Monday, 19 July 2010


I never exchanged more than a dozen words with my father, and one of them was 'Mendelssohn'.

During the 16 years that separately we walked this earth, I met him once, briefly, when I was 12. I did not know who he was. He had not seen me since shortly after my birth. He was introduced to me as a 'friend' by my grandfather, who had organised the meeting when I went to stay with him once. My father played a short piano piece. When he had finished he asked me if I knew who had written it.

'Mendelssohn?' I suggested.

No, he said, it was by Elgar. He asked me if I would play him something. I played a Sonatina in F, supposedly by Beethoven.

I never saw him again, and when he died four years later I was not told about it. I only discovered the true identity of my grandfather's 'friend' many years afterwards. I sometimes wonder what this meeting meant to him.


Rog said...


It may have been significant that Mendel was the father of modern genetics and you were his biological son.

Dave said...

Gosh indeed.

The things we learn about others through blogging.

Z said...

Mendelgarssohn. I see what you did there.

One has so many questions to ask when none of the people concerned are still there to answer them.

Jon Storey said...

That's really quite sad.....

Sarah said...

Wot Dave and Rog said....oooooh the intrigue......carry on, I'm sitting comfortably.

Charlene said...

I think he felt regret.

moreidlethoughts said...

I think you're brave to share it.

mig said...

Lost for words really.
It would have been nice of him to have left you some clues. But perhaps he didn't want to disturb your life.
Still, if you have to make do with such a small shred it's good that it contained music.

Tim Footman said...

Crikey. Thanks for sharing that, Christopher.

Have you sold the film rights yet? Who'd play the teenage you?

Spadoman said...

Thank you for sharing this personal note. Obviously, you can never go back and ask him, but your imagination can create what you would have wanted it to be.
Are you familiar with Paul Harvey? Harvey was a broadcaster here in the USA, (and I would assume his radio pieces were possibly syndicated all over the world). He had a daily radio piece called, "The Rest of the Story". He'd build up a suspenseful stroery about somneone, usually famous, then tell usthe listener, who it is at the end of the piece.
Your short vignette reminded me of such a piece., Now I'd like to know more, of before and after this meeting and how YOU felt about it.
thanks again for sharing witn us.


Christopher said...

Rog: Yes, I hadn't considered the Mendel factor, nor (thankfully) was I christened Sweet Pea, but as usual you're absolutely right.

Dave: Indeed, indeed, indeed. What I tell you three times is true, as a friend with a slight stammer remarked the other day.

Z: True, but J.A.Synge managed to put together a remarkable biography of Frederick Rolfe, Baron Pontecorvo, from next to no material initially. I once thought of trying to do the same and may yet pursue the idea.

Jon: Good to see you, and all the way from Northumberland! (I'm trying to place your image, but haven't got mauch further than assuming they're the Cheviots in the background. Hope you haven't been troubled with deranged gunmen recently.) Sad? In a way, yes, but it's too long ago now to repine over might-have-beens.

Sah: There's more. Of course. I hope you'll resume your seat, notwithstanding.

Charlene: Yes, I think so. But of course we shall never know.

MIT: Thank you. It was all a very dark secret once with skeletons rattling noisily in cupboards, but I've since been able to step back and look at things objectively, and once you've taken that step they suddenly lose any evil mystique they once had.

Mig: Absolutely. It was my father that had the music. I'm sure there were many other things to occupy his mind, but towards his end I hope he knew some of it had been passed on.

Tim: Rupert Grint?

Spadoman: Thanks. I don't remember any particular feelings about the meeting beforehand. My grandfather had many friends who used to come to tea, and this was just one more. But after the meeting, which can't have lasted more than twenty minutes and didn't include tea, I had a most strange feeling of an inexplicable affinity with this rather grey and dowdy man with a habit leaning on or against whatever came to hand.

moreidlethoughts said...

" with a habit of leaning on or against..."

Look again at your avatar.

Christopher said...

MIT: Ha! Yes, indeed. It's a wise son that knows his own father...