Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Lonely Engineer - Part 1

The Sentimentalist - Johanna Skibsrud
"...a sadness that would make you, when you saw it, want to pull the edges of your own life up around you, and stay there, very carefully, inside."

I hadn't thought about him in years. Until I read the above quote in the book I'm enjoying at the moment. He was a great friend to my father. I imagine he was about 20 years older. And I believe, today, that there was an unspoken debt (of gratitude?)for something Denis had done for Daddy. They were originally from the same small town and Denis had achieved some prominence as a gifted engineer in the government offices where my father worked. Some strings were pulled, I would imagine.

Denis, a lifelong bachelor, would visit our family about twice a year. And my mother would get into a hive of preparation: baking, cleaning, even painting. I was given to understand that Denis was highly important and a very good friend indeed to Daddy.

A measure of visitor importance in my family back then was when both the 'front' room and the dining room had both fires lit and banked high. Growing up, we were banned from the front room as were many children then. The too many children of the typical suburban semi-detached would spoil the furniture, wear out the carpet, crush the ornaments, destroy the curtains, fingerprint the walls and damage the piano. But when Denis came for his afternoon and evening with us, all those rules were tossed and we could enter the front room at will.

Denis would arrive with many suitcases (yes, heavy leather suitcases)stuffed with food. Boxes of chocolates and sweets, tins of biscuits, acres of sausages and bacon, black puddings, white puddings, assorted luscious 'chops', even eggs. He would never insult my mother by bringing any baked goodies. Our eyes would all light up in the anticipation of it all and we would help him lug in the contents of the packed boot (trunk) of his car, my eldest brother and me jointly handling one of the suitcases at a time they were so heavy.

Part 1 of 2

See Part 2 here


  1. I'm looking forward to reading Part 2.

  2. Love it...
    Guess I did this in part
    when children growing up.
    The front room
    did not like them going into it
    unless a special occasion...

  3. We had the two rooms with sliding doors between them, but with so many pairs of long legs and the constant stream of visitors, the doors seldom closed and both fires were well stoked up!

    We had a Denis, but he was mammy's youngest brother, the closest in age to us, and prone to reading the boys comics.

  4. Like Linda, I want to see how this ends.
    Cop Car

  5. This is such a picture of constant hunger. It is how we grow up, I guess. Always hopeful, always wanting more.
    You were lucky to have a person who took a special interest in your family.

  6. That quote is very evocative indeed.


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