New review of Where’s Sailor Jack? : ‘‘…romantic, poignant, and extremely funny, exactly what I want from a family saga.’ – Stephen Carver, Blot the Skrip and Jar It

by admin

Immanuel

 

God with us, the message of Christmas. God not always able to change things but with us in the pain and joy of life: man becoming God in a gruesome death and born as God both thirty-three years earlier and before all time, this can only be told as a real-life story. A story with me since I was a toddler just after the war, looking across a village square at a Church mentioned in the Domesday Book, from a bedroom with a scroll of The Lord’s Prayer on its wall alongside later a picture of Nat Lofthouse, the Lion of Vienna from Bolton. This was not the sacred and the profane, for all that has happened is sacred.
And now in post-modern Britain, Christmas cards with a religious message are said to give offence. The Lord’s Prayer is seen as divisive and thus also offensive. I suspect that in the country as a whole far more offence is given by not honouring this heritage. Certainly I can’t stop taking umbrage each time an absurdity like this is mouthed in terms that would have been considered shallow at my school debating society.
I read Physics as my first degree. I have run businesses. I have a family. I am the last of my childhood family still alive. I have studied Philosophy. I have written a novel. I have lived seventy years with the sadness and joy of life, in city, town and country, north and south. The message of Christmas is no mediaeval superstition. It is deeply philosophical and spiritual with a finite view of creation more reasonable than any infinite theory, but one which gives hope that life is not futile and that death may not be the end. The Lord’s Prayer is exemplary in describing how life should be lived.
Maybe Christianity shouldn’t be a state religion, believing as it does that faith is a matter of personal choice. But to try to marginalise it within Britain is to commit cultural philistinism on an epic scale.

Oh Bon

“Where’s Sailor Jack?” asks the question of where do we go when we die, apart from into ashes or dust. Is there a life after death? My Mum died on October 6th, just three months short of her hundredth. “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas,” wrote St Matthew quoting Jesus. Biblical exposition sees the reference to Jonas, in the whale’s belly for three days, as an allegory for Jesus’ three days in the tomb. Maybe though he was joking about swallowing a far-fetched story whole.

It took thirteen years exactly for my Dad to get in touch, with the repeated cricket miracle of the five clean-bowled wickets. A simplified version in the novel is based on two real events involving my Dad and my youngest son George, who is fifty years younger than me. Just after the war, my Dad clean-bowled five batsmen in five balls to win a match. On the thirteenth anniversary of Dad’s death, playing for Aldenham School Under Fifteens, George clean-bowled four batsmen to do the same. I joked that he hadn’t done as well as his Granddad. The next day, playing for his club team Cockfosters against Winchmore Hill, he bowled their opening bat first ball.

It’s taken my Mum only 36 days. When I was very small, in my cot I would get hold of my bottle by the teat, swing it around, the teat would come off and there would be milk everywhere. I’d then look over the bars of the cot and say, “Oh Bon.” I couldn’t say John yet, but was mimicking my Mum telling me off. Anyway yesterday, I was on my Twitter account (@JohnRUttley if you’re interested) when appearing bang in the middle of my front screen was the word OHBON. Three tweets down from the top, Twitter put on suggested sites and sponsored items. OHBON are a fashion jewellery company in Colorado. I don’t think a targeted ad would have picked me out, so I’m assuming it’s my Mum’s commentary on my life to date! There no doubt will be another explanation why OHBON hit my screen, but this one is too good to miss. Life is full of dualities, or is it dual aspect monisms?

Who says you can’t swallow a whale whole?

My family

I haven’t got any pictures from the late forties of the four of us together in Poulton, the Lancashire village that was our home. That’s Mum, Dad, sister Lynda and me. With the war taking Dad away for the duration, Lynda was nearly five years older than me. I guess I knew when visiting the grave of the Grandfather I never knew, before I’d started at school but able to read and already keen on sums, that the words on his headstone, ‘The Day thou gavest Lord is ended,’ meant it was likely I’d be the last of the four to die. In not quite the predictable order, so it has proved.
The forties were even before the Brownie 127. A box camera was the technology. A fifth party had to take a family photo, and the first example of that I’ve found is well into the fifties and after we’d moved to Southport. We were a family then, the four of us, plus dog Rex and cat Chloe. My memory doesn’t fail me. It was a good home.
That family had broken up by 1961. Lynda had married and unusually for the time and place Dad moved out for someone else. The only pictures with all four of us since are at family weddings with Mum trying to stand as far away from Dad as the lens would allow. Both Rex and Chloe lived into old age but of course they’ve both been gone many decades. Dad died in 1998, Lynda in 2012 and Mum went two weeks ago, two days after my seventieth.
I didn’t really live at anywhere I could call home once I left University. Nothing unusual there, most of us didn’t. In fact, more come back afterwards to live at home now than then, with property prices high and marriage unfashionable. My present family is still half with us, as family dog Timmy reaches old age. I hope the three kids think that my wife Janet and I have given them a good home. And that they’ll still be around and think that in fifty years time.
Those of you who’ve read ‘Where’s Sailor Jack?’ will know how I try to see eternity through science or those quirks of inexplicable meaning sometimes thrown up by events. Maybe some events are there to make us wonder, even to see wonder. But if anything makes me hope for eternity it’s just this: We were a family, we are a family. Maybe there won’t be many mansions for us in heaven, but there could be a terrace of houses.

Body and Soul

My novel Where’s Sailor Jack? has the characters muse about the possibility of something beyond death. Richard Shackleton remembers an incident from when he was 19, while he was young, fit and innocent, when time seemed to stop, and hopes that was the moment when his resurrection body was taken from him. He’d agree with Bob Swarbrick that he’d like that body to be linked up in eternity with the soul he’d made throughout his life. Bob is strongly of the view that everything he’s lived through, good and bad, has to go into that soul. Richard eventually comes round to that way of thinking having previously tried to miss the bad bits out.
Bob goes further, saying that the soul you become has been in you from the start. He seems to see time almost circular so that the start is also the end and vive versa, but does concede that something must be added by what you’ve learnt from living, something at right angles to the time axis. His lover Wendy faces dementia and loss of personality in her husband, and cannot think that through life you are what you are as you finish. Richard also makes light of that idea of Bob’s.
I recently read something said by John Polkinghorne, the esteemed physicist vicar, in his conversations with Richard Swinburne, the former Oxford theologian. Swinburne has trouble in seeing any of us as ready for paradise having lived but one messy life, and postulates other improving lives to come. Polkinghorne feels that the coding that makes up our soul is saved in the mind of God and transferred to our resurrection body at the eschaton. I too would like to think there’s only one life, and one eternity. I don’t like multiplying entities and confusion, even if the physical universe seems to. I’m with Polkinghorne in wanting an integrated full lifetime view to be my soul and it would be nice for it to joined up with my young, adult body. I can feel why Bob thinks that knowledge of that soul is always with you. I’d like eternity to be more a place of wonderment and conversational reminiscence rather than another journey.
Readers of my other blogs will know that I tend to dual aspect monism as my take on reality. In my life, I think I’ve seen examples of divine will, delusional as you are allowed to think me. For me the mental and physical have links, but if the divine is infinite, it will never be capable of mathematical explanation. The alternative of monism takes away all meaning to will, and I’m scared of it. It would be sad to discover I have never existed a week short of my seventieth birthday.

My First Adam

                                 

My blog about Bob Dylan was probably deliberately told to make me look as hip as possible from the earliest age. Before I’d discovered the wonders of Bob aged seventeen, I’d been into Elvis, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Gene Pitney and then The Beatles. Now for a bit of honesty, after a reminder I received earlier this week. In 1960 and 1961, when I was fourteen and fifteen, we’d play football all day on Bedford Park in Birkdale. Young ladies maybe a year or two younger would sometimes come to watch, though even at that young age, they were able to effect a studied air of disinterest. Their primary conversation was of pop music, particularly the relative merits of Cliff Richard and Adam Faith. For some reason, I decided to be an Adam Faith fan, perhaps because he was considered less wholesome than Cliff, although to be fair Cliff was more the rocker.
I was originally from the Blackpool area and in 1960 Adam played a summer season at the Blackpool Hippodrome. He topped the bill, with Emil Ford and the Checkmates closing the first half. The compere was a chap called Don Arrol who went on to do Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Adam had the leather jacket image but in fact came on in a suit and slim tie, for What Do You Want, Poor Me, Someone Else’s Baby etc. They were good songs written by the intelligent Johnny Worth, with great backing arrangements by the brilliant John Barry. The John Barry Seven had played their own slot earlier, including the wonderful Juke Box Jury theme, and then backed Adam, as they did on most of his records.
Not only that though. The other supporting act was The Lana Sisters, including Mary O’Brien, who were good if a bit screechy. Yes, Mary O’Brien. Dusty Springfield, before The Springfields, before she became Dusty on her own, and the greatest female vocalist of my life, by a mile. I was just naturally with it, wasn’t I?
1961 saw Adam booked for the Liverpool Empire. My sister worked at the Walker Art Library and got me a ticket. Aged 15. I went to the big bad city of Liverpool from Southport on my own. The comedian was that great master Jimmy James with his drunken routine (Policeman, “ Anything you day may be taken down…” JJ, “Trousers”). Then he was with his partner Our Eli and a small box which Eli claimed contained animals such as a giraffe and a lion. Finally an elephant was mentioned. JJ-“Where do you keep the elephant. In the box?” Eli- “Don’t be silly, you can’t fit an elephant in that box. He’s in a cage.” JJ- “And where’s the cage?” Eli- “In the box.” Still keeping my hip reputation, yes?
Unfortunately, down the bill was a singer called Gerry Dorsey, who seemed quite good. You might know he went on to become Englebert Humperdinck. Hipness quotient down to zero from hero? Yet I still had Bob Swarbrick sing “Am I that easy to Forget?” to his daughter in Where’s Sailor Jack? and it certainly was Englebert’s version.
After that I was off into Beatles, Dylan, Stones, The Who, The Kinks etc and forgot all about Adam. Then I did my Oxford entrance exams in December 1963 at New College. I finished there mid Friday afternoon and was travelling home on a Crosville coach overnight to Liverpool, followed by an early morning train to Southport. I had about eight hours to kill until the midnight departure time from Gloucester Green Bus Station. Appearing at the New Theatre was Adam Faith. I booked one of the last available tickets, filled my face at Crawford’s before hearing again the songs that had once charmed me. It was good. I caught the bus and train home landing back home for breakfast. Just over a week later I heard I’d got my Oxford place.
Of course Adam went on to have a fine acting career after a while in the wilderness. Rest in peace, Adam Faith, John Barry, Dusty Springfield and Jimmy James and long life for Englebert.

Chanting

Seeing all the footage from the past shown on television since Corbyn’s accession, I’ve realised that I have a character trait which prevents me from ever being on the extremes of politics. I’d never be able to chant at a protest rally. Admittedly, it’s pretty unlikely that I’d ever be seen at such an event, disliking as I do the right’s greed and the left’s sanctimony. Before I had the luxury of my own web page and the consequent capacity to write blogs that no-one ever reads, I would have satisfied myself with describing the nature of my complaint to a bored wife and family over tea, or supper if I have to acknowledge how middle-class I’ve become. (Supper when I was a kid was a banana sandwich before I went to bed, tea was the cooked meal at about half past five and dinner was the revolting mess of lumpy mash, stringy beef and overcooked cabbage served at school every day for the thirteen years I went. The puds were terrific though. Before I went to school, lunch was the mid-morning snack also referred to as baggin.)
I consider myself the archetypical north Englishman, though maybe I’m not. I’ve been following Bolton Wanderers since late 1952, shouting advice and encouragement but the one time I joined in with “Bolton, Bolton, Bolton…” I felt acutely embarrassed. When the habitual and deafening “We’re the one and only Wanderers” is bellowed ad nauseam, particularly in the Wolves game, I want to stick my fingers in my ears. I could manage a round of “Oh Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lancashire” at Lords back in the day when the other sixteen counties played each other to see who met Lancashire in the Gillette Final but then that had a semblance of a tune. I can say, or even sing if the organist pitches low enough, the responses in church without thinking that I’ve given up on my identity and free will, perhaps because they have the advantage of being in sixteenth century English. I’m less happy with modern English responses. I could never chant either “Marxist Morons” or “Tory scum”.
Delusionally, I like to think it’s because I’m in the yeoman tradition, deciding things for myself. So I’ll be available to defend the country if really needed but once it’s over, I’ll go back home to my family. People often wonder how to define what is liberal. My rule is simple. When you chant, you’re not being one.
It’s a while since I blogged. I’ve no idea if there’s anyone reading me. If you are, please use the link to Twitter or Facebook on my home page and let me know.

Self identity from sporting allegiance

Where’s Sailor Jack? makes great play on the allegiance of Bob Swarbrick and Richard Shackleton to their separate towns’ football teams and to the county cricket team they share. Bob is from Blackpool so on return to the north-west he bought a season ticket for Bloomfield Road. Richard is from Bolton and has to follow his beloved Wanderers from afar. Their joint support for Lancashire is shown in their ecstatic delight when the county palatine finally wins the county championship after a seemingly everlasting wait, a Blackpudlian and Boltonian batting when the winning runs are hit.

Both would fail the notorious Norman Tebbit test for national identity if this was extended to regional loyalty. Neither is going to support Middlesex when living north of the Thames. They would both agree, having followed their football teams through thick and thin, that you can change your wife and you can change your religion but you can’t change your football team. They do not have animosity towards the other’s team, because both sides are Lancastrian. If Blackburn or Burnley, either scouse team, City or even United were playing at Chelsea when they were younger, then they’d go along and cheer for the Lancashire side. Nowadays when watching Sky they will do the same. They have players from the past, sadly some passed away, who are still their heroes. Bob has Matthews and Morty, Richard Nat Lofthouse, the Lion of Vienna, and the charismatic Freddie Hill. I had to miss out from WSJ the childhood story of when Richard got Nat’s autograph, great tale that it was.

Yes, I’m a Wanderer but I hope that readers couldn’t tell which I was from the novel. They were both there as young lads when the Aussies played at Old Trafford in 1953, without knowing of each other’s existence, to late for Bradman but seeing Lindwall and Miller in harness, respecting Washbrook, Ikin, Winston Place etc and revering the great Brian Statham. A bit later, they adopted men like Farokh Engineer and Clive Lloyd as their own, as great Lancastrians, but have never been fully comfortable with South Africans playing for England. “They’re taking the place of a good young English player,” would be their stated concern, probably meaning a Lancastrian prospect. I think that’s why they would welcome big Clive at Old Trafford but not Allan Lamb or KP fully into the test team. Their regional identity is absolute, their national identity more layered.

I don’t begrudge anyone else their regional identity either, not even Yorkies. Compton and Edrich were great players for Middlesex and that summer of 1948 must have been wonderful. Peter May, a lovely man, became a personal friend in his later business career. Genealogy has told me that my Y chromosome comes from Yorkshire. I’m not like Len Hutton, Fiery Fred, Brian Close or Boycott though, nor Don Revie or Norman Hunter. It can only ever be Bolton Wanderers and Lancashire for me.

Against Certainty

For me, the experience of living is too rich to think that a rule book can contain all the answers, certainly not any declaration of rights drafted by lawyers but not even the wonderful piece of literature that is the Bible. As they live their lives, people still generally behave as if they are free spirits with consciences, with some feeling a holy spirit guiding them too. I wonder, though, if the march of publicly-defined rationalism on the one hand, and rule-book religious spokespeople on the other, has weakened that private realm of conscience, the still, small voice of calm drowned out by the tinkling of cymbals.

Cymbals need a human impulse to bang them together. The composer writes a score which directs when they are to be sounded. It takes some practice to get the timing right, but it would be pretty uncooperative to ignore the instruction, and downright rebellious to clang them repeatedly in a quiet section. Reductive views of how cooperative brains work would see a message received from eyes scanning the score followed by an instruction photon firing off neurons which force the body into action. Clang! The less cooperative brain would contain chemicals formed from irritating experiences earlier that evening which prevent the instruction photon from setting the neurons off, ignoring the black look from the conductor and the confusion of others still tootling their flutes. The rebellious brain would form chemical patterns resulting from its genetic inheritance, or from habits formed in childhood, to produce an unwanted flow of photons and a cacophony. Clang, clang, clang! Does that make this cymbalist a rebel without a cause?

This takes us to what it takes to be a person. A brain is necessary but that’s not sufficient. A body is needed to produce messages for the brain, and these are made up of what? Photons fire up neurons, but what are photons? Particles, waves, packets of energy? It’s difficult to suggest that they have any nature at all, not strange, not charmed, not good, not bad. In Quantum Theory, it’s not even certain where they are until the equivalent of an eye gawps at them. Particles can remain eternally entangled, however far separated in space and time. But trying to understand what personhood is from this stuff doesn’t get far. A life scientist might have a bash at saying which component parts would be necessary to form a functioning, thinking entity. The very words used show that then the answer is being assumed. They’ll have many interesting things to say, without bottoming the problem. The physicist has already told them that at root the answer is unknowable.

So let’s try words and concepts from the humanities to say who we are. A non-reductive view came from philosopher Charles Taylor in Sources of the Self published in 1989. He sees our being as the story we tell ourselves about what our life means. That sounds like a soul to me. Are we allowed to postulate such an essence so readily when no substance can be given to it? If we don’t, we are left twiddling our thumbs. It’s circular, I know, but all I can do is to put it through the sense checks my brain can create. And certainly when I first read Taylor, I was captured by his inclusivity. It makes sense. It gives meaning, if not purpose, to life. Keats saw the world as a vale of soul-making too. But somehow, as I examine my life, it feels like elements of the soul I’ve become have been there from the start. Paul Simon wrote that “after changes upon changes we are more or less the same” in a not often heard verse of The Boxer. I accept that the most logical explanation for that feeling would be a bodily genetic inheritance, not a spiritual feedback system. Aristotelian philosophy sees God as unchanged by what happens in life. I don’t feel unchanged, just left with a sense that traces of the future have been in me from the start. These traces don’t prevent failures, but help me cope with them!

With or without God, is this world no more than a machine, one that’s lasted forever? The standard model of Physics gives it a start date nearly fourteen billion years ago, with some preferring an eternal explanation. There is disagreement over whether infinities are possible in a physical system. I was impressed in the third form at Grammar School that an infinite geometric series could have a finite solution. The example given of a ball bouncing an infinite number of times but going no further than a known distance doesn’t mirror reality though. The ball does stop bouncing as the bounce characteristics are affected by fresh forces at lower levels. The mathematician Gödel has appeared to demonstrate that no mathematical model of the universe can contain its own explanation, and so with others has suggested an Infinite Cause outside the system. We’re nearly back to Aristotle with that. This idea causes many scientists to be aghast. They are philosophical monists without realising it. For them, science will contain its explanation and there is no other form of knowledge. The problems caused by quantum bifurcations is dealt with by a statement that everything that can happen does happen, causing there to be a multitude of universes. One eternal explanation proffered by some physicists has new universes always capable of being formed, thus giving an infinite number. None of this is falsifiable and at this stage cannot be considered good science. Yet people who consider themselves to be at the rational end of the spectrum prefer this explanation to only one universe created by an act of will from outside the system, with the potential physical uncertainties and entanglements in the universe made firm by an observer or observers to make just one outcome. I prefer to think of God as having the initial act of will, with intelligent created observers having a shout alongside his Holy Spirit as the story is written. The three-in-one God of being, knowing and doing makes the story real at the end of time, which is also the beginning.

These musings are not that original and stand in the Christian tradition, Western and Orthodox. They perhaps assume a rich life lived long enough to appreciate a story. I think they are benign and helpful in giving purpose as well as meaning to such a life. They’re not capable of falsification which is why I should not expect them to form a basis of telling others how to behave. What serves these ideas though is that people talk as if they have some free will and have consciences. In the absence of any other evidence, I do think that society can accept that many people believe this to be the case, and wish to live their own lives on this basis. They see conscience as their soul, with expedience coming from the machine of the body. We shouldn’t let the cacophony drown it out.

Philosophers call this dual aspect monism rather than fully-fledged dualism. I’ve tried to put this world-view into my novel, Where’s Sailor Jack? The case for it is a mix of story and reason. The rogue cymbalist forgets the last bit. Those certain of themselves ignore the first.

 

John Uttley, 69, was born in Lancashire although he now lives just outside London. Where’s Sailor Jack is his first novel. Not fancying a memoir, or his family’s story, John instead recorded his Lancastrian sense of humour as well as documenting a tumultuous, exciting period of British history. History John just happened to live through.

Find out more about John:

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Or contact:

Info@literallypr.com

You cannot be serious…

Reviewers of my novel Where’s Sailor Jack refer to my northern, or even my Lancastrian, sense of humour. I don’t mind that. They must mean Lancastrian because Yorkies are not known for cracking a joke or a smile, the estimable Joe Root aside. But my county, which can lay claim to Frank Randle, Arthur Askey, Ted Ray, Eric Morecambe, Eric Sykes, Ken Dodd, Les Dawson, Victoria Wood, Caroline Ahearn, Lee Mack and Peter Kay, along with countless others, clearly has something different going for it. I wish I really was that funny, or even be able to tell you what they have, hard as I’ll try.

It may well be that the southerner hasn’t had the benefits of the northerner’s disadvantages, as someone once said. I can’t full agree with that though. Life in the north is not grim, it’s friendly and cheerful. What happens in our lives is what matters to us. When people are asked what is meant by northern humour, the words most often used include warmth, sympathetic observation and self-deprecation. I can recall Arthur Askey towards the end of his life explaining how the lack of love for their characters put him off the Monty Python team. I’ve never liked the humour of embarrassment and feel similarly about The Office. My spoiler alert for any reader of this who hasn’t read my novel is that at no point will they find any misunderstandings which lead to shame-faced discomfort. I’ll have had the narrator yell out, “He’s behind you,” well before that point is reached. I’ve lived seventy years and have not found such awkward situations actually happening in real life, apart from when some self-anointed practical joker contrives one. The odd practical joke can be funny, but there aren’t many odd enough.

There are many southern comedians I enjoy. I used to love Ben Elton’s political rants, and Blackadder was brilliant. Yet the trite attempts at humour by some of the right-on guests of a programme like The News Quiz rarely make me laugh and the inane titterings of the audience are unthinkingly patronising. Even the self-deprecating southern stand-ups always seem to have to tell us how well and often they have satisfied their many lovers before starting on their patter. Lancastrian John Richardson has no need for that. I suppose to be fair, Ricky Gervais is excused from this criticism too. Bob Monkhouse was enormously funny with his quick fire quips in the Ted Ray Does the team think? tradition. His best, “People laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well they’re not laughing now,” is one of the great all-time jokes. But he couldn’t manage warmth. Londoner Micky Flanagan’s out-out routine is both observational and funny. He’s getting warmer but for me still falls at the needing to prove himself as Jack the Lad hurdle. Tim Vine’s one liners are fantastic, Michael McIntyre deserves his mega-stardom. But there’s not warmth oozing out of the screen.

There are exceptions. David Mitchell does manage self-deprecation very well, having had the good sense to team up with Lee Mack in Would I lie to you? Victoria Coren’s beautifully waspish comments are never unkind, and I think she has genuine affection for the likeable nerds on her clever quiz programme. Neither of them is Peter Kay though, leaving me splitting my sides as I fall off the couch. Warm, observational and self-deprecating, yes. But it’s that sense of the absurd that’s the clincher with him, such as when he went outside Jonathan Ross’s set and started pushing over The Gherkin building. Eric Morecambe had that visual comedic genius too.

And what about across the Atlantic? Bob Hope and Jack Benny certainly had better gags than Al Read in my youth. Today it’s a Canadian, Katherine Ryan, who I find their funniest. Canada counts as the north, doesn’t it?

On Marriage

My novel, Where’s Sailor Jack, has two main male characters. Bob struggles to come to terms at being sent off by his wife before half-time in their marriage match, Richard doesn’t get why he’s not brought on until the second half for his. They both take marriage seriously, yet I’m sure they’d both mock its sacramental status.

I can write the dialogue now. Bob – “It’s only because Joseph had popped his clogs and Jesus got roped in by his mother for that wedding in Cana. He’d too much sense ever to take the plunge himself. And then the miserable buggers hadn’t bought enough wine.” Richard – “They probably had. He seems to have liked a drop. He just needed one more for the road back to Nazareth.”

Sacrament or not, marriage was around well before Jesus. And divorce too, allowed by Moses. Bob divorced Jane without really wanting to. He later worried that Jesus took a harder line on divorce than Moses had, before eventually convincing himself that he hadn’t. This was perhaps as well for the rest of the tale. This family saga doesn’t assume any sacrament, though I found marriage, or the lack of it, helpful in labelling who all the characters are and how they relate.

The present day urge seems to be for marriage not to be the exclusive preserve for heterosexual couples of child-bearing age. Indeed many in this group do not see the point of it. The LGBT communities rightly point out that the church has always been prepared to marry people who had passed the age where children would arise. Increasingly, they see value in the public proclamation of their relationship with the moral and legal ties this creates. They like the designer label.

I am old enough to remember girls who intended to keep their virginity until they were wearing a band of gold. I suspect that it was mainly those who had married before the pill became widely available who succeeded in that aim. A relationship can be about both companionship and sex, or either one separately. So could marriage, and still can.

Yet there is something about marriage that creates strong ties. The statistics can’t be totally spurious. Yes, maybe the marrying kind would be more likely to stay together than those with wandering eyes even if marriage was banned. The creation of a formal unit sharing the same name and roof is a powerful unifying force.

And a church wedding is special. The Anglican prayer book thunders; “Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder,” words powerful enough to worry Bob, but not to convince him that they’re absolute. Catholic tradition says that the two to be married are the ministers of the sacrament before God, and not the priest.

 

John Uttley, 69, was born in Lancashire although he now lives just outside London. Where’s Sailor Jack is his first novel. Not fancying a memoir, or his family’s story, John instead recorded his Lancastrian sense of humour as well as documenting a tumultuous, exciting period of British history. History John just happened to live through.

Find out more about John:

Website         Twitter          Facebook      Amazon         LiterallyPR

Or contact:

Info@literallypr.com