(I am struggling to process where Bink is and what she is doing.
Sometimes it is easier to tell the story of something you’ve processed already…)
April and May 2009
The other thing chips do when they’re down is show your colours.
One of us emerged way ahead in our battle with Shaun’s employing church, a hero in stature beyond us all.
When WW2 broke out my father was twenty one. I’ve often wondered at such courage, in one who seems to me now so young.
He was a conscientious objector.
He also objected to being put in a safe office job in Blighty after his tribunal. So he – and his clergyman father, deeply ashamed of his son’s unpatriotic stance but nonetheless, and to his great credit, backing him up – fought for a rôle for him on the front line, and he joined the Medical Corps.
When orderlies were ordered to bear arms, my father decided he preferred to face a firing squad on earth, than his Maker in heaven if he betrayed his principles… his life only saved by a countermand from the Geneva Conference the next day.
That was courage? No.
What was courage was that on her deathbed my 99-year-old aunt, his much-loved sister, was still claiming my father brought shame on his family.
Courage is going against the crowd.
We are herd animals. Survival in conformity. The one who changes direction, trampled; out alone, starves. Extremely strong instinct, and good reason for it. (Cf. the Milgram Experiment?)
The younger you are, the bigger the crowd, the more astonishing the courage.
When we said goodbye to Oxford we left Ben behind.
Not quite twenty-one.
He was adding music A level to his portfolio, and staying with his tutor till the exam. So he was still in the city for Shaun’s ex-church’s AGM. He asked me if he should go.
Totally up to you, Ben. If you want to hear how they explain the agreement, the payment, your father’s departure, then do. If it would distress or annoy you, no need whatsoever.
Several people rang, late that night, after the meeting.
That church had an electoral roll of hundreds. The large church was packed.
The speeches well prepared. Very slick. Very neat. No mention of compensation or lawyers or liability. Shaun’s breakdown, merely. End of discussion. Let’s move on.
Business shifts itself.
Just a moment, Ben gets to his feet. I don’t think that’s quite how it was.
And he starts to tell a different story...
Big guns step in and say, thank you Ben, most helpful, let’s move on, shall we.
Not quite yet. Ben isn’t finished.
Three times, quietly but firmly, That’s not my father you’re describing. Not quite how it was. Not quite accurate. Three times, till he is eventually silenced.
His rebel ancestors called it the Speech from the Dock. We English can do rebellion too, and his maternal grandfather clearly passed his courage on.
Completely futile, one admiring witness told me afterwards.
But absolutely magnificent.
The hero of our family, Ben is.
Not sure I’ve ever told him quite how proud of him I am. For ever. And a bit.
Telling him now, innit.