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What a grand title Elder be, when all it really signifies is a best before date, a lost, disappeared, possibly insignificant life. I’d say this story would be best read with the faint allusion of a west country dialect, in the verbal style of, say, the legendary Pensford clarinetist Acker Bilk or his friend the popular front man of the Wurzels, comic singer Adge Cutler who did come from Portishead, over there by the seaside just a few miles north of town, lending some authenticity to the colloquy.

I don’t know why not.
I don’t know. Why Not?

When his wife called him an old codger, he turned, as always, to the Oxford dictionary, his reference book since he was a young bloke. A-M. The book nestled among the reference section of the jam-packed bookcase; almost too heavy for him to lug to the dining-room table. His wife had used the term more affectionately than insultingly, even though the expression’s origin seems to have been a “coffin dodger”. Fair enough. If he could hang on another 15 years he’d be 100, perhaps receive a telegram or email from the Palace or a mention on CHEK News.

How wonderful it was, the slow awakening, each morning the light arriving through his bedroom window, slowly, the sky, be it cloudy, threatening rain, blowing up a storm or clear sharp blue passing its patterns about the walls, across the ceiling, each and every day a different feast of light and colour. The sound greeting his morning the gradual orchestra of various birds waking with him, a simultaneous symphony.

All that changed now, the mornings starting up with the crowing of the cockerels, not one but two. Then the hoards of barking dogs all around, woodpeckers invading his fig tree and grape arbour their raucous shrill cackles filling the early hour and rounding off the morning the Ravens scratchy gurgling croak as they check out treats. And as if that were not enough interference the start up of the chainsaws depleting the forest. At this rate, if he lives long enough he will be surrounded by a barren terrain, eventually a desert.

The days pass slowly, his medical conditions hindering physical activity; gardening little more than collecting piles from others’ chores, left with hanging the laundry, cooking an occasional meal, a lightweight odd-job man, his only talent being complaining. Mostly he spends too much time on his computer, waiting hopefully for messages from the outside world, his long-gone previous life. Daydreaming.

At night before he settles down to read his latest book, think thoughts of what’s passed by in the day, the evening gradually taking on an aura of birds and frogs fading their duetting song into silence. He looks from the bedroom window remembering what was once a clear view across the Lambert Channel, over Denman Island to the magnificent mountains of the Beaufort Range, his final horizon silhouetted against the setting sun. Now hazed by wild fire smoke. The view also ruined by commerce, buildings appearing along the coast their lights a strip mall of blurred light stretching for miles and miles.

The splendid novel he’d just read this past month was “The Crossing” by Andrew Miller. The before and later life of Maud, a brilliant, private, independent young woman paired with the unsuitable, unfaithful Tim; a somewhat arrogant man from an upper-class country family. The second half of the story, Maud’s escape, a frightening adventurous journey in a thirty-foot boat to its eventual shipwreck in a faraway land.

He had hoped that in this final quarter he might take on the persona, or at least vague similarities of his heroes. Bertrand Russell or George Bernard Shaw being two. From Bertie long-lasting ideas of political self and from George he has borrowed an eulogy.

A Splendid Torch
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

A Musical Interlude:
“Jumbled” was Recorded July 21st, 2023 on my budget-priced Fender FA-15 3/4 steel string guitar. The music was captured with a Shure C- 606 microphone utilising Audacity on my ancient Mac Maverick computer.

End Notes:
This story, in a slightly edited form, appeared previously in The Hornby Island First Edition.

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