An astonishingly lovely and touching weekend. All the relatives were here, from the age of one to the age of eighty. Today, my sister organised a massed tree-planting, for my dad. He died today, two years ago.
The funny thing is that I had got the date wrong in my head. For some reason, I thought it was the 22nd. So as the tiny great-nephews and nieces and the small cousins ran around shrieking in the Scottish sun, and we got our hands filthy, putting young fruit trees in the dark earth, and dogs barked and rumbled, and everyone laughed their heads off, I had no anniversary feeling. It would be tomorrow that I should mark the auld fella’s passing. This was a free day, all life and light, before the stone wall of the memorial.
It’s brilliant that it turned out that way. Sometimes my vagueness and goofiness really do come in handy. I woke with no presentiment of doom, but ran down to the field and worked for an hour with the mare, and went in to see all the relations for breakfast. I laughed and made jokes and had no sorrow hanging over me.
Now I look through all the pictures and suddenly realise today was in fact the day, and all that love and sweetness and pleasure still sit in me. There is nothing mournful at all, just that antic feeling one gets after seeing a lot of people close to one’s heart, as if every atom in the body is dancing. It could not have been more perfect if it tried.
Yesterday, for my own private memorial, as it was Scottish Grand National Day, I put on an accumulator in Dad’s name. He was really more about betting on horses than putting trees in the ground. It is the Sister and the Brothers and I who love the trees. (If our father had been here today, he would have made kind noises about the plums and apples and damsons, and then asked where the Guinness was.) The acker, in true Dad fashion, was going great guns until the last race, when Nicky Henderson’s sure thing missed the start and got beaten a head in the bumper. That, too, was completely appropriate. I could hear the ghostly sound of laughter from the great William Hill in the sky.
When I talk about love and trees, which I do a great deal, I am often being abstract and metaphorical and symbolic. Today really was actual love and actual trees. And, you know, you just can’t beat them.
I took a lot of photographs, but oddly enough, this is the one I like the most, even though it is completely out of focus. I love the smudged figures on the sharp grass. It feels like a bit of a life lesson: a thing does not have to be pristine and immaculate to make one smile.
The planting of the trees:
Me, showing Dad’s tree to the youngest great-niece:
Cousin, playing the Londonderry Air on the Northumbrian pipes:
The Younger Niece, with one of the Great-Nephews:
Lovely Stepfather, working very hard, with delightful cousins:
The Sister and The Aunt:
With the hill in the background:
Meanwhile, in the quiet of the paddock, Myfanwy the Pony is enjoying the sun:
Stanley the Dog has a ruddy great stick:
And my Best Beloved is mooching: