Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade
Although the quotation above describes the charge of the Light Brigade, which took place on 25th October 1854 during the Battle of Balaklava, I think it could well describe how my father has often felt having me as his child.
Although he’ll claim otherwise, I’ve not been the easiest daughter and if anyone deserves a medal for valour (and patience) in the face of relentless recklessness and sheer, mule-minded stupidity, it’s him.
The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour valour which took place during the Crimean War. Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sevastopol (which lasted from September 1854 until September 1855 and was the final episode in the Crimean War), are traditionally said to be the source of the metal from which VC medals are made.
Stop. Stop. You’re boring the pants off your reader… I can hear my father saying firmly. Then adding, Anyway, forget all this medals malarkey, I’d rather have some meatballs in tomato sauce or a large piece of blue cheese and some crackers.
My father isn’t one for pomp or ceremony but he does enjoy his food.
Oh, and what he knows about gardening he could write on the back of a stamp, roll up and stick in his ear, should he be so inclined. But that’s a failing I’m willing to forgive.
However many times he warns me
and I do it
anyway, he unwraps oily rag
from his sword, hung in the shed’s eaves,
amongst onions and garlic. He whets an edge,
buckles on armour,
mounts his white, broken-winded cob,
(drop handlebars, Sturmey-Archer gears)
and rides. Bifocals steamed, hearing aid
whistling, he has no money
for a ransom or bribes, no Kalashnikov.
Armed only with his failing
strength, his twice-stopped heart,
three valves bypassed, his diabetic
flesh and blood, he rides to rescue
his feckless child, who others find so hard
to love. He’s unafraid
of life and death, fate, the law, stupidity,
lies, debts, jealousy. He’ll call them
all out to fight. Like the Zulus
at Rouke’s Drift they try to crush him,
end up saluting his mad-valour.
Behind him stands my mother,
furious at this déjà vu
and to be missing golf or bridge.
She’s on the phone, selling
secrets and cashing in