"Only cultural climbers and shallow folk of social aspiration try to impress clever people. Clever people just do what they do. They can see both the serious and funny side of life and if they think you're being too damned serious, they will simply stick their tongue out at you when you're not looking, whisper 'wanker' and expel a discreet smell in your direction.
Some of the most intellectual, the cleverest folk I have ever known obtained their knowledge from the University of Life. Their knowledge was born of pain, pleasure, glory, and the gratitude of their experience picked up from day to day and person to person. This doesn't mean that they never read a classic novel, or were unable to understand the structure of the stellar system or appreciate the intricate workings of a telegraph pole.
I have always prided myself on never having known any person/character whom I didn't learn something important from. Some might have been characters in a book, but mostly my mentors would have been the man and woman one might sit next to on a Clapham bus.
The first real lesson I ever learned was from my father. He taught me 'how to do without.' He's had a hard life as a child and wanted his children to be able to cope with whatever came their way when it wasn't what they wanted.
It was my mother who taught me always to stay generous, particularly to strangers. She once gave half her money away to a tramp in Manchester who begged the price of a cup of tea. When I berated her and said he'd now be drinking a pint in the nearest pub, she replied, 'Probably, Billy, but if I refused him, the time might come when I refuse someone who really needed help'. Mum went through life always giving more than was asked for and never less than was expected of her.
I once heard a discussion between a Mirfield butcher and a customer in his shop while I queued for a pound of sausages. The customer was telling the butcher that he hadn't spoken to his brother for fourteen years. The butcher's reply, which I never forgot was, 'The mark of a great man is his ability to forgive and a foolish one not to forget!'
An old cricketer called Albert, whom I once worked next to in a textile mill, was once telling me about another work colleague who had left work the day before, got run over by a bus and was killed outright. He then proceeded to open a cheese sandwich and gulped it down and went about his day wholly unaffected by the loss of his work mate. As Albert ate the last bite of his sandwich, he turned his machine back on and recommenced repairing the cloth he'd left off before his sandwich break. Albert taught me that whatever hits us, however badly we are knocked to the ground, that 'life goes on'!
A friend called Ron in Canada once saw me struggle to operate a switchboard in the hotel where we worked. I was a newly appointed receptionist and had never operated a switchboard before. Hundreds of guests had been stranded in Toronto overnight by fog and couldn't fly home to the States until the next day. As they got settled in their rooms, they naturally wanted to phone their families, telling them they were stranded in Canada. There were fewer than two dozen lines on the switchboard and almost 400 rooms buzzing me to phone out. Each time a room phoned the reception desk to phone out, a light would come on and buzz loudly. As I panicked with all the buzzing lights and put the guests through to the wrong people all over the globe, Ron sat me down and gave me a cigarette. He then said, 'All problem situations have a distraction, Bill, that prevents you solving them. My way is to first get rid of the distraction and then you'll see your way through'. Ron then turned off the buzzing sound on the lights on the switchboard and said, 'Now the distraction has been got rid of, let's solve the problem'. He then phoned up each room and gave each a time to phone back the reception and ask for a line out. The first time given was 15 minutes later, with a five minute space thereafter for every room he passed the same message to. The night was busy but nevertheless proved manageable.
I never forgot what Ron had taught me: to always get rid of the distraction first when problem-solving. I later learned that the distraction can be an object, a person, an obligation or whatever. So, if you cannot stand the job, leave it. The same could be true of a nagging wife or some hot curry you love but which always upsets your stomach afterwards. Look for those distractions that hamper problem-solving situations and first get rid of them before proceeding.
An old friend called Etta, taught me that one was never too old to learn, Even in her nineties, she decided to learn another foreign language; already being able to speak four different languages fluently. Even today, the fact that I have a terminal illness will never stop me planning ahead or seeing little point in starting something new I might never finish.
All the women I have ever loved have taught me that there is more to Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical theories than first meets the eye. I have never been attracted to or ever wanted to go with any woman in my life whose natural hair colour wasn't black or its length, long. All my life, my dear mother never dyed her black hair that she always wore long!
I'll never forget attending my first Irish funeral. As the coffin was lowered into the open grave, the priest prayed over the coffin and described the deceased as being 'A great man, a gentleman and a scholar'. A part of me regretted never having really known this fine man. As I grew older and had attended many more Irish funerals, I came to realise that the priestly descriptions of all Irish men that are laid to rest are one and the same!
The Catholic Church has taught me the everlasting power of guilt and indoctrination. As the Jesuits said,' Give me a child until the age of seven and I'll give you the man". I have never known an Irish man or woman who lived entirely guilt free or who wasn't able to induce guilt at the drop of a hat whenever they wanted to get their own way. As for being the masters of emotional blackmail, the least said about that, the better!
All the animals in my life I grew to love, loved me unconditionally from the start until the end! I never needed to seek their respect as they gave it to me before I had earned it.
Finally, the greatest truth I ever learned was from the Book of Genesis. How appropriate a book name to carry through the generations, lessons of life; Genesis.....or should that better read Genes is? Forgive me if I use my own interpretation of this great book.
'God made the heavens and earth, the land and the sea. And he placed upon his earth animals, birds of the air and insects of the underworld. Then, He made the greatest of all His creations; you! My Lord God made the earth and filled it with all things wonderful. When it was finished, he breathed life into it and set it spinning on an axis of love; and it is the love of one person expressed to another that keeps it spinning in perpetual motion'.
This message of God taught me the greatest thing I ever learned or ever will; that love makes the world go 'round!" William Forde: January 30th, 2018.