ROBINET: A special birthday present…

Karen Robinet

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A few months ago, my sister Roseanne, cousin Marina and I booked a week away in Cuba; the first visit there for all of us.

The primary reason for the trip was to celebrate Marina’s 60th birthday in style, and as she lives in England, it was going to give us a great excuse to get together.

As I seem to be the travel agent of the family, I did my research and came up with three possible resorts, which I sent them both to look at.

Before any consultation, Marina had booked her package for a resort in Cayo Santa Maria, flying out of Gatwick in London.

That made it a simple choice for Roseanne and me, so I quickly booked us more or less the same thing. I say more or less because our package included not only the flight, resort and visa, but also the bus to the resort.

Sad to say, Marina purchased her special travel visa directly from Cuba after booking her package and on the plane found it had been included. Then, she lashed out another huge chunk of money for a private car to drive her the four hours to and from her airport. I have reminded her to read the fine print in future!

I had been looking forward to the trip and as it drew closer, made the mistake of reading reviews of the resort we were staying at, which ranged from excellent to awful. I started to have an uneasy feeling about the whole thing, especially as it was me who had suggested Cuba.

I had also set myself a major task to accomplish before leaving.

That rather complicated job was transforming the hundreds of pieces of paper I had brought home after my uncle’s death into the autobiography he had put together. I had put this job aside long enough and decided that the story of her father would be the best birthday present I could give Marina.

Fortunately, years ago when he was still living, I had already taken some of the hand-typed and annotated pages and scanned them, so I had a partial electronic document. Unfortunately, he had written a lot since then, as well as made lots of revisions. And, when he wrote things, he didn’t necessarily do it chronologically, nor did he necessarily remember he had already included that particular anecdote earlier!

He had also worked on a parallel project – a history and examination of tattooing – which he had been working on with a fellow tattooist. And tragically, all of those papers were thrown in together when we were in England helping Marina clear out her dad’s place after he died.

Considering that he had apparently saved every scrap of paper he’d ever received, this was no easy task and I’m still not entirely certain I have all the autobiographical pages in the right place or the right order, but you can only do what you can do.

A few weeks before we were set to leave for Cuba, the manuscript was in relatively good shape and I figured I could do everything I’d planned to do, including adding photos and some designs before we left.

And then, our sister Lisa became ill and as you may know, passed away.

Now Roseanne and I both had misgivings about going, considering the timing.

It didn’t seem right to go, and Marina told us not to worry if we couldn’t. But, in the end, we did and as it turned out, we all benefited from the break.

The almost 100-page manuscript wasn’t quite where I had planned for it to be, but it was finished, and Marina was very happy when I gave it to her.

Putting it together had been an interesting experience for me, as my uncle Godfrey ‘Painless Jeff’ Baker led an extremely colourful life, filled with interesting people.

And in one of those ‘stranger than fiction’ stories, Roseanne recently found out that a Welsh co-worker’s father actually has a tattoo done my uncle when the father visited my uncle’s shop in England in the ‘70s. It really is a small world!

But, in addition to being a tattooist, my uncle was also a fan of the art and managed to make friends with some of the biggest names in that somewhat mysterious world.

It’s unfortunate that many of the key players in this manuscript are no longer with us, but I’m really happy that we now have a more or less intact record of my uncle’s rather unorthodox life.

Marina is our only first cousin, so sharing a special birthday with her and being able to give her the book made up for our initial misgivings about going.

And now that I’m out of space, I’ll have to wait until next week to tell you about Cuba!

 

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