Notepad on Life

May 18, 2016

Etiquette of death rises scarily from the ashes

Filed under: death,Family — - @ 9:54 am
Tags: , , , ,

While it would be wrong to call it a good-news story, it is at least comforting to hear from my sister that, as and when the time comes, our mother’s funeral is all but paid for.

Turns out that there’s some sort of advance payment scheme – mortality’s version of the Christmas club – whereby the undertaker trades off the benefit of money up front against the risk of prices rising unforeseeably sharply between now and the dreaded day. It felt unseemly to press for the full details.

Had only the phone line itself gone dead at that point, but no, I then learn that the interment of Dad’s ashes at the local cemetery brought with it the right for family members’ ashes to join him there at a later date, so he and Mam will lie together. “And I’m going there too,” my sister adds.

So that will be the three of them together forever, while my ashes (if I can’t retire to Ireland, my remains will) frolic in the breeze along the Cliffs of Moher, a mere 500 miles away. My sister would probably regard this as symbolic.

I am desolate at the odd-one-out scenario, which has arrived out of the blue like an express train from the fog. It is a mixture of guilt and sadness, tinged with anger that I am only just addressing the issue now. Yet who thinks of this stuff when they are 20, 30 or 40? Who amongst men, at any rate? Just as we begin Christmas shopping on December 24th, so it is consistent that death’s niceties fall to be considered only when we find ourselves at the gateway to life’s final decade or so.

Burial of any kind would be out of the question, as it happens, my claustrophobia having been childishly invested with the same immortality as my yearning for Ireland, but the spectre of permanent separation still hovers, even if non-believers and believers alike would chide me for it. You’re dead, nothing matters, or you have moved onto a place where 500 miles is what’s known as a footstep. And how many miles separate some of those white crosses in French fields and the graves of those who loved what lies beneath? Does that distance diminish what they had?

As I often do, I try putting myself on the receiving end. Were my children to intimate that their final resting place of choice would be on the other side of the world from Co. Clare’s famous cliffs, would I be heartbroken? No, because it would take nothing away from what went before and I would also consider there to be a certain glamour to our global reach in death.

I will probably stick with the plan, but it’s not resting in as much peace as it has been. 

March 29, 2014

Remembering Dad. And his hay fever

Filed under: Family,Health,Nostalgia — - @ 10:17 am

It’s always nice to be reminded of your late father.

Not quite so nice when it’s courtesy of a plumber hawking phlegm like there’s no tomorrow.

Oh well, we must take our nostalgia where we find it.

March 27, 2014

It’s a cliche because it’s true, y’all

Filed under: Family,foreign,Travel — - @ 8:42 am
List of numbered highways in South Carolina

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two colleagues are chatting as I approach the coffee machine at work. Man 1 is relaying the itinerary of his approaching holiday to the USA.

MAN 1: “…and then we’re off to see some of her relatives in redneck country – South Carolina, where there will no doubt be many firearms on display…”

MAN 2: [Laughs, then suddenly stops] “You’re not joking, are you?”

MAN 1: “No: there’s a bunch of assault rifles they want me to see, apparently”

MAN 2: “Are you taking the kids?”

MAN 1: “Not to that, no.”



March 25, 2014

Wedding plans, rural-style…

Filed under: Family,Relationships,Women — - @ 9:00 am

She was sat across the aisle, discussing her impending marriage, on a Norfolk-bound bus out of Peterborough. In the way of so many in this mobile phone age, she seemed of the opinion that it’s still your private life if the only people over-hearing all about it are complete strangers…

“I don’t want Carl there, Matt. I’ve explained it to Nan; I don’t mind his family being there but I really don’t want Carl.

“It’s not fair on Kim, it’s not fair on the kids and I don’t want to have to spend the whole day waiting for him to thump somebody…”

“Invite him,” I wanted to blurt out.

And then invite me. Sounds like it could be a blast.

August 23, 2013

How many more times will you see your parents alive?

Filed under: Family,Health,Old People — - @ 9:00 am
Tags: ,

Focuses the mind, that question, doesn’t it?

Especially now that it can be empirically assessed.

I would say, ‘enjoy’, except I’m not sure it’s the right word.

August 19, 2013

God v Mammon – fight stopped round 3…

Filed under: Church,crime,Family,Kids — - @ 9:00 am

Not even a month into the school summer holidays and kids offended by claims that they don’t know what to do with themselves the minute you take their Xbox away, decide to prove that they do.


July 24, 2013

Old spice of new life

Filed under: Appearance,Family,Kids,Nostalgia — - @ 8:35 am
Tags: ,

Older Son heads out of the door for some beers with his friends.

He’s always been a bit retro but his sudden fondness for Old Spice cologne is startling even by his standards. But then, if you weren’t around in its heyday, can you actually be accused of being behind the times? Who can urge him to move on, when he was never there to start with?

I’m glad he doesn’t ask me how he smells, all the same. I’m not sure “Like 1976” would have gone down too well.


February 27, 2013

‘Bad school’ fears expose some not-so-great parents

Filed under: Education,Family,Kids — - @ 6:41 am

I’m not oblivious to the fact that it tells us something very damning about our education system but I wonder if, amid all the lying and cheating that parents are now doing to get their kids into good schools, the irony of their position ever occurs to them.

“Data obtained using freedom of information requests showed they were being caught using false addresses, pretending to be Roman Catholic, lying about siblings and even impersonating family members in an attempt to secure places.”

So there you are, pulling any stunt going to secure the best possible education for your children and in doing so, you teach them a lesson that is as bad for them as it is for the Society in which they will grow up – that rules are for other people. Or should they ever ask how they ended up at that particular school, do you just lie to them as well?

December 20, 2012

Game for a laugh – how gaming icons die

Filed under: Family,Kids — - @ 6:44 am

One of those comments that puts everything into instant, stark perspective:

“The worlds greatest gamer didn’t show up for the biggest online tournament of the year at the weekend,” geekish Older Son announces.

“Why was that?” asks his not-that-bothered Father.

“His mum and dad said he’s been spending too much time on the computer…”

Bursting bubbles. It’s what parents are for.

September 12, 2012

Paternity leave – odd as it sounds, gentlemen, you need to grow a pair…

Filed under: Family,Kids — - @ 8:57 am
Pfc. Tierrine Wesley holds his 7-month-old son...

Pfc. Tierrine Wesley holds his 7-month-old son for only the second time following his unit’s welcome home ceremony at Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii. Soldiers on deployment when their child is born are allotted up to 10 days of paternity leave that must be used within 60 days of returning home. See more at New Soldier-dads get administrative leave, Army says (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These things tend to fly off your radar when they don’t personally affect you, so forgive me if I’m a little late to the party in discovering only while driving home last night that a man can claim up to 28 weeks off work for paternity leave, on almost full pay.

I nearly crashed the car. Rare are the times that you will find this blog sympathetic to Big Business but next time I hear its spokesmen complaining about over-regulation, I shall no longer be so quick to put it down to rampant self-interest.

Only if this is some over-reaction to the modern commercial tendency for people to be worked like dogs does it begin to have any shred of credibility. Increasingly elastic working hours, Sunday working, Bank Holiday working – there’s a debate to be had there all right but SEVEN MONTHS…?!

I’d wind up in a rut I might never climb out of, were I to have half-a-year off work. Besides, I do think this ‘bonding’ thing is  overstated and somewhat symptomatic of a country gone soft. You’ve got the best part of two decades to interact with the little blighters before they leave home and if you think they’re fascinating now, wait ’til they start talking politics and ambitions with you, bringing stunning young women home or taking you out for a beer.

I went paintballing with my two at the weekend. We laughed together, ran about like mad things together and got shot together, by each other wherever possible. Great as the early days are, I would take that particular fathering experience over a whole week of aimlessly shaking fluffy toys above a cot with a vacuous grin on my face. To behold developing intellect and sharpening wit in your own flesh and blood is humbling and exhilarating in equal measure. Those first six months, in comparison; well, you’re basically a glorified zookeeper.

And all the while, our Armed Forces are out there firing guns for real, implementing the half-baked folly of politicians, while their own kids sweat it out for weeks on end, learning to hate the ring of a telephone. Do you really want to shrivel up in shame next time you find yourself drinking alongside men in uniform or are you comfortable with the idea of being a bit pathetic?

Six weeks. Tops. Come on, guys, man up.

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