Words are an integral part of my family history.
I’ve known this for some time in respect of the maternal side of my tree, what with my mother and the few relations of hers I’ve known having been such gifted storytellers, for one thing. Then there was the discovery of her ancestor – John Courtney – being a comedic playwright and contemporary of Charles Dickens. Of course, I thought, that’s where it must come from!
What I’ve never given much thought to, though, is where my father’s family fit into all this. After all, Dad’s a lovely man, but his storytelling skills leave something to be desired. He certainly likes to recount stories, largely from his childhood and youth. But he doesn’t have the gift of crafting a story the way that my mother had, of creating an arc, building tension and dropping nuggets of information in just when needed to keep the listener enthralled.
Instead, Dad takes the blunderbuss approach, bombarding you with every fact and occurrence until his head is clear and you feel like you’ve lost the will to live. We still listen intently, but largely to jump in on a pause for breath with a ‘yes, you’ve already told me.’ Not that that generally makes any difference; he’ll continue with the story anyway, bless him.
So, I often forget about his father – my grandfather’s – contribution to our literary skill-bank. But contribute he did, because Granddad Edgar was a typesetter for a newspaper, and the skill that he gave us was a love of the printed word and a huge collection of books with which to satisfy it.