By Robert Surcouf
ANYONE who knows me well will know that I enjoy going to the theatre with my family, whether it is to watch my own children performing or others and this weekend we went to see the premiere of “Joe and Jack” at the Jersey Arts Centre as part of a theatre double bill. Performed by brothers Jack (aged 20) and Joe (14) Stokes with a script written by their father Philip this was then followed an hour later by Lash, a solo show by 20-year-old Luke. This was originally performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival earlier this year. We found them both so entertaining, so we went the next day to see them again and enjoyed them even more with both shows being an excellent reminder about aspects of our lives.
The most interesting aspect of the Joe and Jack show was that it resonated with so many people focusing on the interaction between two siblings, especially for the older sibling, the first born, having to process no longer being the sole centre of attention. This was a beautifully written piece that recognised the complex family dynamics when a new sibling arrives, and it struck a nerve with me as a first-born brother. They both acted out the struggle within a family as they got older, they seemed to be growing apart due to the challenges of life and the outside world. Beautifully, a scene towards the end has them walking away from each other when the younger brother starts his own show within the show dancing while lots of pictures of him with his brother from a baby to now were projected for all to see. This simple tool reminded the older brother about the wonderful times together from their shared experiences. In the theatre you could have heard a pin drop and there was barely a dry eye. For me, like so many in the audience, it had brought back many memories.
I was three when my sister was born and at that time mother and baby tended to spend several days in the maternity before they were sent home. This was my first experience without my mother at home. My father was kindly supported by my grandparents, who lived right next door, and for those few days I was spoiled rotten with cuddles and cakes. When my poor mother came home exhausted with my little baby sister, much to my embarrassment now, I was very unimpressed and in fact told my mother “I didn’t love her any more and I didn’t want a sister”. My annoyance as a three-year-old only lasted a very short time, perhaps a few hours, but it did cause my poor mother a lot of heartache as she was already struggling with post-natal depression, not really a topic discussed in the early 1970s.
Like most kids my sister and I had good times and bad times, but we were lucky to be brought up in a home where we were loved and supported. We were always there for one another but as we each went to university we grew apart. It was after the death of my mother at only 59 that I began to reflect more on our past shared experiences and we both made more of an effort to stay in contact. This desire to cling onto the shared memories of our family life was of course strengthened greatly when we lost our father. While I live in Jersey and she lives in the UK we’re probably as close as we have ever been. I know that not everyone has an easy childhood and for some the memories can be incredibly painful. For those of us who were fortunate at a young age our shared experiences can be taken for granted and we only appreciate this when it is too late.
As an island we have been incredibly lucky not to have had any loss of life with the storm and tornado ravaging much of the Island. For some families they would have lost cherished mementos and will be without their family home for some time. Hopefully, as a community, we can continue to help and support these families as they try to recover a semblance of a normal life and possibly focus on past happy memories to keep them together in this difficult time.
We thankfully benefited from the advanced warning that this storm would occur and the preventative measures that were taken both by government parishes and individuals. Post the shocking level of damage we have also seen all these come together once again to try and get life back to normal. Hopefully this level of civic engagement can continue to help and support those in need due to the storm damage or other physical and mental challenges that can make life difficult especially as we move to what should be a season of goodwill and new family memories of better times can be made that will help us all to deal with future challenges.
Robert Surcouf comes from a Jersey farming family, though his mother was Spanish and moved to Jersey in the 1960s. He became an accountant and now specialises in risk and enterprise management. A father of two school-age children, he still helps organise and participates in local motorsport events and was one of the founding members of Better Way 2022 before the last election. The views expressed are his own.