, chest-puffing or other signs of self-importance and loose living were not favoured characteristics in his eyes.

I loved Jack. He was everything I would be proud to be. He died last Wednesday. I shall miss him.

About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in community, creative writing, Environment, Life, old age, skils and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Such is Life

  1. Beth says:

    Ducky… my sincerest thoughts go out to you. There’s no trite phrase to take the sting and hurt out of losing someone you love and admire. You were blessed to have him in your life… and the memories will continue to bless you. A lovely tribute, sir.


  2. backonmyown says:

    This is a wonderful and heartfelt tribute to Jack. You made me wish I could have known him. I’m sorry for your loss.


  3. nelle says:

    Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt and engaging read about a dear friend. There is no better way to honour someone.


  4. Barbara says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I can honestly say I feel your pain because I woke this morning to the news of my dear friend and art mentor passing last night. Before I read this post I was mulling over whether to write a tribute to him on the blog… you’ve answered that question for me. Thank you.

    You’ve done your friend proud with this post Peter. I’m sure he is smiling down on you for your love and friendship. My heart goes out to you as I know yours is very heavy right now.


  5. redheadmouth says:

    Sorry for your loss. He sounds like a real genuine person who loved life.


  6. I’m sure Jack is taking his death well–just as he took life. “Such is life” implies acceptance of all that life contains, which ultimately means death.

    Your tribute to him, and to life is genuinely beautiful.


  7. Big Al says:

    What a beautifully descriptive eulogy to your friend Jack. Sounds like he was a perfect characterization of the “Greatest Generation” of which Tom Brokaw wrote. Your memories of him will keep you warm at night.


  8. This story was definitely a wonderful tribute to your dear friend. I loved reading this post. Memories are something special.. because they never go away even when the body has gone home.


  9. Julie says:

    I am sorry for the loss of a beautiful person in your life, CD. He sounds wonderful. If you haven’t already, perhaps you could share what you’ve written here with his family and loved ones and those who knew him, perhaps in your local newspaper or simple copies. It would be a marvelous gift. BTW, my favorite veg is Brussels sprouts and yes, indeed, they are quite special. Every time I eat them, I feel like a queen. Now I have the memory of you and your friend to add to the Brussels experiences. … Thank you for yet another gift and example of how to celebrate, remember and share those whom we value and who have left their imprint on our souls.


  10. Judith says:

    Thank you for sharing. In one of my courses I use the tag – “Circumstances or people can take away your material possessions; they can take away your money and they can take away your health; but no one can ever take away your precious memories”. You have been blessed to have had Jack in your life and the memories of time shared with him will be with you for ever.


  11. What a beautifully observed and moving piece of writing. I’m sorry about the sad loss of your friend; you’ve certainly done him justice here.


  12. eof737 says:

    What a touching memorial to your dear friend Jack… He must have been a remarkable man. i keep imagining the beauty of the items he made and how happy they must have made his customers… My sympathies to his family and to you…


  13. stardust310 says:

    This is an amazing tribute to Jack. I’m sorry for your loss.


  14. Shonnie says:

    What a lovely tribute. He sounds like a lovely person, someone I would have loved to met. Thank you so much for sharing just a bit of his life. I felt as though I could see him from the way you discribed him and his world.

    I am so sorry for your loss.


  15. auntyuta says:

    Lovely memory. I enjoyed reading this.


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