He was a funny old chap. He used to come by and do odd jobs for my aunt, and me and my cousins would sometimes watch him. He was a living block of gruff, practical no-nonsense kindness. He has been gone from us for year upon the year, but still I remember him,
Why I ask myself. I can’t remember a single phrase he said, or advice given. We never went anywhere with him, and he never bought us any treats or chocolate. He might have done, but if he did, I’ve forgotten it. His legacy to me is in the manner he behaved. An adult with a job to do,sometimes surrounded by young boys, who in his work and behaviour showed a purpose, pride and dignity, all garnished by his warmth. He became the standard by which I measured others. He would challenge us to minor battles of strength. Test but never ridicule . He was entirely without either pomposity or fake humility.He came to do a job and he knew how to do it. Thats what he was: a grounded man, with practised skills through which he supported his family. As a by-product he showed a warmth of spirit and a jostling wisdom which still brings a smile to my face as I write this.
There comes a time in a teenagers life, well, in most teenagers life, well in my life anyway, when you suspect your parents, and most adults are really Martians disguised as humans. Avoiding their company may be the key to your long-term survival. This rule is followed with vigour but there are exceptions. Albert was one. He knew how to connect without making it obvious. He didn’t know he knew that, it was just in his general bearing and approach. He could challenge you without over facing you, tease without attacking your confidence and smile at you in a way which was still credible to a doubting teen. In short, he was one of the good ones.
Along the way I met others. Men in different roles and circumstances but they all had a common theme. There was more about them than things they said or had. They never boasted but they didn’t retreat and their dress sense was dictated more by the weather than by social pressure. They knew what parts of life to ignore, which meant much of it, and they knew which parts to cherish which meant family and some of it. Like icebergs, but slightly warmer the greater part of them was hidden from sight. This made them so different from the apparently glamorous, strutting and boasting meringues, who had much more bulk, than mass and who, in my fevered opinion, often obscure the view without adding to it.
I’ve no idea why this is. I am a man who is happy to dine, sing and be ridiculous with any man or women of any colour religion, height or hairstyle. If you confide in me that at least one pot of marmalade must be consumed a week in order to maintain healthy joints I will smile and admit medical science still has much to learn. I am happy to share my life and time with people and show my version of patience for their oddities, but if they show the slightest tendency to strut, show off or refer to their amazing list of achievements I leave as fast as possible. A short period of frothing will follow. Why that is I have no idea. Those faults are no worse than many of the others I am sure. Our map of life is often more of impression than of fact. Albert will always be a presence in mine.