Anniversary thoughts

I remember after my eldest brother Brian’s funeral, there was a sombre black tie doo at the university where he was the bursar. The great and the good gave generous eulogies and even a former president of the student’s union came back to tell some anecdotes about their clashes together as a boss and a young revolutionary out to change the world. As far as I could make out, they became thick as thieves in the end because of the common ground – they both cared about fairness and the kids under their charge.

For me, the most memorable moment was at the end when the college headmaster, traditionally referred to as Master, was about to launch into a wrapping up speech. This Rufus Roughcut who’d quietly bulled his way through the gentry interrupted him and said “We want our say”. Those are the exact words. He’d obviously been pushed out by the rest of the lower castes of university life to speak for them about Brian. The Master looked nonplussed and slightly intimidated but it was obvious there wasn’t going to be any way of stopping this visibly upset man without making a scene.

They cooked the food, changed the linen, did the washing, repaired the damages of rag week, emptied the bins, cleared blocked toilets, tended the gardens and every shit job the dreaming spires academia never knew existed and which the feckless students couldn’t give a damn that somebody had to clear up afterwards.

He gave a long, unrehearsed, disjoint and inarticulate speech about Brian. I can’t remember any of the details but one event he described stuck in my memory indelibly because it was important to him.

On the worst day of his life, he went into work that day because he simply couldn’t afford not to. Brian spotted him from afar through a window doing some maintenance work on the green in the central quadrangle and suspended some interminable finance meeting to stride across the lawn. When his emotions got involved, Brian had a very intimidating stride, especially when it was coming directly at you. He was the hard man of all us brothers, none of whom were ever destined to be flower arrangers.

The gardener feared the worst but instead Brian asked him what was wrong. He put him on paid leave and gave him time to sort it out. Come back when you’re ready. He’d never thought Brian even knew he existed, never mind that he’d know his name.

From then on, and at Brian’s instigation and insistence, support staff could get paid compassionate leave. There’s clearly a family bias in the story and most eulogies are mere politeness, so you go to these events not expecting much. Once in a while you get a startling insight into an aspect of a person you only ever knew in a family context. He was the best of us. It should have been me.


Related articles by Pointman:

Seeing a friend out.


Click for a list of other articles.

One Response to “Anniversary thoughts”
  1. constantlurker says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. What a kind man.


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