2: Last Man Standing

“There’s nobody about these days,” said Uncle Fitrambler as he settled himself on my settee.

It was a Sunday morning, the weather pretty good considering what has been dished out since Christmas. I was thinking of a good walk or cycle ride after lunch while the weather was behaving.

Uncle Fitrambler usually arrives on Sunday mornings, it’s often part of his routine for the day, once he’s helped his wife with the shopping. I think it’s because it’s the one time in the week he’s a good chance of catching me in.

“No, there’s nobody about these days…” Uncle Fitrambler repeated.

I agree. He’s actually right, because as far as he’s concerned, there isn’t anyone about.

Perhaps I’d better explain. Uncle Fitrambler is 84. He lives in a nearby street to me, no more than a five minute walk; or probably ten for him these days. He’s my father’s – that’s Daddy Fitrambler – brother.

It will come as no surprise that I’ve known Uncle Fitrambler since I was born. He, my Gran and Gramp, Mum and Dad, lived together in a house in Park South for about five years. Uncle Fitrambler and I got on quite well, more so than most of my uncles. He’s always liked to keep in touch. Like me, he’s always quite enjoyed a good walk.

When he talks of nobody being about, which he’s done for many years now, I feel more in tune with him and have begun to form an empathy with that phrase; one he’s so often used in the last ten years or more.

You see, Uncle Fitrambler has outlived all his friends and most of his brothers and sisters. It’s a side-effect of survival. It’s something most of us don’t think about most of the time, but obviously the longer you live the more it happens. (Ten green bottles, anyone?)

The reason I feel more in tune with this phrase nowadays is because several friends of mine have died in recent years, most of which have been younger than me. I’m only in my fifties, two didn’t quite get that far, a third at least was approaching 80; which was something of a fuller life.
Life goes on, we are told, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept the deaths of those you are close to.

It makes you think of the ones who are left and you can’t help but wonder how many of them you’ll see off before you yourself are burned or buried?

One such friend was only 47 when he died, another no more than 51. Then there have been nearly half a dozen work colleagues who haven’t been much older than me before entering what could be termed ‘The Undiscovered Country!’

Before I can be accused of entering Gloom-Laden’s territory, I can report that after my latest check up – and not including ‘the cough’, which seemed to turn me into a pub carpet inspector – I seem to be fairly healthy. The cough and weather has slowed me down, but now a change in weather and the cough easing off I’m getting a lot more exercise again. Getting the Fit back into Fitrambler, so to speak, before age gets too firm a hold. Plenty of long walks left in me yet, I hope.

Velocipede remarked once – while I was enjoying a pint of beloved Entire Stout in the Glue Pot – that he didn’t mind the numerical advancement each additional year brought, but disliked the fact it seemed to bring with it failing parts. Being an extremely keen cyclist and collector of bikes, ‘parts failing’ seemed to be a reasonable analogy.

Still, unlike poor Uncle Fitrambler, I get about very easily, with, I might say a bounce in the old stride. These days he shuffles a lot more, looks more drawn in the face, still got a fairly good head of hair, greying but still with a lot of its original colour. But he doesn’t give up. He’s got a bus pass, but walks most places, usually alone, as Auntie Fitrambler is not as keen on Shanks’s Pony as he is.

Uncle Fitrambler isn’t much of a conversationalist really. He never has been, and the ground covered in our meetings is more or less the same.

You see, he likes to check to see if I’m alright, even though, really, it should be the other way around.

Within ten minutes Uncle Fitrambler and I have finished our somewhat ritualistic chat and he’s ready to shuffle off again. I’ve offered him a cup of tea, but he always refuses. Well, once he accepted but never since. Perhaps that’s a subtle critique of my tea.

“There’s nobody about, not like there use to be. All gone…” he tells me one final time as he walks to the front door.

I sympathise again and think, I’m around; and I’m thirty-two years younger than you, so hopefully, there’ll still be somebody about for a long time when you venture out…

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40 comments on “2: Last Man Standing

  1. In your unbridled desire to strike back at me Fitrambler, you should be careful of the effect your actions may have on others. I have worked hard to persuade GloomLaden to attend these sessions; so far to no avail. I believe your use of illustrative photographs would be another nail in the coffin of your, currently stalled, relationship with the gloomy one. There are far subtler ways of hitting back at me, should you wish to escalate a minor skirmish in to a full-blown vendetta. Are you devious enough to enter the fray?
    Whether or not I am the target in all this, I feel that the use of photographs is an invasion of privacy and a blurring of the boundaries between your virtual world and, what remains of the real one. There may be fewer characters in this charade than you think. Even fewer should you not dispense with the camera.

  2. Spellings a lot better this time Gowithit, but the message could still easily be misconstrued.
    If I expand on that I would probably still be censored even on the newly adult-rated blog!
    I have a visual image of GloomLaden’s head, however, which will stay with me for a long time.

  3. I am sorry to hear that you have not been well over the weekend, you should have given me a call and I would have come and smoothed your head.

  4. Expletive: an oath,swear-word,or other expression,used in an exclamation.
    Vocabulary: the words used in a language or a particular book.
    Riposte: A quick sharp reply or retort.
    Trouble:…of course, you know all about that one.
    And for God’s sake Gowithit, don’t let me forget this is a blog and not an Email, or I’m done for.
    And what has any of this got to do with poor, old Uncle Fitrambler?

  5. There is neither the space on this blog, nor do I have a wide enough range of suitably foul expletives in my vocabulary, to do justice to the ripe riposte which this comment deserves. Besides, I’m in enough trouble already.

  6. I being a lady and of sound and good upbring must agreed with Fitramble and GloomLaden there is a time and a place for such language and you would not catch me using or knowing what such words mean. Will not until the 4th or 5th pint.

  7. My apologies Fitrambler; I misunderstood the intent of your earlier comment. I tend to use expletives for comic effect, rather than mere abuse or blasphemy. Being of a perverse character, I shall probably now resort to the use of f*****g asterisks to express my frustration.

  8. You proceed from a false assumption, Blameworthy, sir. My comment, and my enlistment of Mr Gloom-Laden, was based upon the fact you have an eloquence that needs no colourful metaphors. It was never intended as a repremand.

    My changing of the rating of the site was also to ensure that when the occasion requires it, we are a little freer to express ourselves with – when a point needs a ‘between the eyes’ emphasis – some sort of profanity.

    regards and good health to you and Mrs Blameworthy, and of course, young Master Blameworthy,

    Mr E.K.A. Fitrambler.

  9. I consider myself severely reprimanded over the issue of bad language Fitrambler. It was never meant to be taken seriously. Neither am I sure why you would want to get Gloom Laden on your side. Have you never heard his Mark E. Smith impersonation? In response to your self-righteous ticking-off, I would merely say…remember Guildford.

  10. You will be pleased to know I’ve now changed the rating of the site. Let ’em go as you wish. Althought I would hope, and no doubt Mr Gloom-Laden agrees, that you are able to write comments without resulting to such words; other than in exceptional circumstances,
    regards,
    Mr E.K.A. Fitrambler.

  11. I’m confused: Gowithit; Goforit: Upforit: Inwithit; Outwithit? Will there be room in the Duke for all these ******* people? (Saved you the effort of censoring there, Fitrambler).

  12. I’m up for the the 19th at the Duke because by that time Mr Gowithit and not Upforit will have had his new toy and will not long require my services. The Duke sounds like a good idea as it is down hill to home.

  13. Might I suggest a Fitrambler diary, so that we know what’s happening in advance. The 12th is a bit difficult for me so I shall stick with the 19th at 5.30 in the Duke. GloomLaden and the Gowithits can do one or the other, or both. We really ought to invite Uncle Fitrambler along as he was the one who inadvertently kicked all this off. I’m sure you have lots of things planned for the 19th, Fitrambler, otherwise you could have brought Little Sis along for an hour. I haven’t seen her for years and at least she doesn’t have anything to blame me for…
    Oh God! No! Please!

  14. 8 o’clock?!, 8 o’clock?!; I’d expect to have had my two halves of shandy and be tucked up in bed at home by then.

  15. As things have turned out, nor would I, and I write it. I need to change the rating, if I can find out how I did it in the first place,

    regards,

    Mr Fitrambler

  16. As that great philosopher Don Henley once said “You Must Not Be Drinking Enough”.

    But what’s happened to Fitrambler? Has he eloped with Mrs.Upforit and left the blog to us? Or is he currently working on the next installment of the Blameworthy files?
    I’m on my guard; watching my back, and ready to deny it all…again.

    Infamy,infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!

  17. Was out all day yesterday until late. Just been doing a few routine chores – usually involves getting rid of things – and now back on the old comp. The 19th for me is not convenient, unfortunately. Little sister is visiting for the weekend.

    However, I will be at the Glue Pot on the 12th but it’s an 8pm start,

    regards,

    Mr Fitrambler.

  18. Blameworthy, I can’t think about the next session yet. I’ve been ill all weekend – high temperature, insomnia and an even more than usually acute sense of dread. Having said all that, I can’t see why not 19th March.

  19. I hope you don’t think I’m trying to tamper with the statistics for the number of comments on the blog.

  20. Sieg Heil!

    There you go: heavy drinking, old age, death…and nazism.
    How much worse can it get? What about sex and drugs? We haven’t had much of those yet. Or satanism? Only one brief mention of me dabbling in the black arts, but that was quickly brushed under the table. By the way have you been under that table recently?

    But never mind all that; you never answered my question about the next session.

  21. Good Lord! With all its talk of heavy drinking, old age and Death, I would never have rated this blog family friendly. And the adult nature of the material seems to have csused a dramatic change to come over Mr Blameworthy, whose once urbane persona has been peeled away to reveal a churlish, foul mouthed ranter. I suppose this is what always happens in online communities; debate degenerates into playground name calling. Mr B might do well to reflect that this is exactly how Nazism started.

  22. Unfortunately, I have done so. It wasn’t my intention to do so but there are two reasons.

    1. When you set up a blog with WordPress or indeed any site, you have to rate it. I rated it family friendly. Foolish, maybe, but I did. Now I’ve got to try and remember what I did so that I can change for a more adult rating.
    2. You nicked someone else’s official Fitrambler Moniker. Shame on you!
    Don’t f*****g do it again.
    Huh, I’ve been censored now!
    regards,

    Mr E.K.A. Fitrambler

  23. Assuming that the Fitrambler/GloomLaden get-together hasn’t been organised yet, would you both be available for a session on Friday 19th. I won’t be around the following week and the last Friday of the month is Good Friday. I shall, of course leave early having only consumed a small teaspoonful of beer. I wouldn’t want to be a bad influence on any of the others. If the Goforits happen to be viewing the blog this applies to you two too.(tutu?)I note that the previous meeting hasn’t yet been reported by Fitrambler. It’s no good asking me what happened, I don’t remember any of it.

  24. The odd thing is, the ones that have been ‘dropping like flies’ are the ones who use to drink moderately. However, I’m not trying to defend steering a course towards becoming a booze-sodden mess. Drink should be enjoyed at a the appropriate time….

    Now, it’s a 9.50am, well, that’s after 8pm at night….where that crate of Entire Stout….

    regards,

    Mr E.K.A. Fitrambler.

  25. Just for once I agree with GloomLaden. This has been the most purposeful piece. It has cracked the eggshell-like facade of the Fitrambler character to reveal the claggy, battleship-grey like gloop of depression which lurks menacingly beneath the theatrical persona. Any more of this and I may reluctantly have to rein in my compulsion to mildy mock.

  26. I thought this the best Fitrambler post to date, not because it accorded with some of my more melancholic preoccupations, but because it was pointful, well written and lugubriously humorous in one or two places. My own Uncle is in a similar position to Uncle Fitrambler, having outlived all his friends. He’s 86 and – saddest of all – he occasionally remarks on the impossibility of making new friends. Beyond a certain point, only the old crowd will do. And they’re gone. But getting old isn’t all bad; you never have to go to school again, apparently.

  27. Yes,
    many years ago I wasn’t that patient with him, because he always seemed to come at an inconvenient time. But the last ten or so years I’m less inclined to be annoyed. And, of course, he doesn’t pound the door quite so hard! Also, in recent times, with the deaths of a few friends, I’m inclined to understand how he feels. To be honest, I also feel you should make the most of things while they last. And that means family in particular,
    regards,
    Mr E.K.A. Fitrambler.

  28. I’ve always been in favour of a good wallow, but in the area of death, well not the wallowing sort of place. I spent the last ten years or so listening to Uncle Fitrambler saying his phrase “There’s nobody about,” and perhaps been a little unsympathetic. But recently, I suppose, I’ve begun to have a certain empathy.

    One doesn’t wish to dwell on these things, but there are moments (and I mean, moments) whereby you do think about these things.

    Mostly, I use it to spur myself on and enjoy what there is while it is there. I mean, if Miss Penguin forgets she’s left a jam doughnut in the firdge and goes off without it, then I’ll enjoy that while it’s there. Which, knowing me, won’t be long. Although, don’t you find sugared doughnuts tend to play havok with the beard, which wouldn’t, of course, happen to Miss Penguin,
    regards,
    Mr E.K.A. Fitrambler

  29. My heart goes boom-bang-a-bang, boom-bang-a-bang,
    When you are near.
    Boom-bang-a-bang, boom-bang-a-bang, loud in my ear.
    Pounding away, pounding away, won’t you be mine.
    Boom-bang-a-bang-bang all the time.
    -Lulu.

    For God’s sake Fitrambler; you’ve played right into his hands by wallowing in the subject of Death. Or was that the intention?

  30. ‘Life is first boredom, then fear.
    However we use it, it goes.’
    – Philip Larkin

  31. You just have to outlive him now. Imagine how bad he would feel if there was nobody about to say “There’s nobody about these days” to.

  32. I like the sound of Uncle Fitrambler. He’s so much more interesting than those beer-swilling friends of yours. With the amount of booze they put away it should come as no surprise that they’re dropping like flies.

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