Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Low Down to Nigel Martyn's Left

On a Monday night in November 1992 I sat on my bed at home, watching Palace take on Arsenal live on Sky. With the score at 1-1 ex-Palace favourite Ian Wright lashed home a left-footed shot to secure a 2-1 win for Arsenal. After the game I bristled during his interview, as he watched a replay of the goal and pointed out that low down to Nigel Martyn's left was his weak spot.

I felt that this was a step too far. Why tell everyone that this particular spot was the Palace's goalkeeper's weakness? It seemed like rubbing salt into the wounds of defeat somehow. In reality Wright was probably only guilty of being too honest, as in all likelihood this particular note on Nigel Martyn would have been on scouting reports (or equivalent documentation) at just about every Premiership club.

In recent months I have begun to think that there should be more honesty between people. I think it could certainly make things easier. Most people already know and silently acknowledge the friends who aren't really friends, the other halves who a peer group doesn't approve of and vice-versa, and much more besides. However no-one talks about it, because for some reason that's an unwritten rule. Somehow discussing these things honestly is seen to be more damaging than letting these things fester in private, and so people go along with their daily lives, not really knowing the full extent of what people think of them and allowing things to somehow be worse than they otherwise would be.

I'm not sure quite why people avoid difficult questions in this manner, but it isn't something I'm immune from. I know there are questions regarding friends and family that I'll never have answers to, and more than anything that's because I don't really want to know the answer. It's a little bit like this:

Yeah, the truth isn't pleasant sometimes, and so it becomes easier to live with lies, fantasies, misinformation and plain ol' ignorance. However if I'm realistic being more honest could have had much more positive effects upon my family. As I mentioned previously, there has been quite a history of people not being altogether truthful down through my Dad's side of the family, for all kinds of reasons. It extends to this day, as I remember my Aunt saying in a less than rhetorical manner after my Grandmother's funeral, "One day I'll find out what happened between you and your Dad," to me. Here's a revolutionary idea, why don't you ask me? Trust me, if I don't want to tell you, I'll let you know.

Here's another example. When I was very young my Grandfather (again, on my Dad's side of the family) was taken into hospital for an emergency operation. He didn't come out of the anaesthetic correctly and died shortly afterwards. That's how I found out that I had the exact same allergy to this particular anaesthetic that my grandfather did. Now consider these pieces of information in regard to the admittedly little I know about these events:

  • My Mum said that she got me tested for the same allergy after what happened to "a family friend". Well, strictly speaking I guess you could argue he wasn't family to her by that point, but he was a blood relative to me. I assume my Mum's best intentions were to not hurt 1) Me, 2) My widowed grandmother, 3) Herself (my Mum thought a lot of my grandfather).
  • Out of respect to my Grandmother and not wishing to hurt her, I never asked her about the whole episode.
  • After my Grandmother died and I asked my Aunt about this, she struggled and just about struck together enough information to figure out this probably happened in 1979. Let's just say I'm slightly cynical about this, I'm not sure anyone who has lost a parent would forget the date.

On reflection this all seems rather pointless. I could very easily reel off the dates my maternal, paternal and step Grandmother died. I have never been told the dates that any of my Grandfathers died. Deaths happen, why not at least acknowledge them instead of leaving questions? On a similar vein, I already see my in-laws trying to cover up to my daughters that their Uncle has two failed marriages. I know my in-laws won't like that it when I tell them the truth, however kindly I may do so. Covering up something like that is just lying under a different guise. People make mistakes, and ultimately people die. There is no sense in pretending otherwise.

With all this in mind I hope that in the future if my daughters have things on their mind when they are older and they want to ask me difficult questions they will, and that if I make a mistake in any direction I do so in the form of being too honest instead of either withholding information or worse. Maybe they don't want to know what the equivalent of low down to their left is, but having the full information probably leaves them in a better position to deal with it. Personally I'll probably carry on just the way I am, and have my opinions on one side of my family shaped accordingly by it.