Posts Tagged ‘sons’

Well, it’s kind of late. I’m still thinking of it as Friday night, but it’s really Saturday morning, but at least the house is finally quiet and I can get some thoughts down on paper at last, for whatever they’re worth. And what are they worth? I don’t know, let’s see:

September will be turning to October soon, perhaps the most significant point in the year, I think; the autumnal equinox, leaves crisping, Persephone bound for the underworld, Christmas crackers appearing in the shops, and the evenings drawing in. A switch from light to dark – no sense in fighting it. Relax. Let it in. What else? Ah, yes: I’m still battling with a leaking conservatory roof, drip dripping into a strategically placed bucket at the moment, and it’s noticeable how little time there is from arriving home from the day job, midweek, to the sinking of the sun, which leaves precious  little opportunity for outdoor DIY like that. I managed to squirt some gutter sealant into a suspicious joint last night, rather hastily, but this stuff never works, and I’m thinking I need some rubber paint now, to be liberally applied at the interface between the aluminium down-channel and the plastic gutter, where all the original sealant is now flaking away. But that’ll have to wait until tomorrow – I mean later on today. For indoor DIY, there’s always the bathroom lights I could be getting on with, half of which are out, following a wiring fault, a blown transformer and a near fire in the attic back in the spring. Normally I’d’ve tackled that one months ago but it seems to have been an unrelentingly busy year, and also age seems rather surprisingly to bring with it a waning of confidence, rather than the reverse, or is it a decline in my natural energy levels? Perversely I’m reluctant to call out a £50 per hour pontificating electrician to do a job I know I can do perfectly well myself, and all within the stringent requirements of the IET wiring regulations (Part P) thank you very much, because I’m a time served engineer, dammit, and can supposedly tackle anything,  but it doesn’t alter the fact we’ve been managing on three down-lighters instead of six all year.

Anyway, as regards my energy levels, they’re currently very good, at least according to Doc Lin this afternoon and she should know, being an officially certified practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as being an all round very nice lady, and all right probably a very good business woman to boot. I’d just emerged from an hour of acupuncture and massage at her tender mercies, and I have to admit, as I floated down to the coffee shop on Market Street, I was feeling rather good, but then acupuncture and Chinese massage always does that to me. I’ve been seeing Doc Lin for about six weeks now – hoping she can fix my sense of smell, or rather the lack of it. So far, however, Asnomia still rules.

Try smelling something strong, she says. You mean like coffee, or something? Doc Lin thinks coffee isn’t strong enough to register with my atrophied nasal nerves. How about wife’s perfume, she says. Good thinking, thinks I, to be caught by number two son later on, twisting the tops of all the bottles on my wife’s dressing table, and snorting at them eagerly,.. nothing. Damn! Erm,… hi there, spud. I can explain.

But that was later, after the coffee shop, where I sat a while and enjoyed that delicious post acupuncture feeling. I don’t care if my sense of smell doesn’t come back, so long as I can go on feeling as good as this, if only for an hour a week after Doc Lin’s administrations (except for those pins in the side of my nose which feel like six inch nails when they’re going in) Anyway, apart from that they should make this stuff compulsory. It’s dodgy thinking that causes all the worlds’ problems, says Krishnamurti, and who am I to argue, but an hour of acupuncture and massage makes you think good things, makes you think all is right with the world, makes you content with its untidiness, and your equally untidy, ambiguous position within it. It makes you feel indestructible. And even if you’re not indestructible it makes you feel like you don’t care. And anyway, it’s Friday evening and all is right with the world!

So, I’m sitting in the coffee shop – with an Americano and piece of fruit cake – how urbane I’m becoming? I think not. Beyond the windows there’s the bustle of the town, all umberella’d and hurried under a sudden shower. I love my quiet northern market towns – running always slightly to seed, but somehow managing to hang on. Indestructible we are!

Now, it might be my imagination but I have the impression people look at me strangely when I step out of the acupuncture clinic. Like I said, the coffee shop is usually my first port of call, and the waitress looked at me last week as if George Clooney had just stepped into the joint. I looked around, puzzled. Nope, it’s definitely me she’s looking at, I thought. Has Doc Lin left a pin sticking out of my nose? Is one my acupuncture points still dribbling a little after she took the pins out? Are my flies open? Weird. Or maybe I just look better when I feel better?

Anyway, I’m sitting there with my Americano and my half eaten piece of fruit cake, and I’m looking at my fellow customers out the corner of my eye, and something strikes me. Those who are coupled up are talking. Those who are alone are all of them fiddling with their ‘phones. Except me, I’m thinking, smugly. Why do people have to fiddlew ith their ‘phones all the time. Switch the damned things off, relax, enjoy your coffee. Breathe. But then I notice my ‘phone on the table where I’ve just put it after texting home to number one son. Damn! Pins out, enjoying coffee, all quiet there?

There are changes coming. Number one son is off to university next weekend. I’m secretly dreading his going, dreading my tears when I leave him there. Life is so strange, so fleeting. Five minutes (Eighteen years) ago, he was a small blue baby – sticky, sleepy, glue eyed,.. thrust into my care while the surgeons stitched his mother back together, and I felt the first searing shock of an unconditional love – a grown man of thirty four realising at last there are some things, some people, you would die for without question.

He’s brought me much joy, shall continue to do so, and I shall miss him.

Anyway, that’s enough thinking for now.

I’m off to bed.

Good night all.

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I’m sorry to say I’ve been pulled over by the police for speeding. One minute I was cruising along – in a bit of a daze, it has to be said – and the next thing I was sitting in a five series Beamer cop-car while the nice officer printed out my yard long yellow ticket of shame. After 34 years of motoring, my license is now besmirched with three skull and cross-bones (endorsements). There was also a sixty pound fine. The fine is neither here nor there, but those endorsements are going to haunt me for the next five years.

Altogether then, a bit of a bad day?

Well, yes, indeed a bad month so far really, but not on account of that traffic violation. After all, there are worse losses at sea, as my mother used to say. Strange, that use of the past tense – I’m still getting used it.

The stretch of road I was travelling is one I drive every day and it’s always had a forty limit. In recent weeks though, a two hundred yard stretch of it has been lowered to thirty. It sounds lame, but I really hadn’t noticed the new signs. It’s called “change blindness”, honest. So even when the cop-car settled on my tail, I felt safe, making sure the speedometer was reading a little under forty. The cars in front of me got away with it. I got the flashing blue lights and the humiliation of a very public pull over.


It’s no excuse of course, that my head was in a different place. I should have seen those thirty MPH signs, which are as plain as day now, and if I was really so distracted by my mother’s death, then I shouldn’t have been driving in the first place, should I? But at least I know it’s a thirty limit now. And I promise to be more careful, officer, in the future.

My sons thought it was ironic. They say I’m the slowest driver in the world and something of an embarrassment. Maybe my credibility has gone up a little now? Number two son was the most comforting, telling me I’d done well to reach my fifties without acquiring some kind of motoring violation. I suppose he’s right. My good lady also told me it was better to be philosophical about it than beating myself over the head. No use resisting it Michael. Remember that one? There are bigger things to deal with here – so get over it!

Resist it? No, I didn’t resist it. At least I tried not to. I tried to let it wash on through because I was conscious of being in a fragile state and I could do without the extra damage. So what did I feel, sitting there in that cop-car, while the man went through his “booking the motorist” script? Well, I felt very little, because only a small part of me was actually there.

Some of me was still sitting with the Reverend Deacon, attached to the local Catholic church, just an hour earlier, who, after a long and emotionally moving chat about my mother, had raised his hand, and the Good Book, and offered me his blessing. I’m not a Catholic, not much of anything with a label these days, and my mother, raised a Catholic, was severely lapsed to the tune of fifty years or so – though the Reverend Deacon politely and charmingly disputed there was such a thing as a lapsed Catholic.

Anyway, I didn’t really feel qualified to be receiving that blessing, but I was grateful for it all the same, thinking I could probably use the help. But to be pulled over by the cops an hour later? Well,… surely the Lord moves in mysterious ways?

Another part of me was standing in the chapel of rest at the funeral home, the day before. I’d not really been able to associate the deceased person before me with my mother, but she had at least looked peaceful, and though I’d known the effect was entirely cosmetic, it had helped to soften the memory of the last time I’d seen her, the day when in some distress, she’d passed away.

And of course, another part of me, perhaps the most significant part, was still there that day, at her bedside, bearing witness to her passing, while praying to a god I’d no idea I could be so familiar with. For good measure I’d also prayed, Chinese style, to the ancestors, calling them back from across as many generations as I could remember, to lend a hand, because in a situation like that you need all the spiritual support you can get, whether you believe in that sort of thing or not.

I have the feeling they didn’t let us down. I have the feeling that  in our darkest hour I crossed a threshold into the most extraordinary metaphysical realm and felt myself carried aloft, embraced by the loving arms of an ancestry I’d never dared trust, until that moment, to be real .

So,… there was the cop, a big chap, blank faced, broken nosed, in a nicely pressed shirt, but curiously grubby trousers, and he was telling me I’d have to take my licence in to the cop-shop within the next seven days. And there I was, making a mental calculation, wondering if I could fit that in with everything else that was going on – like the small matter of my mother’s funeral, and appointments with solicitors, and a million other pressing post mortem details. And I wondered briefly about saying to him: look, cut me some slack will you?

He might have made some sympathetic noises, I suppose, but I’m not sure how much power of discretion these guys have once the details of your misdemeanour have been punched into the big-brother machine, and anyway it seemed – I don’t know – undignified, I suppose. So I said nothing and took the ticket. And my mother would not have wanted me to be a cry-baby about it anyway.

I do not like the way policemen say “sir”. It’s better than being called something impolite, I suppose, but there’s always something false about it. This policeman’s sir came at me cold, impersonal and slightly weary. It reminded me of the cold, impersonal and slightly weary hospital doctor who, two weeks before, had discharged my mother at dead of night, in obvious pain, and unable to stand unaided – sent her home to die because there was nothing more he could do for her, and he needed that bed for someone he had more of a chance of helping than an eighty three year old geriatric with advanced terminal cancer, who might have lingered in his ward for weeks.

How many more of you are out there, tonight in that situation, you poor souls? My thoughts are with you.

So, I’d driven her home in shocked horror at the withdrawal of my nation’s compassion, a compassion apparently metered by the scalpel of economic expediency, and an ongoing political disaster piloted by opportunist powerbrokers, oblivious to the small lives who make up the conscious and moral majority of the people they claim to serve.

It was a short sharp lesson in contemporary reality, that although our professional public servants still do their very best, they’ve also got this unspeakable army of amoral bean-counters on their backs. So it’s unwise to rely on them to be there at your hour of greatest need – at least not in any truly meaningful sense. For that you’re going to need the presence of those who love you, also if you can arrange it, the loving presence of your god and, with still more luck, a blessed over-pressed and underpaid community nurse with a vial of Diamorphine, ready to send you off into your dreams.

Your ego caves in, absolutely, at times like these. It realises resistance is futile, that for all it’s huffing and puffing, it’s pathetic self importance is no more than a teardrop in the ocean. And when the ego finally shuts the fuck up, you discover what’s left is, perhaps incredibly,  a stillness, and a loving peace like no other.

So even though I was sitting in a cop car, accused of an indictable offence, as the officer ominously put it, and being handed a speeding ticket, feeling it punctuating insensitively, as it did, one of the most emotionally sensitive periods of my life, I found it hard to take him seriously. Instead I felt an incongruous, yet also a very real loving presence. It held together the various bits of me that were still strung out and floundering in the wake of dark events those past weeks, the likes of which I can never speak of in full, and it was telling me to be calm, to be mindful, but above all to stop struggling. Because a rabbit caught in a snare basically strangles itself to death because its instinct is to struggle, and it lacks the insight to pursue any other course. If we can stop struggling, however, we stand a chance of untangling ourselves from the myriad snares of the world. We survive, and we discover a better way to be.

I’m not sure if smiling at a policeman is a good idea, for they are unpredictable creatures, but I found myself smiling at him anyway. I heard myself telling him it was no problem, that I should have been paying more attention. I think I even made some lame joke about it being a fair-cop. He did not smile back. He thanked me for my time in a tone of voice that implied no gratitude at all, and he dismissed me curtly with yet one more policeman’s  cutting “sir”. Then he swung that fat five-series-Beamer round and headed back to his hunter’s lair with his radar gun, ready to blow a hole in someone else’s day.

I like to think I dismissed his sickly presence from my life as quickly as he dismissed me. He was just a man doing his job, and it would have been churlish to wish him any bad Karma on account of it, but I trust he had slim pickings from the day he pulled me over.

We said our final goodbyes to my mother on April 12th. The Reverend Deacon did a splendid job, memorable and intensely moving, and I took comfort in commending her into the care of a faith she had once sworn an allegiance to. If I made a mistake in any of that, I hope you can forgive me Mum, but what we did was done with love, respect, and an appreciation for the life you lived, for us. Your children.

On the way home from the crematorium I sat in a black Rolls Royce, cruising along rural lanes I’d known since childhood, and the funeral director became chatty, talking about many things – the lovely spring sunshine, the bluebells, and the first dandelions making their appearance in the wayside green. Death and renewal – a curious juxtaposition, but a comforting one. He also talked about the speed limit, and how I’d do well to pay attention to a certain stretch of road that’s recently become notorious as one of the worst speed traps in Lancashire.

“Ah, yes,” I said. “I think I know the one you mean.”

Thanks for listening.

God bless you, Mum.

Graeme out.

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