Saturday, September 13, 2008

The story of the unused sketch books

Before I forget, I promised you a story with a moral - the story of the unused sketch books. You remember my friend, Susan, the friend who came down to Box Hill and walked with me on the hill? This is her story as she told it to me.

Susan’s mother’s second marriage was to Barrie, a man twenty-one years her junior. They married when she was forty-two and he was twenty-one. You can imagine the unsupportive comments, the misgivings, the doubts. Well, everyone was proved wrong (everyone, that is, except for Barrie and Susan’s mother). Their marriage lasted for forty years until Barrie died suddenly and unexpectedly a month ago, leaving Susan’s mother, now aged eight-two, absolutely devastated.

Susan had also been devoted to Barrie. On learning of his death, she and her husband hurried north to offer support to the grieving widow. To spare her emotional stress, they worked together clearing out Barrie’s possessions Much to their surprise as, to their knowledge, Barrie had never sketched, they found at least thirty untouched sketch books.

There were sketch books in the study, in the bedroom, kitchen, living room, workshop, shed, caravan, car and in assorted bags and pockets. Some of the sketch books were still in their original paper wrapping, seemingly untouched. Only one had been used. This was a sketch book in the garden shed in which Barrie had carefully and lovingly sketched the view from the shed to the back of the house, together with a reverse angle showing the view from the house to the shed. Both sketches had been drawn with painstaking care and attention to detail. As Susan said to me, some people want to cruise the world before they die, Barry just wanted to draw a better shed.

No-one, not even Susan’s mother, had known of Barrie’s desire to sketch. He had always been so busy. His job had been busy and, when at home, he had loved doing repairs and work around the house. There had always been a task needing to be done. But somewhere, in the back of his mind, must have lurked this insistent desire to express himself on paper. Why else had be bought a sketch book every time be visited a new town, every time he and his wife went on holiday? Had he, on each occasion, thought that this new sketch book would be the one that would finally get him started? That this time, at long last, he would really get down to doing what he wanted to do, what he needed to do?

We’ll never know. All that Susan and I knew for certain, as she told me this touching story, was that, come what may, people should do whatever it is that they feel an urge to do. The repairs can wait, the outings can wait, we none of us should die at sixty-one leaving thirty barren sketch books behind - sketch books that will never cease to haunt all those who loved and remember us.