I share a spare bedroom with Son which we use as an office/ sitting room. When we moved in two years ago, I arranged my older files on top of an IKEA unit... which it turns out is an ideal site for a LEGO street. So I've been clearing some space: most of the files and papers weren't needed, really. (To think that in 2004 I would carefully print out online instructions for networking a Mac and a PC, or the online help for "My Mac runs slow" or whatever...)
Anyway, these clearing exercises are never containable and of course I didn't stop till I'd rearranged everything on my desk, everything under my desk, the piles of papers and books hidden under the bookcase and a lot else. Which brought to light something I thought I'd lost, this little book.
It's an edition of AE Housman's A Shropshire Lad which belonged to my father - although looking at the publication date (1922, Grant Richards, London) I now suspect it was handed down to him, as my father was only born a couple of years before. My guess is it belonged to his father, who dies in the early 50s. My father's parents separated when he was small - he used to tell a story of his mother taking the children away to Wales, where they were supported by her in-laws, and him (my father) riding his tricycle round on the platform at Paddington Station while his parents argued. (Just try that today!)
I don't know what led to this split. It would presumably have been a great scandal in the 1920s, especially given that the family (both sides) were strict Methodists - but the family were clearly taking his mother's side. All old history now - I never knew my grandfather (I was born in the 60s) and I have a faint memory of my grandmother as an old lady sitting up in bed.
Whatever, I'm glad that I found the book. Apart from the family connection, it is a beautiful object (with, I think, cut pages) and I find these verses - tales of doomed youths awaiting the gallows in Ludlow town or going away to war - very moving, if somewhat sentimental. It may not be the greatest poetry ever, but is very readable, quotable - and of course has a deep resonance today.
Which may seem a gloomy note on which to end 2014, but I do find New Year's Eve a gloomy (if somewhat sentimental) time.
Best wishes to anyone reading this for 2015 (if it is 2015 for you)!