Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Name Is Earl(y)

Er, Sorry We Were Almost Late, Your Majesty

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


I guess it’s a good thing I inherited the punctuality gene from my father, because my mother, a perennially delightful influence on my life, simply could not have been on time for anything, even if her life depended on it.

Part of family folklore is the story of the day the Queen came to town. Yes, that Queen.

At the time, my family lived in Calcutta and Dad scored two premier tickets to one of the big events of the royal tour. The Queen and Prince Phillip would be attending a special service at St Paul’s Cathedral - and Mum and Dad were high on the list of invitation-only VIPs.

Looking back on it now, I guess Dad must have been sweating bullets. How on earth was he going to shoehorn Mum into the car to be at the Cathedral with time to spare?

I wish they were both alive now, so that I could ask each of them for their own version of how the miracle came to pass. Dad’s version would have been dry-witted, succinct and to the point. Mum would have contradicted his yarn at every point and would have given a completely different viewpoint.

Turns out Dad not only got Mum into the car on time, he somehow managed to do so with more than an hour to spare. But Dad was a canny bloke, so I reckon he must have (deliberately) given Mum the wrong start time for the church service, or he simply re-set every clock in the house.

But there was my mother, resplendent in her hat and formal dress and her pearls. On time.

Before he started the car, Dad asked Mum if she had the tickets to the service. Mum nodded. Dad asked if she was sure. Mum said yes. Dad suggested it might be prudent to check her handbag. Mum suggested it might be prudent if Dad made no further suggestions.

So Dad, who oversaw the entry and exit of several million dollars’ worth of shipping every day in the port of Calcutta, saw the good sense in keeping silent.

They arrived at the cathedral, parked the car and walked towards the giant, shady portico at the west entrance. Naturally, they were asked for their tickets. Dad turned to Mum, who had them in her handbag.

Mum opened her handbag and looked. And looked some more. And some more. And then, short of turning her bag upside down, had to admit that she had no idea where they were.

At this point, Dad decided the best course of action would be to return home (no short distance, mind you) and search the entire house for the tickets. I cannot imagine that the spirit of conversation in the car would have been too lively or overly Christian-like, but Dad got home, found the tickets and this time insisted on putting them into the pocket of his coat.

They got back to the cathedral, triumphantly showed their tickets to the ushers and finally took their place in the congregation.

Remember I told you my Dad was canny? I wasn’t kidding. He had made two round trips, not one - and he still escorted Mum into the cathedral with about half an hour to spare.

Mrs Nesbitt hosts ABC Wednesday.

45 comments:

Hammer said...

Great story! I've had the ticket conversation before...it's something a husband just can't win.

It's funny, every church or cathedral I've visited here in the states expressly forbid photography.

I guess weddings would be the exception.

Jeni said...

I loved this story and can so relate to a family member being consistently late as that seems to be the plight of my older daughter! The only thing I can think of that she was on time for in recent years was her wedding and that was probably only because she and her attendants dressed at the church.

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

A cute story, David. I'm glad your parents did make it to the ceremony with time to spare. Your dad was a wise man.

I greatly admire the first photograph on this post. The purple and gold, the beautiful hand, the candles... everything! Thank you.

RuneE said...

It seems mothers and fathers always have different versions of such stories - who is the one being stubborn?

Hilary said...

Wonderful story. It sure would have been lovely to know their individual versions. Sweet memory.

Betsy said...

Loved it! I have been known to tell my dear husband that we needed to leave 30 minutes earlier than we really needed to....on more than one occassion. :)

dot said...

I always enjoy your family stories and this was a really good one. I would love to have heard the conversation in the car when they had to go back for the tickets!

Daryl said...

Your Dad is like my friend D's husband .. he constantly fibs about the time they are to be anywhere and still often they are late. We are all sure D will be late to her own funeral.

My Dad was the most punctual person and drove Mom crazy because he always 'had to be the first one there' (her quote, I heard it so often ...)

When he passed his body was flown home to NY for burial .. and the hearse was at the cemetery before we were ... Mom said: He's still doing it!

True story

:-Daryl

ellen b said...

Ha! I can so visualize that drive and exchange! Fun E post David! How fabulous to get tickets to an event like this. I have relatives that I tell a meal is starting an hour early. For many of my extended family meals I let them know the dinner will start at such and such a time and I will gladly serve the late birds when they arrive but the rest of my company is not going to wait for them..

Sandra Ree said...

Wonderful story, David. It made me smile and it made me a little sad too. I'm sorry your parents are no longer with you. God Bless.

Kim from Hiraeth said...

Oh, I LOVE this post! No wonder you are an award winning journalist!

I had a father much like yours and a mother who was always late. The thing I remember, and that you captured so beautifully, is the almost flirtatious tenor of their sparring.

That is a lovely heritage to leave for children.

joan said...

That's a great story David. We have a brother in law who always shows up late so we just tell him we're meeting a half hour earlier, he hasn't caught on yet. LOL These are the kind of stories to pass down to your kids.

Colin Campbell said...

I'm the one in our family who is always (just a little bit) late.

Liz said...

I'm with your mum on lateness. Great story.

lime said...

oh i do think the contrasting reports would have been highly entertaining!

travistee said...

Lovely story, David. You are blessed to have been cut from so fine a cloth.

Hootin' Anni said...

Two fabulous photos. That's funny how your father 'tricked' her into being ready by giving her a whole other time frame.

My W W is posted. It's not too exciting this week, but it's up. LOL Won't you stop by and visit if you can find time?

leslie said...

EXCELLENT story! I bet your Dad did both things: gave your Mum an earlier time AND set all the clocks forward. Wouldn't it have been devastating had they missed the EVENT!

Come on by to read about Education on my site.

willow said...

Get me to the church on time! Sing it for us David! ;)

This is the cutest story! And from the way you told it, your dad seemed to remain calm and didn't fume at your mother! My mother was the punctual one and my dad the one who was always late, but there was always plenty of fuming going on.

Dan Mega said...

Mate, I really enjoyed this post. And I take after you it seems in punctuality. I always try to be on time, if not early.

shutterhappyjenn said...

Very interesting, really. I love how you told the story!

My E picture is now posted, too! You can check it out HERE if you have the time. Thanks!

Granny Smith said...

My son wrote composition for concertina and named it for his future wife. He called it "Waiting for Kristin". Probably most concertinists who play it (it has become a standard) interpret it in the romantic sense. He meant it in the literal sense.

Your story is delightful!

By the way, I photographed inside a Catholic church at my grandson's wedding ten days ago, but with my camera unobtrusively in my lap and with its flash firmly disabled. I still wondered if I was transgressing (having almost never before been in a Catholic church), but when the younger of the two priests winked at me, I figured that at least they weren't going to throw me out!

CK-II said...

Punctuality is a good virtue. Keep it up! Happy WW. :)

i must confess said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I must admit I used to be punctual until I have kids.

Charles Gramlich said...

LOL. Lana and I are, fortunately, both very punctual.

SandyCarlson said...

Good on your dad, David! What a story.

Les Becker said...

I LOVE that story! And the hand with candle peeking out is perfect...

Louise said...

Great story! It sums up a happy marriage!

Bear Naked said...

My Mother also was perpetuatly late for everything.
I am the complete opposite.
I prefer to be twenty minutes early than to feel rushed trying to make up for lost time.

Bear((( )))

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

A wonderful story David - thanks for sharing it. I would love to have seen your father's face and to have heard his initial thoughts. A pity indeed that you didn't get to hear both versions. A

magiceye said...

Brilliant narration! :)

Check out my Engine here

Gordon said...

Like some others; I love reading your eloquent tales of events. Sadly, I can identify with the tickets being left home!

holly said...

i have let husbandman be in charge of the tickets JUST because i'm bored of the conversation. it's way easier that way.

now if only he'd get on board with driving. dang.

cheshire wife said...

A lovely story. Your father sounds like a wise and patient man.

fishing guy said...

David: A wonderful remembrance of a special day for Mom and Dad. Thanks for sharing.

Sandi McBride said...

I'm loving the stories of your childhood...it makes those we love seem close, doesn't it? I remember when we lived in Beaconsfield how we often stood by the road to watch the royal procession as it wound it's way to Windsor...Anglophile Mum and chaps, lol!
Sandi

Greyscale Territory said...

What a story! And told with love and a smile!

Jules~ said...

That is a great story.
We have non punctual peopl in our family as well. I have learned over the years to always give them a designated time that is an hour before everyone else so that we are sure to see them sometime during the event. They always wisk in winded with a story on their tongue and non the wiser to my "mis-calculations".

aims said...

What a great story David. Reminds me of my brother. Never on time for anything!

RiverPoet said...

I could feel my own stomach clench at the thought of them not having the tickets once they got there!!! I'm so glad your dad built in plenty of time for your mother's foibles :-)

That is the secret to a great marriage!

Peace - D

San said...

Well-told tale, David. Opens our eyes to the fact that we love our families not just in spite of their eccentricities but sometimes BECAUSE of them.

katherine. said...

I have often expressed resentment at the repeated asking if I have the tickets...many years ago I quit verbally responding.

I just hold them up.

Even then I have heard, "do you still have those tickets?" later on.

Denise said...

Loved the story David. Yes a great understanding of each other is a great marriage.
Thanks for taking the time to do this, a great contribution to ABC Wednesday where all the good people hang out!

becky voyles said...

Cute & funny story. I could just picture it in my mind...

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

Wonderful story, thanks for sharing.