I’m not sure whether I have already shared with you my inherited disability. (One of many.)
My grandfather sometimes didn’t recognise his wife and children.
Alex doesn’t even bother to try. Just comes straight out with it. Do I know you? To someone he’s known all his life.
I could give you a week’s posts of amusing anecdotes on our inability to perform this most basic of social functions, but will content myself with my parents’ Ruby Wedding, when my aunt and uncle (yes, my father’s brother and sister; and yes, they’d grown up together, as siblings do) spent fifteen minutes trying to work out how they knew each other.
Park that thought, to come back to.
It was not yet midsummer. The year of Serena’s wedding.
We were in Serena’s college, having a pre-wedding canapé-tasting, when Ben called us out to come to the Senate House a minute away. So we all ran out into the drizzle and admired his name, framed on the building with all the others.
It was handy really, because when he invited us to lunch in Jesus College for the day of his graduation, I had a smart outfit and hat already.
Matching shoes and bag, you know.
Alex had quit Peterhouse in the fall-out from our homeless period, so we went to Bristol and watched him graduate, in a hilly rather than a flat city and with a different coloured hood.
I don’t do graduation photographs as a rule, but I took a picture of Alex shaving in the side mirror of the car as soon as he’d greeted us.
We had tea in some jolly university hall, and took home balloons and streamers.
Bink was allowed one guest the night before. We would all be having lunch with her the next day, in the Provost’s garden.
As you know already, she was at my father’s college. She hadn’t studied any Latin or Greek with him for a couple of years, but the well-Bink is the most gracious, grateful person you could hope to encounter.
Grandfather, please will you come with me to Evensong and my graduation dinner? (Hundreds of courses, you know.)
I have booked you a room, and arranged parking in college.
How jealous I was! And how thrilled.
The next day we were at the Senate House early. Our second time, presumably: Ben on Friday and Bink on Saturday. Something like that.
Hoards of bigwigs milling around King’s Parade. Rows and rows of them. Maces and gowns and hoods and whatnot.
Then front row seats.
Graduate after graduate stepping forward, shaking hands with the Vice-Chancellor, accepting a rolled-up scroll with a scarlet ribbon.
It can be daunting, even when you’ve done it yourself. (Not that I ever bothered: the pomposity of Shaun’s graduation was enough for me. If I ever send you a CV claiming to have a degree, I’m lying. My mother didn’t collect hers till the Girton centenary, in her eighties. They weren’t members of the university when she went up.)
All these bright and beautiful young things, with their bright and beautiful futures.
One particularly drop-dead gorgeous stunner stepped forward. Slim as a willow, golden hair swimming down her back, face like an exquisite faerie.
Oh my word, how her parents must be brimming with pride! So beautiful, and clever, and set for what stellar brilliance!
Oh my WORD!!
I realised after she stepped back down again.
It was my daughter.
It was a long time ago. And that precious scroll has long since been torn up in tears.
But last night Bink posted this on her Facebook page:
Am coming out of a six-and-a-half-year... don't know what to call it. Period of extreme mental illness characterised by intense, near-constant terror and warped thinking (caused by very mild cannabis use over 9 months). Am EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY angry and also very confused.
It has filled me with hope.
She is angry: so she is feeling.
She is confused: so she is realising.
And she is coming out.