Thursday, 24 January 2008

Gibson Pattison

It's a summer evening and we're driving up the steep fold of a Devon valley, en route to dinner at Gibson's favourite pub restaurant.

'Look - a new moon...'

'How can you tell, Gibson? Sorry, I'm such a towny. I never know whether the moon's waxing or waning.'

'Nothing simpler, old boy. Look at the crescent. Imagine a little stalk beside it - which letter can you make?'

I'm squinting up at the slender paring of silver against the blue: 'Er, a "b" - or a "p"?'

'Splendid: "b" for "beginning" and "p" for "premier". It's a new moon. When it's waning, all you can make is a "d" for "dernier". What could be simpler?'

At the time of this typically 'Gibson-esque' exchange, I'm a twenty-something primary school teacher and Gibson, a bachelor country parson, is approaching sixty. I'm his guest for a few days of rest and recreation at his village vicarage in the Dartmoor National Park.

Peppered with "I say', 'my dear chap' and 'what fun', a conversation with Gibson can feel like a scene from The Wind in the Willows.

With his slicked-down hair, spectacles and round face, Gibson has a distinct air of Mr Mole. But in character he's much more akin to the outgoing Water Rat, with just a naughty hint of Mr Toad thrown in.

Certainly, his attitude to housekeeping is straight out of Ratty's book. One morning I comment that, at home, I routinely leave the breakfast washing-up until my return from work in the evening.

Gibson shudders. 'Leave the washing-up, old boy? I fear that in my case it would be the start of the slippery slope. Living alone, I have to be disciplined.'
Genereous, kind, undemanding and discrete, Gibson was a perfect 'senior friend' - I guess today he'd be called a 'mentor'.

Another friend noted aptly that Gibson's friendships reflected an old-fashioned quality that he described as 'chum-manship'.

Quaint? Perhaps. But as embodied by Gibson, it seems to me an admirable basis for friendship: breezy, cheerful, supportive, undemonstrative - and shot through with deeper aspects, all the stronger for being unspoken.

Few things could be more cheering than a phone call from Gibson, made for no other reason that one's name had popped up in his thoughts or, quite possibly, prayers.

Today he'd be called a role model. I prefer to think of him as an old fashioned 'good example'.

And I think of Gibson, with gratitude, every time I see the new moon.
Special thanks to Julian Hamer for the picture of Gibson. Please check the link for an insight into Gibson's wartime career.

1 comment:

Webrarian said...

What a lovely man he was.

And thank you for the reminder of the place to go and see wild daffodils, and remember a great man - Dunsford Bridge.