Dear Uncle Jackson

Late in July our good friend Dave Jackson died. My letters in the Sentinel were always written to Dave and usually (as now) addressed to ‘Uncle Jackson’. The main reason for this – although I was older than him, by a month, I always felt that he was like my kindly older Uncle Jackson Armstrong.
I’ll miss his crafted surreal correspondence, his wit and conversation. He was very capable of satirical comment but never cruel or exaggerated. Surreal – as I said – and so erudite that I had often to ‘Google’ a reference to be able to follow his argument or train of thought. His love of Afrikaans the language and the culture was matched equally by his love of English – language, literature and history. He introduced me to the writing of Charles Herman Bosman and Louis Leipold . Our English book collections were similar but the breadth of his reading was much wider, and the reason why I’ve had to ‘look things up’ more often since knowing him.
Music was the main reason for knowing Dave. I met him when he first came to the village – we were introduced as fellow musicians – but I will never be half the guitarist he was. I’m stuck in my own younger nephew style but Dave could play in any style and was more than competent playing classical, flamenco, jazz, blues, pop rock, reggae, punk, heavy metal. Again – his breadth and depth of knowledge for all things musical was apparent if you ever had the chance to rifle through his record collection – I’ve lost days! He would know who played bass on Dylan’s latest or Joan Armatrading’s earliest and what key they were in – he would also know where Beethoven died or Charlie Mingus bought his shoes.
We spent many hours performing and recording with him. Di and I must finish that tricky second album sometime –– adding another harmony or doing the ending again and again and again after a glass too many of the Hanky Bannister won’t be the same without the maestro at the recording desk. Whiskey only improves the singing voice of the person not drinking. He and I would get one of those withering looks from ‘our wife’ (as he referred to Di) as we opened the second bottle. What I will miss most though is that small smile of approval part way through a song. Then I knew that we were on the right track.
About eighteen months before he died, and a year before we realised he was ill, he suddenly gave me a present – his banjo. It was part of his simplifying his life and preparations for his death – we didn’t know it at the time. I insisted on paying him and, after weeks of bartering we settled on 2 bottles of Jameson. Parting with his banjo wasn’t difficult, he said, as’ the definition of a gentleman was someone who can play a banjo but chooses not to’.
When I get a chance I’m going to restring the weapon of musical destruction – get a litre of Jameson from the drankwinkel – go to a sound proof room and play Cripple Creek and Cumberland Gap and Louisville and Room at the Top until the bottle is dry.
Keep on strumming Dave.
Better never than late?
Your sensible nephew
John-Brian
PS My supervisor sends her love to you and the dogs that tolerate you (wherever they are)

About brian

engineer; musician; artist; plumber; vine grower; wine maker
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