My uncle, my dad’s little brother, died sometime this week. I hadn’t had much contact with him for some time, which I regret. He was christened Granville John and though in the family he was known as Granville, he preferred to be called John.
Because he travelled so widely, he was only around from time to time when we were growing up and my knowledge of his life is patchy (and could quite easily be inaccurate). As far as I knew, he was a professional full-time musician, playing tenor sax, primarily, but also clarinet & flute. I believe he started off playing in military bands while in the Army, then theatre (often for shows the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham) and cruise ships. He was also a keen amateur painter. His paintings were hung proudly on Grandma’s walls. I’m sure there was much more to his life than this, perhaps we’ll uncover stuff in the coming weeks. As he was away so much, I don’t think he really moved out of his parents’ home until they died. As a child, I remember many hours being allowed to pore over his insect and stamp collections when we lived just round the corner.
Though my father’s relationship with him was never hugely close, and musically, John was much more of a modernist, I have very happy memories of seeing them play together.
It’s a bit of a shock so soon after losing my last grandparent. John is the first of that generation in my family to go. It’s a reminder of how little time we have here and how suddenly things can change. I’m resisting thinking about death coming in threes.
I did some work today with some people who make football kit. I haven’t worn any football kit since 1981 when my Games lessons stopped being compulsory. But when I went into their archive room and saw some of the stuff they had there, I was transported back to the mid-seventies. In 1975, Birmingham City Football Club celebrated its centenary and a year later they replaced the early-seventies penguin strip with a plain royal blue jersey with white collar adding a two-globe centenary badge – I can still see Trevor Francis in that kit, before he betrayed us all to become the first million-pound footballer for that bugger Brian Clough.
Why did I support the Blues? You had to. No, really at the junior school I went to, you really had to. A teacher was spat at once for coming to school wearing a Villa scarf. A teacher. In 1975. Y’know, before Grange Hill, in the days when teachers commanded respect and could give you a good hiding if you didn’t buckle down. You can imagine what would have happened to any mere boy who dared even consider anything claret and sky blue.
Football shirts – social objects, pulling a trivial little story out of me, reminding us how we felt, creating the opportunity for connection. And that’s just for me, I don’t even care very much for football any more, what about the real fans? And then there’s the programmes and the magazines, and the boots and the letters and the photographs. These people have a delicious slice of our popular culture in their care, I hope they get to start blogging about it soon.