Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A Long Time Ago

Wednesday, 23 February

My Darling Eileen

It's the anniversary of my father' death. 

Fifty years ago today - to the day.

It's a day and a date which, like a much more recent day and date, will forever be part of me.

While I have clear memories of that day and the funeral that followed, my memories of the previous Saturday - the 18th February - are just as vivid.

I was playing rugby for London Irish that Saturday afternoon.  Quins away. 

I was in the dressing room getting changing after the game, when one of their officials popped his head around the door.

'Is there anyone called Trevor Kane here?' he asked.

I said it was me.

'We've had a phone call saying you're to go home immediately.  Your father is seriously ill.'

I can still recall the next couple of hours  as if it was yesterday.

Rushing to the station; the train to Waterloo that took for ever to get there; the mad dash down the escalator to the Northern Line platform; the inevitable wait for a Barnet train; coming out of  Highgate station and racing down through Queen's Wood and back to 72 Onslow Gardens. 

It seems George and Belle, my uncle and aunt, had got the message around 11.00 that morning but I had already left for the game by then.

It was only when they thought to ask you that they learned I was playing rugby.

But you didn't know where, only that I was coming home after the game and planning to take you out that evening. 
They had eventually tracked me down after ringing round all the grounds where a London Irish team was playing that day.

Remember this was long before mobile phones.  Your mother and father didn't have a land line then, only the Bebbs downstairs at 72 did.

I got their permission and rang home. I spoke to my mother and told her I was on my way.

She said there was already a seat booked for me on the 9.30pm (and last plane) to Belfast that evening and a ticket waiting at the BEA (as it was then) desk at Heathrow.

By then it was after 7.00.  How on earth was I going to catch it? 

That's where you stepped in.

You had already spoken to Cedric, your family's friend from up the road.

In minutes I had packed a bag and you and I were piling into the front bench seat of Cedric's large American car.

We set off on on what, recalling it now, was one of the hairiest drives of my life - and yours too I should imaging.

Even back then, Saturday nights were always busy on the North Circular Road and this was long before it was widened, or further on, before the M4 was built.  

But using his knowledge of all the back doubles and short-cuts from his day job as a goods-vehicle driver with BRS - and, I must confess, by driving like a maniac - Cedric got us there..

Leaving Cedric parked in front of the terminal you and I raced in and up to the BEA desk.

As soon as I mentioned my name, a stewardess said, 'Mr Kane, we've been holding the plane for you.  It's just about to depart.  We'll need to hurry.' 

There was only a moment for you and I to have a quick 'goodbye' kiss before she whisked me away.

As I ran down the corridor alongside her, I remember glancing back and seeing you still standing there, a bewildered tearful look on your face.

Can only imaging what thoughts were going through you mind just then.

Concern for me, obviously, and what I would face when I reached home later that evening.

But was there something more.

We hadn't know each other long but we both felt there was something - something much longer-lasting - there.

Did you wonder, just then, if this would change things between us.

Would I even be coming back to London or would I be staying at home?

Would we ever see each other again?

Well, as you know, I did come back.

And things worked out just as we hoped and knew they would.

But that's another story.

One best left for another time and another place for the telling.

So miss not having you around - to talk to or to hold.

Will love you
For ever.