Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dear Mum, Come Back

My father left when I was six months old. To this day I have never met him. I only found out his name on my twenty-sixth birthday. I was raised by my mother’s grandparents while she worked a till, making her way as best she could after being for all intents and purposes banished from the family home, a single mother in the 1960’s.

My mum was the single fixture in my immediate family for a very long time, yet it was a never a friendship. Mum was always there but always harried, always deeply religious. I grew up on my own and made life several sorts of hell for her, probably out of some sort of attention seeking and a desperate need for my mum to act like I thought other mums did.

It took me so long to understand that she did the best she could. She was not a ‘natural’ mother and the practicalities of raising a kid never came easily to her. Controlling the selfish force of mayhem that I became is an art she never mastered. Fortunately, circumstances and the few family friends who managed to connect with or influence me reined me in before permanent damage was done.

Yet she was the constant in my life. She may have been the person I lied to most and manipulated mercilessly at times, but she was my mum. In my teenage years, I got new friends and benefitted from a long, hard look at what they endured under the guise of parenting. I realised that my mum was pretty damn awesome, in her unique, quiet way. Then my step dad went awry and things changed again.

I became the provider of the house. For a decade out of school, two-thirds of my wages went to mum so she could run the house. I learned how to fix things, how to break things and repair them so she didn’t know, deal with threatening phone calls aimed at my kid brother and a host of other duties that in an ideal family would never have occurred. I also became a heavy metal kid, something I look back on with a smile, it is almost too clichĂ© for the scion of a ‘broken’ home to turn to rock ‘n’ roll.

Mum got through it all. A little estranged and even more religious, but she coped, barely. She moved up north when the family home had to be sold and the proceeds split as part of the divorce agreement. She settled in a little village and made her way as best she could. I didn’t see her as often as I liked as my wife hated mother’s silent home, almost a religious retreat in its stoic calm.

Then my marriage ended and things changed again. Mum was always there, supporting me without question and involving even more of Nottinghamshire in praying for my soul. But something had changed. She seemed reduced in some way, like the world had gone a little beyond her comprehension.

After a couple of years of gradual losses, financial catastrophes and an increasing knowledge that something was wrong, one of her few good friends in the village intervened and informed my brother and I of the terrible details of mum’s actual life, not the one she portrayed to us. A few months later, the medical tests confirmed our worst fears.

Mum has dementia. It is the compound, implacable variety. The person I see occasionally and talk to every week is no longer my mother, while horrifyingly she still is. It is the most difficult thing in the world to admit that you hope your mother dies quickly from her illness, rather than reach a point where she becomes vegetative or even worse, where she finally realises what is happening to her. It breaks my heart every day to live with this.

But as she stood by me regardless, unknowing and uncaring of my crimes in the love she had for her sons, I will ensure she has the very best of care in the love I have for her. We are a little family and she was the heart of it. While I am destroyed to admit that I cannot care for her personally as I would end up hating what she had been reduced to and loathing myself for doing so, I know me and as such can use the skills life has given me to ensure that her carers and financial wellbeing are forever the best that I can arrange.

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m grieving, loving and helpless in the face of one of the two things I would give anything to change but cannot influence in any way. Crying as I type but resolute.

Love you, Mum.

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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Daybook


Paraphernalia Not Required

As long as there is a heart in your chest and a sky above, you have a place of worship.

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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Faith & Magic


Let There Be Rock

As a child smart in all the not very practical things being raised by his great grandparents, I had a lonely first decade. That shaped me in ways I still have not fully understood. With the arrival of my brother to mum and my new dad, things became strange and then returned to being the same. My only resource was me. Mum trusted the good lord to raise me well, which was a mistake. He and I stopped talking very early on. By the time my brother was five, I had been a thief, a consumate liar, a vandal, a thug, very much a loner and more than a little wierd, topped off by the fact that mum’s faith kept me going to a Sunday group called Crusaders for long enough for me to become a Templar Knight in their attendance based reward system. Looking back, I was ripe for an epiphany.

At school I struggled due to sheer laziness. I was a librarian to avoid bullies that had followed me from junior school and an English teacher described me as ‘glib’. I could talk my way out of damn near anything involving reasonable people. By the age of fifteen I was on track for moderate academic success and a steady job doing something average.

It was that year, 1977, when one of my wilder friends from wargaming briefly let the odd kid in on his other life. That summer, due to circumstances, all his usual mates were off with family. So I got to hang out with him as a last resort. On top of that, I discovered that some girls liked a lad who read and was funny and hated football.

I had become the disk jockey at the church youth club and discovered rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins (the only version of Blue Suede Shoes that counts). Apart from that, the rest was pop pap as far as I was concerned. One evening, my mate was listening to me whinge about the music and said “Listen to this”.

What came out of his speakers hit me so hard. I did not know that it was a brand new debut LP release by an unheard of band. All I knew was that the music reached deep inside me and settled in to stay. The album was ‘Motorhead’. After that, he played me Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’. That night, I cycled home in a daze.

I have never looked back with regret on that moment. What ‘heavy metal’ gave me was somewhere to be. Somewhere to find the words to express emotions half-formed inside of me, music to fit the words from the books I had read.

Thirty-five years later and my love of rock music is unabated. I still find new bands producing music that just reaches through whatever mood I am in to lift me into a place I can never describe but have not found any other way. This stuff is me. Down by my breathing, my faith and my love, there is heavy metal scaffolding that supports and defends what is truly me from all comers.

The Rolling Stones said: “It’s only rock ‘n’ roll – but I like it.”

I would go one step further: “It’s rock ‘n’ roll. I need it.”

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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in It's Only Rock 'n' Roll


A New Faith

If I had suggested complete hardware replacement every year to my company, they would have quite rightly treated me like a lunatic.

I see we are about recieve the third coming: the iPad3.

The clever, nameless person who concieved the idea of marketing mobile devices as fashion accessories instead of traditional electronic equipment has my reluctant respect. He or she should still be shot, but my word, what a piece of moneymaking genius.

Marketing that keys into the same human drive as religious fervour. There are a lot of organisations envious of Apple. It is a singularly worrying trend that thankfully has not been emulated since. I can only believe that it will not be long, which is not a good thing. When you sit and consider the implications, they are terrifying.

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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Daybook, Faith & Magic



Knowing a little about a lot of things will not make you an expert in any of them. But it will make you more tolerable in general conversation.


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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in My Father's Life Tips

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