Sometimes the universe sends you something just at the very moment you need that damn thing to be sent.
I was out tonight. I never go out – you have to dig me out of this house with a spoon - so this was a big deal. On the way back, I turned on the wireless. I never listen to Radio Four at 9pm so on any ordinary day I would not have heard what I heard.
What I heard was a very old, very humorous voice saying –
Well, I always wrote KBO at the end because of course I wrote down everything. And then a nice chap came in one day and said you know you don’t have to write KBO every time. And I said: why not? And he said: well, you know what it means? And I said: no. And he smiled and said: keep buggering on.
Any of you who have read this blog for more than ten minutes know that I say keep buggering on every other day. Sometimes I say KBO, KBO; sometimes I say on on on we bugger. It came from Churchill, and I never, ever looked it up because I was so afraid it would turn out not to be true. I feared it might be one of those apocryphal stories which have gone into folkore but which never happened, just like Humphrey Bogart never actually said ‘Play it again, Sam.’ (What he actually said was ‘If she can stand it, I can. Play it.’
I got out of the car and looked at the stars in the indigo sky. I had no context. I did not know what the name of that woman was, or what she had done for Churchill, or why she was on the wireless at 9pm on a Monday night. But she had stamped my card, and I shall be thankful to her for ever.
The really funny thing was that I was with old friends tonight and at one point I talked about buggering on. The last year has been very fraught and complicated. I kept thinking I was getting better and then I would get knocked back and I would have to pick myself up all over again and start from the beginning. The buggering on had to go up to a Spinal Tap eleven. I said to the dear friends, thinking of all this, ‘you know the funny thing about my dad is that he was a very eccentric man, but he was a trier. He loved triers. He loved horses who tried and he loved humans who tried. So he taught me that. He taught me, without ever saying a word, not to give up.’
Dad and Winston Churchill were about as far apart as any two men could be. (Although I must confess they both adored drinking and racing and if they ever had met they would have made each other hoot with laughter.) But, oddly, it turns out I carry them both with me and they both taught me a lesson that really means something, in the actual world. Don’t expect everything to be easy. Don’t be downhearted when it all goes to hell. Keep trying, keep failing, keep trying again. Keep keep keep buggering on.
I was thinking about something quite else, before all this happened. Not long ago, there was a quote running around the internet which went: be kind, because everyone you know is fighting a hard battle. It was often attributed to Plato, but even I knew that it really was not the sage old Greek. Still, it was wise and it was true and I liked it and I think of it often. Today, I was reminded of that. I was reminded that behind a good facade and a bright smile, there can be a battle so hard that it would make your eyes water.
So, at the end of this long day I think: be kind, keep trying, don’t give up and damn well bugger on.