Saturday, December 31, 2011
I wrote here about Christopher Hitchins having been diagnosed with oesophagal cancer, well, he has now sadly succumbed to this evil disease.
It's hard to believe that the great voice is now still, that the mind so erudite and acerbic, profound and witty is gone, the brain, so crammed full with learning, literature, history and experience is now just so much meat.
I think the only other occasion when I was so moved by the death of someone I had never met was when John Lennon was shot in 1980. And maybe it's for the same reason.
Reading Hitch or listening to him speak, you had the feeling that you knew him. He was honestly stating his truth with incredible eloquence and facility - maybe you agreed, maybe not, but you knew where he stood.
The above is a short compilation (credit: SETH - YOUTUBE - THETHINKINGATHEIST) of some great Hitch moments, but I would urge you to search the web for more.
Sunday, December 04, 2011
It was a celebration of Helmut's life but also a celebration and an affirmation of life itself. A confirmation of how precious it is, how good it can be, of how tenuous our grasp on it is, how it can vanish from one heartbeat to the next; a kick up the backside to get those things done which we really want to do, to get those things said that we really want to say, a reminder to make sure that those we love know that we love them.
Monday, November 28, 2011
I'm trying and failing to reconcile two concepts or entities: Helmut and death - the two just don't go together in my head. And yet, in harsh, uncaring reality, sadly, unbelievably, they must.
I first met Helmut in 1983. We were expecting our first child and being in deepest Bavaria, far from grandparents, had decided to look for a couple in a similar position to share a house with, and share the experiences of parenthood. We met a few couples but hit it off with Robin and Helmut. We found a house where we could share the ground floor, living room and kitchen and where we would each have a floor for ourselves with bedroom, bathroom and children's room.
Amazingly, given that we had only met via a newspaper advert, and seeing that I am a cantankerous bastard who doesn't really like people at the best of times, it worked really well, and we ended up living together for 7 years, by which time there were four and a half kids, Andy, Nicky, Michelle, Biddy, and Christopher on the way.
I went to football games with Helmut, he introduced me (as anti-sport-playing as you can be) to squash, a game I came to love, we shared jokes and stories, he was honest and straightforward, generous and helpful, simply a really nice guy who loved being alive and who knew how to enjoy life. In thousands of little and big ways Helmut touched and enriched the lives of people around him.
Well, now Helmut is gone, he is dead, in the blink of an eye the finality has enfolded him; Helmut and death are one. We are using the past tense for him, we are speaking about a funeral for Helmut - a what?? A funeral?? For Helmut???
And I don't know what to say, I don't know how to grasp it.
Everyone is helping, everyone is grieving, everyone is doing their best to help everyone else but now everyone also bears an empty, black, Helmut-shaped hole inside them.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Saturday, October 29, 2011
"Buy 1, get 3 free" is a bit too good to be true, isn't it? Must be a catch...maybe the quality is rubbish...maybe 1 roll is actually 4 narrow rolls together and so you end up having to buy 4 for the price of 4...maybe the material has been discovered to be dangerous!! Asbestos poisoning...maybe, maybe...
Monday, September 12, 2011
οὐ μὰν ἐκλελάθοντ', ἀλλ' οὐκ ἐδύναντ' ἐπίκεσθαι.
That's a fragment of old Sappho for you...
What?? You want a translation..???
Ok, first here's GoogleTranslate's version:
Quasi the glykύmalon ereύthetai akrῳ on ysdῳ
welding on akrotάtῳ; lelάthonto he malodropies,
My Man eklelάthont 'But owc edύnant' epίkesthai.
Ok...bit more literal:
As the sweet apple blushes on the end of the bough,
the very end of the bough which gatherers missed,
nay, missed not, but could not reach.
Or, with rather more poetry:
At the end of the bough--its uttermost end, Missed by the harvesters, ripens the apple, Nay, not overlooked, but far out of reach,
So with all best things.
(Photo courtesy of neighbour's apple tree)
Friday, September 02, 2011
As a musician, I loathe and detest background music. This is becoming more and more difficult to avoid; supermarkets have had it for ages now, pubs unfortunately too, of course - that awful piped musak. Now you get it on the phone when you call, say, the gas board about a leak, “...all our operators are busy at the moment - please hold the line - your call is important to us - dah da dee, lah la la...doo doo dee dah...”, on planes when you are waiting to take off, in offices and factories; it's even creeping in to news programmes on the tele to underscore the drama of the events - like the piano music in the age of silent films – as if we are all so totally and utterly disconnected emotionally from our fellow humans that we need the music to make us understand if the news is good or bad, hellishly shocking or heart-warmingly uplifting.
Well, I can't abide it. As far as I'm concerned you either sit down and listen to your music or you don't have it on at all!!(I am aware, by the way, that this is an extreme view!)
Joggers, cyclists, commuters, they all have their audio receptors plugged in to some insidious little device which goes on pumping sounds into their brains, squeezing out their thoughts and giving them all that uniform vacant, zombie look.
And just what is this background music for??? I assume it is to relieve whatever monotony a task or journey or whatever may entail by filling in the space in your brain where you might otherwise run the risk of being forced to think about something.
Monotony = boredom = today's most incredibly uncool situation.
But, could it be that monotony or the performance of repetitive menial tasks might free up some space in your brain for some bursts of creativity?
I think I first noticed that this could be the case during a tedious summer job in a bakery when I was a student. I was a dough turner-overer...basically, dough was extruded into baking tins on a conveyor belt by some mysterious dough extruding machine above my head and I had to make sure the “seam” (bakers out there will surely roll their eyes and mutter the correct term to themselves) was facing upwards so that the loaf would bake with a crusty split at the top. That was it...an eight hour shift of checking squidges of dough as they rumbled by. Tedious beyond belief but highly automatic and it left my brain with enormous freedom to go where it wanted...writing songs, composing letters, stories – these days possibly blog posts. With no one near me to distract me with idle chat and with the constant noise of the machine drowning out any piped music there might have been, it was possible to drift off into something like a meditative state. I also experience this on long drives in the car – the radio firmly OFF of course. And on camping holidays, the walk to the washing up facilities with a bowl of plastic plates and then the washing up itself was also a chance to be alone and undisturbed for a while...
And lo and behold, the monotony becomes a feature.
Give people a dishwasher and they moan about having to fill it up or empty it, but give them a bowl, some hot water, a dollop of fairy liquid and a stack of dirty dishes and you might put them on the road to meditation - the Zen of washing up by hand.
As I said, I can derive great pleasure from washing up, as long as I only have to do it now and Zen.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I said something like, "oh, good, where are you playing?"
She replied in that tone which daughters seem to reserve exclusively for their slow-witted dads, "No, daddy, enGAGed!!"
"Ah, enGAGed, ok, erm, that's great... isn't it?"
Well, it turned out that it was great - she was delighted - her boyfriend/fianc´e, let's call him Dave, had proposed to her all correct and proper as they had got off the tram on their way home.
He's a good lad; I knew him before he started going out with Nick which means that there is now a sort of two-level relationship between us, the one a kind of standard bloke-bloke relationship and the other a sort of relationship via Nick, he being her boyfriend and me being her father (for me a much more nebulous thing because I don't really know yet how it functions).
Anyway, Dave is from New Zealand and at the moment is over there visiting people - so when I awoke the other morning and heard there had been a pretty serious earthquake over there, I contacted Nick to find out if he was ok. Fortunately he was, but this led me on to thinking that he had obviously now crossed a strange psychological border whereby my subconscious had put him on my priority list of people-to-worry-about!
Had I been asked before I would have said that an individual becomes part of another family through some sort of official ritual, such as adoption, engagement or marriage or weird native American blood-sharing ceremonies or whatever (glad it's not the latter) but clearly there are other subtle, surreptitious and quite unconscious forces afoot.
So, Dave, welcome to being worried about!