In tribute of a lost globetrotter...
Since I was young there’s been many figures in my family who’ve stood out and been influential on how my own personal universe has been shaped. I’ve talked about an unforgettable uncle on my dad’s side before called John but like every family I’ve had other people growing up who’ve not necessarily been blood-related but who we’ve still thought of a close friends.
Unfortunately this year, we’ve lost one such family friend who I actually thought of as an uncle and who my brother kind of looked on as a grandfather figure since our grandparents died when we were both quite young.
“Uncle Patrick” from Plymouth was the partner of a cousin of my mother and who we first met when he made trips up with Jeffrey his partner to see a great aunt of ours. He was an ex-merchant seaman so had a huge interest in liners and shipping, and when our great-aunt and then Jeffrey passed away almost 15 years ago, my parents kept in touch with Patrick and he would join us on family holidays to Bamburgh and visit at least once a year.
He was someone who was just always there for us, not in the shoulder to cry on kind of way, but just a constant figure in our lives, and his visits became expected and looked forward to. He had an infectious laugh and the loudest voice in church when our family attended Sunday masses. He’d mix up and pronounce places in the northeast in the funniest southeast ways, like Bamburgg (for Bamburgh) and Chillington Road (for Chillingham Road). And on every holiday I’ve gone on in my adult life on my own and then now with my wife, I’ve always sent Patrick a postcard of our travels cos he was always interested in world travel, because of his profession before he retired. But on this year’s holiday I’ll have one less postcard on my list to send and it’s this fact that’s brought it home to me how much I’ll miss him.
When we got the news to say he’d suddenly passed away I couldn’t really take it in, perhaps because he lived at the other end of the country and we didn’t see him every day, but I each year when he came to visit either in Summer and at Christmas, I’d taken it upon myself to pick him up at the local bus station (he would always make a mega 10-hour journey up to our hometown on a coach – which by his mid-70s was perhaps a marker for how much of a real-life adventure traveller he truly was. Each year too he’d take himself off on at least two cruises, to the Norwegian fjords, around the Med, and was even planning an epic cruise to Alaska for this coming year.
When we were first going out, my wife and I rented his caravan down in Looe on a couple of occasions, and Patrick even acted as tour guide for us on our first day to orientate us around the small towns on the south coast. Visiting places like Polperro, Truro, the Eden Project and even Land’s End (weirdly on September the 11th, 2001) are memories we couldn’t have if it wasn’t for the kindness of Patrick.
I’m aware that this has been an even more rambling post than readers have become accustomed to on this blog, but I felt I just needed to have a kind of “stream of consciousness” post, which reflected how I thought and still do think of this man, who featured so significantly in our family’s life over the past two decades. I’ll remember him in lots of different ways and for all of the things that I’ve talked about above, but most of all, his example of always holding onto a sense of adventure and thirst for life, no matter what ailments you have, will probably stick with me most.
We’ll miss you a lot, Uncle Travelling Pat.