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My Big Cousin

When I was a kid in Lanarkshire, cousins came in two sizes, Big and Wee. Until two more came along when I was aged eight and ten I had one of each, and they were both girls. My Big Cousin was three years older than I was. Thus she began as an enormous presence in my life: somehow, although time made me bigger and stronger than she was, that never diminished, even when we weren’t around each other.

I’m not saying that I looked up to her as a wee lad, for I never did, but she never looked down on me either. She was striking, as a girl and later in womanhood: people looked at her, whether they wanted to or not. She wasn’t perfect growing up, but as the elder of two daughters she was expected to set an example and that can be a tough row to hoe. Given the difference in our ages, we got through childhood as acquaintances rather than close companions, but as adults, the bond between us grew, possibly because we shared the same weaknesses, and looked out for each other as necessary. After our granny’s funeral, the pair of us went out and got hammered: it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

She had bad luck in her life; some she made for herself, but most of it befell her. There was a failed marriage, then a second that appeared to have been made if not in heaven then certainly by a dating site that specialised in matching perfectly suited couples. That ended tragically soon, and I don’t believe she ever got over it. There were tough times afterwards, but her towering personality saw her through them all, and she never lost that special edge.

She died yesterday, suddenly, and to the shock and astonishment of those of us who never thought she would. We hadn’t seen much of each other in the last couple of decades, but most recently we met for lunch at a family gathering arranged because we all had reached the stage when we only got together at funerals. We left talking about the next; it’ll never happen now in its fullest form . . . the next will be another funeral . . .but I am so, so glad that one did.

Today I’m left, thinking about her and unashamedly tearful as I articulate something I’ve never expressed before, out loud, or in the written word. I loved her, and she leaves a hole in my life bigger than any other, save one.

She bequeaths to me the mantle of seniority, unenviable, because it puts me at the head of a queue, the one we’re all in. The generation before ours, the one our grandparents made, they’re all gone, and I’m the oldest of the survivors. But because of that I’m blessed in that  I have memories of her that only her younger sister can share. For example, she was a damn good golfer as a kid, and would have been a hell of a lot better if she’d bothered her arse as an adult. Also, she was blessed with a voice that was her only angelic gift. Two years on the trot, in her mid teens, she sang the lead in her school Gilbert and Sullivan production. When they did Pirates of Penzance, I heard one lady say to her pal on the way out , ‘My, that lassie, she could have been a professional.’ She was right.

I found this on YouTube just now and when I played it I was gone, lost, for the girl in it could be her: almost, because she lacks a little of the quality of my teenage cousin.

I’ve included it because I know that her greatest creation, the daughter who managed to inherit all of her strengths and none of her weaknesses, will wind up reading this blog,  and she really does need to see it.

All I can say, as I crack up completely and post this, is that I hope God likes a good drink.

Categories: General, Videos
  1. December 21, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Beautiful pal


  2. Shirley Gash
    December 21, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Life is not just….but For sure she is having a wee drink up there…memories are very healing and you appear to have many hugs Shirley xx

  3. Diana
    December 22, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Dear Quintin,
    I am so very sorry that someone so dear to you has died. As you say, the hole left in your life will remain. Remember her with love and share your memories with your children, that is the immortality we can give.
    do hope that you and your family will still have a merry Christmas and a good New Year – with a drink for her memory.

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