Last week, I realised that it was exactly 38 years since my father had his first of three subarachnoid brain haemorrhages. He was 38 years old.
This has been the first anniversary of Dad’s first haemorrhage without Mum which is maybe why I’m writing about it now. I’ve also been scanning a lot of photos from my Mum’s collection which is helping piece together some of the puzzle.
The soothsayer in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar warned the Roman emperor about the 15th of March, “Beware the Ides of March”. It’s a phrase that took on a very real meaning for our family.
On Tuesday 15 March 1983, my father Keith Saunders was in his birthplace of Nottingham to deliver the 1982/83 IEE Faraday lecture The Photon Connection about how fibre optics (light) would revolutionise communications. Shortly after he had stepped off the stage in Nottingham (I think it was at the Royal Concert Hall) he was giving an interview to the BBC about the lecture tour when he suddenly felt very ill. He turned, vomited and collapsed onto the floor. (I’ve often thought, somewhere, at some point, the BBC had footage of my dad vomiting!)
It had begun as an ordinary Tuesday in March but one that changed all of our lives forever.
When I was a boy, growing up in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders (about 40 miles from the sea), I was given a Hang Ten t-shirt from my American cousin Charlotte in California. She grew up in Hawai’i and told me the significance of the name:
Hanging Ten is a surfing maneuver and is considered one of the most impressive and iconic stunts one can perform with a surfboard. Hanging ten is when the surfer positions the surfboard in such a way that the back of it is covered by the wave and the wave rider is free to walk to the front of the board and hang all ten toes over the nose of the board.
Perhaps in an ideal world I would then say that wearing my green and white striped Hang Ten t-shirt, as an eight year old, inspired me to learn to surf and I became one of Scotland’s finest surfers ever.
But it’s not. And I didn’t.
But isn’t that video just incredible, and beautiful and terrifying.