It may be rare for me begin a report with a quotation but I know this deviation from my norm (whatever that is?!) is fully justified. For herein follows a snap-shot of my good, old Taid.
Owen Bach, they called him down the pit. Owen is my Taid’s middle name – as it is mine. After an old uncle Owen of his, he would tell me. Taid had so many stories of him time working as a child in the 1930s. I recall a story of how one day, the area in which Taid worked caved in. After much frantic digging and shouting from his co-workers, Owen Bach turned up behind the disbelieving men with his ‘snapin’ in hand. He’d taken an early break.
All through his life, Taid had time for everyone. Not least for me as he was the man taught me (amongst many, many things) to tell the time from his old, analogue clock that hung proudly on the wall of my grandparents’ home. He’d take it down from the wall and explain how the time was read from it. I seem also to remember him teaching me to break words up in order to read them. Cat-er-pill-ar. My Nan would always, when Taid taught me to read, insist on explaining to me how English was not a phonetic language, unlike its Celtic neighbour’s tongue. I had no idea what she meant until I realised the simplicity of Welsh spelling later in life.
I won’t forget how his many friends would remind me of how generous he was – not that I needed reminding. He’d give his last penny to anyone as well as the coat from his back if necessary.
Regularly young lads would turn up asking for Mr Rule to pump up their footballs with his machine-pump. It was a primitive (and rather dangerous-looking) contraption used industrially for tyres etc but it didn’t half pump a football up in no time.
Taid was, as far as my family research reached, the only child onto whom his mother passed the Welsh language. He would forever proclaim “nos da, dwi wedi blino” (good night, I’m tired) and “dwi’n mynd i gysgu” (I’m going to sleep). Always calling “tshy’d o ‘ne” (come along) to his faithful dogs. Perhaps it was in these (at the time) unbeknown words that my love of the Welsh language found their beginnings. I remember him mixing between the words for ‘road’ and ‘way’ (both ffordd in Welsh) on regular occasions as his second language refused to grammatically disregard his first. ‘Get from there!,’ he’d shout – a direct translation of ‘cer o ‘ne!‘ instead of the ‘proper’-English; ‘go away.’ I seem to remember his phrase of ‘give over’ when we were being annoying was at least one English phrase he grasped correctly.
His old Flintshire accent still fascinates me. How he would swap letters round in words where penalty would become pelanty – a trait often found in the Welsh language of North East Wales (gafna for a style when thecommon Welsh uses camfa). He’d always refer to a stryd (street) as stryt (pronounced ‘strit’ – something still written on many signs in old Clwyd. Islwyn was his name – always pronounced ‘ees-lin’ or ‘ees-loyn’ much like the modern North Eastern pronunciation of that all-common (and generally difficult-to-pronounce) Welsh diphthong, ‘wy.’
It would be from him also that I would afford much of my time to appreciating music the way I do – Taid was an incredible organist.
His other interests included his rifles (which scared the hell out of me), his dogs (who I remember fondly as being the most faithful I’ve ever met) and his birds (canaries and pigeons kept in the most incredible out-buildings that he built single-handedly).
He loved also his Polyphon – a rare musical box acquired by his father at the turn of the 20th century that plays the most beautiful of tunes. It doesn’t half belt out the Austrian anthem!
On his Polyphon remains the odd photograph of Taid with my Nan and other members of the family as well as a poster from many years ago when he boxed in amateur competitions. Referred to on the poster as Es Rule – despite his name spelt Islwyn. Es (pronounced ‘ees’ or as is in Welsh) was his name to all who knew him informally so I presume he didn’t mind the mistake. He often tried to get me to box. I wish I’d taken more time to appreciate what he loved about it. I’ll never forget the time he asked me to punch him on the cheek (bare-handed)…. twice, may I add?, after the first was deemed too feeble. Nothing much has changed, I’m sure.
After turning the photograph of his son, Stephen – who he lost tragically in the late 1980s – away from the television each and EVERY time Stephen’s favourite horse-racing programme had finished on Channel 4, Taid would always keep an eye out for scores of all football clubs any of us supported. West Ham and Manchester United for Nigel, Liverpool for dad, Tottenham for Stephen, Everton for me and Wrexham for everyone. I bet he’d laugh if I told him that my dad finally got his way in showing me the wonders of the red side of Merseyside for my Premier League following. Bloody blue-noses!
On the 24th December, 2003, I remember seeing my Taid in strangely familiar surroundings. As he sat in hospital I remembered him telling me of the times he would walk around the same grounds of the building’s garden silently as my Nan rested before she eventually passed away peacefully in 1998.
Christmas day in 2003 was like any other. Gifts at home with friends and family. In honesty, my youthful naïvety left me sound of heart I’d see Taid again soon – despite it being the first time I’d never seen him on Christmas day.
The next day I’d heard that he had passed away. Saint Stephen’s Day. It was the day my dad and uncle presented me with a belated Christmas gift on Taid’s behalf they were saving for Taid to give to me himself – a fishing box I still own (and treasure) to this day. I know I’ll dust it off soon enough and return to the old pastime I once loved to share with Taid.
The early 2000s were a time when my dad would often give up his ticket for me to attend Anfield to watch Liverpool. The Boxing Day game that year was attended my younger brother, Andrew – I believe Liverpool were beaten 3-1 by Bolton.
His funeral was the first I attended as a conscious mind. I understood why so many people had turned out. I understood why they too were so very sad. The organ in the service was played wonderfully by a man whose name unfortunately alludes me. I remember a rare bum-note during one of the hymns with my pal, Richard, pointing out that Taid would’ve played it flawlessly. I once promised Taid I’d learn the organ and as much as I can find my way (given time) around a set of piano/organ keys, I hope he’d let me off with my self-taught command over the guitar and the ukelele. I’m sure he would.
12 years may not seem a significant number of years in which to remember in words what someone meant to you after their conscious time on Earth comes to an end. In truth, I am forever remembering each and every memory I have of him. 12 years since we lost Taid seems as good a time as any to reminisce.
It’s impossible to note each and every memory here but I employ this medium as a start. A good friend once told me that no one is truly gone until they are no longer in our memories. I find in that thought an array of hope and thankfulness that I will once again greet my Taid – in his mother-tongue this time, with a bit of luck.
Cysga’n dawel, Taid.