I’m thrilled to welcome Geoff Le Pard to my blog home today. Anyone who writes about family gets my undivided attention. There’s nothing like family!
His new book Apprenticed To My Mother was released on Tuesday 12th June.
He’s written a lovely moving anecdote about his dear departed mother, Barbara’s funeral and her brother Ted especially for this Author Spotlight.
When I came to write my memoir of the period between my father’s death and my mother’s, I started by focusing on the two funerals. My father’s was the first where I played any significant role, and mostly I wanted to make sure whatever happened, it met Mum’s approval. With Mum’s, since my brother and I were now orphaned I felt freer to let it reflect how I imagined it could be the best recognition and, in my judgement, celebration of a life well lived. My brother was fully onside – both of us wanted humour and warmth; as happy a day as we could make it.
The funeral was to take place at the Hinton Woodland Burial Ground where Mum and Dad had neighbouring plots – it was Mum’s idea that when she was buried an oak tree would be planted between the two graves which they could both compost over the forthcoming years. Always a gardener, Mum. One of the rules of funerals at Hinton is that an official must be in charge – a member of some organised religion or a celebrant. To my (small) frustration my hopes of MCing the whole thing had to be compromised. That said the lovely lady who officiated understood what we wanted and played the minimum role required by the authorities, letting us decide how to run the day.
At the centre would be humour – Mum had no truck with some of the pessimism, gloom, ‘in my day’ bollocks that seems to inhabit people as they age. She always wanted people relaxed and smiling, which was why her kitchen and her food were at the centre of most family events.
Now, you can’t make funerals a joke-fest. It’s not an audition for budding stand-ups and I’m as adept as any at bringing in a few thoughtful passages to counterpoint the wit. Ditto my brother.
What I hadn’t factored in was my uncle, my mother’s nearest sibling. They doted on each other throughout their lives and so when Ted asked to say a few words, there was no question but to say yes.
Ted Francis is a naturally funny man. When he ran a pub, he had an annual medical. The doctor told him – smoker and drinker as he was – he needed more fresh air and exercise. Ted nodded. He merely moved the shove ha’penny board from the middle of the pub, to the back door, propped it open and sat honing his sliding skills while puffing away into the beer garden.
In 1938 my grandfather became so ill that my grandmother needed to find work to keep the family. My mother was 12. She left school where she was doing well – top in maths, close to it in history – and cared for her dying father and her two younger brothers, aged 6 and not many. That lasted through the period when her father died in 1940 until Ted and then Les went to boarding school. Shortly after, in 1943 she went to work herself, in County Hall before joining the ATS.
Ted was old enough to remember those difficult dark days as the clouds of war and personal crisis gathered. He recounted stories of the hardships of that time and how, throughout it all when his mother, my grandmother was struggling to cope, there was this optimistic, calming presence – a girl still, barely a teenager – just getting on with things.
Well, that blew the ‘let’s have a few laughs’ plan. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I still tear up remembering how my darling uncle forced himself through his tears to eulogise his dearest older sister. She was and remained his role model, someone who didn’t give into self-pity or despair; someone for whom duty – filial, family – were the cornerstones of their existence.
We gave Mum a rich and varied departure but nothing holds a candle to my uncle’s words. They set the scene; they gave me, a son who thought he’d come to understand his mother through the period of my apprenticeship, a different, deeper, richer context.
Part of me wishes I’d recorded Ted’s words but then again another part is glad I didn’t. It’s the tone, not the actual words that stay with me.
It’s not where you come from that matters, so said someone very clever, but where you’re going to. Maybe, but once in a while, understanding the journey helps deepen the way in which we view the future and ensures that important lessons are not forgotten.
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.
My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.
Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.
Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015
Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.
This is available here:
Buster & Moo is about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?
Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages
Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.
Well it has been so nice to have Geoff over today, quite the prolific author… I have a bit of catching up to do!
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