This Is Not A
It's not that there is nothing to be written about my brother's death and its aftermath.
And it's not that I am incapable of writing such an account. Far from it; I could do it without hesitation, even though doing so would be unsettling to my own emotional well-being (such as it ever is).
But - even though much of what I would have written would have been pure narrative, and the remainder would have been a dissection of my own feelings - I must desist. For doing so would involve or invoke the feelings and experiences of others when those others are coming to terms with the matter themselves and those others are, moreover, people whose feelings I wouldn't wish to disturb further for all the Non-fungible Tokens in the world.
So I must refrain, at least for the foreseeable future. And I will still need to tread daintily if I ever do write about it all.
But there's one thing I think I can set down here and now.
I hadn't intended writing anything for the funeral, but changed my mind about a week before it. I put together a eulogy which combined a small part of the influence Brian had on me - his broadening of my musical horizons (which I had previously addressed here) - with an assessment of his attitude to life and how to live it which was, I believe, accurate, affectionate and heartfelt.
Sadly, I was unable to deliver it (or to have it delivered on my behalf) because the municipal Crem only gives you a basic thirty-minute slot to get in, get through, wave goodbye and get out. As my piece would have taken over seven minutes of that thirty (if being done in the right way) to perform, I was left to hand over my screed to the celebrant to try to incorporate some small part of it in her address amongst contributions from other members of the family.
This was no big deal to me, I would add; the last thing I would have wanted to do was to hog - or appear to hog - the attention which was proper only to him.
But I am enough of a mercenary egotist to think that it would be a pity for the whole thing just to be left to gather digital dust in the data equivalent of an old tea chest in the attic, so I append it here solely on the understanding that it is to be considered as a celebration of someone dear to me rather than an attempt on my part to back shyly into his limelight:
The relationship between Brian and me was somewhat unusual due to the big age difference between us. I once worked out that we had spent no more than about five years living under the same roof. As a result, his influence on me was slightly less direct than it would have been had our ages been much closer together.
But influence there certainly was. I'll have to confine myself to just one example out of many, otherwise we might be here all weekend.
When I was about six or seven, Brian gave me some of his old records. These were from his own teenage years in the late fifties and early sixties. Some of them I wasn't particularly struck on, but I still have all of them today. This isn't just because I'm useless at throwing things away; I am, but that's not the point. Rather, it's because those records became so much a part of my childhood that listening to them even now takes me right back to those times. They opened my ears to music I wouldn't otherwise have heard at home; our parents' musical tastes were of a far earlier time, from the mid twenties to the early fifties, so - for example - it was always Radio Two in our house, never Radio One.
A few years later, Brian moved back in with us for a short time, and this is where he again expanded my horizons. Because he brought back with him his large, impressive hi-fi system (and if any of you youngsters want to know what a 'hi-fi system' was, ask anyone over the age of fifty; there are enough of us here), along with his record collection; all of it.
Now, this wasn't a case of Brian pointing out something from it and saying, "You should listen to this, it's good!". It's just that he went out most evenings and left me in our bedroom with his collection. Most of it was stuff I had never heard - often by people I'd never even heard of - and I would pick out discs more at less at random, perhaps because I liked the design of the label, or I was intrigued by the artwork.
As before, some of it wasn't to my taste, but an awful lot of it was and I once again found new worlds opening up to me, so that my musical tastes became broader not only than those of our parents, but also of my classmates at school, who seemed to be stuck in a rut of Top Forty pop. This gave me the confidence to find my own way, to develop my own preferences and to heck with what anyone else thought. The music which I found by that process - then, and in all the years since - has provided me with the greatest delight and consolation in my life. And it all started with Brian.
If it's possible to sum up the way someone sought to live their life (the motto on their coat of arms, so to speak), then Brian's was, as ever, short and to the point:
Get. It. Done.
Whatever the 'it' might be.
If he felt that something needed doing, then he would do it. Or, if it wasn't his to do, he would push and push until the people who were supposed to be doing it actually did it.
And if he felt that something needed to be said, he would say it. Oh boy, would he say it!
Brian didn't respect people because they had fancy job titles or uniforms; rather, he judged people by the way they behaved, by their honesty, their open-ness, their integrity, their lack of 'side'.
Each of us will have our own examples of this. Here's one of my favourites:
He was walking home from the Crick one evening, and decided to take a shortcut through the steelworks to cut out the long slog up the hill towards Penrhos. As he passed through the barrier at the Tanyfron gate, he was stopped by a Jobsworth in uniform, who told him that he couldn't go that way.
Brian calmly asked him by what authority he could stop him.
"I'm a Security Officer!", said the man.
"Nah" said Brian, "you're just a watchman." (he was very good at putting people like that in their place, as you remember).
The man - outraged at this affront to his sense of his own importance - pointed at the epaulette on his shoulder. "See that?", he said. "That says 'Security'!".
"It says 'India' on the bus tyres, but the bus doesn't go there!". And he carried on walking.
Getting it done.
It was this attitude, this determination to push through obstructions and to view rules and procedures as things to work around (or, better still, ignore altogether) if they were there simply for the sake of being there, or for covering someone's back, which meant that he came to be respected....and feared...and dreaded...by so many of the officials he had to have dealings with either during his twenty-nine years as a community councillor, or as a volunteer with the various causes he lent his energy to over an even longer period of time.
His efforts were greatly appreciated by those on whose behalf he acted, be they the residents of our village, or those who benefitted from the voluntary organisations to which he contributed so unstintingly. It didn't matter whether it was the disabled children he would take to the riding centre in Llanfynydd (something which gave him particular joy); or the elderly people given a meal every Friday by the luncheon club he and Susan helped to run; or whether it was guiding students in social work about the importance of dealing with the world and the people in it who they wished to help as they actually were, rather than what their idealism might wish them to be. It was always to be practical, always to be grounded in the real world.
Getting it done.
He was liked and admired by his friends and neighbours, who knew how important what he did for them and for our village was.
And, at the end, we hope that he knew fully just how much he was loved by his whole family, who were the true, unshakeable centre of his life.
So, if it is possible to sum up anyone's life in a few words, then how Brian tried to live his life - and what he saw as the purpose of it all - might be summed up in four short sentences:
It isn't what you take, it's what you give.
It isn't what you say, it's what you do.