I’m delighted to welcome Graeme Cumming to my blog. Not only is Graeme somebody I class as a friend, but he’s also a very talented author, writer and blogger.
Graeme’s true story opened up my eyes to something I’d never thought about when it comes to passing on wisdom and mistakes I’ve made in my life to those younger than me. Read his story and let him know how you pass on words of wisdom to the younger generation.
Unlike Bryan Adams, my summer of ’69 had nothing to do with playing guitar. Having struggled to play triangle during a school concert, I think it’s safe to say my musical abilities wouldn’t have stretched that far.
When I chose the wrong moment to hit the triangle, I was even more mortified than I might otherwise have been because my dad was in the audience. He didn’t tend to turn up for school stuff because of work – not many dads did back then. So, when he was able to put in an appearance, I wanted to impress him. Clearly, I was to be disappointed and, at the time, I assumed the same was true for him. It’s funny the perceptions we have of our parents.
That summer, we took a rare holiday. I suppose they were rare because we didn’t have the money for them. In those days, it was common for the husband to go to work and the wife to stay home and look after the house and children. With one wage-earner, a holiday was a luxury. Even better, we had two weeks at Mablethorpe, not just one.
Fifty-one years later, I still have great memories from that holiday. Great, though not all of them filled with joy. Not at the time anyway.
There was an incident where my dad and I were playing football on the beach. Sport had always been his forte. He’d even been signed as a professional footballer back in the fifties – though a foot injury put paid to his sporting career within weeks. Nevertheless, even with the injury, he was a good all-rounder. In his time, he played cricket, tennis and squash to a high standard, and even walked away with a trophy on the one occasion he played golf.
In contrast, my own sporting skills have always bordered on the inept. So there was very little surprise when I kicked the ball in the wrong direction, sending it hurtling out into the sea. The tide was going out and, before long, it became apparent that the ball was going with it. My dad did go after it – inevitably, he was a bloody good swimmer, too!
Like most kids, my dad was my hero. I thought he was capable of anything. So, when he swam back to shore and I could still see the ball in the distance, it’s fair to say I was disappointed. In short, I wanted my ball back.
Standing at the water’s edge, he pointed to where it was, bobbing further and further away. I felt very let down that he’d come back empty-handed. And I let him know it, too.
“You can still get it.”
“Graeme, it’s too far out.”
It didn’t look that far to me, a point I expressed pretty sharply.
“The tide’s taking it,” he tried to explain.
Perhaps the concept of tides was too difficult for a six-year-old. It was another thirteen years before I experienced the terrifying pull of the sea as a Moroccan beach seemed to recede very rapidly from my line of sight. And the overwhelming sense of relief as I somehow managed to scrabble my way back to shallow waters.
To this day, I don’t know whether my dad had ever gone through a similar experience, but he knew what he was talking about. I didn’t.
Hands on hips, I looked up at him and, in the manner befitting a child who isn’t getting their own way, let him know just how disappointed I was in him. After all, this was my hero. He was my Simon Templar, my Robin Hood, my Tarzan.
“Aren’t you brave enough?” It was an idea that was, frankly, shocking to me.
Exhausted from swimming against the tide, and faced with a similarly unreasonable question, I’d like to think I could show the same level of patience he did (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t).
“Sometimes, Graeme, there’s not much difference between being brave and being stupid.” He glanced out to the ball. “I’m not going to be stupid today.”
Naturally, this quite profound life lesson went straight over my head at the time. And yet, strangely, the incident and the words stuck with me, until one day they made sense.
I’d like to say my dad was not only a great sportsman, but a philosopher too. But I can’t. Like each and every one of us, he was a flawed individual, and over the years I learnt as much from his mistakes as I did his wise words. And I’ve learnt even more from my own mistakes, especially from my youthful certainty that I was right, that I was invincible, that I would be my own hero. But that’s part of growing up.
Now, as a father myself, I see my children making their own mistakes, and hoping they’ll learn from them too. I’ve shared my words of wisdom, and hope they’ll remember some of them when the time is right. Sometimes those words have been dressed up in stories – because sometimes it’s easier to learn when you’re being entertained.
And I do like to tell stories.
Graeme Cumming lives in Robin Hood country. He has wide and varied tastes when it comes to fiction so he’s conscious that his thrillers can cross into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as more traditional arenas.
When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking. He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club. Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and loves the cinema.
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Connect With Graeme
Where To Buy Ravens Gathering:
Where to buy Carrion:
My thanks to Graeme for writing this guest post.
If you have any questions or comments for Graeme, please leave them in the comments section. He’d be delighted to hear from you.
For more true stories from my guests, click on the links below –
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