Monday, 4 May 2009

To see ourselves as others see us ...

Earlier today I rang a friend in South Africa who is waiting to go into hospital for cranial surgery - again. We talked for quite a while - my telephone provider will be rubbing their hands in glee - and did quite a bit of catching up. Among many other things we discussed a few things from our childhood and here I had better explain that she came from the "upper crust" end of town and I came from very much the other end. We reminisced about our parents and some of the things we did as kids, very much centred on the Yacht Club our parents belonged too. Mine ran the Rescue Boat, hers owned and sailed yachts. The picture below is of me at the time of this story.

To my surprise she ventured that her father had always had a very high opinion of me even though he didn't approve of my parents. That left me a little nonplussed as I had never realised this and I asked why he would have had that view. She reminded me of an incident that had occured when I was around twelve. Her father's boat had capsized in a dangerous position. The Rescue Boat was already engaged in retrieving another boat and crew and so could not respond immediately. Her father's crew was a man with a disablity and, weighed down by a windcheater that had filled with water and couldn't be removed he couldn't clamber back into the boat, instead, he had swum to the short breakwater where he had managed to get a grip on a jutting piece of metal and hung on for his life.

As she talked I recalled the incident. No I didn't jump into the water and perform a brave rescue, I ran instead to fetch a life bouy and line, and then scrambled back over the foundation blocks of the breakwater to where I could throw this out to him. He grabbed it, got it under his arms, and managed to stay afloat. It was at this point that the Rescue Boat arrived and my parents retrieved him and the bouy - my attempt to pull him round to the blocks I was on had failed - and apparently it was thought that I had saved his life.

Now the funny thing about this is that I can recall the incident, I can even recall that there were a lot of boats in trouble that day which was why I hadn't been allowed to crew for one of them. I don't have any memory of anyone actually saying anything to me about my actions, though I recall my mother ticking me off for having gone onto the broken blocks along the base of the breakwater - something she considered very dangerous. Looking back I think it might have been nice if someone had actually said, "Well done."

Never mind, I seem to have made a career of dealing with other people's emergencies, so I guess it must have been in my blood anyway.


  1. Isn't it interesting that events of a single day can be interpreted different ways? Your parents were off doing what they were meant to do, you were helping as you could, and yet one person's need seemed so desperate and emergent that he thought everyone else should be there to attend him IMMEDIATELY, no matter that others were also in need of rescuing.

    I'd say your actions, and those of your parents, were routinely helpful and, at times, heroic. And then this one man's needs, while they did require attention, seem very self-centered and entitled.

    What was your friend's take on this?

  2. That proves it - you were destined for the emergency services ;P

  3. In fairness, I think the man concerned probably did say something to my parents, but that somehow it didn't get passed on. That would have been usual, my father was a past master at saying "Good job, but...." My friend tells me that among the other kids I was considered a to have shown initiative that their parents expected them to copy - which explains why some of them "chummed up" for a while. Di crewed for me as we got older and tells me her parents wouldn't let her sail with anyone else. A compliment I guess!