Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Past Presents

When I noticed this little clip on Twitter, memories of past Christmas presents from my father came rushing back. Although, like me, generally tending toward the cloth-eared end of the spectrum, he would occasionally become possessed by brief but intense enthusiasms for some genre of music or other.  If Christmas happened to be in the offing at such moments, his choice of presents would then reflect whatever happened to be his latest craze.

Which is why one year I found myself unwrapping a quantity of long-playing records featuring traditional singing from Mongolia, while another year, unexpectedly,  I received a selection  of the best bagpipe music money could buy.

“Bagpipes”, my maternal grandmother observed, “best heard over several hills.”

In a non-musical mood, my father also posted me a birthday present from Hanoi where he was stationed. The city had been being bombed fairly heavily and so I ought not to have been surprised when I untied the ribbon and tore off the paper to find an old box lined with cotton wool on which he had arranged several pieces of shrapnel that he’d collected from his verandah.

I was too young to understand what a thoughtful gift this was, given that the alternatives available to him in wartime north Vietnam were nothing or nothing - and even a few bits of carefully chosen shrapnel are better than nothing. At the time, it was pointed out to me that it was the thought that counted, which only led to me wondering at length what exactly the thought behind this odd gift  might be

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