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I spend my time on /links and QOTW but tend to avoid /talk.


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» Mums

My Mum was an absolute one-off
In good ways and bad ways. Mostly good ways.

When she went into the hospice for the last time, and we knew she only had a day at most left, she waited until we were all there - me, my brother, my sisters, wives, husbands and children - then she whispered (she could hardly speak at this point) for someone to pass her purse to her.

She was very weak, so it took forever for her to open it, but she refused any offers of help, and eventually pulled out some money. And promptly sent my brother and me out to get a couple of bottles of Champagne.

She couldn't have any herself, but she was determined to see herself off with a celebration rather than us sitting around being miserable and crying (which of course we did afterwards anyway).

At one point the doctor came in and we wondered what she was going to think of all these people making merry, sipping Champagne at my Mum's deathbed. Well, Mum insisted she have a glass of Champagne, too, which she did.

it's been almost three years now, but writing this, I realise I'm still capable of shedding the odd tear thinking about it... though I'm smiling, too.
(Fri 12th Feb 2010, 9:15, More)

» What was I thinking?

Makes me shiver thinking about it even now
Early 1980s, I had an hour and a half journey to school each day, each way, and by the time I was 16 studies were starting to get a bit neglected as I discovered the bright lights of the West End and started going to three, four gigs a week. A railway strike gave me an opportunity to hatch a plan. You see, school wouldn't expect me to trudge halfway across South London, would they, so I could just tell my form master that I'd take some stuff home with me and sit it out. if I told my parents I was staying with a friend nearer school, they'd never check up. And there was one of my favourite bands playing at Gossips in Soho on an evening smack bang in the middle of the train strike.

So off I went to school the day before the strike. As it turned out I had actually arranged to stay with a schoolfriend who lived in a huge flat in Central London (but whose parents, curiously, were never, ever around) and who was happy to play along with the plan, off we went to the gig in the evening. The following day my mate, who wasn't quite so much into the whole bunking off thing, went into school, so I found myself mooching around Carnaby Street (very seedy at that time) waiting for another friend who worked nearby to knock off so we could go for a beer.

Enter Mr Plod. There's me, a youngish looking 16-year-old (though one, curiously, who never had problems getting served in pubs) hanging round on a street corner in an unsalubrious part of town, probably looking very out of place. This being the old stop & search days, his conversation opener was to ask me what was in my bag. So out come the books, all clearly marked with the name of my school on them - God knows, I must have decided I'd be doing some studying during my little jaunt - and I knew I was in the shit.

No point in lying, my school's name's on the books, as is my name, the only alternative to 'fessing up to bunking off is to somehow explain what I'm doing with them which would doubtless result in a trip to the station, so the policeman takes all my details, parents' phone number, school details etc. At best I am looking at an absolute bollocking from my parents and being grounded for a very long time, at worst I could be facing expulsion. I'm in deep shit in triplicate.

So I head off towards Charing Cross, where I may find a train or if they're still not running, I can get a bus in the general direction of home, but apprentice pisshead that I am, I decide to stop in a pub in Soho to drown my sorrows a little. I'm sitting there, probably looking pretty fucking sorry for myself, and this guy starts talking to me, asking why I'm looking so down, so I recount my story. Next thing I know, we're round the corner at what at the time I think must have been the Wendy's on Shaftesbury Avenue, now McDonald's (a great loss the day Wendy's quit the UK, by the way), and the guy's bought me a burger and said, you know, if you don't fancy going home to face your parents, you can always crash at mine, and I'm kind of, you know, that might not be such a bad idea, and then...

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?"

There's been twice in my life that I've heard those words shouted at me from within my own head, drowning out any other thoughts; the only other time, more recently, was the night before I stopped drinking which, in all probability, saved my marriage and a shitload of other problems. I really can't explain where it comes from, but it's a voice you can't help but listen to and act upon. And if the second time I heard it was a turning point in my life, I'm pretty convinced the first time was, too.

Alarm bells stated ringing in my head. What the fuck was I doing here, with this strange man, who, come to think of it, was making me feel uneasy, though with everything else going through my head, I hadn't really picked up on my intuition. I didn't just need to get home, I needed to get the hell out of here right now.

Well, thank fuck for Routemaster buses is all I can say. The countless times i'd hopped on and off the platform at the back paid off and - shit, it is moving a bit quickly, isn't it - I just managed to get a foot on the boards and a hand round the pole and off down the road I went, my erstwhile benefactor's face blending into the crowd as the bus sped off.

It was a face I remembered, though, and perhaps the glasses had something to do with that. I certainly recognised that face when I saw it on the news a couple of years later, and whenever I hear the name, it sends me cold.

Length? Dennis Nilsen got 25 years, later increased to life. He'll never be paroled.

PS - Just checked his Wikipedia entry for when he was arrested and some of the facts really do make me pause and realise just how lucky I was. The Golden Lion, I'm pretty certain, is the pub. He bought one of his victims a hamburger. Originally, I'm from Scotland, as many of his victims were. Thank fuck I listened to that inner voice (and apologies for lack of funnies)
(Sat 25th Sep 2010, 1:09, More)

» Festivals

Silly Me
I frequently attend literary festivals where I can indulge my passion for books and reading and when I saw one advertised last year only half an hour on the train from London, I eagerly bought a ticket. On arrival, though, I was desperately disappointed to discover that there were no author talks, let alone the slightest hint of a bookshop. And when I asked a young man who he thought might succeed Doris Lessing as recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, he told me to "fuck off, weirdo", before adding "do you know what time Metallica are on?".

This year I played it safe and stuck to the Hay-on-Wye festival instead.

Oh, and I've reported the organisers of the so-called "Reading Festival" to trading standards.
(Fri 5th Jun 2009, 12:18, More)

» My First Experience of the Internet

I was in Italy a couple of weeks ago for work
Took a couple of hours out to pop to city near Milan where I'd spent a year at university and worked in student travel office in 1993/94. Popped into the office to see if my old boss was still there. Guy said very sadly, "She's no longer with us..." - which turned out to mean she'd retired. Phew. Had me going for a moment.

Anyway, I had a chat with him about the way things used to be there... we'd leaf through a 2,000 page airline timetable to find flights, fill out cards with the travel itinerary on (in pencil, so we could rub it out if there were schedule changes etc), phone to book and reconfirm flights with airlines, etc. Computers? Unheard of. He couldn't believe we'd managed to cope. It worked, though.

The following morning back in Milan I was live tweeting pics within moments of taking them to the work account, emailed some copy across to the office from the train for a time-sensitive article that needed to go up pronto, and had a report filed and published online on the event I was covering within minutes of it finishing. Even five years ago, you'd never have been able to do all that.

My own experience of starting off on teh internets? Same as many others here. Baby steps early on, then starting to get involved in chatrooms/mailing lists, meeting virtual friends who are now among my closest real life friends, and with whom I've shared life's landmarks - birthdays, weddings, wetting babies' heads, funerals, etc. Strange thing is we don't interact that much online any more - much rather pick up the phone...

It was also through some stuff I posted to a mailing list and the feedback I got from people who read it that I started to become more confident about writing. An invitation to write for a fanzine followed, I kept that going for a few years, and when I lost my job four years ago, that gave me the balls to strike out on my own. I now write for a living about something I love and my office this morning was a table in the sunshine outside the local cafe. It's been life-changing for me in lots of ways.

When I think about the changes that have taken place, the pace of it all has been astonishing. I have nieces and nephews who never knew a pre-online world, and who in years to come will be doing stuff with technology we can't even start to imagine.

But you know what? I feel privileged to have been part of the generation for which it went mainstream, the one that knew the 'before' and 'after.'
(Tue 27th Mar 2012, 23:25, More)

» Presents

Gave my wife the best Christmas present she could have wished for today
Went to my first AA meeting. Day one and counting. Apologies for lack of funnies.
(Wed 2nd Dec 2009, 0:28, More)
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