Tag Archives: Family

So what are you going to do?

There’s a lot of causes out there. Some good, some not so good, and some so downright fucked up they’re over the insanity event horizon and accelerating past lightspeed. It’s easy to feel snowed under sometimes. Anyway, I’ve done contributing to other peoples causes. Those that were supposed to be good weren’t that good. Those not so good turned out to be stupid and the rest aren’t even worth mentioning. Nowadays it’s hard to find one without a vested interest behind it, so I won’t be looking any more.

Having just been through a double bereavement with all that entails, I’ve been re-evaluating what I want from my life. Where I’m going, what I might do when I get there sort of thing. Becoming the joint senior member of our little clan has come as a major culture shock. No excuses, no deferment, it’s my ball and I have to make the rules now. If they need making. Which more often than not they don’t. My work as a parent has, and continues to be largely done. I’ve morphed role from family guard dog and occasional shepherd to long distance shoulder to cry on, which is as it should be. No doubt grandchildren are somewhere on the horizon, but please, not just yet. What gets me most is the odd sensation that I now have no-one to defer to, which makes me mildly uncomfortable. Adrift and hollow. Much better off financially, but directionless.

So, that begs the question. What do I do now? The world beckons. I’ve a hankering to live in Paris for a month or two next year. Ride those wonderfully curvy Swiss motorways on something like a Triumph Rocket III. Meander through Southern Europe, park the monster 2.3 litre sports cruiser motorcycle outside a little Bar Tabac and let the local kids stare slack jawed at it. Dance the centre line a little along the coast road from Marseille to Genoa. Thence down to Rome, see Naples and live a little. Maybe down to watch Stromboli and Etna spit fire before heading up the coast road with Venice and Vienna in mind. Wander round Prague and Berlin with a side trip through Warsaw. Up through Denmark and across the big bridges into Sweden. Visit a cousin of mine who lives in Gothenburg. Catch a freighter to Immingham and grey, damp olde England. Pay my respects to the wider clan. Ride a container ship back to Canada and run Highway One from Halifax Nova Scotia to mile zero again. Perhaps even zipping south of the border to revisit New York and swing in a wide arc from New Jersey to Texas then North through Nevada. Indulge my wanderlust. Write about what happens as it happens. Perhaps. Then I’ll pitch up on the Pacific shore again and think about the other side of the ring of fire. China, Japan, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Of course these are all mere dreams and may never come to pass, but I’ve done some instalments of that trip at various times in my life and truly want to do them again. While it’s still possible to do so.

Secrets & Lies

Busy reconnecting with estranged family members at present following my Mother’s funeral. The ceremony was a Church do which was well attended. Close on a hundred packed into a small English Parish church for the public goodbye. A day which saw me standing around with siblings doing the duty. Greeting old family friends and occasional relative at the church door on an uncharacteristically sunny English day, wishing protocol allowed sunglasses and a hat. Feeling numb and heavily jet lagged.

Having shed my tears two weeks before, I found myself standing in the front pew at parade rest in my best jacket eyeing the closed coffin bedecked with white roses and lilies, wincing as the organist muffed hymn intro’s and wondering what Mum would be thinking if she could have seen all the fuss. Listening to siblings trying to sing with shaking voices unused to the exercise of a tune. Admiring the architecture of some late medieval robber barons ornate tomb. I think the Ma Sticker I knew would have laughed herself senseless at the irony because we’ve always been such a cheerfully agnostic bunch. However, the local societies wanted to say thanks for all the voluntary work our family and specifically my mother put into the village, so I kept my mouth firmly shut and let priestly platitudes rattle past.

My major issue is there’s a lot of highly personal stuff coming out of my particular woodwork right now making me a deeply unhappy bunny. Why our little clan couldn’t have sat down and talked it all out years ago has left me feeling like Tim Spalls character from Mike Leighs “Secrets and lies“;

There’s been quite a bit of “But we all thought you knew, Bill.” Recently.
Well I didn’t. Much was kept from me by my parents and I am desperately trying not to be very angry with them indeed. Which has taken the edge off my grief. Inheritance isn’t the issue. That’s down to probate and settling the estate. It’s just money. The tax man will no doubt take his bite, but I’m more seriously pissed off at my extended family for keeping me in the dark all these years. I’d suspected of course, but no one took me aside and said; “Bill, there are a few things you should know.” That’s the kind of conversation I’m having with several of my cousins and aunts right now. Clucking bell. First mother in law dies. Next we had to move house and fast. Then my my car gets trashed. Mum dies. My dog dies. Now all this. If I didn’t know better I’d think someone had it in for me. It’s been a tough few months with only a few brief respites.

Notwithstanding, I’m trying very hard to look on the bright side. Be positive. Letters have been written to mend fences. I’m trying to do the right thing and move forward keeping my chin up.

Mrs S and I are back in Canada and heavily jet lagged. Stepkids are good and making their own lives. We have kept nothing from them. My wife still loves me, although sometimes I wonder why. And I’m quite well balanced, insofar as the chips upon both my broad and brawny shoulders are in a state of perfect equilibrium.

The curtains of darkness have been stripped from my past and they have revealed a tangled emotional forest that would give the Brothers Grimm nightmares. One which I have to traverse alone. So I think I’ll be taking a chainsaw with me. With extra gasoline and maybe some Gelignite. Bring it on.

I’ll be back in due course. You know how it is. Dragons to rescue. Damsels to slay. Providing the next media scare story doesn’t get us all first, or stupid EU politicians don’t talk us into a war.

Regards

Bill

Chilled

Mrs S and I have finally moved in properly to new Victorian gaff here in BC and just delivered our first weekend guest safe home. To celebrate we took a bus downtown and did a little bar surfing. While we were on our way, the oddest feeling crept over me. A sense of complete calm, serenity, even a sense of being touched by God. A veritable nexus of null anxiety, to the point where my paranoia kicked in and whispered salaciously to my hindbrain “It’s been a wonderful day so far-so what’s going to go pear shaped? Who is going to screw it up?” You know what? Nothing did.

In Iraq, 800 crazies, including three holders of UK passports so we are told, are murdering all they choose while an army flees in front of them. The Ukraine crisis lumbers on. The USA seems weak and vacillating. UK Civil liberties are eroded with every half baked directive from the EU Commission and everywhere the media are complicit in the decline.

Yet none of that matters, because at present we’re having a lovely time. Walking here and there, enjoying the locality. Don’t take this personally, but I won’t say ‘wish you were here’. There’s only just enough happiness for me, Mrs S and the dog.

Jail the parents!

So says a journalist in the Barclay Brothers Beano. Apparently two parents in East Anglia are to be hauled up before the beak for allowing their child to reach fifteen stone. It is worth noting that the original article in the Wail says that the boys father is twenty stone and out of work. Apple not falling very far from tree, methinks.

A more reasoned discussion has been carried out here on debatewise but the principle of state intervention to cut costs for the ‘wonderful’ NHS should be asking the greater question. Which National Health Service? Oh, you know, the ‘wonderful’ NHS where patients can be neglected by nursing staff whose focus is more on paperwork than actual care, and where the elderly can die a nice, lonely but tidy death in a hospital bed from dehydration and starvation in their own urine and faeces, that sort of thing. Don’t believe me? Start here.

The greater questions should be; how does the family benefit from being prosecuted and their child being put in ‘care’? How much money do these court and care processes take away from the UK’s ‘wonderful’ NHS? Let’s do some joined up thinking here. Police manpower, cost of lawyers and court time, costs of appeal, fines, jail time for being unable to pay fines. All on the public purse because the parents in question are not exactly high earners. Criminal records further damaging their prospects of employment, thus keeping parents out of the tax contributing workforce (If there were suitable work to be had). That’s even without factoring in the costs of God alone knows how many social workers. The cost of long term ‘care’ (Meals, facilities, security) with all the fees for a swath of behavioural interventionist consultants whose services are not exactly free.

What the screaming interventionists don’t seem to understand is that all of these things don’t come cheap. If your principal goal is to save the NHS money, even a fairly cursory analysis demonstrates that intervention of this kidney isn’t really the right way to go about it.

One is left with the thought that on balance it will probably prove more economic to treat the child for any conditions that crop up when they actually do, not trying to second guess what conditions will arise because it’s not unknown for the fat kid at fifteen to discover girls, or get so hacked off with being ill that he spends a couple of years getting into shape off his own bat, living to a ripe old age. Either that or the young man will die young, thus actually cutting the long term treatment bill. No prosecutions required.

Think of the savings to the ‘wonderful’ NHS.

Hi-ho. Lovely sunny day here in BC and the weekend beckons. Done with unpacking and am thoroughly enjoying being able to walk to the nearest pub. Now there’s a thought

Cream crackered

Totally tired today for some reason. Worn out, shagged, knackered like I’ve been burning the candles at both ends with a flamethrower. A heavily sedated slug has more energy than I do at present. It’s not as though I’ve been eating or drinking to excess. I haven’t. Modest exercise, lots of vitamins and vegetables. Sunshine and early mornings. Hmm. Maybe that’s my problem, too healthy, with excess blood in my alcohol stream. Have to do something about that.

Almost done with the packing for Friday’s house move. Then twenty four hours without Interweb and then back up and running. Afterwards I may just sleep.

Tinfoil hat adjusted

Excuse the relative silence, but I’ve had to watch relatives die recently. The old grim reaper has been on overtime in our vicinity, and grief has been the baseline emotion underscoring our little clans daily lives. Funny thing grief. Sometimes it’s not the person who dies who has the hard time, but their nearest and dearest. So it is with us. Grieving makes people say and do crazy, out of character things. They lash out. Often at people who only want to help. Dealing with the grief of others is a skill I have obtained a little, if unwanted, education in. Comes with maturity I guess. There are times being a grown up sucks. This is one of many.

So I’m not surprised at the reactions to current speculation surrounding Malaysian Airlines MH370. The Malaysian Government are being accused of not releasing information, which they probably aren’t sure about, and don’t want to look like a bunch of idiots by tipping their hand prematurely. Remember all the fuss about the pilot, a highly experienced professional by all accounts, being branded a ‘Terrorist’? Well, here’s a thing; the FBI found nothing suspicious on his home flight simulator. Apart from a few innocuous ‘deleted files’. So he deleted some files on his hard drive. Who doesn’t? Then there was the much vaunted ‘All right – goodnight’ which was a mis-attribution of the co-pilots sign off remark with ground control? Talk about grasping at straws. The most plausible speculation came from a pilot who argued that a cockpit electrical fire would have firstly caused the transponder failures, and secondly, sent the aircrew looking desperately for the closest place to land, but incapacitated them before they could make a landing. So the plane flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea. No terrorists, no kidnaps, just sheer dumb bad luck and maybe a bit of bad maintenance, but that’s for the crash investigators to find out.

There is one aspect of the whole MH370 affair that I find oddly comforting. In the wake of the Snowden revelations about world wide and domestic surveillance, it’s funny that this massive big brother machine hasn’t a clue about where something as big as a Boeing 777-200R, and little media mention of the incident reports on this aircraft type. Maybe the reports of ‘intelligence’ omnipotence and competence are being massively over sold?

The glass is falling hour by hour

I swear the Weather gods are trying to tell us something. This is the mid Island, one of the warmer climates in Canada, and yet again it’s been snowing. Yesterday evening we transported in-laws around Victoria in pleasant but chilly greyness. The minute we get to the Malahat summit, the Malahat being a bloody great piece of rock that literally splits the south of Vancouver Island from everywhere else, snow. Thence snow all the way back home. Fortunately not the settling kind like we had last weekend, but enough to coat the trees and fields in a dusty white. It was a long drive home.

Today we’re in Richmond, I hope, viewing a boat. An ex-military tug converted to a liveaboard. Tonight evil dreams rob me of blessed repose and I’m sitting here emptying the sleeplessness into my keyboard. That’s the last bottle of Crane Lake Cabernet I’m drinking. Not bad on the palate, but I was jarred into wakefulness by dreams of intruders and various misdeeds. It was either the wine or some dodgy Canadian Brie. Whatever. Going back to bed now.

A fishermans tale

This is a completely true story. Not terribly dramatic, no-one famous was involved, nothing really happened, but I’ll try to explain my reasons for recounting the incident in question at the end.

In the late 1990’s I was taking a long weekend down in Cornwall. On my own as usual. I’m a solitary individual by nature, and during those years had grown to like long, lazy time outs casting my cares, and the odd line or two, on the waters. As far as human company was concerned, I’d given up on it and immersed myself in my job. That morning I’d picked up a crab line at one of the local beach shops, and taken myself down to a small rocky bay called ‘Prussia Cove‘, one time haunt of the notorious wrecker and pirate, ‘John of Prussia’. It’s a picturesque little place, popular with snorkelers, and of interest for the cart ruts cutting obliquely through rocks from the beach to the little rocky channel to the west. As you face the water, up above on the left are the grey granite Coastguard cottages overlooking the tiny beach. In Summer it’s as pleasant a piece of English Elysium as can be found on a (mostly) sunny day.

On this particular morning, I’d picked myself a spot on the rocks, sat down and waited for a couple in wetsuits to slip into the water before baiting a hook. After a few abortive attempts (standing on the line, throwing too hard, in the wrong direction, getting caught up in seaweed, usual shore fishing mistakes) I cast the weighted orange line some fifty feet or so into the desired middle of the channel. Not really expecting to catch anything. To be honest, at the time I was wrestling with a coding difficulty, and was making the best of this weekend time out for an exercise in contemplation. Taking my mind off the immediate problem, and just letting the light, wind and water work their magic on my hindbrain. Disengaging my mind from its usual over the top frontal assault and trying to slink up on the issue sideways.

“What are you doing?” The voice of a little boy quite startled me. An ordinary looking little lad, about four, maybe six. Slim build, wearing blue (I think) canvas shorts, off white T-shirt, curly dark brown hair forming a sort of mop on his head. Can’t remember what shoes he was wearing. Almost what I’d call the Christopher Robin look. I glanced around, media warped paranoia on overdrive. I’d briefly noticed the same rambunctious little lad annoying his Mother as I made my way down to the waters edge. I think they must have been staying close by. Dark haired woman in sunglasses, mid / early 20’s, lightweight floral dress. Wearing a wide brimmed sun hat as I recall. When she’d been speaking to him earlier I’d registered her accent; educated middle class Surrey. Did I mention I used to pride myself on my ear for English accents? Never mind. Not important.

At the time this whole “All white men are racists, paedo’s and rapists” thing was just beginning to gain ground in the tabloid media, and smelling possible trouble, I tried to brush this intrusive kid off. “Fishing.” I shrugged, reeling the line in. My thinking was to let him get bored and drift away in case Mum came storming over and called the cops. Not that I was doing anything wrong, just fishing. Why couldn’t the little tyke go and amuse himself elsewhere? Leave me in peace? That’s all I wanted.

“Can I have a go? Please?” For a nanosecond I thought about telling him bluntly to go away, but that’s not really my nature. He was being so polite, and Mum was less than a hundred yards away, no doubt keeping a watchful eye on her child, so on the next cast I demonstrated what I was trying to do, reeled in the line and let him try his luck. What can I say? I’m a sucker for lost kittens, puppies and children, and would rather die than see harm come to them. He made a mis-throw, I reeled the line in and let him try again.

For the next half hour, we took turns casting the lead polo mint weighted line out into the little channel, the snorkelers snorkelling in their wetsuits out where the calm waters were ruffled by a light swell, with the peace of a pleasant Cornish Summer late morning wrapping itself around us. Simply revelling in the small pleasure of male company while chilling out on a relatively fruitless task. His Mother seemed quite content to let her little boy please himself around the big stranger fishing at the waters edge.

What happened next made me sit back and think; “Danger! Warning! Warning Will Robinson!” He put his arms around my neck and gave me an unashamed hug, then sat down on our perch overlooking the water and leaned against me, rubbing my back as a kind of ‘thank you’. I clearly remember the rich soft warmth of a child’s physical contact, which gave me quite a jolt. Apart from handshakes, this was the most physical contact I’d experienced from anyone for several years. Did I mention I’m mostly a solitary soul? With a surprised look on my face, I glanced sideways to see his Mother (or female guardian) still sitting calmly in the same place and looking completely unconcerned. I’d shown him how to peel a limpet off a rock for bait, given him a pointer or two on how to cast the line, and received a hug as thanks. Then he used my shoulder as a lever to clamber to his feet and dashed off to tell his mother all about what he’d learned, who neither chided nor chastised her little boy (at least not in my hearing) for approaching (and hugging) a total solitary stranger.

About half an hour later, as the day grew warmer and the beach began to fill, I felt the call of a cold beer and packed up, wandering back to my beat up old Ford Sierra (I was between motorcycles at the time) and moved on. Yet the sudden pleasure of a hug from a completely strange child who I had never met before, never would know the name of, reminded me of my own humanity. My own instinctive need for human company. To ramp down my paranoia. To be part of a family and enjoy the innocent gift of unguarded affection.

This was over fifteen years ago. Since then I’ve married, helped steer two feisty stepdaughters through the uncertain waters of their teenage years, learned to smile and laugh a lot more, become a little more comfortable in my own skin; and somewhere along that path become a better man than I might have been. Not as cold, nor as driven. All because of that one unguarded, unsolicited hug.

So what’s the point Bill? All men are not predatory monsters? That there’s more to the male of the species than his sexual appetites? I suppose so, yes. Thinking about it, that single gesture was key to rediscovering my own understanding of Agape and Eros. Learning to differentiate properly between sacred and profane love. Discovering the love of family. Finding a new centre. Yet what I’d really, truly like to say, in public, is simply this;

Thank you.