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Triumphs and Tragedies: Twenty-five aspects of the life of a Liverpool Sailor

By Peter Wright

Copyright 2009 by Peter Wright, published by iUniverse, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403, http://www.iuniverse.com, 1-800-Authors (1-800-288-4677)

$16.95 softcover, ISBN 978-1-4401-6814-7, $6.00 eBook 978-1-4401-6815-4 available from Amazon and iUniverse

Triumphs and Tragedies: Twenty-five aspects of the life of a Liverpool Sailor by Peter Wright may well qualify as one of the most interesting memoirs I have read. It is written in a straightforward, engaging manner that immediately worms it way into your mind. Going back and forth between memories of adult life and childhood at first,  Wright takes through his memories of such great events as both World Wars, and his reactions to them, as well as his childhood reactions to the Great War (World War I). Even though World War I took place prior to Wrights birth it deeply impacted his life, leaving emotional and psychological wounds that would never heal.

Wright offers honest recollections of his life and experiences that are at humorous, painful, loving and full of every emotion in between. Wright doesn’t spare himself at all but opens himself up and lets the recollections and stories flow not only from his memory, but from his heart. What follows is an excerpt dealing with Wright’s days as a Catholic school boy:

“When I was in the fourth form, about fourteen years of age, the head sacristan appointed me thurifer for the upcoming high mass on Palm Sunday. The thurifer is the guy who carries the thurible, the brass sensor hung on chains which contains burning incense. Some of you reading this can imagine how I felt, especially when Sunday morning dawned – horrible. I knew I was going to make a mess of it. If I’d known exactly how I would have made a mess of it, I would have caught the next train back home…

…I had had a few lessons in mastering the art of manipulating the thurible and was, perhaps, less fearful of taking it off the hook in the sacristy than I might of otherwise been, but I doubt that anyone noticed or cared…

…Trading ever-so-carefully, almost on tip-toe, I led the procession into the chapel. I was amazed how much noise boys make when they simply stand up; snuffling, sneezing, farting and generally being clumsy. Everything went well, even when I handed the thurible to the priest so that he could bless the missal and whatever other objects had to be blessed. When he handed it back, however, I got my two middle fingers where they were supposed to be, but somehow only got the thumb-ring halfway over my thumb. The result was inevitable. With my full attention on manipulating the thumb-ring halfway over my thumb. The result was inevitable. With my full attention on manipulating the thumb-ring farther onto my thumb, I allowed the device to wobble, and while I frantically lifted and swung it, the beveled bottom of the incense cup struck the edge of one of the flagstones ejecting hot coals onto the altar carpet, and onto the white habits of some of the monks kneeling at the altars’ side.

There was a little pandemonium. While the monks put their own fires out, I tried to scrape the embers back into the brass container. Without even thinking, I picked up a piece of hot incense. Burning and hot, it stuck to my finger of course, and I said, ‘Jesus.’

‘Don’t apologize to Him, Wright, get on with mass.’ One of the monks with a sense of slapstick, helped me stay fairly calm. The damage was slight, and little was said by the clergy. A couple of them smiled and one or two raised their eyes. For the rest of the school, however, it was a hilarious topic. ‘Couldn’t have seen a better show at Blackpool,” one Lancashire lad remarked.”

As you can see the recollections are vivid and Wright has no problem, in pointing a self-recriminating, if at times humorous, finger. The stories in the book made me laugh, cry and cringe in empathy with the author. If I were to be asked to recommend one memoir this year it would be Triumphs and Tragedies: Twenty-five aspects of the life of a Liverpool Sailor. It is brief, highly enjoyable and at the same time very informative of both the lifestyles and events of a bygone era and way of life understood by only a select few.

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