TTFN

I suppose some of you regulars may have started to wonder where I’d gone. The brutal truth is I just can’t write at the moment. I’m only pushing myself to write this because I feel I owe you for your loyalty over the past couple of years. This week, I experienced a bereavement that has utterly numbed me and completely killed the urge to compose. I can’t offer any sort of take on the remaining weeks of this vile, wretched year and the last thing I can face right now is the thought of having to relive it by reviewing it. Even if I tried, the end result would be so bilious and bleak that it’d make the last-but one post read like a jolly holiday brochure. You may have noticed a more cynical and pessimistic edge creeping into recent posts, anyway; I didn’t want this to become a permanent trend or a defining characteristic of a blog I’ve always tried to enliven with gallows humour as my hand is on my heart and my tongue is in my cheek.

Some might say carrying on regardless by churning out sardonic articles about something in the news every day could serve as a convenient distraction; to be honest, the most time an average post takes to write isn’t much more than a couple of hours, anyway, so it’s not as if the exercise is especially taxing. But if all you feel like doing is raging at the world in a relentless tide of negativity, it would quickly grate with the reader; besides, if that’s what the people are looking for, there’s always Alex Jones’ YT channel.

At the moment, anything I even attempted to write would just be too depressing, too despondent and, frankly, too much – not just for you, but me too. Away from online discourse, I’ve even broken a previously-unbroken habit of 13 years, that of writing a private diary entry every night before bedtime, because I can’t face documenting the day’s events anymore.

I won’t inflict any of this on you, so I’ll be taking a break for a bit. Right now, I definitely doubt I’ll add another post to 2017’s long list, and I can’t say with any degree of accuracy when normal service will be resumed. Bidding good riddance to 2017 implies 2018 will be welcomed with open arms, but I’m certainly not looking forward to 2018 because I simply can’t see it being an improvement on the twelve months we’ve just endured. As far as I’m concerned, it’ll probably be even worse. It’s hard to envisage anything remotely positive up ahead, which does somewhat reduce the likelihood of posts that might put a smile on your face. And I don’t want to dwell on how much I’m hurting because it could easily translate as self-pity, like ‘All By Myself’ on a bloody loop – the Celine Dion cover. Imagine that.

For two years on the Telegram and perhaps around the same amount of time on another (now-defunct) blog that I reckon most of you here can recall, I’ve been a busy bee and haven’t paused to catch my breath for more than two or three days at a time. In the end, I may find that two or three days more than that away from the blog might rekindle the compulsion to pick up where I left off and I could be back within a week; but I don’t feel that way today. I feel burnt out. Maybe a longer sabbatical than I’ve so far taken really will help to recharge my jaded batteries. Who knows? I’m not intending to call it a day completely. Even though it has brought me zilch financial riches, writing’s all I can really do and I generally can’t stop myself from doing it. With that in mind, I suppose it’s inevitable I’ll return as long as I feel I’m wanted.

For many, the majority of life is lived in a monochrome Kansas that is made tolerable by brief glimpses of Technicolor Oz. It should be the other way round, but it never seems to be, alas. Kicks in the teeth are commonplace, body blows par for the course. It sucks. And it doesn’t matter how hard you work and how many hours you put in, the rewards are usually conspicuous by their absence. When/if that rare moment of magic called happiness comes along, for God’s sake grab it, cherish it, and always remember just how precious it truly is; never take it for granted; it can be painfully transient, and when it’s gone it’ll rip your heart out.

I don’t think I’ll have another opportunity to say it, but thanks for your constant support, and have a good Christmas if you can. After all, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

© The Editor
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A WORLD WITHOUT SUMMER

The Year Without Summer – that’s what they called 1816. Pre-Industrial Europe was in the middle of recovering from the long, lingering impact of the Napoleonic Wars and was then hit by an agricultural disaster, one that was mirrored across parts of North America and China. In Ireland, failed crops sparked famine; in Germany, they sparked riots. Switzerland slid into a deep-freeze whilst India was plunged into an outbreak of cholera as the period known retrospectively as ‘The Little Ice Age’ climaxed in catastrophic fashion. Most of the blame was laid at the door of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies, a dormant volcano that had suddenly sprung into life after a thousand years with the largest observed eruption in recorded history. Lava continued to sport forth for more than eighteen months, dispersing ash into the atmosphere that caused severe climate change, reducing global temperatures and resulting in upwards of an estimated 10,000 deaths worldwide.

The distorted colours of the sulphuric skies that Tambora’s eruption caused are believed to have inspired the distinctive smudgy shades of JMW Turner’s paintings as well as creating the apocalyptic ambience that provoked 18-year-old Mary Shelley into penning ‘Frankenstein’ when holidaying with Percy Bysshe and Lord Byron on the gloomy fringes of Lake Geneva that non-summer. Whilst such a baleful location may have suited Gothic sensibilities, no doubt there were many who perceived the dramatic alteration in the climate as a sign of God’s displeasure with mankind. Mind you, God generally lets mankind get away with a hell of a lot before he can be arsed intervening.

200 years on from that remarkable climatic event, humble little me wrote a post called ‘Something in the Air’; take a look – it’s still there. In it, I commented on a pessimistic malaise that seemed to have settled upon the world, something that was manifested via a variety of dismal news stories, the impact of which was possibly exacerbated by the instant ping of social media. Coupled with very personal crises friends of mine were simultaneously undergoing at the time of writing, it felt as though the external and internal were bleeding into one overwhelming weight on the shoulders of numerous generations inhabiting the here and now. A year or so on from that particular post, it would be nice to come to the conclusion that this was a piece of reportage chronicling a moment of madness, a missive from the dark that preceded a dawn we happily reside in as 2017 careers towards its climax. Oops!

In a couple of days, this blog will have been in existence for two years. As a writer, I couldn’t have wished for more eventful times to have been documenting on a near-daily basis. Since the inaugural post on 6 December 2015, I’ve been able to comment upon the rise of Donald Trump and the Alt-Right as well as his loud opponents on the left and those in North Korea. When I began, we were barely six months into a Conservative Government released from the constricting shackles of Coalition, yet six months into the blog David Cameron had lost an ill-advised gamble (and his job) by leading the country into a chaotic state of uncertainty it has yet to recover from. One more indecisive General Election and one more ineffective Prime Minister later, Brexit remains the ultimate barometer of division as neither Remainer/Remoaner nor Brexiteer are happy with what Government is doing in their name. And this Whitehall farce seems set to run and run well into 2018.

Of course, it is the raison d’être of online news outlets to focus on the horrible with sensationalistic relish, just as it remains so for the traditional print and cathode-ray mediums that predate them, regardless of the ‘and finally’ solace at the end of the carnage. The public wants what the public gets, as Paul Weller said almost 40 years ago (I know; it’s scary); a YT video I produced in 2014 took that line as its title whilst a catalogue of contemporary images accompanied the theme tune from the distant childhood adventures of Teddy Edward.

One of these images was of a couple kissing, under which a caption announced ‘This is Rape’. Far be it from me to adopt the guise of a twenty-first century Nostradamus, but this particular statement is suddenly relevant courtesy of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, whose latest Tweet is as good a reason as any why law-enforcers should steer clear of social media and concentrate on solving genuine bloody crimes. According to a now-deleted Tweet that has nevertheless been posthumously seized upon by the Daily Telegraph, kissing a lady under the mistletoe (something that apparently still occurs) is classified as ‘rape’ unless consent is first acquired. Say no more, twenty-seven-f**king-teen.

I don’t know what’s going on any more than you do. It’s insane, and I don’t know how we got here, let alone how we get out of it. I poke fun at it with a sardonic eye, but I’m well aware I’m just pissing in the wind, satirically fiddling as our rotten Rome burns. Over a year on from ‘Something in the Air’, the fog hasn’t cleared and people who matter to me – good people who don’t deserve the shit they’re having to deal with – are even worse off now than they were then. I try to be a tower of strength to them, but I often feel a bit of a hypocrite ‘cause I know deep down I’m as f**ked-up as they are. I could be bold and declare I start most days struggling to come up with a reason to keep buggering on and end most days unconvinced that I found one; but my ego likes to think I make a difference, so I stick around.

Simon le Bon was once ripped to shreds for carelessly describing Duran Duran as the band to dance to when the bomb drops, but part of me knows what he meant. We may be almost four decades on from a throwaway comment made in the heat of early 80s Cold War paranoia; but if this is the blog that people read before they take a leap into the unknown from Beachy Head, so be it. As long as I’m here, I’ll KBO and I’ll love a select few as I do so because they make life worth living. And I’ll still be here when you switch on tomorrow, for good or ill.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

SLEEPING UGLY

‘Insomnia’ by Faithless – ‘I can’t get no sleep’ etc. – was a hit emanating from a culture in which insomnia itself was a by-product of ingesting certain substances to excess and therefore spoke volumes to the core audience that lapped it up when staring bleary-eyed at ‘Teletubbies’ on mid-90s Sunday mornings. However, now being over 20 years away from that culture means when insomnia returns to the E-free fibres of one’s being, it can’t be blamed on the drugs. Yes, the condition can blamed on legal highs such as nicotine or caffeine, though not everyone who smokes or drinks coffee struggles to sleep when night falls.

The ceiling may be being stared at, though it looks different at 4.40am to how it looks at 4.40pm; night-light paints the room in such sinister shades that the dream disrupting the twilight slumber that eventually overcomes the insomniac is entirely complementary to the ambience natural darkness sketches with malicious relish. Ever woken-up yourself or a sleeping companion by shouting out loud? I did last night, though the imaginary fat man (like the imaginary wizened old lady in a headscarf) who had invaded my space and provoked an operatic cry wasn’t there when my eyes opened; he lingered, however, as nightmares do in the shadows of the autumnal dawn. Oh, dreams can be horrible sometimes; when you snap out of them, the unfamiliar landscape of surroundings retouched by nocturnal fingertips is a barrier to realising one’s imagination has been having sadistic fun again. You are safe, but this eternal truism isn’t initially obvious. Switch on a bedside lamp and awareness of the divide between imagination and reality gradually – if belatedly – sinks in.

The room always looks different through the eyes of the short-sighted, anyway; once I remove contact lenses or spectacles, my perception of the world alters. I once compared the sensory impact to the stark visual contrast prevalent in 1970s-produced TV drama, whereby interior studio scenes are shot on crystal-clear videotape and outdoor location footage is shot on grainy film. My bedroom transforms from videotape to film the minute my eyes are deprived of artificial stimulants, anyway; but abruptly waking from some unpleasant encounter with a figure conjured up by my sick subconscious renders the room even stranger than it looked when I switched out the light.

It doesn’t help matters when these periodical phases interrupt the necessity of rest and recuperation from the grind of the day by drenching bed-sheets in gallons of sweat. I often awake feeling as though I’ve just been swimming in my clothes and am confronted by the kind of uncomfortable scenario parents of small children who wet the bed have to deal with. But even getting to that stage can be something of a marathon. Clambering under the covers in the wee small hours should really be an end to all problems, though it tends to be the beginning. Regardless of how exhaustion when awake suggests sleep will descend with ease once enveloped in the paraphernalia of bedtime, it’s remarkable how elusive such sweet surrender can be.

Tossing and turning – and the former isn’t a euphemism for masturbation in this case – are par for the course when something that should be a given proves to be a bastard. The sheet covering the mattress feels like it’s covering the uneven surface of a mountain, with petrified ripples and frozen bumps permanent hindrances to comfort for the back; the duvet that should be the ultimate pair of friendly furry arms wrapped around the unloved torso becomes a weighty medieval torture implement designed to crush the life out of the reluctant recanter; the pillow that is intended to give the head a facsimile harbour to dock in overnight is transformed into a sack of rocks retrieved from the wreckage of a recently erupted volcano, cool for a minute and then heating up to insufferable oven temperatures. And then, right at the very point when all these factors are triumphantly overcome, the twat next door opens his audition for the Ministry of Sound. At ten-to-five.

As unwelcome side-effects of life go, insomnia isn’t one that bodes well for its sufferers as far as the stats are concerned. Surveys regularly suggest persistent sleep deprivation not only adversely affects one’s ability to function when awake, but also reduces one’s lifespan. Anomalies such as Al Herpin, the so-called ‘Man who Never Slept’, are not exactly commonplace. The American who died aged 94 in 1947 attracted the interest of the medical profession when he claimed he didn’t sleep; possessing no bed, he apparently rested in a rocking chair through the night and read the paper before resuming his working day without any notable negative effects.

Then there was Paul Kern, a Hungarian solider who never slept again after receiving a shot to the head; and over in Vietnam, 75-year-old Thai Ngoc is still alive despite claiming not to have slept since recovering from a fever in 1973. These are more freaks of medical science rather than customary cases of insomnia, however; for most of us, the inability to either go to sleep or to sustain sleep over a prolonged period of hours can produce a disorientating ‘out-of-body’ sensation when awake that might cause observers to conclude we’re under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances.

Insomnia is something of a vicious circle for its recipient; depression can provoke it, yet depression can be maintained by it. Whether or not vivid nightmares are associated with the condition when sleep actually comes, these are symptoms I can confirm as particularly personal products of insomnia, things that render the prospect of sleep far-from desirable when one knows an unwanted reunion with one’s demons are on the cards. Then again, we don’t all require the same amount of hours per night. Some need the full seven or eight to feel as though their batteries have been comprehensively recharged, yet others can get by on half that. Some succumb to afternoon cat-naps whereas others survive the full waking day without recourse to such luxuries and show no discernible signs of fatigue as a consequence. Maybe I should stop trying and just let my body dictate the pattern as it sees fit – or devour all reports on Prince Harry getting engaged; that should do the trick.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

THE STATE BENEFITS

I bumped into a friend in Sainsbury’s this morning who I haven’t seen for a month or two, and he informed me he’d been banned from driving for six months on account of receiving repeated thumbs-downs from those electronic smiley faces monitoring traffic speed; as a roadie-for-hire with his own state-of-the-art wheels, this imposition on his living was something of an inconvenience, to say the least. But, hey, I replied (in an attempt to put a positive slant on the scenario), you’ll miss out on all that crap that constitutes the winter motorist’s lot – struggling to start the engine in sub-zero temperatures and having to scrape frost off your windscreen; then you can return to the road in the spring! I don’t know what prompted me to adopt a positive slant, though perhaps it was just knee-jerk instinctive optimism manifested as lame consolation for a pal confronted by the unlucky loss of his living.

As a largely conscientious driver, in terms of not drinking before sitting behind the wheel or indulging in ‘jazz cigarettes’ whilst ferrying ageing musicians from one gig to another, my friend seemed unfairly targeted by a system seemingly installed to provide local councillors with an additional income for a gravy train that already supports their lifestyle choice in spades. I don’t regard him as a danger to other motorists, let alone pedestrians, but he’s unfortunate to be driving in an era in which the traditional officiousness of the Great British Jobsworth has been given a hi-tech makeover that punishes with punitive pettiness and doesn’t distinguish between the truly terrible driver and the one who occasionally exceeds limits designed to appease the dismal motorcade of the Sunday family saloon en route to the latest horrific theme (or retail) park.

As a kind of add-on to this anecdote of the way we live now, I received an update today as to the progress of legal proceedings on the part of the State to deprive the mother of a ten-year-old child I choose to call ‘X’ of her full parental rights. Long-term readers will be familiar with a sorry saga I’ve been documenting periodically for the best part of a year, and I’ve no doubt links to previous posts on the subject will appear at the foot of this one; but X is a learning-disabled child whose mother is a close friend of mine and whose time in the care of the local authorities has been marked by a sequence of inept cock-ups that hardly support their chances of ‘sharing’ control of the child.

In order to strengthen a case they could never win on actual evidence, the local authorities have stooped so far below the belt that they’re almost at ground level. They’ve chosen to blacken the character of the mother in ways that have no bearing on the care and consideration of the child, nitpicking and clutching at irrelevant straws they imagine reflect badly on her. For example, X’s mother has been described as ‘strange’ by a nurse supposedly overseeing a recent medical examination of X that the authorities she entrusted with her day-to-day care buggered-up yet again.

Another unreliable witness to X’s mother’s exasperation with the system – an employee at the care unit where X resides – has added his untrustworthy voice to the systematic condemnation of (and contempt for) this particular parent; despite physically preventing X’s mother from kissing her daughter goodbye when dropping her off at the residential care unit – an aggressive gesture that led to police involvement – this dickhead has been roped-in to uphold the authorities’ dodgy dossier against X’s mother, thus increasing the strain the whole process is undoubtedly placing upon a woman whose sole concern is for the wellbeing of a child too difficult for one person to permanently look after.

She handed over her daughter to authorities allegedly qualified to take care of children whose mental incapacity is so incompatible with society that only the State can control them; but repeatedly highlighting the State’s uselessness where most submit without question has left the mother up against a State intent on exacting revenge for her outrageous impertinence.

The court case arising from this dispute is scheduled to take place in a couple of weeks; the State has resorted to desperate measures to discredit X’s mother as a means of robbing her of full parental rights, though we shouldn’t really be surprised by authorities without a moral leg to stand on stooping to such despicable tactics in order to save face. Their record is so appalling that the exposure of ineptitude would bring the whole facade crashing down; every injury X has received has come whenever she’s been in the care of the State – every black-eye, bruise and bite – whilst her time in the care of her mother has been injury-free. This doesn’t look good on paper, so the State has cobbled together a case that desperately seeks to justify its attempts to wrestle away the mother’s full parental rights. If the State succeeds, the mother would have to go back to court every time she disagreed with a decision by the other party. It stinks, just as every fat bossy woman whose pension scheme is in peril should the State lose stinks.

The family courts are a closed shop, by the way, so don’t expect our great democracy to highlight the outcome of this farcical trial or to give it any publicity outside of this blog. But I shall report it because I resent the State’s interference in such matters and because I am sick to death of the State passing the buck and blaming everything on good people that it hopes lack the energy or nerve to challenge it. Speeding fines or parental rights – if we let these f**kers win we may as well wrap ourselves in the white flag for life. And I know X’s mother is right. Watch this space. Or watch this instead…

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

BLOWING ONE’S OWN TRUMPET

At last, it’s official! The Pope is Catholic, bears shit in the woods, middle-aged MPs grope pretty young girls, America has a gun problem that enables lunatics to shoot dead innocents on a regular basis, and rich people (including Her Majesty) squirrel away their ill-gotten gains into offshore accounts. Now you know. Okay, so where does that leave us? Well, speaking personally, I’ve decided to leave such shocking revelations to the MSM and instead will today take the opportunity to blow my own trumpet on account of the fact nobody is going to blow it on my behalf. Yes, those of you who peruse these missives on a near-daily basis will be aware each one includes an additional link beneath said musings on the way we live now that will take you to a German website should you click on it. The site used to be based in Blighty and then relocated to the land of sauerkraut, which hasn’t been an especially beneficial transfer for the author.

I penned a virtual biography about a late, lamented friend the best part of two years ago, following the establishment of a parallel blog (one that actually predates this one) which shared the same name as the book, ‘Looking for Alison’; after spending a good twelve months attempting to interest numerous media outlets in Alison’s story, promising breaks via ‘The Big Issue’ and Radio 4’s ‘iPM’ led to little beyond the initial euphoria, and the self-published book remained as the sole reminder of my endeavours.

The closure of the UK site that I stumbled upon – which printed the book in paperback form on demand (once I uploaded the file) – necessitated relocation to the parent company in Germany, but the language (not to mention the financial) barrier has proven to be somewhat problematic from my perspective. Although ‘Looking for Alison’ is still available there, you can also purchase it on Amazon should you be interested; and the planet’s favourite tax-dodging online retail corporation also hosts other titles to emanate from the same hand providing you with amusing observations on the world about us.

One of the reasons I searched out a site based in Germany was that Amazon only dealt with crappy e-books four years ago (when I uploaded my first publically-unveiled effort); now it prints actual, proper books as well, so my most recent novelistic outing was uploaded there following the linguistic difficulties arising from the previous outlet’s wholesale embrace of the Germanic tongue; with my deceased grandfather being the only person of my acquaintance who was fluent in that particular dialect (born of his PoW stint in Silesia), I was at a bit of a loss when it came to uploading and then promoting my latest, so discovering Amazon now deals with the produce of dead trees was handy, to say the least.

This blog has always been a sideline for me, as is the YouTube video platform referenced a couple of posts ago; telling stories is what I regard as my raison d’être, though the two aforementioned sidelines tend to attract larger audiences on account of them a) being free of charge and b) being the kind of easily-accessible formats ‘The Kids’ can handle more than something with a history stretching all the way back to the prehistoric days of the Gutenberg Bible. Nevertheless, the wide expanses of the novel suit me better than the condensed and compact confines of the blog; I learnt the economy of prose that this medium requires in a past stint on a now-defunct forum and reckon I can distinguish between the separate skills that the blog and the book demand as a result.

‘Mr. Yesterday’ is the title of the book I’m shamelessly using this post to promote, a book I complete several months ago, but one that has only just appeared in paperback form on Amazon. Although not through want of trying, I am bereft of an agent to do all the dull promotional stuff for me (thus stifling the more fun creative bit), so I have no choice but to utilise the platforms already available to me for the purposes of promotion, and I’ve decided to do prostitute myself today, if you don’t mind. Bear with me and allow me the indulgence, though; you might actually be intrigued enough to buy the bloody thing.

‘Mr. Yesterday’ is the tale of an individual whose soul-mate has been lost to him and whose grief is interrupted by an unexpected encounter with a mysterious organisation that promises a unique series of distractions. I’m sure we all recall those who f**ked us over at one time or another at separate points of our respective lives; well, the title character of this story is presented with the opportunity to belatedly redress the balance. It doesn’t matter how far back in his murky past the perpetrators of his misery go; he can finally achieve vengeance. He begins with his former headmistress forty-plus years before and ends up much closer to home. I’m sure we could all list potential targets for retrospective revenge, though the likelihood of us ever managing it is remote. Not so where Mr. Yesterday is concerned. He has the chance to get his own back, travelling through his life anew as he inflicts fresh damage on those who inflicted distant damage on him.

Trust me, it’s more entertaining than it perhaps sounds; if you’re familiar with my trademark tongue-in-cheek gallows humour, you’ll know what to expect, and it could be a cheery addition to your bookshelf for the princely sum of just under a tenner – no more expensive than any other new novel that might catch your eye on Amazon. In case you were wondering, I’ll pocket about three quid of that, so it’s not as if I’m crowd-funding you to finance a Chelsea mansion that I can stick my avaricious arse in. Anyway, I’ve done my bit in making you aware of its existence, and the ball is now in your court. To paraphrase something Amazon is so fond of saying – if you like this, you might like that. The link is below…

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509989926&sr=1-1&dpID=41ppifNq5pL&preST=_SY344_BO1,204,203,200_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

THE WEIGHT OF THE STATE

If I were to summon up a David and Goliath analogy, not only would it point us in the direction of Cliché Crescent in record time, but it would also pamper the ego of the giant in question, making it out to be an admirable Superman, when in reality it’s Goofy dressed as a traffic warden – an inept Little Hitler revelling in the power to ruin lives. It’s the sheer Leviathan-like size of the system that makes it so overwhelming and intimidating to the individual rather than the dense dummies it employs, and its appetite for destruction needs no introduction.

Long-term readers will recall the sad saga of a child I called X, a child who is (to use a discredited, non-touchy/feely term) severely mentally handicapped. Having devoted a decade of her life to raising a child with needs so special that perhaps only a lion-tamer would require a similar level of training to cope with the child’s regularly violent behaviour, her mother handed her over to the care of the local authority almost a year ago. This wasn’t as simple as it sounds, for the local authority (who can only boast a solitary specialist care unit in the entire county it covers) wasn’t exactly willing and eager to help. It took various desperate measures for it to finally accept X, though this was done via what is known as a Section 20 care order; the local authority keeps X under its roof, but that arrangement doesn’t remove parental rights from her mother whilst it acts as surrogate parent – although the woman who oversees the care unit is referred to as a ‘corporate parent’, if you can believe that.

With the heavy daily demands of X no longer dominating her mother’s schedule, her mother slowly began to piece together a life for herself after ten years out of the social loop. X’s antisocial nature left her mother’s ordinary interaction with other people severely limited, but now her mother could receive visitors at home without fear of a screaming naked child running around and lashing out with her fists or defecating on the floor; she could also return to the workplace. She kept in touch with X through thrice-weekly visits to the care unit and would then take her out for several hours before dropping her off again. Contact was therefore maintained and her mother kept a close watch on the care X was receiving.

Unfortunately, the competence of this care rarely rose above a barely adequate level and regularly slid into outright negligence. Self-harming on X’s part was once witnessed by her mother when turning up early to collect her from the unit one day; unaware her mother was peering through the window, the fat staff were content to sit and sip their cuppas as X repeatedly punched herself in the head. Self-inflicted bites and bruises were, on one occasion, compounded by carpet burns on the child’s back that could only have been inflicted by a member of staff dragging her along the floor; there were also several other occasions in which a fellow resident/inmate was able to hit X hard when said child was supposed to have at least one member of staff shadowing him at all times.

A catalogue of such incidents, when coupled with the failure of the staff to provide X with the required amount of outdoor excursions and activities, persuaded X’s mother to take her back home in anger, so dissatisfied was she with the service being provided. Successive meetings with patronising Diane Abbott types boasting imaginary job titles had achieved nothing and X’s mother had resorted to the only option open to her. Alas, X was even less suited to the domestic environment a year after being removed from it than she had been before, and a week or so of relative calmness was suddenly superseded by an outburst of physical assaults on her mother that left her black and blue. Essentially in an abusive relationship, X’s battered mother could also no longer recruit the kind of paid assistance that was easier when X had been a smaller, cuter child, and she was left to her own devices; the local authority also didn’t respond to requests for the reinstatement of X’s former care package that had enabled her to remain at home before.

Everyone has their breaking point, however, and if X’s mother couldn’t cope after ten years’ experience, nobody could. She reluctantly had to hand X back into the careless care of a system that had repeatedly failed her. The social workers and their superiors higher up the chain of command ticked a few boxes, issued a few lectures, and smugly settled their overweight arses on the moral high-ground. Platitudes straight from the social care manual were delivered bereft of common sense and with a frightening absence of intelligence; we all have our moments when firing off correspondence, but the litany of spelling mistakes in official letters to X’s mother and confusing the respective names of child and mother suggest IQ tests rank fairly low on the list of the system’s priorities when it comes to employees.

The system will treat parents with contempt regardless, but it still prefers dealing with those either too exhausted by looking after a difficult child or too trusting in the system’s facade of authority to question it. However, why play ball when it will trample all over you, anyway? May as well speak your mind and confront the system’s failings by saying them out loud. The system reacts by essentially sticking its fingers in its ears and babbling incoherently whilst the parent tells it where it is going wrong; then when the parent has finished, the system responds by holding a Star Chamber conference behind closed doors to strip the parents of their rights over their child.

X’s mother hasn’t made herself very popular with the shits she had no alternative but to entrust her child to; even the frontline troops have refused to engage with her at X’s care unit; one physically prevented her from entering it a couple of weeks ago when she was dropping X off after a few hours away. Presented with an uncomfortable truth that contradicts and shatters the sham of social care, this Goliath simply breaks its David by inflicting its ineptitude upon him so that David is eventually worn down not by one big fight, but a succession of endless little battles that are never won.

Each chapter of this saga is more wearisome than its predecessor; everything X’s mother now turns her attention to seems to be a consequence of the system’s negligence. The system is shortly taking X’s mother to court in round one of a legal soap opera that is destined to drag on as long as ‘The Archers’. X’s mother wanted to relocate to another county with better facilities and place X there; the local authority wants to keep X captive in its ‘care’ and is building a smear case against the mother despite the fact that all of X’s injuries have occurred on its watch. Their behaviour has pushed X’s mother to the edge as much as X ever had; but X has an excuse. She can’t help it.

To put it bluntly, the State is not the friend of those with disabilities; the case today in which a male nurse who’d worked at the notorious Winterbourne View care home was cleared of punching a resident of another care home in the face (breaking his jaw) and allowed to continue in the job speaks volumes. And volumes could indeed be penned on this topic, though I shall spare you it. Most of us have the luxury to be spared it.

© The Editor

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MUSICAL YOUTH

A paragraph from the previous post provoked this one, and if you haven’t read it, where have you been? Anyway, let’s go back 30 years. Actually, I’d rather not; if 2017 is pretty grim, I can’t say I rated 1987 much at the time either and it doesn’t acquire a nostalgic glow the further away I travel from it. The stuff I cared about then – general popular culture and pop music in particular – was, in my opinion, rubbish; there were a couple of contemporary exceptions, but I was a scholar of what is now referred to as ‘Classic Rock’. I also extended my appreciation of the recent past to then-unfashionable 70s pop such as Abba and The Bee Gees, acts who had yet to receive the kitsch makeover the next generation would give them. The arrogance of youth told me I could do better than what the present was offering me as a record-buyer.

My mate Paul played the guitar; I wrote the lyrics. Between us, we moulded them into melodies which I sang; Paul provided the riffs. He and I shared a wavelength neither of us shared with anyone else; Paul was the first friend I’d had who looked like he could’ve been in the Stones rather than Curiosity Killed The Cat, and we sparred off one another in our attempts to resemble rock stars. He was as much of an outsider in his part of town as I was in mine, and we’d both experienced run-ins with ‘the beer monsters’; city centre streets may have been low on knife crime and acid attacks in the 80s, but you still had to watch yourself. It was easier when there were two of you.

We’d spend virtually every weekday ensconced in Paul’s bedroom at his mum’s house, listening to a range of LPs from the extensive record collection he’d amassed during his brief stint in 9-to-5 Land. We studied and absorbed the masters; it was our university. Eventually, I’d produce my exercise book crammed with lyrics, he’d tune up his acoustic guitar, and we’d devote the next few hours to putting a song together; if it was any good, we’d record it on his ghetto blaster and improve it the following day before moving onto the next one. We were hungry to make our mark, and though we may have been dreaming the dreams many music-obsessed young men dream, we were prepared to put the work in.

After several months of assembling a songbook, we decided to locate other musicians, and there was no shortage of venues to visit where we could check them out. Unfortunately, it took time to find like-minds; commitment was hard to come across. Rehearsal space wasn’t, but as Paul and me were both signing-on, it could be a stretch to pay for it. A room above a pub with an unsavoury reputation as the hostelry of choice for football hooligans was the one we eventually settled on because it was the one we could afford. By then, we’d acquired a bass-player and drummer, though it had taken well over a year of searching and numerous disappointments before we got there.

Our first gig was on the bill of an all-day event featuring dozens of local bands, staged in one of the many pubs that packed the punters in by hosting live music. In a dense fog of fags, and fuelled by booze that was probably less than a quid a glass, we took to the stage, collectively crapping ourselves. We had the usual repertoire of crowd-pleasing standards, such as ‘Teenage Kicks’, but primarily showcased our own material. We were rather under-rehearsed, but went on in the late afternoon, by which time the well-sozzled audience greeted every act with enthusiasm. I can’t honestly remember how many numbers we played; I mainly remember wearing a second-hand psychedelic jacket, which a lady complimented me on – the first such compliment a lady had ever paid me. It wasn’t a bad day.

We recorded a demo tape – tape being the operative word, as the songs went straight from reel-to-reel acetate to cassette; the recording studio cost what must have been a small fortune to us then, and we had to record and mix four songs with the clock rapidly ticking towards the end of the time we could pay for. We didn’t sound bad, and it’s undoubtedly invigorating when you hear yourself in top-notch quality sound for the first time. The end result received reviews in regional fanzines and was optimistically dispatched along the tried-and-tested route that led to John Peel and the music industry. We played a few more gigs: one as support to another local band in another pub, one on our own (in another pub), and one on the bill of another all-day event – this time in a pub car-park. That gig turned out to be our last.

We had the impossible task of following a folk duo singing a song called ‘F**k Off, Yuppie Scum’ to the tune of ‘Knees-Up, Mother Brown’; but we were such a shambles on the final performance that I actually apologised to the audience who were too pissed in the summer sun to even notice. We hadn’t rehearsed in weeks. The drummer was still at school and this was just a hobby to him; the bass-player enjoyed jamming but had no real interest in being a professional; and Paul was smoking a lot of dope, perhaps to cope with the fact we were going nowhere after all the work he and I had put into it. Our friendship survived, but our musical partnership didn’t. We never shared the same vision thereafter; I got into the nascent Dance scene, whereas he preferred chilling out to ‘Astral Weeks’. We’d had high hopes, but we’d crashed and we’d burned.

Paul and I had probably squandered twelve months searching for other musicians because we were so determined to do it the traditional way we revered. Today, we wouldn’t need them; we’d have the technology to create a ‘virtual’ band and we could record on bedroom PCs without having to bankrupt ourselves for studio time, uploading our endeavours online to a worldwide audience. We wouldn’t have to bombard record companies or the music press because neither exists anymore; but we’d struggle to play live because the gig circuit has gone along with the pubs that were vital to it. We also wouldn’t have the dole to subsidise our musical education and we wouldn’t have the money to invest in instruments.

They weren’t great days. They were frustrating and disappointing. We gave our all to something that eluded us, and whilst it genuinely doesn’t bother me now that we didn’t make it, it always seems a shame that all the dynamic verve and energy we exuded was drained from us in such in a depressingly crushing manner – though we weren’t the first and we weren’t the last either. Les McQueen from ‘The League of Gentlemen’ (guitarist with Crème Brulée, a 70s band that never made it) would look back by saying ‘It’s a shit business; I’m glad I’m out of it’; but I don’t regret doing it. Everyone should give it a go and then gracefully exit the stage when it all goes tits up. It’s an experience that prepares you for the rest of your life.

© The Editor

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THE SUNDAY POST

‘Sunday Bloody Sunday really encapsulates the frustration of a Sunday. You wake up in the morning, you’ve got to read all the Sunday papers, the kids are running round, you’ve got to mow the lawn, wash the car, and you think – Sunday Bloody Sunday!’

Alan Partridge’s characteristic misinterpretation of the U2 song inspired by the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry inadvertently highlights how the so-called ‘Day of Rest’ traditionally had a unique identity of its own, the genuine oddity in the seven-day calendar; but does it retain its uniqueness in an age when many shops are open all week round and a generation has come of age without an awareness or experience of what Sundays used to represent to the majority? Well, perhaps in our minds more than in reality.

It’s only natural that we associate certain days of the week with our first exposure to them; what’s interesting is how these initial associations can colour our view of them for good, and what they once represented proves to be surprisingly durable. Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that when it comes to Sunday, our image of it remains to an extent frozen in childhood amber, or at least when Sunday is imminent. More often than not, the prospect of it coming round tends to produce a weary sigh. In retrospect, that one more precious day free from school – something that should have made it as exciting as a Saturday to wake-up to – seemed to be shrouded in such an incurably drab torpor is curious; maybe Sunday was Saturday’s perennially poor relation because we knew we’d be back at school the following day, and so much of it seemed to be preparing us for that inevitability because it was so bizarrely boring.

Unless one were a farmer, clergyman, foreign language student or devotee of creaky monochrome movies about the war, television was usually best avoided; even that ordinarily reliable provider of entertainment appeared impotent on Sunday and was only generally switched-on in the middle of the afternoon so dad could watch ITV’s regional football show. The radio grabbed the spotlight from the telly as a consequence: Ed Stewpot and his set-in-stone set-list of prehistoric nursery ditties – ‘The Laughing Policeman’, ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’, ‘Nellie the Elephant’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’ et al – sound-tracked the Sunday morning experience for more than one generation.

Jimmy Savile’s ‘Old Record Club’ enlivened the early afternoon with its top ten replays from the 60s, sparking nostalgia in parents and introducing kids to classics that contrasted with the more familiar contemporary chart sounds; and as for the top 40, that would dominate tea-time listening, even if the fact that the new chart had already been covered three days before on TOTP robbed it of any drama. Still, knowing which position one’s favourite records were at made recording them onto audiotape easier (a practice that may have ‘killed music’, but came in handy when pocket-money only stretched to one single from Woolie’s per fortnight).

But such aural distractions couldn’t wrench Sunday away from the strangely soporific rituals that really made it so distinctive from every other day. This usually began with a couple of newspapers popping through the letterbox – thicker and more expensive than the weekday dailies; many households had a healthy schizophrenia when it came to Sunday reading habits. One paper would usually be the trashy titillation of the News of the World/Sunday Mirror/Sunday People brand, the kind I remember being full of call-girl confessions, Rod Stewart’s latest blonde and Princess Margaret’s latest beau; the other would tend to be the more sombre Sunday Times/Observer type, with one balancing out the other and establishing an odd equilibrium as mum and dad chose their weapons whilst defiantly remaining in bed. Of course, for those raised in a religious household, the church still played a major part in the Sunday routine – either the morning service, evensong, or the insidious institution of Sunday School, seemingly established so that mum and dad could engineer the arrival of a little brother or sister.

As far as secular upbringings went, however, Sunday was a day in which the whole family realised the advantages of spending the rest of the week leading their own lives; everyone appeared to resent the presence of everyone else. In the case of mum and dad, both eagerly embraced their designated roles; for him, this meant washing the car or attending to DIY; for her, this meant ironing or sticking a roast in the oven, where it would cook on a low light for what seemed like about six months, its aroma sweeping through the house with the creeping stealth of mustard gas and seeping into the bricks and mortar like Oxo-flavoured napalm. Occasionally, there would be variations to the routine, but even these couldn’t provoke any emotion other than shoulder-shrugging resignation.

Most of these centred around a ‘ride out’ in the car, a depressing excursion through a desolate landscape that bordered on post-apocalyptic, a journey that either led to a local beauty spot rendered ugly by rotten weather, a minor stately home, the stultifying tedium of the garden centre – and the fact that this emporium of inertia was the only shop open for business somehow intensified Sunday’s terminal dullness – or grandma’s house, where sometimes cousins would call and there would at least be an opportunity to indulge in much-needed play.

Play! Ah, yes – the one saving grace of Sunday. The generations starved of mass-marketed virtual-stimulation turned to their imaginations and transformed their uninspiring surroundings with little in the way of corporate assistance. Such activities could alleviate boredom until boredom intervened again via a bath and supper in the company of Esther Rantzen and Doc Cox. With school to look forward to in the morning, Sunday had felt like a lacklustre prologue to the resumption of the norm, a bridge between the compassionate leave of Saturday and the re-imprisonment of Monday.

It’s cruelly ironic that John Major, a man who romanticised the mythical Albion image of a Sunday, was the Prime Minister who delivered the killer blow to it. The passing of the Sunday Trading law in 1994 enabled high-street chain-stores to open their doors and facilitated the rise of out-of-town retail parks, finally making Sundays resemble every other day, at least in terms of the consumer society. There isn’t time for boredom on a Sunday anymore, and whilst many would regard that as cause for celebration, others might argue that the loss of the archaic eccentricities that once made Sunday such a unique day are worthy of mourning – even if they were bloody boring.

© The Editor

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THE SECRET SERVICE

I’ve used the term ‘Star Chamber’ on more than one occasion as a derivative description for a clandestine collective of decision-makers operating behind closed doors – most recently with regards to the new censorious regime on YouTube. However, when it comes to decisions being made that are a good deal more serious than having one’s uploaded video slapped with a ‘not advertiser-friendly’ label, one need look no further for a genuine Star Chamber than the smug and sinister network of box-ticking, back-slapping, self-righteous do-gooders operating under the umbrella banner of social services.

Long-term readers of this blog may recall a couple of posts I penned last year (https://winegumtelegram.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/a-social-disservice/ and https://winegumtelegram.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/consensual-healing/) on the subject of a severely mentally handicapped child whose mother is a friend of mine. Her child, a ten-year-old I referred to as X, was placed in a temporary care unit for children of similar conditions last November because her single mother could no longer cope with the day-to-day demands of looking after such a challenging child alone. The authorities were reluctant to take on this responsibility (and that’s putting it mildly), forcing the desperate mother to adopt desperate measures, such as refusing to collect the child from school the day after she’d been fobbed off on the phone when begging for assistance, thus leaving the authorities with no choice but to re-home X there and then.

Since this traumatic incident at the back-end of last year, the child has been living in a temporary care unit that currently only has two other resident children; the mother has established a pattern of visiting three times a week and taking the child back to her home for a couple of hours on each occasion. These occasions usually involve allowing X to indulge in the simple pleasures that make her happy, ones that don’t come within the narrow, rigid remit as endorsed by the powers-that-be overseeing the care unit – basically enabling X to enjoy foodstuffs frowned upon by them, and exercising a degree of realism absent from the fatuous positivity practiced by the ludicrously long list of employees on the social service gravy-train trained to believe X’s condition is one that can be ‘rehabilitated’.

This training imbues its recipients with a superiority complex and emphasises parents are an irritant if they express views that are contrary to those deemed appropriate by state employees – even though the parents may have spent many years 24/7 with the child and therefore know what makes it tick. Parents are viewed as something of an encumbrance to the system because some of them can see the system is getting it wrong re their children’s best interests and are prepared to puncture the positivity balloon by pointing this out. Social services aren’t keen on those not in their exalted position of faux-authority telling them the system they’re trained to obey with unswerving subservience sucks.

When X returned to a spate of self-harming – mainly biting her arms and hitting herself on the head – these were new behaviours that began when she entered the care environment, and her mother instantly knew what the problem was. X does this when she’s bored or hungry; her capability for expressing her frustration in any way other than self-harming is virtually zilch. But no one in authority wanted to discuss or even admit that this was happening. It wasn’t until the mother presented photographic evidence of appalling bruises and bite-marks that the self-harming was actually acknowledged.

Initially, when the staff at the care unit placed food on her plate such as noodles, spaghetti or anything she couldn’t hold and chomp on like Henry VIII with a chicken-leg, she refused to partake in the meal and lost a good deal of weight as a consequence; this was due to what are called ‘sensory processing issues’, and until it was pointed out by the mother, the staff wouldn’t provide X with a replacement meal, refusing to veer from a menu that caters for a mere three children. There have been other incidents where the staff will take X swimming at a time when she would normally eat, a decision flying in the face of common sense. Very much a creature of repetitious habit as befitting the most extreme outer limits of the autistic scale, X reacts to any alteration in the schedule by reverting to her worst traits, even if (as her mother constantly points out to employees of the system) these traits can be avoided.

The entire county in which X resides has the one solitary temporary care unit for children in her condition; a fourth child who had attacked X on several occasions was recently relocated to another care unit, but this time down in Shropshire – a considerable distance from home. In a way, the process of relocation is akin to when convicts are removed from one prison to another, often hundreds of miles from where the con’s family live, thus necessitating an increase and expense in travel come visiting day. And, just as the families of prisoners have no say in where the authorities choose to dispatch their loved ones to, social services will place children wherever the hell they like if they have ultimate charge of the child; parents aren’t consulted because parents aren’t important.

Yesterday, X’s mother was belatedly informed by X’s social worker (incidentally, the nineteenth X has had in her ten short years) that the social services’ Star Chamber had held a secret meeting the day before in which they’d decided they would effectively gain power of attorney over X, absolving her parents of all rights and claims to her. The parents were not informed and no review was held that would’ve given a platform to the parents’ concerns and enabled them to express a view on future plans for X when a permanent home for her needs to be found eventually.

If this goes ahead via the intended court order, the social services can place X anywhere in the country and the parents will have no say whatsoever in the matter; X’s mother has established a routine with X that benefits X and brings a modicum of pleasure into a life that has a paucity of it; if X is relocated hundreds of miles away, all that will cease. Is this really being done in X’s best interests or is it another penny-pinching exercise conducted by overpaid, arrogant authorities whose PR machine sells the uninformed public a different reality to the one parents such as X’s mother have been battered around the head by?

Post-Savile, it would appear police and social services have swapped places. The boys in blue’s politicisation over the past five or six years, underlined by borderline-spoof Twitter accounts from obscure officers declaring their PC credentials in prioritising ‘Hate Crime’ and the rights of minorities, has seen them adopt the right-on tactics once associated with the social worker; at the same time, social services have been transformed into a veritable secret police, granted powers to swoop unchallenged on parents they deem unfit and ill-informed as though overcompensating for the numerous well-publicised failures of social services to prevent actual abuse of children. For most parents in X’s mother’s position, the social services add to the burden the child represents, something that completely contradicts their purpose.

For the last decade, X’s mother has been exposed to a side of the welfare state that mercifully few of us have to contend with, and it has understandably left her so cynical towards the state that she simply doesn’t trust the state to do what’s best for her daughter. Therefore, the only choice she can see is to take X back into her home – narrowing the scope of her day-to-day life yet again as she reverts to the role of carer and gaoler for a child whose brain will remain that of a three-month-old baby, but whose body is physically maturing as normal. Next birthday, X will be eleven. And her mother will be exhausted. Again.

© The Editor

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TIME’S ARROW

Who is the Prime Minister? Apparently, that’s one of the opening questions doctors use as a test for dementia amongst their patients, though most of the country would probably have struggled to answer it following the last General Election, to be honest. Anyway, I don’t know if my grandmother was asked that particular question during her last illness, but I do recall being told she couldn’t correctly say what year it was when asked. The ongoing debate over care for the elderly is, I’ve no doubt, largely motivated (on the public side, at least) by genuine concern that senior citizens are almost discarded as an expensive embarrassment; but I think it also reflects a consensus of fear over the fate that awaits us.

Larkin’s notorious poem, ‘The Old Fools’ is – as with his other most infamous offering, ‘This Be The Verse’ – often misconstrued; sometimes perceived as revulsion when confronted by the elderly, it couples lines such as ‘Ash hair, toad hands, prune face dried into lines’ with ‘Do they suppose it’s more grown-up when your mouth hangs open and drools, and you keep on pissing yourself, and can’t remember who called this morning?’ As with much of Larkin’s output, it is devoid of sentimentality and looks at an uncomfortable aspect of life with brutal honesty. The chilling closing line, when after having posed a series of questions on the topic of ageing, Larkin says ‘Well, we shall find out’, is a more accurate barometer of what the poem is actually saying.

A man not known for celebrating the joy of life, Larkin’s melancholic pessimism was present when he remained a relatively young man, something fairly unusual outside of Goth and Emo subculture; then again, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters was aged just 29 when he wrote the wistfully bleak Larkin-esque line in ‘Time’ on ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ – ‘Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way’. Both Ray Davies and Morrissey have, at different times, contradicted the eternal adolescence that has been a hallmark of the genre they sprang from by shining a light on the neglected perspective of the elderly outsider, something Paul McCartney did even more successfully with ‘Eleanor Rigby’ before addressing ageing in a lighter tone with ‘When I’m 64’. He was in his mid-20s at the time.

At its most extreme, fear of growing old – at least manifested in its physical form – has led to the horrific cosmetic surgery industry and Hollywood’s plastic parade of deluded veterans that battle against the ageing process to extend their acting careers. Conversely, renowned actresses that have resisted the surgeon’s knife – such as Charlotte Rampling or Helen Mirren – tend to be celebrated for the fact their beauty has matured like fine wine and has been allowed to mature free from visible vanity courtesy of the same medical men who butchered the face of Michael Jackson.

Speaking to a friend the other day, she commented on some programme she’d seen on TV about a murder case in the 1990s; the documentary was accompanied by archive footage of the time, and even though the 90s feels extremely recent if you were actually there, she was still struck by how different things looked on said footage. The way in which technology has transformed all our lives in such a short space of time post-1999 has relegated certain sights that had always been commonplace on our streets to the same cultural landfill as gas lamps and public toilets, and I suspect those streets as represented by news archive of the time in this programme perhaps showed what already appears to be a different world.

I only have to cast my mind back twenty years to recall one of the numerous downsides to living in a neighbourhood with a sizeable student population was when the fresh intake of scholars needed to ring home after a week or so in their new homes. A queue of a good four or five people would be a familiar sight outside a telephone box in early September; but this is one of those ‘numerous downsides’ that has now completely vanished from the landscape – along with most of the phone boxes. Of course, to say ‘casting my mind back twenty years’ is in itself an admission of ageing that bears little relevance to the majority of the same university’s current crop, few of whom were a twinkle in the milkman’s eye twenty years ago – when we probably still had a few milkmen left.

In a sense, that’s part of the problem. I have been an official legal adult now for almost 32 years, and I find in my memory that everything I recall from that point onwards still doesn’t seem like that long ago. By contrast, anything from my childhood decade of the 70s feels incredibly distant and may as well be a hundred years ago for all the bearing it has had on my lengthy spell as an adult. At times, 1987, 1997 and 2007 appear almost interchangeable despite the superficial changes in fashion, music, pop culture et al that separate those years; I was an adult during all the years listed, and whilst I’d like to think a little acquired wisdom separates the person I was in 1987, 1997 or 2007, the core composition of the time-stream I inhabit doesn’t seem to have altered. It all feels ‘present tense’.

When we have family or friends we don’t see that often who sire offspring, we recall said offspring being babies; then we maybe see them again as toddlers or little kids; and the next occasion in which they’re mentioned, we learn they’re at high school or in higher education. In our heads, they remain frozen as children, but the rapid maturity that takes place elsewhere can remind us how time is passing more than what the mirror on the wall might tell us. Sometimes, it’s easier to measure time by the change in others than the change in our ourselves, which can be as difficult to observe as the movement of hands on a clock-face.

Four months from now I hit one of those ‘landmark birthdays’ that we all, whether we care to admit it or not, dread the arrival of. I guess we each have our own different take on what they do or don’t mean and if they hold any significance at all. For me personally it’s not a question of wanting to cling to a youth I didn’t especially enjoy or revel in, more a question of inevitable summarising of the story so far, the kind of self-assessment I’d rather avoid due to the fact that on paper I appear to have achieved nothing and have become everything I hate. Despite the anticipated bombardment of reminders I’ll receive from well-meaning well-wishers, the only real element worth celebrating is that I’ve actually made it this far. Being English, I expect I shall hang on, though I suspect the desperation won’t be so quiet; I remain determined to rage against that dying light. Thank God for a little bit of Celtic blood.

© The Editor

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