THE LOWDOWN: The pipes are calling
By Richard Hoad | Fri, June 22, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, from glen to glen and down the mountainside. The summer’s gone and all the flowers falling; it’s you, it’s you must go and I must bide. – Irish song
LET ME PAUSE TODAY to reflect on a brother.
Ted was the first; I was the last. He got Daddy’s “ELG” initials; I got Mummy’s “RM”. Which sounds like a neat bit of family planning.
Until you realize they waited eight years before they got me baptized. I was universally known as “Baby Hoad” well into adulthood and even today in some quarters. And you get the sneaking suspicion they left the door open in case the old man had slipped in a few more after me, in which event “RM” could have been transferred to someone else.
There were eight of us spanning 17 years, and I soon learned to recite “Ted, John, Tony, George, Anne, Joe, Bill and me” for the many old ladies who wondered where we all fitted in.
By the time I knew myself, Ted had left home and I used to think of him as one of the brothers I never knew. Apparently, he took his role as eldest seriously and passed on helpful advice to the others. His perfected technique of “wash, dry, powder and roll” (using a cricket-bat handle) for recycling latex prophylactics saved many a fellow in a tight or slippery situation.
Once Joe and I borrowed Ted’s car to take two French girls to the theatre. I also borrowed his jacket which reached down to my knees – “He looks like a dove in a downfall” was how he put it. He had only one concern: “For God’s sake, if y’all parking in a cart road, tear the Gideon sign off the back glass!”
Ted it was, too, who gave me my first donkey. While she was still at his home in Worthing, he came out one morning clad only in pyjama pants to find that she had escaped and was headed for town.
Thus it was that the lines of morning traffic were treated to the sight of the jackass at full gallop with Ted behind trying to catch her while maintaining discipline over his ever-escaping manhood. He soon realized that he couldn’t do both and abandoned the latter to its own devices.
This caused a highfalutin businessman driving down by Accra to remark: “Good grief! I’m sure that’s the manager of the biscuit factory about to ravish that donkey!” To which his wife rejoined: “Well, he certainly has the equipment for it!” And with a defiant look at her spouse, she leaned out the window and brayed disconsolately.
It was only when he retired after many years at WIBISCO and in Trinidad that Ted and I got really close, often so he could express his views on these columns. Someone once told him my writing was “subtle”. “Yes”, he agreed, “just like Suttle Street in the old days!”
Ted was devoted to his wife Sissy and with good reason. If husbands were extolling their wives’ virtues, one might score points with, “My wife is a great cook!” and another with, “Mine is a wonderful mother!” and so on. But Ted could boast with a twinkle in his eyes that: “My wife never had a headache in our entire married life”. No one would be so foolish as to try to match that.
After she went, he seemed to lose all purpose in life. He would drive down here every time his cat brought in a dove in the futile hope that my daughter could save it. And we chatted a lot on the phone.
As the end got near, my daughters and I would go up on Sundays to play the guitar and sing for him the old tunes.
On the last occasion, he seemed to be out of it.
Yet he drew my daughter close as we were leaving and whispered, “I love you!” And then took my hand in a firm handshake (probably the first in our lives) and looked at me out of clear blue eyes.
I believe it was his way of saying that the pipes were calling and he must go while I must bide. Three days later, he was no more. Go with God, my brother, and may
we meet again.
Thanks to Sue Hynam for a moving rendition of Danny Boy and to the many others who turned out to pay their last respects to a good man.
Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator.
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