My father was fond of using the word ‘discombobulate’ when relating events that had happened during his working day: so-and-so was discombobulated by the change in the time of the shift, for example. Little did he know that the day would come when he would be disconcerted and confused by something he wasn’t even aware of happening at the time!
Let me give you some background to provide the context for his discombobulation. In our family home we had several framed watercolours painted by his aunt, May Taylor Morgan. My father, an orphan, came to southern Africa when he was seventeen years old and these paintings were sent on to him from England years after we had all been born. This is one of the two less colourful ones that I now have in my home. The caption was written by my father on the back of the frame:
Also important to know is that my father was the Mine Captain and his stand-alone office was situated close to the mine shaft. The shift bosses would gather there before or after their underground shifts to give a verbal report or to discuss events that had taken place. On this particular Monday morning, the mine carpenter happened to be in my father’s office when the skip spewed out the miners. As was usual, it wasn’t long before my father’s office was filled with shift bosses, whose language usage would have proverbially turned the air blue.
The carpenter remained after the departure of the shift bosses and said quietly, “These men would not have used such dirty language had they known there was a lady present.”
My father looked around at the office with only the two of them present. “What lady?”
“She was standing behind your chair.” The carpenter went on to give a detailed description of the old woman who had stood there quietly. I can no longer recall the details, other than that she had very white hair. My father absorbed all of this and realised it could only have been his long-deceased Aunt May, who had lived in Caernarvon.
His discombobulation was still evident when he related this encounter over lunch. “It had to be Aunt May,” he explained. “She is the only person I know who looked like that!” Why would a woman who had died in Wales decades earlier appear in my father’s mine office in South Africa? Who can tell? The mine carpenter was not one to play jokes. “Besides,” my father insisted, “there is absolutely no way he could have known what she looked like and yet he described her to a T!”
My father noted in his unpublished memoir, A Brief History of the Currors that “she must have been rather shocked as she had picked a real ‘Blue Monday!’”