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Friday, July 11, 2014

What's next?

I have been holding off writing this blog for a while because it never seemed to be the right time to do it and it's just shouting into the void anyway, so is therefore a bit pointless. As I have made a small commitment to sharing my thoughts on things from time to time, I suppose I have to keep going.

When I celebrated my birthday last month, I hit a milestone that has been on my mind for forty years. On that day, I had officially lived longer than my own father did. He never made his 52nd birthday. I did. That sounds a bit morbid and yes, I am a bit maudlin and reflective tonight - and a bit drunk - but it is still important to me to record that I consider this to be an achievement.

I was 12 when Dad died. He was 51. He always seemed to be on night shift. We didn't really see much of each other. I don't know if that makes it easier or more difficult to lose somebody. As a bereaved 12-year-old boy I was, of course, angry and selfish. How dare he smoke himself to death just when I was beginning to realise that I needed a father figure? And so on.

Years passed, as they tend to do. I'm not a spiritual person, I don't hold any beliefs that relate to what lies beyond this earthly form. I have been a father myself for 24 years and all that time, I have thought "if I die now, what residue of me remains?" and "how cheated will my children feel for the loss of their Dad?" Those are largely imponderables, but to give some kind of answer to the first one, I would urge my children not to keep me in a pot in a cupboard somewhere - look in a bloody mirror! Half of you, my children, is what I am. Enjoy that much, for what it's worth. Would they feel cheated? I hope not. I've been on my own kind of night shift, but never out of reach.

Not that I intend to go any time soon. I have what the technology has hinted might be my first son to look forward to. That's going to be an adventure and, when he's old enough to absorb my words of wisdom, I'll make sure that he knows to live longer than me. If we can keep it going, eventually someone in my family is going to be properly immortal.

So, Dad, there are a couple of places where memories hang in the air, but they are not the cold ground in which you lie. I only have bitter memories of that place and that day. But if you stand up near the cemetery wall, you can look down towards the river where we used to go. Or I can look in the mirror.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I'm sorry, John ...

Having spent an evening in the company of master wordsmiths Mike Garry and John Cooper Clarke, I thought I would try an homage to the latter. If you get a chance to see either of these brilliant men performing, grab it. Even if poetry is not your thing.

Anyway, here's a short one in the style of JCC. Sorry John.


Denim-clad, hormones in flux
I marked the days and all the fucks
I didn't give about the scene
Described in Smash Hits magazine.
I had my mum take in my flares,
I revelled in John's vacant stares.
I drank light ale, it made me drunk
The day that I invented punk.

'God save the Queen'. The village rang
With obscene strangled songs I sang
On adolescent foot patrol,
On fire with hate and rock n roll.
But no one heard the angry kid
Or felt the ennui I did -
They were indoors watching TV
The day that punk invented me.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Circle of Life

I had one of those days yesterday. One of those days when particular themes seem to come together. In the morning, we had our first antenatal appointment with the consultant. After the miscarriage last year, the past few weeks of very early pregnancy have been a rollercoaster, with every day ticked off as one nearer the sad landmark. Dare we be happy and optimistic? It's hard not to be, but underlying every little flutter of excitement is that dread. Particularly so when we had a scare last week. That was a bad night. We didn't really relax until we had had an emergency scan and could see the little pulse of life.

So we live in hope and fear. The appointment with the consultant was the regular thing, the 12-week scan. Baba was waving its tiny arm, a stark and happy contrast to the stark, still image we had seen last year and all the heartache and physical awfulness that followed. The joy at this movement, and the whooshing of the tiny heart, was tempered by the sobering advice for the older mother, the tests we could have, the odds and possibilities of genetic problems. We're not having any tests. What will be will be. No child will be loved any less, whatever the outcome. Sobering, but not enough to take the edge off our joy. Don't worry though, I'm not turning into that person that tweets every dull and dismal detail of their offspring's development. I was a new dad 24 years ago, the wonder has faded a bit.

Then I hit the road for Belfast, to show my support for a dear friend at a funeral. Whatever we say or wish for ourselves, whatever instructions we leave for those left behind, there is no getting past the grief and loss and, as an outsider, I felt the real love for the departed. The Minister, unwittingly but fittingly, found a resonance with my own thoughts about life and mortality on this day in particular. He reminded the gathered that life is fragile and limited. We all face death. I could not help drifting off into my own internal world of loss and renewal and I realised that the Minister was right - you have to live while you're alive. On the way home I was also reminded of something John Lennon said, paraphrased as: "life is what happens while you're busy making plans".

So, in summary, the universe had conspired to make a point to me: what will be will be, the result is the same. All you can do is change how you get there. I decided to stop worrying about stuff. One day at a time, sweet Jesus ...