Here I am once again heading north: this time to Newcastle to visit my aunt in hospital. I’m looking forward to it, which may sound strange given her situation: a husband and half a leg less.
I’ll be meeting up with my cousin who, not having seen for donkey’s years, will have had the pleasure of my company twice in less than a month. There’ll also be another cousin, the daughter of my aunt. She’s an academic at Leeds University and today will be lecturing in Newcastle; so can pop in to see her mum.
I’m surprised with myself and my willingness to travel the length of England to visit my aunt. On reflection the explanation is quite simple. I like being, and being in touch, with my family. It gives me a sense of place and belonging, listening to their stories and exchanging jokes and word games. I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that the Coidan’s are a serious free zone. So I look forward to seeing my aunt: seriously it may be my last chance to see her this side of the Pearly Gates, but I anticipate much laughter and joshing meeting up with my cousins.
So where does the sense of humour and frivolity originate? My grandma was a dour Scot with a head for business, my grandfather was a member of the Greek aristocracy fallen on hard times. My father’s siblings were extremely bright: professionals, businessmen or linguists all. My cousin, who spent a considerable time with my father, reckons he was the brightest of them all: if not the most successful.
Dad spoke seven languages, my cousin is an Arabist, and her children are linguists and historians. I think this facility for languages leads to a love of language, words and meaning and the fun that can be had playing around with them. A quick mind helps, which why another cousin, a theoretical chemist, is a one-man comedy act.
However, I have other cousins: lecturers, linguists and scientists for whom humour appears to be an unknown territory. So what else is required? Parents who laugh, who love playing with words, who have an ear for the absurd or the unexpected?
Or it is just the disposition you’re born with?
Isn’t Newcastle stunning? There’s Earl Gray lording it over the town from his column and quite rightly so. His vision has created a magnificant city. The railway station is out of this world.
I saw my aunt: minus half her right leg. She’s not great, but what would you expect. I think she was glad to see me and she was moderately coherent. She had difficulty speaking to the missus on the phone but I have that problem as well.
The next step is her recuperation and re-habilitation. It was hoped she’d be moved to Leeds, where her daughter lives but my aunt wants to go back to Carlisle: which makes a real pain for the family. Carlisle is lovely: don’t get me wrong but it’s an arse to get to. Anyway we’ll have to see.
My cousin, the professor, was lecturing at Newcastle University, which as it happens is just across the road from the hospital, Royal Victoria Infirmary. She “invited” me to attend: not telling me what it was about. Although as she’s pretty savvy linguistically and Middle Eastern –wise, I fancied it had to do with Arabic.
I wasn’t wrong. She was giving a talk to a load of postgraduate linguists about why in the 6th century some Arab laid down rules for the pronouncing of words in the Quran. It was all to ensure that the Quranic message was not corrupted by being spoken in different dialects and languages. That’s all I understood. There was a huge amount of detailed stuff around the various pre –Arabic languages in the Southern Saudi peninsula and what they said about the genesis of these rules.
Great fun! They invited me to stay for a meal after the lecture. I’d have loved to, but my return journey was booked and I couldn’t miss it. Reluctantly I had to say farewell to my cousin and her admiring audience.
I expect I’ll be “up north” again in the near future.
Talking about them past the Wash, isn’t Corrie gripping? They’re having an Emmerdale moment. Poor Steve. Mind you with a mother like his what can you expect.