Having Fun – or is fun having been had?

As I said in my post earlier today (TWO a day….being ambitious, or foolish?) several subjects presented themselves to be written about all in a rush and one feels duty bound to do the subjects justice by writing about them before they become forgotten in the passing noise of daily life.

Two things need to be questioned here… firstly would the subjects actually notice if they were not written about? (clearly NOT, since they are inanimate) and, secondly, should I not be using my writing ‘energy’ to get my novel finished? (clearly YES, since the end is now in sight and I should be speeding up, not slowing down!)

So, really I should NOT be writing this if I were being strong-willed, disciplined and logical. But one of the sentences I read today prompted me that one should be sure to “have fun” sometimes and, if fun is going to be had, then will, discipline and logic may have to be dispensed with in the short run at least.

Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed ‘having fun’ with words, for which fact my mother has to take responsibility. And I feel sure, if she were still with us, she would be delighted to accept responsibility as allocated. She always enjoyed doing crosswords, for example, and could often be seen with a very much-folded newspaper (probably the News Chronicle, now sadly defunct) and a pen or pencil with a slightly nibbled end – the result of thought being focused on the task in hand.

[As a brief aside, the mention of pen and pencil brought to mind a story I heard long ago about the Space Race in the 1960s between USA and Russia wanting to be first to get to the Moon – actually the race was probably more about providing a secure delivery vehicle for Nuclear Weapons between the two Super Powers but we’ll let that pass. Anyway the Americans reputedly spent millions of dollars designing a ballpoint pen which could still be used in almost zero gravity. The Russians were more pragmatic – they simply provided their Cosmonauts with pencils instead!] …by the way, did you notice me ‘having fun’ with words, there? … my pedantic use of the word ALMOST in relation to zero gravity, since it can never really be “zero”? Howsoever, moving on…

So, words and their meaning and use have always been of interest to me and it was one of several things that brought Fatima and I closer together, as well as providing for lots of ‘competition’ between us. Two widowed persons coming together in later life are presented with different challenges to relationship building than those which may be faced when much younger.

Communication is, of course, central to such relationship building and, yet, ours was complicated by many factors…. Distance; ‘courting’ over the internet (very old-fashioned word for such new technology!); cultural differences; language difference…and Portuguese and English are very different, of course! But the fact that we are both fascinated by the proper use of words is a big positive in our growth as friends, in my view a very significant aspect in, and pre-cursor to, our growth as a married couple.

Fatima claims (and it is certainly true!) that she probably knows English GRAMMAR much better than I do, since she has been studying it for over 25 years! But, as an ‘amateur’ enthusiast in wordplay I do not like to think I lag too far behind. Also, the fact that we have both spent large portions of our professional lives teaching means that neither of us likes to think we may be wrong!! So, for example, when we visited my nephew Neil and family in Spain two years ago, I remember the two of us spent nearly an hour discussing one singular aspect of the use of the subjunctive, each insisting the other must be wrong.

In the end Neil was prevailed upon to find us the largest, most comprehensive dictionary he had in the house to “settle” the discussion one way or the other. One of the most pleasing aspects of this story is that this discussion was settled in the best possible way – it turned out that we were BOTH correct (…or should that be ‘EACH of us was correct’? or are both phrases acceptable? I think it depends upon the ‘understood’ part of the phrase which was not directly stated. So, “we were both correct in saying what we said” …or, “each of us was correct in that which we said”)

As an “end-note” to the genealogical aspect of enjoying words, it is a factor which seems to be true of mother’s family. Mum’s sister, my Auntie Mona, loved words too and was a crossword enthusiast all her life. She lived well into her 90s but for the last few years of her life she was restricted to an “Old Folks Home”, gradually getting weaker until she could not get out of bed because her muscles had atrophied, eventually to the point when she had to be helped simply to turn from one side to another to avoid getting bedsores.

For quite a long period, then, Tricia and I used to try and visit her once a fortnight or so and “this and that” were the subjects of brief chats. In the absence of a “that” or a “this” to chat about we might try and help her to do the crossword in the Lincolnshire Echo, although it has to be said she was much better at the cryptic Crossword than were we, even in her late age. On this particular visit, very late in her life. my Aunt was apparently asleep and gave no indication she was aware of our presence but we decided to sit a while with her, anyway, in case she roused and wanted company.

The Echo was on the bed, folded to the crossword, so we picked it up and started trying to answer the clues, taking turns to read out the clues to each other. We had probably been through all of the clues a couple of times, solving a few here and there and we were on the third read through, thinking we might leave in a little while, since my aunt was showing no sign of awakening.

I cannot now remember the clue but whatever it was the words rolled into the air as I read this particular clue and, after a short pause, the answer came clearly from the direction of the bed.

King Charles!”

Auntie Mona did not open her eyes or give any other clue she was awake and said nothing more before we left but she had probably been participating in the crossword solving all along and was merely living inside her head. It was not long after that, that she died.

About Keith Melton - Green Lib Dem

Retired English liberal environmentalist living in Nottinghamshire; spent six years in Brazil. Author of Historical Novel - Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. Active member of the Green Liberal Democrats - (pressure group in Liberal Democrats) - was Founding Chair of GLD in 1988
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