Wednesday, 13 January 2021

EVERYBODY NEEDS GOOD NEIGHBOURS...

Robert Baird - R.I.P.

We called him 'Bimbo' when he was a kid.  Whether he was nicknamed after the Jim Reeves song or the nursery comic for children, well - if anyone ever asked him its origin, I never got to hear about it.  He was in my primary school class (though not secondary as I went a year ahead of him), and was also my next door neighbour from 1965 until 1972 when I moved to another part of town.  I occasionally saw him around our secondary school (which I yet attended even after vacating the area), but couldn't say with any precision when sight of him ceased.  It was many years later that I learned he and his family had moved to England not long* after we'd flitted, and I'm told he eventually did very well for himself in a high-level position at BP.

(*Update: A friend of his says that he moved to Essex in 1976, though I'm unsure whether that was straight from Scotland or from somewhere else down south.  I'll have to check.)

A few months back, he joined a Facebook group for our old school and we exchanged a few friendly messages.  I was surprised that he remembered me to be honest, and he even recalled my brother's name.  He didn't remain a member for long (couple of days maybe), due to some others complaining about photographs of our old primary school building being posted, though the group's founder didn't mind as it as it increased participation among the members.  What was their gripe?  That it was a site for former pupils of that particular secondary school, not a primary one, even though many of the pupils had come from the same primary.  Robert didn't like the pettiness, so he quit.

So it had been at least 44 or 45 years since I'd last seen Robert before we exchanged comments on that FB group, and because I was informed today by a former mutual neighbour that Robert died on January 2nd from Covid-19 after being diagnosed in early December, I'm so glad we were able to reconnect - even if it was only for a handful of messages and for such a short time.  My memories of when I lived next to him are uppermost in my mind at the moment, and as I last saw him when he was yet a young teenager, that's how I remember him.  He did return on visits from time-to-time as he had relatives and friends here, but if I ever saw him as an adult - possibly while walking past one another in the local shopping centre - I never recognised him.

And now I want to tell you a story.  I can no longer say with certainty whether it was at the tail-end of my primary school years or at the beginning of my secondary ones (I suspect the latter), but Robert and his sister Elaine had a Santa Claus cake-topper, which I instantly coveted on sight when I was in their house one night on the run-up to Christmas.  They were resistant to the idea of parting with it, but I said I'd give them a selection box in exchange and they said they'd think it over.  About 10 minutes later, said Santa was pushed through my letterbox wrapped in a bit of Christmas paper.  Unfortunately, not being hopeful of them accepting my offer, my brother and myself had already started work on the selection box's contents.

Oo-er, what was I to do?  I chapped their door and gave them a surviving Bounty bar (and possibly another choccy bar, a Milky Way maybe), explaining what had happened and promising to make it up to them later.  What's that they say about good intentions?  Somehow I never managed to get around to it before we flitted, but for years now, I've been planning to find out his address and post a selection box to him with a little note saying 'debt paid'.  Alas, now I never will, as that damned Covid-19 has taken him from his family and friends (and former neighbours) much too soon.

Y'know, for years after flitting from our old neighbourhood, I assumed he was still living there, because, as I said earlier, I didn't know he'd moved until many years later.  Below is a photo of him as he looked when I last saw him, taken from a school 'wallet' of classmates given to me by a friend to copy a good number of years ago.  The photo which heads the post is from Robert's own Facebook page (hope his family won't mind me borrowing it), and I note with interest that his last entry to it was made on the 14th June 2020.  I find that strangely significant in some indefinable way, because we moved from our old neighbourhood on 14th June 1972, exactly 48 years before his final FB contribution.

It would've been good to see and speak to him again at some point, and, if there's an afterlife, maybe it'll happen when I depart this vale of mortal tears.  In the meantime, Robert, hope you're at peace, and don't forget - I still owe you a Christmas selection box.  Hard to believe you're no longer around, except in my memories and a couple of photographs in my possession.  Rest in peace, wee Bimbo, and condolences to all those you loved and who loved you back.

******

Isn't it strange how people from so far back in your childhood who you haven't seen or spoken to in decades still resonate down through the years and can affect you when you learn they're gone? 

14 comments:

Philip Crawley said...

It is strange how some of these relationships trancend the years and whatever else life throws at you in that time. In my case I really wouldn't care to meet many of the people that I attended primary school with and was only too happy to move out of the town that I grew up in after I finished college.
The people that I attended college with however, during what I consider and remember as one of the most enjoyable times in my life, I did want to meet up with again, but it took several decades before that came to fruition. I felt a real sense of closure once I had the opportunity to see most of them again. Once you got over the the fact that none of them were the young art students I saw looking out of my photos from that time, it was fascinating to learn how their lives had played out sibce then. One was even a grandparent by now, another had died from cancer about 15 years earlier, a fact they had all had time to process as most of them had either stayed back in my old home town or kept in touch, but which was a shock to me.
It can be a double edged sword however, in that while you recall fond memories of earlier times, you are also reminded of just how quickly time passes and that none of us are going to live forever!
Great post and very thought-provoking.

Kid said...

The odd thing is, PC, that we weren't particularly close pals - we didn't really hang about together, but he was one of the neighbourhood kids who was always around when I lived in the area, so it's sad to learn he's gone. Another light in the sky of my childhood suddenly gone out, which is probably a selfish way to look at it, as if it affects only me. His family and close friends will be devastated of course, but may take some small measure of consolation from the fact that even former neighbours from his distant past still remember him so fondly. Robert went to my primary school as well as my secondary, though I went a year before him, so he wasn't in any of my secondary school classes. He was in my primary class though, and is in a class photo on the blog somewhere. Thanks for commenting, everyone else seems to have given the post a body-swerve. Too sad perhaps.

McSCOTTY said...

That's really sad news as Robert was not that old (6I/62 is not that old nowadays). It is a sobering fact when your peers pass away and it can hit you like a brick wall so you are allowed to be “selfish” in thinking how that affected you. There’s nothing worse than having to face your own mortality when you hear sad news like this and realise, even although we already knew it , that we are not immortal like we thought we were in our 20s etc. But these situation really should be a marker to us to make the most of the time we all have left , life is fleeting and sweet. Commiserations to your friends family he looked a nice guy

Kid said...

A big Rangers fan I'm told, McS, but the former neighbour (of myself and Robert) who informed me of his passing is a big Celtic fan and they were planning to meet up (along with some other pals) pretty soon, so there was no sectarianism I'm glad to say. Sadly, Robert obviously won't be there if that get-together now happens - such a shame. I was along at the dentist in my old neighbourhood yesterday (Thursday) and took a look at his old house - right next door to mine - and mentally raised a glass (of cola) in his memory.

McSCOTTY said...

That's a nice thing to do, I do similar with my brother and parents old houses from time to time. Don't know why but it helps. Thankfully the Rangers /Celtic thing is dying out (there will always be the exceptions of course) - I have pals that are both mad Rangers and Celtic fans and they never have a cross word to say, they even go for pints to each others supporters Clubs. When I worked in Africa a went to a Rangers / Scottish supporters bar and it was full of CELTIC fans very surreal.

Kid said...

It would be nice if it died out completely, McS, as it's a blight on Scotland. It's only a game of football, eh? Did you know that instances of domestic violence soar on old firm games because some supporters can't live with their team losing? Madness!

McSCOTTY said...

Yep its a disgrace no doubt about it , and its rife in football (and some other sports) throughout the world. Any "man" that hits or abuses his wife, partner, kids over a daft game (well over anything at all ) should be locked up and banned from ever attending a game again. The political situation in the West of Scotland will mean that this bigotry is unlikely to die out but its so much better than it was I recall in the 70S when Rangers V Celtic had 100k fans attending matches they would be battling in the city centre and its the same in other countries etc not just here to be fair its just the reason for it here is so distasteful to the majority of us - tribal immature nonsense .

Kid said...

And it's that 'tribal immature nonsense' that's responsible for wars in all parts of the world, McS, not just the cause of domestic violence. Some people laugh at folk like me who are into comics and toys, but no one gets killed due to my 'childishness'. A crazy world at times, eh?

Colin Jones said...

I've just bought a novel called 'Shuggie Bain' by Douglas Stuart which is set in the west of Scotland in the '80s. This novel won the 2020 Booker Prize (and there's a blurb on the cover saying so if anybody didn't know) and it's had excellent reviews. And yes, it's a hardback because I do buy physical books!

Kid said...

Wasn't it available as an ebook then, CJ?

Dave S said...

CJ, let us know what you think of the book, someone told ne a few days ago that it's a right good read.

Kid, sorry to hear about the passing of your friend. I believe that the friendships you make in childhood are the ones that survive time and distance, and the ones you never forget. Sounds like you have some happy memories of Robert.

Kid said...

Well, happy memories of childhood, DS, and Robert was part of that, so it's always sad to see yet another aspect (whether it be person or place) of one's youth disappear. We weren't best pals who hung about together, and I'm sure he'd have forgotten me not long after I (or he) moved, but it just seems such a shame that he never got another 30-odd years before he was taken.

Phil S said...

Sorry to hear. Makes one feel quite mortal.

Kid said...

Doesn't it just, PS. He only got two days into a new year - doesn't seem fair.

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