Friday, February 19, 2010


It's been a strange week, it's going to be a strange week.

In seven days time, I'll be in London.

Between now and then, I'll have part-presided over a cremation service - a new experience.

I'd like to adopt the swagger of, 'I'll try anything once, me', but it's not quite like that.

I think it was somewhere between being shocked and appalled at the original choice of minister - my brother knew what he was doing when he mentioned it to me, and my own upsetting of my mother and sister, that I may have said, 'I'll do it'.

Later, after I'd had time to think about what obvious alternatives there would have been to Minister Choice #1, I decided that some moderation, or negotiation, would be appropriate. But with this, sister spotted weakness, and the threat of back-tracking. Thus, I'm hit with a tirade that featured the term 'priorities'. That really pissed me off. For a moment, I simmer. Then I snap back - something about attitude and respect and being out of order, and about me being the only one to give voice to what everyone in the family was thinking and feeling, but that no-one had had the bottle to say out loud. Mother and brother suggest a calming, but by then, it's merely a question of whether I will actually foam at the mouth. A few seconds later, my tension is diminished, but the bite-back has seen my sister - and mother - depart the scene in different directions, both in tears. Not pretty, not a proud moment.

Days have since passed. I've written the speech that I'll be giving, and I've walked through it a couple of times. Though 'speech' is the wrong word. Homily? Tribute? I don't know.

The subject is, of course, the dead grandmother. But listen closely, and you'd hear that it's not really about the old bird. It is, as I guess these things often are, a not especially oblique tribute to the people who I'll be speaking to - mostly family, about how they sustained Elspeth.

My fellow presider, on Wednesday - He Who I'd Initially Recoiled At, well he's read the blurb that I've prepared. And he's provided feedback.

He seems like a decent sort - maybe my grandmother was wrong about him.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Saturday 13.02.10

Elspeth is dead. She'd been in residential care for the past year.

The call came at 8:40am - the mobile said 'Dad', and I knew before he spoke.

'Bit of upsetting news, son.'

'Go on', I say.

'Your -', he wasn't clear - emotional, 'Y' grandma died this morning - died in her sleep - in the home. We were with her, like.'

A pause. 'Mm. You alright?'

'Aye - we came up in the night - Matt brought us.'

Bleary eyed in a Manchester hotel room, 'I'll be up later', I say.

'Y' don't have to come up straight away.'

'I'll phone you later.'

'Aye, do that. D' y' wanna speak t' y' mam?'


'Hello?' she whispers.

'Y' alright?'

'Ye-es, uh-huh. Died in her sleep.'

'Best way to go, really.'

'Oh yes - she didn't suffer.'

Didn't suffer. It's too early for me to hear the nonsense of that statement.

'I said I'll call later -', I say.

'Yeah, let things settle down a bit, here. Mind, y' don't have t' come up straight away.'

'I'll talk t' y' later.'

'Alright, son.'


I think for a moment.

'Elspeth is dead', I say. And I'm remembering September 2002 - walking round to Ashford Street, after hearing of George's death. I remember a feeling of love, and of touch, and the colour purple.

It is now 11 hours later, and I'm on my third train of the day, heading east through West Yorkshire, writing this.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Online morse code translator.

Could be useful. You know, for when the revolution starts and all that.

In the mean time:

.-. . .- -.. . .-. -.-- --- ..- .-.. --- --- -.- .-- --- -. -.. . .-. ..-. ..- .-.. - --- -. .. --. .... -

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Derby County 3 - 0 Newcastle United.

Sitting amongst fans of the home team, I was the outsider within. Hoping to see Newcastle play a kind of football that would suggest pomp-approaching-glory, things didn't pan out that way. For all of Newcastle's 'clever' play, and their mazily tripping over of the ball, Derby played genius football - simple and effective. Very Clough. The scoreline did flatter Derby, but the honesty of their play, and the commitment of Robbie Savage, saw my non-partisan status become eroded.

Fumbly phoney photo-work, there. Fair to say, it was cold. The old lady beside me did not share her blanket.

It felt good to be lost in 90 minutes of utter nonsense.

On exiting the stadium - two minutes before the final whistle, I caught a note of burger van fried onions in the chill night air. It was a moment for huddling, for moving briskly, and for missing people.

On leaving Derby, I thought about canal boats and ceramics - traces of an earlier meeting, still occupying my mind.

And so it goes.

Monday, February 08, 2010


It feels like quite a while, since I was 'myself'.

The context for this is simple and clear. It has become the norm, for me to put others' interests ahead of my own. Or to imagine those others' interests to be my own - which, in part, they are. Fine lines. But I've known, for quite some time, that I have to re-take Shane (what foul foul wording), if I'm to content myself. And so, small steps though they are, I've let Emma know that I'll not be joining her and Alex at a festival in late August - a festival that I'm sure would be good, but one that would also become lost to me, as I'd end up being far more occupied with other peoples' children, rather than the much more interesting adults who'd be on hand. So I've said 'Thanks, but no thanks' to that. Alex' Dad will also be around, along with various other friends and relatives, so there'll be no shortage of bodies.

And I've booked in a trip to London, end of the month, when I'll be getting to the Riverside Studios (Fool for Love) and Soho Theatre (A Life in Three Acts).

Oh, and I've not done anything like enough football over the past few months to keep me spiritually right. So tomorrow evening, I'll be at Pride Park, Derby, for the visit of Newcastle United.

And just in case you're wondering, I haven't gone all dip trip fantasia - 'spiritually right?'. I mean happy. It's simple stuff, that just happens to get waylaid sometimes.

Friday, February 05, 2010


I am being befriended by a DadAtTheEdgeOfThePlayground - only occasionally AtTheEdgeOfThePlayground, truth be told - he works in sales, 'away a lot'. The man's son is Alex' best friend - both boys bright and quirky.

For practical reasons, it's been necessary for DadAtTheEdge' and self to have one another's phone numbers for quite a while. But today, I received a 'comedy text message'. It read:

BREAKING NEWS: John Terry Update - Fabio Capello has released a statement clearing the England captain, 'I don't know what all of the fuss is about... Everyone knows if a full back leaves a hole, it's the job of the centre back to fill it!'

That was it. The comedy text message.

I'm feeling a bit intimidated. Might have to make up some joke about boobs or something, next time I see him. You know, all laddish and that.