Can we have the silly season back, please?
How journalists see each other

The empty threat from Irene

Luckily, Irene turned out to be an empty threat in the end.

Mind you, I’m talking about the woman. Not the hurricane turned tropical storm which caused very real damage along its path. Even though its impact could have been much worse I agree that «nothing is ‘not that bad’, when lives are lost».

I feel for all those who lost loved ones or saw their property wrecked.

But I must admit that while I was watching the coverage of Irene, the hurricane, hit New York today - despite being worried for friends and family - another Irene also played on my mind.

You see, if Irene the woman had been more than empty threat I probably wouldn’t have been here today.

My late grandfather, a war sailor, met Irene at some British harbor, and was quite decided on leaving his young family for her. Had he done so when that thought took hold of him, chances are my mother might not have been born.

As chance would have it, he hesitated right up until my mother was conceived.

Her arrival made him change his mind and stay, a fact he recounted to me on more than one occasion, although he did have the audacity to give his new daughter Irene as a middle name (a name my mother later removed).  

From this story you may rightly conclude that my grandfather was a rather colourful character, but all the same, despite all his flaws and quirks, he played an important role in my life and I loved him dearly.

Incidentally, he was the one who bought me Tajo, the dog who later saved my life.

Tajo was his gift to me.

All very lucky coincidences without which I wouldn’t have been here today.

That’s the thing about all the horrors this summer has brought with it:

It really makes you count your blessings and wonder at, and feel grateful for, those big and small decisions, which may once have seemed trivial, but turn out to be so crucial when seen from a distance.

Or, as Grethen Rubin just blogged (updated 29/8-11 23:01 CET):  "It's a sad foible of human nature that it often takes loss, or the threat of loss, to make us appreciate what we already enjoy."


I have been meaning to return and comment on this, because my grandmother was called Irene. In fact, you panicked me, because my mother was a Sea Ranger and I didn't know how that had come about. Had they lived on the coast for a spell? After all, your grandfather's Irene had to be somebody's grandmother.

But it's okay; you can breath again. My mother's maritime experience was limited to a big lake. Although, when you eliminate the impossible, what remains, however improbable, must be the truth; therefore, I conclude your grandfather was Sherlock Holmes - ;-)

On the "never being born" front: my Father was prohibited from going to university by his parents. If he'd gone, I doubt he would have met and married my mother, and I, too, would not be here; but I don't think he views that turn of events as being guided by any kind of benevolent Providence...

Ha, ha. No my gradfather was certainly not Sherlock Holmes. He was just an ordinary guy whose life was so scarre by war that perhaps, looking back, we should marvel at how he wasn't stranger than he was - all things considered ;-) But it's funny how many seemingly conincidences become crucial to so many things in life. Certainly that applies to how a great many people met and had kids, my own parents included. And who knows what kind of life your father would have had if he had been allowed to go to university? It could have been a lot worse for all we know. We never truly know what lies down the roads we don't take or are somehow prevented from taking, and sometimes the detours prove more educational, more valuable than the straight line you intended to take.

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