October 25th, 2003


For He is Good and The Lover of Mankind

It seems preposterously early. It's not. It's just past seven in the morning. The reason I'm up now, aside from just being overly alert, is that I discovered that a large amount of hair had matted itself onto the silver chain around my neck that holds a cross and an icon of St George. This has happened before, but it's generally a small amount. It was almost impossible to tell that it was actually a chain. It felt like some strange piece of folk art woven from human hair. It was a bit like coughing up a hairball. It was either an entirely inappropriate state of affairs, or, as I casually wondered, was possibly the state of chains around the neck of a starets. Once I'd discovered it, it was impossible to rest any further. So, rising at a suitable ecclesiastical hour, I ended up having to burn the hair from the chain on the cooker as I made coffee. Just thought I'd mention this state of affairs... And I burned the hair, then made the coffee. Doing the two simultaneously would put anyone off drinking coffee in my house should they come around. Examining the cup for signs of charred hair, mmm, interesting roasted flavour, there's a hint of robusta underneath, how do you manage to get such a thick crema, are you sure this is nutmeg? Rest assured, quality control of domestic coffee production remains at the highest levels.

William and Harry are petitioning for Burrell to shut the fuck up about their mother. Prince Philip....never mind that rubbish, at least 40 Russians are trapped underground in a mine near Rostov. I'll light the icon lamps. Let's pray it's not like the Kursk all over again.

I make mention of friends here in the journal. Whilst I'm still uncertain about the inclusion of personal issues here, I'm more wary of self-censorship. I had a conversation yesterday which certainly had me very reflective about the state of affairs. I'd like to write about it, but know that it would be entirely inappropriate for what is, ultimately, a public forum and a private situation. Even if it is a little like an abandoned train station. I feel I can mention the Professor, for example, because our friendship hasn't got any thorny or sensitive issues - well, if I break the mandolin he's lent me for tomorrow's concert, it might! - but there's no way I can include this...I'll leave it there. I enjoyed the dim sum and the company. It gets increasingly hard as life develops to know how to tolerate causing anymore pain to others. The unbearable lightness of being, my arse! I thought this morning, perhaps looking a little like a dishevelled Ricky Tomlinson. They serialised his autobiography on the radio recently. It's always reassuring to know that people still actually believe in things. For some reason I never quite fathomed, my father was very fond of The Royle Family...

Before he died, there were two incidents I remember. One was when he was trying to dictate various responses to emails he'd been receiving. He was both in intense pain and fairly out of it on morphine and oxycontin. 'The next email is to Dr....' Long pauses between words, all these notepads by the bed that grew increasingly hard to decode. He was hardly able to manage a list of five items without confusion - the cancer had started spreading to his brain by this point and together with the painkillers, well...

After about half an hour of this, in which he'd managed to dictate two replies to the sort of emails that I wouldn't bother replying to, I started to lose my temper. As calmly as I could manage, I tried to tell him that this (emails) really didn't matter anymore. I'm sitting here with you and there isn't so much time left, can't we talk about something else? Although we never communicated at all effectively with each other. I'd pretty much been through every crisis a parent longs not to hear about. Pausing, stillness, between his laboured speech, I don't want anyone getting upset, it will be much better without that. So English. Soon you won't be here, of course I'm upset, you're my father and you're dying, I love you, why the fuck should I not be getting upset? We both became fairly choked up (in an English reserved fashion). A longer pause... You know, I can remember when I was young... Finally, I thought, a personal recollection. He started talking about living in Croydon when he was young. We were walking along that path down by the railway, she often used to take me there, always such a pleasant walk. I don't recall the words really, I was hoping for some Hollywood style resolution to our fraught relationship, what I realised is that the story became increasingly disjointed, a little like Dutch Schultz on his deathbed and then he was asleep. He's gone on the nod, I thought. Later that week, my mother told me that according to him I'd categorically refused to do anymore secretarial work. No. I just wanted something to remember in that dreadful period other than a man dissolving away into those worries he had about leaving loose ends to his professional life. I never really knew who his friends were from childhood. Where were these friends? What were they doing now? What could they tell me about him? At the funeral, everything fairly much reflected his professional achievements. There was no one who could remember his childhood there apart from his brother. He had left, along with all those untold recollections, all those stories that should have found a voice. Maybe I write here in opposition to that. I'll leave plenty of ephemera when I go. I'm not sure if that would make it any easier to those left behind. Ultimately, the experience requires something else. It's just we should remember those departed.

Maybe the only memory I have of that time not related to his physical needs is when I came home to find him in the bedroom, sat in a chair facing out onto the fields before the house. Can you see that? What? That raptor on the telegraph pole over there. It was a curious choice of words, since most people would take the Jurassic Park reference, but entirely scientific. He was a scientist after all. He's been there all day, just waiting. He was smiling and for a while you could see a keen schoolboy hiding out in bushes with a pair of binoculars. He'd been a very keen bird watcher in his childhood. I couldn't see anything there. His sight was failing with the growth of the tumour. You know I'm seeing things very differently, the colours are all, well...he couldn't quite describe it. I stood there and watched the telegraph pole a little longer with him. I wondered if the raptor was Death approaching. He watched it with pleasure and that smile I shall recall. I can't pretend it was divorced from his situation, it was situated on a face that was clearly suffering. But for that short while something else managed to break through. For me, a something he had all too often not expressed in his life. That's how I would choose to remember those last few weeks.

Farewell, Giant Squid...

I've just been to Friendster to see what level of inactivity I remain in. I came across some interesting sites about the phenomenon. It's a little bloggy to paste all these links together, but I'm intrigued by the subject of these fake personalities. They're the things I like most on the site. Marc Bolan still hasn't replied. Wynd hasn't even heard of Damo Suzuki, alas.

A great parody ... Interesting comments ... those that have been lost ... not to mention this social science take on the site. These links all came via a Salon article, which you can read for free, but have to sit through a Playboy advert.

Looks like the writing is on the wall for it really.