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  • Writer's pictureKate Clarke

The Good Ones Dream Of Their Grandmother

I’ve started to notice women in the supermarket queue who wear a large wedding ring on a chain around their neck. It’s a little moment of heartbreak, isn’t it?

Terry never left the house without his wedding band on.

I was less careful about those things.

When his son died, Terry bought a silver bracelet and had it engraved with Joseph’s name. Whenever we went on trips he would wear it, to ‘take Joey with us’. I have started wearing Terry’s crucifix when I leave the house, like a big fat, unbelieving hypocrite. ‘My Catholic bling’, he called it. He no longer believed, but the trappings of the church were a link to childhood, for him.

I think Terry inherited all the sentimentality in his family. His parents had a big clear-out when they moved from Reading to Scotland, and family mementoes and photographs were discarded. He did inherit the locket his grandmother, Ada, wore. It holds a photo of his grandfather, George, looking young and earnest.

But his grandmother never really passed, as far as Terry was concerned.

How often did I wake him in the morning with a cup of tea, for him to tell me about a dream he was having about her? He loved dreaming about her.

Here she is, photographed on holiday, on the promenade, in Weymouth. They went there often. It is one of the reasons Terry and I would go back to the town ourselves on holiday each year. We never bumped into that cow.

As I do now, with him, he feared that one day those dreams might ebb away. They never did.

When he told me stories about her, and her very salty sayings, he did so in her broad Berkshire accent. It is an accent of country people. It is hard to find the accent in our home town now. It has been squeezed out by the aggressive London twang that has become ubiquitous in Southern towns.

I’ve said it before, but Terry would sit in the kitchen with her in the house where he was raised and play Dion’s Josie, while she cooked for him. At that point, he was a young rock & roller, out on the town, spending time in the studio, gigging and trying to get a record deal. But she was his most prized audience. There was something sacred between them - perhaps cemented by the fact that she appreciated his beloved Dion. Years later he would play the song, in our house, on her birthday. There were tears.

For me it is the bond between brother and sister that's unassailable. When I read Springsteen’s biography I loved him, suddenly, for the sweetness in his tone when he talked of his big sister. His exploits in music took a back seat, for me. I watch Peaky Blinders for the joy of Tommy & Ada’s constant, low level jousting and adoration. When Terry and I would get together with my family, he would sit back and watch the incessant verbal scrummage and the undentable admiration between my brothers and I, in silent wonder and envy. He always talked about it on the journey home: “You, Martin and Michael; You live such different lives, you don’t sound the same, you hardly share any interests, you see each other once a year, you forget each others' birthdays. Yet, you get together and all I see is fierce love. There isn’t a cigarette paper of space between you.”

In truth, he also liked being around Mike and Martin because they are 'proper Reading boys'; They are working men, they fix things, they ride motorbikes, they drive trucks, they tell tall tales in off-colour language. They are the kind of men he could have a smoke with on the back step. They share an accent with Ada. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have brothers like mine. Some have a memorable grandmother.

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