Saturday, 7 July 2012

Four score years and sixteen

A week and a day ago I was at a motorway service station, of all places, when I got a call from my mother, who told me in plain and simple terms that my grandmother had died.

I wasn't particularly expecting such news, yet in some ways I've been preparing for it - consciously and otherwise - for some years. She was a stubborn old thing, how she clung on to life and retained some ferocity of spirit which shone through in her last years perhaps because of, rather than despite, the compromises to her independence, her health and her clarity of thought.

I don't feel sad, as such, that she's died. 96 is a fine age and, I think, it's a fine achievement in life for anyone to have lived in their own house and manage most of their affairs (regularly catching the bus to go to the shops several miles away) up until the beginning of their tenth decade.

Sadness and grief, whilst they overlap in significant ways at particular times, aren't entirely the same thing, though. I believe I've been carrying the grief around with me, relatively lightly these last few days, but that it may gain greater potency over time. Perhaps finding an outlet next week at the funeral. I'm not sure how much that grief is about the death of someone whose time had very much come, and how much it relates to those of us remaining in our family. Precious few of us, and my mother having to manage more assaults on her health than I would wish anyone to ever bear.

Still, I think my grandmother has been passing for the last 3 years, at least. I hadn't seen her for a while, but she would no longer recognise me anyway: in her mind she now almost exclusively was situated in a time anywhere between 30 and 50 years before I was born. The unfamiliarity of her surroundings in these last couple of years - though in the village she had always lived - gave her a sense of disorientation on a daily basis.

Yet it's perhaps during one of her frailest times that I have my favourite memory of her. Looking impossibly tiny and lost in a hospital ward late in 2009 after a severe bout of double-pneumonia (the decisive blow to her health that meant she could never return home again), she was yet full of life when she was helped to sit up in her bed, and her only talk was of getting out and going home: the nurse told us that she'd actually been writing notes and passing them to other people on the ward asking if they wanted to plan to escape with her.

At that point, she was 94. I'd consider it an achievement to get anywhere near that age, let alone show such grit and determination.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Two Links

Compare and contrast...

The Coalition's Programme For Government: Civil Liberties

Sample quote: "We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason."

Today's front-page headlines

Sample quote: "The government is to offer a blank cheque to internet and phone firms that will be required to track everyone's email, Twitter, Facebook and other internet use under legislation to be published on Thursday."

Thursday, 3 May 2012


Today is one of those rare days in which I do something which makes me feel like a proper grown-up. I went to the local polling booth and voted in the local elections.

I have my doubts about just how democratic the process is anymore (a discussion for another post, maybe), but nonetheless that feeling is dwarfed by the sense of importance attached to voting itself. It's a hard-fought-for right, after all, and we're seeing enough of those being eroded (legal aid for those on welfare benefits; a health service free at the point of use thanks to NI contributions, etc) by the smash-and-grab tactics of the coalition government.

I'm well aware of the difference between local elections and the general election, yet it's hard not to want to vote according to my view of the political situation nationally.

So I looked at the ballot paper.

Conservative? Never. Never have, never will. I couldn't ever, and my levels of sheer disgust at Conservative policy - their attacks on the poor and less fortunate, their elevation of monetary value above that of society, their use of austerity as an ideological lever - are higher than they've ever been.

Lib Dem? Before the last general election, they seemed like one of the few remotely credible choices. Untainted by any association with the recent interventionist policies (i.e. wars) of the last decade or so - but then, untainted by any association with office. Seemingly left of centre, and certainly left of New Labour. Obviously since the election it's been a totally different story and they are forever tainted as the enablers in the coalition government, over and above any restraints they claim to have brought to bear on the Conservatives.

Labour? No. See above in terms of interventionist policies. Also, I always considered myself a "natural" Labour voter, if not necessarily a tribal one. Left of centre, from a working class background, and hence feeling all the more betrayed by the last Labour administration in its abandonment of the working classes and social democratic principles to the extent that so many of their policies are barely distinguishable from those of the Conservative.

UKIP? Don't make me laugh.

Any others on the ballot paper I confess to remaining ignorant of, and therefore don't consider it a good use of my vote.

So, for the first time in my life, I spoiled the ballot paper. I'd rather not have, but I didn't feel I had any choice. Again, what the respective parties offer on a local level does not do enough to deviate from my thoughts about them in principle and I couldn't vote for a local candidate if I have such strong feelings about their party on a national level.

So today I rendered my vote invalid, as an expression of my sheer disgust. I'm not happy about it, but I felt I had no alternative.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Misreading the signs

I had to make a sudden and unexpected journey yesterday. As I did so I saw a sign next to a building plot, which I read as

Open Sausage Land

Conjures up some strange images, certainly. The actual wording was, as you might expect, much less interesting - "open storage land".

I've also started reading the book by Caroline Smailes that I mentioned in the previous post. I had a certain amount of trepidation as I began reading 99 Reasons Why yesterday - not due to anything about the book itself, might I add. Just that the last couple of times I read her novels, I had to put them down and return to them at a much later date since they coincided with some rather challenging times that I was facing. So yesterday, as I travelled across the country to visit a loved one who'd had a sudden admission to hospital, I wondered, "what could possibly happen this time?"

Monday, 19 March 2012

99 Reasons Why

I had great fun, a couple of years ago, hosting a chapter of Like Bees To Honey, a rather fabulous novel by author and fellow blogger Caroline Smailes. As part of its launch, each chapter was hosted online by a different blog site, so if you wished you could read the novel in its entirety by skipping from one site to another. I strongly recommend that you do get yourself a copy and read it.

Now, I gather that Caroline has been creating a bit of a stir with her new novel, 99 Reasons Why, published today. I'm pleased, once again, to be hosting some of her words to mark the occasion. However, before I go any further, I should add a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert - the ending to 99 Reasons Why is contained in this blog post. 

Or rather, an ending. There are actually several, all different, of which the text further below is just one. Basically, 99 Reasons Why is being published as an ebook (in Kindle and iBook editions), and actually has nine possible outcomes which are navigable by your e-reader. There are two further endings to be found (along with lots of other background information on how she came to write the book, and the resultant publicity) via Caroline's own site.

I should add that it's delightfully odd to be doing this, given that I've managed to avoid any details of the content of the book so far (I'm waiting until I read it). Still, without any further ado, here it is. I hope it whets your appetite.

99: the reason why I was only worth ninety-nine quid
It’s been six days since the little girl in the pink coat went missing and me Uncle Phil’s in me bedroom.

We’ve been watching the little girl in the pink coat’s mam on the news. She was appealing to the public for witnesses.

‘Didn’t realise she had a mam,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Everyone’s got a mam, pet,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘She sold her story to The Sun,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Got a few quid,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘She wanted nowt to do with that bairn before all this,’ me Uncle Phil says, looking at me telly.

‘Do you know where she is?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Belle?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘She’s safe,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘Your mam’s keeping an eye on her.’

‘Can I be her mam?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘No, pet, you’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Can you make Andy Douglas come back, Uncle Phil?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

Me Uncle Phil shakes his head.

‘I love him,’ I tell me Uncle Phil.

‘Andy Douglas is your brother, pet. You didn’t seriously think Princess Di was your mam, did you?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘You’re a cradle snatcher just like your mam,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Your mam miscarried when she found out I’d been banging Betty Douglas. Betty was expecting you,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

‘When you was born, your mam went mad and I ended up buying you from Betty Douglas for ninety-nine quid,’ me Uncle Phil says.

‘Ninety-nine quid?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘I paid a hundred but got a quid change for some chips for your mam and dad’s tea,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You bought me?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

I’m a little bit sick in me mouth.

‘It was the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘I got Betty Douglas pregnant straight away with Andy.’

‘I’m pregnant,’ I says to me Uncle Phil. ‘I’m pregnant with me brother’s baby,’ I says, and then I throws up on me purple carpet.

‘You’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘What am I going to do?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘You’re going to have the baby,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘Have me brother’s baby?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Then I’m giving it to Betty Douglas to bring up,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You what?’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘I can’t—’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s either that or I’ll make you disappear,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

I’m thinking, they’re all a bunch of nutters.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

In a China Shop

So the coalition Government walks into a china shop, armed with a big bag full of padding, and a baseball bat. They wander the shop carefully, with much scrutiny, and after a while they take the best vases, bowls, crockery etc from each section, and keep them for themselves. Despite the fact that these items are supposed to be available to the public, and despite the fact that the government never said they would take the best bits and keep them. They put them in their bag carefully, to be taken to be sold off to their mates who will sell them at a much inflated price.

They then look at the now-depleted selection of China on display - there's not a huge amount left. Taking the baseball bat, they gleefully and systematically smash the rest of the goods into tiny pieces.

"What are you complaining for? There are now more pieces of China for everybody."

Sunday, 11 March 2012


I've been away, and am in the process of adjusting to being back. Only a week or so away, and yet the normal, everyday stuff still seems odd, somehow secondary. Especially when compared to being cocooned in an atmospheric place such as the one above: places where life feels slow, and yet time passes so very quickly.

Just saying.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

On bodily fluids

I was in very pleasant company today, and circumstances were solicitous to me telling this story. I'm glad to have revisited it actually: I love the expression on people's faces when I tell them about someone asking me "what's your favourite piss?" - sheer, initial incomprehension, followed later by curiosity, then the acceptance of what was a very odd situation. Finally, said company being able if not downright eager to supply me with their own answers to the same question...the beauty being the narrative arc which ensues.

No, that won't make any sense whatsoever unless you read the story I've linked to. Sorry. For what it's worth, I think it's one of the better pieces of writing that I've done, and one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place was because I wanted to recount this tale.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

In anger

I cannot believe what the government of this country are doing, and for which they have no mandate. If, as is often said, you can judge a society on how they treat the most vulnerable, then our society is currently failing very, very badly. 

It's not just the government, in fact - sections of the media are essentially acting, as one might expect, as the government's propagandists. Yet when a right-wing, normally pro-(conservative) government paper like the Daily Mail publishes articles like this, it shows just how far - and rapidly - we've travelled in a very worrying direction.

I know I don't often speak out on here about political issues, but increasingly over recent weeks and months I've had a growing sense of unease, which is now developing into rage and despair. We ignore issues like this at our peril. Legislation like this doesn't affect me, you might say, since I don't have a disability. No I'm not disabled, but it's hardly a stretch of the imagination to consider that I might be at some point in the future. I hope not, of course, but if I were I would hope to be treated with a basic level of decency and understanding. At the moment, that appears to be too much to ask.

Combined with the ever-more-punitive treatment of anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves out of work (thankfully, some of which is starting to get the response it deserves), it appears that there is a concerted attempt to change attitudes. It would be wrong-headed to say that because someone has a disability, they have a problem - however what's even worse is reaching a state of affairs in which if someone has a disability, they are seen to be a problem.

How did we get here, and how is this even considered to be acceptable?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Misreading the signs

Shitting blood when you brush your teeth?

They must be making toothbrushes much sturdier these days, if that's the case. 

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Friday, 27 January 2012

Misreading the signs

Misread at the main office at work today:

Please mock before you enter

(there, that one's rather more straightforward, no?)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Contains swearing

Here is one of a number of very sweary but amazing rants delivered in fine style by a guy who has posted a whole series of them up on youtube. Kind of an unfettered "thought for the day" delivered by an angry taxi driver.

They're incredibly entertaining and of every one of them I've watched so far, I've barely disagreed with a single word.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Misreading the signs

Soviet Toilet Tissue

I'm sure I don't need to tell you what it actually reads as - it's hardly rocket science (whether of the Soyuz variety or otherwise).

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A Polite Request

I know I haven't been the most sociable blogger these last few months, and apart from my posts being few and far between, I haven't exactly been active in terms of replying to comments or visiting other people's blogs (still, I greatly appreciate that people still stop by here and leave comments - thank you). Life has just had different things which I've needed to focus on.

Well it may, as a result, sound a bit rich for me to request that you go and read a blog post that I'm linking to - but I'm requesting it all the same. It isn't about me. It's posted on the excellent - and increasingly crucial - Diary Of A Benefit Scrounger blog. I just think that it, and other posts on that site, need to be read. I feel very strongly about this stuff, but such posts say it far better than I ever could.

Please, would you? Thanks, in anticipation.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012