"They do say that a photo is worth a thousand words. Sometimes things, in reality, are how we see them but more often than not, however, real life is rarely reflected in the superficial interpretation of the outward image.
I have five children; each one as different as chalk and cheese to the other four. I love them all as I know they love each other, and yet, despite three of them have been around now for over forty years and two for over thirty years, as time goes by I often have to ask myself, 'Just how well do I really know any of them?' I don't know what goes on in their heads, what their ultimate life goal is apart from hanging in there as long as possible and seeking their own particular brand of happiness and contentment with their own families, partners, friends or even themselves. I know they love each other and they seem to get along with each other well enough, but like all siblings, I know they speak about one another behind each other's back from time to time. The one thing I am certain of about all my children; the one thing I know they share is the love of their parents and siblings, and a particular concern for my health since I contracted a terminal blood cancer six years ago.
The above photograph shows all my children over thirty years ago helping me build an entrance to the front porch of an old house I lived in and spent every weekend of the first seven years renovating. The major thing all my children share is a work ethos that I instilled into them before they were seven years old and which they still retain.
Before I digress to another topic, I wish my son, Adam a very happy 42nd birthday today. Adam is the one on the extreme left of the photograph. He has had a somewhat hectic year to say the least. During it, he became a parent himself, he has experienced a few hard knocks, and like all of us, 'time out' has been needed to reassess and take stock of where he's at, where he's going and what's the best way of getting there. Like all concerned parents who love their offspring, I have to sit back helpless to significantly intervene and just hope and pray that it proves possible that he arrives at a destination he can reconcile himself and live with. Have a good and peaceful day, Adam, and know that you are dearly loved by your parents and siblings.
I once remember reading a saying by a former Daily Mail columnist, Ann Leslie, whose insight into many topics, regional, national and international was greatly respected worldwide during a distinguished career that witnessed her being showered with numerous accolades and awards for her work, along with a D.B.E. in 2006. Ann once wrote, 'Things are invariably the opposite to what they seem to be!' Since reading that description, I have to agree with Ann's observations, not always but more often than not I'd say.
All of us are influenced and persuaded by first impressions and imagery, however much we find the thought both distasteful and disrespectful to our powers of discernment. How many of us think either 'good' or 'bad' of someone, only to find when the chips are down and you need help that your rescuer was the last person you imagined it would have been, while the one you thought it would be was nowhere to be seen in your time of need? Couples who divorce and married friends who lose their spouse to death often find that their 'considered friends' quickly disappear from their lives after the life-changing event changes the dynamics in their life from two persons to one. We should never forget that it is after the divorce from or death of one's partner that one needs help and contact more than before to healthily readjust, not less!
I also remember when I was a mill manager overseeing fifty men on the night shift at a finishing mill in Cleckheaton. On the night in question, one of the machines that stretched the cloth which was operated by one man at each end, damaged 100 yards of expensive cloth before it could be switched off. One of the two machine's operators was clearly to blame but both denied the fault. Indeed, each operator said that it had been the fault of the other man at the other end. One man was not very well liked by the other workers while the other man was probably the most popular person in the mill whom everyone respected. Naturally, it was the most popular operator whose account was believed and the unpopular worker was held responsible for the damage and sacked. It was two weeks after this incident that another employee on the night shift who had witnessed the incident first hand but had kept quiet about it at the time started to have a guilty conscience and revealed that the wrong man had been blamed for the damage and sacked. Just because one of the two men was infinitely more likeable than the other, his account of the incident was naturally more believable than the account of the other man!
I will never forget my next door neighbour in Mirfield, called Brian. Brian was an eccentric man of single status who lived in a very large bungalow alone and never spoke to the other neighbours. He didn't recognise Christmas as a festive occasion and one year when we invited him to share our Family Christmas Dinner, he just said 'No! I don't like Christmas' and closed his door in my face without a 'but thank you for asking'. Over the years ahead, Brian rebuffed all my attempts to be cordial and friendly with him. Indeed, he even went out of his way to be as difficult a neighbour as he could be. He had built his oversized bungalow half himself on a shoestring budget and had skimped on his sewage and drainage work needed. For over one year, our property was subject to excessive damp that cost over £10,000 to clear plus an infestation of vermin from the main sewer he had accidentally broken.
For the first five years of being neighbours, he essentially became 'the neighbour from hell' in my life and letters between his solicitor and mine were a frequent source of my weekend reading. Brian was, to all accounts the only person I'd never seen smile or hear him say one good word about another. most eccentric of creatures who one rarely saw with a smile on his face or heard a good word slip from his mouth about another. He had no friends I ever knew of and lived a hermit's existence in an eight-roomed bungalow that contained six concrete-built cellars where he daily practised his shooting skills with his many firearms. He was the member of a rifle club in Mirfield but was said to be unpopular there also. This was around the time of 'The Hungerford Massacres' in 1987 when an unhinged man went around his village shooting and killing everyone he saw which included seventeen people and a dog.
One morning, a new washer we had bought caught fire with an electrical fault. Fortunately, I was at home at the time, having retired the prior year from my job on the grounds of ill health. Within five minutes of spotting the fire that had started behind the enclosed kitchen-fitted doors to conceal the device, smoke was pervading the lower floor of our house. Concealing washers then was a fashion of the time, designed to make one's kitchen look neater. The chief fireman told me, however, that enclosing washers behind kitchen fitted doors should never be allowed as it only advances a fire once it has started.
The fire in the kitchen was mere minutes away from engulfing the ceiling and burning down the whole house. All downstairs was gutted and fire-damaged and for three weeks, my wife and children had to move into a hotel to live while we got rid of the terrible smell of burning and start to tidy up the horrible mess left by the fire and the water used to put it out. At the time, I had five neighbours; four of whom I would have considered the very best of neighbours and Brian, who would often cross the street whenever I approached him in town so that he wouldn't have to speak to me.
Over the two to three weeks it took me to clean up the mess, not one of my four 'good neighbours' offered to help. Yet, on the very evening of the fire, I had a knock on my fire-charred door and opened it to find Brian standing there. He said,' I'm sorry to hear of the fire you had today and although I am on the night shift on the railway, I can come and help you clear up every morning between 9.00am and noon before I try to catch some sleep. Despite being gobsmacked by his genuine concern and generous and totally unexpected offer of help, I was humbled by his willingness to forgive and forget. I thanked him, shook his hand and he left to attend his employment. Brian proved to be as good as his word and he helped me daily without fail for the remainder of that month until we had cleared up the mess enough so that the other workers could start the repair jobs required. I have since left the neighbourhood of Mirfield, as has Brian, but despite 'first impressions', he turned out to be the best neighbour any man could have. God bless you, Brian, wherever you are.
It is not uncommon for a person to look a picture of health on the outside, yet be dying inwardly. As Ann Leslie said, things are invariably the opposite of what they appear to be, especially when an inward condition is being interpreted through an outward source. Sometimes people laugh and giggle when they are in fact very nervous about the outcome. A person may appear to be the life and soul of every party or gathering they attend, and yet live such a lonely life for the vast majority of their time when they see nobody. Just because the clown laughs doesn't mean he is a happy person and just because something has been stolen and there are only two plausible suspects, doesn't make the one with the criminal record for theft the actual thief!
I don't know, but I'm willing to bet that during the course of my life that even though I have always tried to live compassionately and fairly among my fellow beings, I have unknowingly misjudged many more people of 'bad character' than I have misjudged those of considered 'good character'.
We tend to overlook the obvious in the pursuit of our prejudices; hence the advice 'not to judge' seems ever more sensible an axiom to follow whenever outward appearance is all there is to go on."
Love and peace Bill xxx