Friday, 22 February 2008


25/10/07 - just

So, childhood.

Now really here I should start with my parents. I mean ultimately they are the start of me. I’m not going to, but I should.

There are many reasons for this, but to keep things simple I’ll just give you two. One – it’s too big a subject to tackle without a run up. Two – to understand my relationship with them I need to look at the filter first.

But even the filter is complex. I’m the youngest of four so there are three others to introduce first before I can even begin to explain the effect.

If I’m offensive I’m truly sorry. That’s not, and will never be, my intention. But it’s impossible to try and describe someone without risking the possibility that they object.

Enough hiding. Onwards.

The first child is the leader, the trail blazer. Every fight they had first. Every aim – from the first beating heart to the first step into the wider world they did first. They can never lose that. They can never have it taken away, they can never have it diminished. Everything else is a copy of what they did first.

But that also makes them the bench mark that everyone else is compared to. They can never compete, never get the chance to be better than the others if they weren't the first time around. They're pushed forward and they never get the chance to know if they've done well or badly until the next one appears.

I'm ten years younger than Catriona, which unfortunately means that when my memories were sticking she was stepping out into the wider world. I have few truly vivid memories of her simply because I was too late.

I think that's my misfortune because what I do have is photos. My father is a compulsive photographer and almost all the ones of me before I can remember include Catriona looking after me. I don't really remember the decision to start dancing, but I'm pretty sure it was after watching her in a Claire Goodwin's dance show.

Maybe it was Kirsten, I don't know.

In fact I really have only one vivid memory of Catriona when I was growing up. It was bonfire night, we were out at the traditional bonfire and she was looking after me. She had to explain to me that I'd spent all of the money that Mum & Dad had given to her, and all of her money as well.

It was the first time I was introduced to the concept of money, and money as a finite resource. It was also the first time I was introduced to generosity as a concept.

Well that's not true. I'm sure I must have been introduced to both those things before, but it was the first time it made sense. I think money and generosity have been intrinsically entwined in my head ever since. Which is weird because to tie it down to one thing completely misses the point.

Catriona has a marvellous generosity of spirit, of time, energy, enthusiasm and warmth. The majority of the time she will give up anything for anyone. The rest of the time she will give it up for - it's the wrong word, but - the right person.

I remember discovering that a work site was just around the corner from where she lived. Literally around the corner - the car park was across the road. So I figured I'd skip the ride home, get a train and see if she was in. Normally she wouldn't have been, but that day she'd had a doctor's appointment so she was. For once in her life she had a few brief hours to relax and enjoy herself and as soon as she saw it was me she gave them up.

I don't think it meant anything to her, it just meant a lot.

I've see her cry once at my paternal grandfather's funeral. After we walked out Euan and I turned to her together and it was one thing too much for her. In my head the subconscious moves I see are me turning to my older sibling for support to see him turning to his older sibling for support. So we both turned to her for support.

I think she recognised that and it was more than she could handle at that time. She needed her own support, so she burst into tears. It was too much for her.

It happened that I was closer so I caught her. The interesting thing was that I immediately passed her onto Sean, her then boyfriend and now husband.

I had no stability, no ground work to build on without her. Give me anyone in tears and I will do my best to make them stable - for a time at least. But remove my family and I have no tools to work with because the concept was so alien to me I'd never considered it.

I have now, and I know I could deal with it. I just hope to God none of the situations that would require it will happen any time soon.

But I suddenly realise I haven't even mentioned the basics yet. The simple intimate truths that we build a part of our personality on. I love my sister, deeply and truly. She is my rock of sanity, my grounding stone. She is one of my biggest fans and harshest critics. She is kind, generous, giving and warm. I appreciate everything about her and I don't see her enough because she gives so much of herself to other people that I'd hate to be another burden on her.

It's the wrong way of looking at it, I know. Logically she'd want me to bug her, if I was her I'd want to be bugged. But emotionally it's enough for me to know she's there - whenever. In a weird way I think it would cost her more to give me less than it would cost her to give someone who meant less more.

But then equally I get more out of her giving me less than they do. A five minute chat with her improves my day, and my life, as much as an evening with a good friend does (and that applies to the other two as well, but more on them later).

Like I said, I love Catriona deeply and truly. She's the most obvious marker of who I am. And there are some truths that are buried so deep, and are so obvious that we never think about or question them. They are such a part of us that an entire section of our self, our inner being, is based upon them.

It's nice to know that the only reason this one is wrong is because it's not strong enough. After all, maybe she gets more from a five minute chat with me too.

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