One day in 1936, three years after the death of his son Tom, my grandfather Carol saddled his horse and went out to ride on Rudolf’s Hoek, the farm he had owned since he was a three-year-old toddler. He had a stroke and fell dead from the saddle. His horse returned, but he did not.
Jack survived all of his five brothers, who dropped one by one, Tom by lightning, Bob in a tractor accident, George from a heart attack or stroke, Dave from a heart attack, Pat from a stroke. On the 4th of March 1990, aged seventy-seven, with an ailing heart and blood that kept clotting, in the icy Hertfordshire spring, he recorded the following:
Recovering. Things have been at a low ebb for me and I wander about the town irresolute and lonely, only my shadows from long ago for company. Flowers are beginning to cheer up the garden but the icy wind shreds them.
On the 5th of March, the entry is longer:
Throw-back from my thoughts of yesterday came in a dream. I am with my family in a beautiful house, the colours of everything lit up by sunlight streaming into windows and the open door. We are expecting ‘Ouman’ as we called the head of the family, my father. I have a doubt that we will see him but say nothing to my brothers that might disappoint them. ‘Here he comes!’ they shout. And there he is, my old dad, walking briskly from the front door and along the short passage leading into the room where we are all waiting. He looks quite young and is dressed in unusual clothes and distinctive colours, trousers down to below the knee and tucked into long stockings rather like Bernard Shaw. Shirt, jacket, waistcoat, tie, all different colours, subdued & blending, and he wears a light brown billycock hat decidedly Victorian – a cross between a bowler and a top hat with a domed top. I get up from my chair and walk slowly across the carpet to meet him without saying anything. I embrace him and lay my head on his shoulder. I am shaken with sobs of joy and go on crying and crying. It is not often that I see him in my dreams and everything seems in the dream to be quite natural and everyday. Only after I wake and recall the dream do I wonder at the strangeness of it all and especially at my father’s weird get-up.
At fifty-two, I who never cry, weep as I type this from the diary, interpreting my father’s hand.