In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
Tyger Tyger Burning Bright
I don’t think I am mad, but then, I am not sure if the truly mad know that they are. I am not certifiable, although that could be argued. On the other hand, I do not think anyone would happily certify me as totally sane, either. I am reminded of a visit on holiday to Southern Germany, and a guided tour of the fairyland castle of Neuschwanstein, built for King Ludwig of Bavaria. I foolishly tried my German by venturing to the guide that King Ludwig was mad, wasn’t he? He, with Bavarian charm, and German grundlichkeit, thoroughly put me in my place by replying, in perfect English, “Oh, no, sir. Around here we say the king was a little eccentric, perhaps.”
In my family, my nickname is Tiger. There have been several great personalities who enjoyed this name. In our own time, the sublime Tiger Woods, at his best, makes golf look like a game for averagely gifted three year olds. In the 1930’s Tiger O’Reilly was a ferocious leg spinner, who was as much a thorn in the side of his skipper, the legendary Bradman, as he was to the English batsmen. Nearer our own time, Tiger Pataudi was a classic steel wristed Indian batsman, who frequently played like the Prince he was. Over New Year 1967/8, as a young Air Force officer, I watched in awe as this God take 75 and 85 off Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with only one good eye and one good leg.
My nickname does not depend on the skill, character and courage displayed by the foregoing. In fact, I am probably more Tigger than Tiger. Jeanne was, and still is, French. She was small and dark, with eyes to drown in, and she lit up my life in the five years we were together. Her interests were eclectic, and included windsurfing and skiing for France She introduced me to the Chinese horoscope, and the fact that I had been born in the Year of the Tiger. From then on, I became Tigre, and she Biche, which is French for deer. Only later did I come to realise how much the tiger depends on the deer for his happiness and survival. The house became filled with tigers and deer; paintings; fridge magnets; soft toys; etc.
My interest developed, and I saw that the biggest of the cats was an animal of immense courage, great strength, and stunning beauty. Truly did Wellington’s old adversary, Tipu Sultan, remark, “It’s better to live two days as a tiger than two hundred years as a sheep.” And yet, and yet, these superb creatures are in danger of extinction in the wild. From an estimated population of 100, 000 in 1900, there are believed to be fewer than 6000 today. The tiger, which has adapted to living in environments as different as the snowy wastes of Siberia, to the jungles of Sumatra to the semi desert around the Caspian, may not be with us in ten or twenty years.
Does it matter? I would submit that if we cannot preserve this beautiful, majestic masterpiece of creation, we cannot save anything. The tiger is faced with ever increasing pressure by man on his habitat, and the appalling use of tiger body parts in traditional Chinese medicine
This earth is not ours to do with what we will. We merely hold it in trust for future generations. As my small contribution to this credo, I am going trekking in the Himalayas to raise money to help preserve tigers in the wild.
My love affair with Jeanne lasted five years. My love for her continues. My emotions, fallible perhaps, and my logic, less fallible hopefully, tell me, after five years apart, it will continue until I die. And from our love affair, sadly over, came a child of sorts, my love for, and love affair with, tigers. Both will continue until I die.
King Ludwig was eccentric; he also did not have all his circuits connected. My nickname could just as easily be Ludwig.
Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
in the forests of the night.
What immortal hand or eye
could frame thy fearful symmetry
Written by my Father B.M