Plus ça Change…

There is always a Christmas Post here on the blog. In all the years, through all the Christmases, there has always been something seasonal. The subjects have varied down through the years, How Santa is Real, Off Colour Seasonal Jokes, Insular Christmases, Yuletide Ghost Stories. You name it, this old blog has covered it. Hell, there’s even been a Covid Christmas Blog. I didn’t think there’d ever be another.

Some years, Christmas Day falls really close to my Sunday ‘Blog Posting’ day and that’s always kind-of handy. For those years, I can perhaps squeeze some words out of the festive marinade I’ve already steeped myself in. Not this year. Here I am, Saturday afternoon, and Christmas Eve seems a million miles away. There are four days work left to do and a lot to do in them. There is shopping and stocking-up and even some more baubles to be hung on the semi-decorated tree.

Maybe that’s why it’s hard to get seasonal yet.

That’s the bother. This post has to be the Christmas Post because it will be all over bar the shouting by the time next Sunday comes along. But, yeah, I’m not feeling it. Maybe it’ll kick in f I keep typing. So, keep typing.

In trying to concoct a blog post for Christmas this year, most of my thoughts have been about Christmases past and thinking about how long ago they were but also how not very different they now seem to have been. This is a thought sparked, at least in part, by having read ‘Small Things Like These’ by Claire Keegan, which is a very, very good book. In it, an Ireland is described which seems particularly old and tired and like something from ancient history. But here’s the thing, it’s Christmas 1985.

Though I loved the book, my brain found it hard to parse this literary vision of 1985 with my own memories and experience. The Ireland of the book seems more like a 1950’s place than a 1980’s place. Granted, by 1985, I was gone to London. In 1985, I went to Live Aid, Ghostbusters and Gremlins had already been out for a year, Shakin’ Stevens was Number One. This was not a time of coal trucks and power-wielding convents. This was not such an old time.

Except, of course, it was.

I’ve growing a theory off the back of this. A bit like that human ear on the back of that mouse. It’s simply this: Things that happened in our own lifetime do not seem so old. Things that happened even one day before we are born, seem ancient and from another world.

For me, my Christmases don’t seem to have changed very much at all over the 58 ones I’ve had. High Society and Ice Station Zebra have always been on the telly. There has always been a good exciting present to receive. There was always food and family and fun. Nothing’s changed.

Except, of course, as we all know, everything has changed. Those film I mentioned may be still around, but they are now buried on some classics channel where once they were the main attraction. Gifts have grown in size and quantity, as has the food and drink. Most profoundly of all, the Family is a different Family – my Family. That Family of 50 years ago (also my Family) is scattered and some are (tragically) gone.

All feels the same, yet all is changed. It’s like that old French phrase except reversed.

I look to movies from my life span, and they don’t seem all that old. The Beatles, in the clips I’ve seen from that new documentary, seem fresh and vibrant. I look to something made before I was born, like West Side Story, and it's like it is from another planet.

It’s all just another Christmas illusion. Last night, on the telly, ‘Die Hard’ came on. For perhaps the first time, it looked a bit dated and old. Perhaps that’s because I only saw the opening ten minutes and that’s a part I rarely see. There are openly displayed guns on planes and smoking in airport terminals. The hero ogles every other female as if they are a piece of meat. It’s from another time, just like I am. (It’s still great when it all kicks off though).

'What is the point of this story?', as Paul Simon once said, 'what information pertains?'

I don’t know, really. Christmas is a time for reflection, yes, but the reflections can be distorted and given a golden hue, as if reflected in one of those baubles on the tree.

Best not to dwell on it all too much, perhaps. Elder son arrives on the train on Tuesday evening and Younger son is fresh returned from London. Once again, it looks like we will all be allowed to be here together, under this roof. That’s the best thing ever. It should be nice. It always is. But the weight of the years bears down a little, the trickling fear of the virus creeps persistently around the back door.

And, where once a toast to absent friends was nothing more than a series of words to be spoken, these days the memory of those absent friends sits across from us at our table and smile at us with their eyes, from across the years.

Thank you for stopping by the old blog this year. It has meant a lot. I wish you a Happy Christmas and hope it brings you some light and warmth and a little respite from the everyday.

Nollaig shona dhuit.

Silly Things I Think But Don’t Really Believe (or How Craig David Caused the Pandemic)

(Note – This is intended as a light-hearted piece. I don’t blame Craig David for anything. Really. 
Rock on, Craig)

Does everybody have them, or is it just me? Silly notions. I mean, stupid ideas. Things that are patently not true and obviously ridiculous but, yes, I still give them some tiny bit of room inside of my head. I have quite a few of them. A high proportion of them relate to rain. Let me give you a ‘for instance’.

If you go out in the rain when it’s dark, you don’t get as wet as you do when you go out in the rain in daylight.

There. That’s rubbish. It makes no sense at all. And yet… and yet… some small part of me thinks there just might possibly be the slightest modicum of truth in it… even though there patently isn’t and it’s just pure bullshit.

But, still, if you go out in the rain in the dark, you don’t seem to get quite so wet.

Here’s another one, also precipitation related. You won’t believe this one. Well, you won’t believe any of them, that’s kind of the point.

If you’re driving along and you put your windscreen-washers on, this can sometimes cause a rain shower to commence.



I know, right? Complete garbage. Except… haven’t you ever noticed it? It’s not raining, you randomly decide to give the old washers a squirt. Suddenly, from nowhere, it’s raining. Silly. Untrue. But might there just conceivably be something to it? And, if so, is it perhaps some random peek into some strange alternate world.

No! Of course not! Except…

The point of writing this post is that I have a new one of these. Well, not new exactly. In fact, it’s four weeks’ off being two years old. It’s not a spoiler if I tell you what it is because it’s right there up in the title. I have this sneaking suspicion that Craig David might be responsible for the Pandemic.

Let me explain, as much as I can (because it’s obviously just stupid).

On New Year’s Eve, in our house, we have a well-established tradition. We go nowhere and we do nothing. It’s wonderful. When it comes close to that time when the old year dies and the new one begins, we alternate between watching Jools Holland and his Hootenanny on BBC2 and whatever live gig/concert is being offered as bookends to the fireworks over on BBC1. It generally works very well. The concert is invariably someone who will entertain and not piss anyone off too much and Jools… well Jools is Jools, innit? We have a Babycham or two and wish each other a Happy New Year. Text messages hop around from people in much more exciting places, doing much more exciting things. We don’t care. As the oldish song goes, 'when you’re with me, next year will be the perfect year'.

And then, suddenly, there was Craig David…

December 31st 2019. Jools is in full swing. Let’s just flick over to Beeb One and see who they’ve got to tickle our musical tastebuds_

It’s Craig David.

Now I’ve got nothing against Craig David. He’s a very talented singer and musician and, by all accounts, a lovely man. And he’s got that song where he met the girl on a Monday and then apparently, they rogered each other for the rest of the week… or something like that. All very well. All very good.

But he didn’t fit the bill, not for me anyway. He didn’t meet the criteria for New Year’s Eve firework bookend entertainment. Not enough hits, not mainstream enough? I don’t really know. Lovely guy, great musician, just not for me, not on that night.

And I got the hump. Right there, as 2019 ran down to its inevitable demise, just because Craig David was on my telly box, burglarising my bliss. I got the hump, and I made a proclamation (they could have put on The Proclaimers, that would have been all right).

“2020,” I proclaimed, “that’s going to be one shitty year.”

So, yes, it’s rubbish and stupid and, yes, even a little mean but I still can’t quite shake the suspicion that Craig David caused the pandemic by appearing on BBC1 on New Year’s Eve and ticking me off a bit.

No sense to it, no logic at all, but still…

Plus, I see it’s started raining outside. Did someone put their windscreen washers on?


This won’t be a terribly gushing post; I don’t really know enough to gush. But I learned the news of Stephen Sondheim’s death on Friday evening, and I feel I should type something, even though I know so very little.

I came to appreciate Sondheim late. I think that’s a key part of why I now admire his work so much. I had to grow into it. Even when I was quite young, I knew of him. I listened a bit and didn’t quite get it. To me, back then, it seemed stagey and slightly off-melody.

But, like I said, I’ve grown into it. I think I needed to. It’s often pretty grown-up stuff.

But, like I said at the start, I’ve only grown a little into it. Scratched the surface. There’s a life’s work there. So much to see and so much to hear. I'll be working on that in the coming years, if I'm spared.

I admire the work he did. My current favourite is ‘Sunday in the Park with George’. I have haunted YouTube on that one. It’s so strong on Creativity and Art plus it’s got Mandy Patinkin in it and ‘Sunday’ right at the end.

But much as I adore the work, I also adore the way he did the work and I take encouragement from it. Two things, really. Stephen Sondheim pushed boundaries in all kinds of directions and, importantly, experienced failure upon failure at times. But he did not stop, and he could not stop. In my own attempts at writing, I’m not much like Stephen, but in this one thing, I kind of am. I fail, I mess up, but I won’t ever stop.

The second thing is about the level of real feeling in his work. My friend William Gallagher was on a little uncharacteristic tirade, over on his blog last week, about that cliché advice that goes ‘write what you know’. I’m with him on that all the way. I think it’s bullshit too. For my own part, I edited that advice for myself quite a long time ago. For me, the advice now says, ‘write what you feel’. This works for me now. Oh, you don’t have to wear your heart on your sleeve or go around weeping and wailing about everything in the goddamn world all the time. But I tend to audit the stuff I do to try to ensure that there's at least an ounce of ‘blood’ and emotion in there somewhere. If you, the reader, the audience, can’t see it, all the better but it’s the stock that flavours the stew, even if you don’t know what it is.

And Sondheim, he tapped the deep well of his soul in his work.

I think that’s why I’ve had to grow into his work. I think empathy gets learned as we go through our lives, to some extent at least and, until you’ve learned it, you won’t get the Art that demands it.

Let me give you the briefest of ‘for instance’s. When I was young, I would watch movies where characters punched their way through glass windows, and I wouldn’t blink. But, when I was eighteen, I accidentally punched my way through my own window. And the blood, the wound, the painful removal of the impaled wrist from the shard of glass, the stitches, the lingering scars, they all taught me a little empathy on that particular subject. Now, when the detective goes through the window in that old movie, I wince. Boy, do I wince.

So let it be with Sondheim. If you don’t get him now, well, you may never get him but it is entirely possibly that, someday, you just might.

This weekend, a new play is taking shape inside my head. An idea that has lain around for years has, with a little encouragement, begun to extend its tendrils through my mind and through my senses. It’s a rather heady feeling, when it happens, and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

Thank you, Stephen Sondheim, so full of learning and teaching and creativity and respect and, yes, genius. Your refusal to fail and your willingness to share your heart has set you on high and, now that you are gone, you will  ascend ever higher and higher as the years go by.

And, through you work, you will remain with us for the longest time.

One Tiny Part of ‘Back to the Future’ that Baffles Me

There’s a certain exchange in the film ‘Back to Future’ that baffles me a bit. I watched the film again last weekend and there it is; that strange little dialogue interlude. Why is it there? What does it mean?

We’ll get to all of that shortly.

I saw ‘Back to the Future’ on the first night it came out in the Empire Leicester Square. My memory was that I was little underwhelmed with it. At that time, it seemed to spend the first third setting up the middle third in a terribly obvious fashion. Although the fun and pace picked up as it went, I didn’t quite forgive it that. Plus, something happened after the showing that made me sad and that may have also coloured my fading memory of the outing.

Over the years, I’ve seen it on telly time and time again (pun intended), usually around Christmas time. A couple of things have happened along the way. Firstly, it’s become a bit of an old friend. I mostly find it when it’s half-way through, so I’ve seen the second half way more than I’ve seen the first half and that second half is pacy and fun. Secondly, I’ve come to appreciate some of the more subtle touches that are everywhere in the writing and in the design. Somebody put a lot of thought into the little things on that movie. Which is why this one thing bugs me and makes me wonder…

But we’ll get to all that shortly.

Before I go on, I should say that I don’t rate Back to the Future Part II at all. Trish and I saw it in a cinema in Harvard Square in Boston on the first night it came out and it was a terrific disappointment in every respect. Back to the Future III, we saw in an Adelaide cinema one morning while waiting for our bus to Alice Springs. I think of it as an okay made-for-TV effort but nothing more.

But the first Back to the Future, while nowhere near my all-time favourite list, still has a place in my heart. I think, mostly, this is because of how it is always weaving stuff in. It weaves and there always seems to be something new to see in it. Some little trick or treat. For instance, Marty goes to Twin Pines Mall to meet Doc and start his time travelling adventure. On his getaway from the shotgun wielding farmer, he drives over one of the farmers beloved two pine trees. When he returns to the mall near the end of the movie, it is now Lone Pines Mall. There’s lots of that kind of stuff in there.

The second half of the movie cranks up the hazard and the challenges facing the protagonists and there’s an absolute shedload of stuff to get through before the day is finally saved. There literally isn’t a moment to lose.

Which brings us (at last) to that bit that baffles me.

It comes at the height of the crisis. Marty has just arrived from the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, having successfully paired off his father and his mother so that he can have a viable future. Doc is behind schedule, and everything must be in place before the lightning strikes the clock tower. There’s no time for idle chit chat.

Except that’s exactly what happens. Some apparently idle chit chat. Marty shows Doc the photograph with the three siblings now fully restored.

“The Old Man really came through. It worked! He laid out Biff in one punch. I didn’t know he had it in him. He’s never stood up to Biff in his life.”


“No. Why? What’s the matter?”

Doc thinks about this and then literally waves the whole exchange away with his hands and the movie rolls on to its conclusion.

(I’ve embedded the scene in here so you can have a look, if you want.)

But why is it in there? What purpose does it serve?

The script here is too rigid, the editing too tight for this seemingly gratuitous little exchange to be left in there by some kind of accident.

So, it means something in the context of the film. But what?

At first, I thought it was about parentage. Before I get into that, there is a slightly sanitised TV version of the film which is the one that we see mostly in the afternoons around Christmas time. The differences are not colossal but the level of swearing and the general edginess is cranked-up a bit in the uncut version and that is important in the context of the parentage question. You see, Biff has a salacious interest in Marty’s Mum, Lorraine. When he forces himself into the car with her, outside of the dance, his intentions are clearly sinister in a way not normally seen in a kid’s movie. And this isn’t really a kid’s movie anyway. Biff’s interest does not seem in any way born of the alterations that Marty has been making to the timeline. In fact, Biff''s threat seems fully-formed without any of Marty's interventions. 

So, if George McFly has never stood up to Biff’s horrible advances in the original timeline, what exactly happened on the night of the original Enchantment Under the Sea dance? It’s not a nice thought to explore too deeply but, when Doc looks at the restored photo and hears how George had never stood up to Biff, is he thinking about exactly who Marty’s parents really are?

This doesn’t stand up for all kinds of reasons. I’ll leave you to work that out if you care to (I realise you probably don’t). But, in the opening scenes of the film, adult Biff still seems salaciously interested in Marty’s Mum. What exactly kept him away from her over the years? We do not know, and we may, not without reason, fear the worst.

It’s not a happy train of thought to take from a light-hearted entertainment. Thankfully, my current theory is much less sinister and perhaps that’s why I have adopted it as my final answer as to why this scene is there at all.

Here goes…

Doc already knows that he is in big trouble in 1985. Marty catches him, in an earlier scene, watching the video over and over again. The one where the terrorists arrive to kill him. At the time of our scene, he hasn’t yet received the letter from Marty which warns him about his impending death, but he has clearly been wrestling with the ‘Timey-Wimey’ issues of changing the future. So much so that, when he gets the letter from Marty, he tears it up and, importantly, puts the pieces in his pocket. He hedges his bets. Why?

This, for me, having thought about it far too much, is the reason why our little scene is there. Doc looks at the future in that restored Polaroid photo and sees that all is well. Even though Marty has wreaked considerable havoc on the past, in order to try to save the future, all is still well. If George never stood up to Biff… until he suddenly did, and the Time/Space continuum held firm, then perhaps Doc could also take a small risk with the future and save himself?

In the film, when Marty finally realises that Doc has chosen to do just that, he asks him, “What about all that talk about screwing up future events?” Doc replies, “I figured, ‘what the hell?’”

It’s a funny line and it works well in the movie. But I now like to think that our strange little scene, right in the middle of the melee, gives Doc a lot more justification for doing what he did. It wasn’t a ‘what the hell’ moment, it was a calculated risk. All based on that one restored photo and the fact that George had never-ever stood up to Biff before Marty arrived.

There! Done.

Why should I bother writing this? Two reasons – well, three. The third one is that it was bouncing around in my brain this week and I figured that writing it might exorcise it out.

The first reason is that there is a lot of stuff to be found down the Internet rabbit hole about Back to the Future, including a lovely interlude about the terrorist’s van and the Mandela Effect. But there’s not all that much there about this scene. So, I thought I’d try to add to the canon a little.

And what about the second reason, Ken? About why you would waste your valuable time on this when clearly nobody cares that you do.

Well, because that’s as good a definition as any of what writers actually do. And, at the end of the day, like it or not Ken, you are a writer.

Aren't you?

Not as Sweet as You

They’ve opened an aisle just for me, apparently. That’s really very kind of them. The girl who guides me over to it is sweet but, you know…

It all happened at once, the way things do in those made-up stories sometimes. We were walking down into town on a Saturday afternoon. The little box was burning its usual hole in my pocket, and you had news to tell. Good news. Great news.

You’d got a gig. After all the months of waiting, auditioning, hoping, and praying, you’d finally got an acting gig. Better still, you’d kept it a little secret from me, and you’d gone and done it and got paid for it. You produced a cheque, an honest-to God old fashioned cheque with a full and amazing four digits before the decimal point. You didn’t know if you could pay it in at the cash till. You’d never had anything to pay in before, but you sure as hell were going to try.

You laughed and I laughed back as we ambled along and there was this slab of paving with a tiny edge sticking up proud from the footpath and you caught your foot on it and you tripped and fell, and your head hit the edge of the concrete kerb stone. It was nothing, really. In the movies, people get thrown off buildings and waylaid with crowbars all the time and they just get up and fight on. They wince and they rub the sore spot for a moment but that’s all. On they go.

You didn’t go on though, did you? Not really, anyway. They kept you breathing for a time. They kept you warm and sustained. But you were gone, really, weren’t you? When they eased you off the machinery it was a blessing, they said, a pure blessing.

I couldn’t really see it that way.

I should have asked you about the gig you did. You had worked so hard, waited so long. Acting degree, audition after audition, working for free whenever you could. Anything, anything to get on. I should have taken the little box out of my pocket and asked you then and there. You might not have tripped then; you might not have died.

Whenever I go to the supermarket now, I try to buy the minimum. There’s only me now to feed, only my clothes to wash. I try but I inevitably get too much. I either think or hope you’ll be there when I get home.

They have new checkouts in store today. Automated. Everywhere else has had them for years but they’ve finally arrived here in my little place. Three of them in a row. That suits me. I don’t need to see anyone in person these days, I don’t need to be discussing the weather.

I place my basket on the left side of the checkout and scan my first item, placing it over on the right. I know how it works from the bigger supermarket where I go on the weekends to buy too much stuff.

“Have you scanned your loyalty card?” the machine asks me.

I laugh.

“Gosh, no,” I reply, a sudden unexpected smile running across my mouth, “I almost forgot.”

I fish out my wallet and search for the card. Give it a quick scan.

“All of your points add up.” the machine says.

“I know they do,” I say, “I know it.”

I stop. Stare.

“Is it you?” I ask.

The machine doesn’t say anything. I must scan some more things.

I scan and scan. The machine says nothing more. It just beeps once with each item I send through. Too much stuff. Far too much.

When everything is scanned, I press ‘Pay’ on the touch screen.

“Select payment type,” she says, in her lovely voice.

“Is this the gig you got? The voice of the checkout?”

“Yes, isn’t it cool?”

“I’ve missed you so much.

“Please select payment type.”

The queue behind me is growing. People are looking at me with odd sideways glances. I select ‘Pay by Card.’

“Follow the instructions on the keypad.”

“I will. I will. But first I want to show you something.”

I fumble in my pocket and pull out the tiny box. I open it, the contents colour and sparkle in the high lux glare. I lay the box gently on the scanner.”


“Item not recognised. Pleased enter the code or select item from directory.”

“It’s not that big of a surprise, I think.”

“Enter the code or select item from directory.”

I pick the little box up and place it carefully on the right-hand side, along with my milk and my butter. I ease myself down on one knee, as we joked that I someday might.

“Will you please marry me?”

The machine beeps.

“Unexpected item in the bagging area,” she says.

"I know it’s quite sudden. I know it’s a bit naïve."

“Unexpected item in the bagging area.”

“It’s just that I thought I’d lost you.”

“Assistance is on the way.”

“And here you are.”

“Assistance is on the way.”

The assistance has arrived. The small crowd parts to let her through. She puts her hand on my shoulder. I think she might know my story.

“Walk over here with me, John. We have a place.”

They’ve opened an aisle just for me, apparently. That’s really very kind of them. The girl who guides me over to it is sweet but, you know…

… not as sweet as you.




It would be wrong to let this little flash fiction piece go out without name-checking the great Harlan Ellison, who has been an inspiration to me since I found first found ‘Shatterday’ on the library shelf, when I was aged thirteen or so.

His short story ‘Laugh Track’ from the collection ‘Angry Candy’ was an obvious influence for this tiny effort.

Facing It Down

Sunday morning, 9.40am. The temptation is huge.

Stick up a note on Facebook and Twitter, “No new blog post this week but here’s one from way back when…”.


Being a writer is easy when you’ve got something to write. Having ideas is easy when you’ve got a couple of ideas. When you have nothing to write when you have no ideas… not so much.

But the real writers are not just fair-weather scribblers. Sometimes they must ride out a drought or shelter from a hailstorm. Sometimes they just have to face down the blank page and make something happen. There’s just no other way.

So, stick around a moment. There actually is a new blog post this morning. It’s just, right now, at 9.44am, I have no idea what the next word of it will be… or the word after that.

Sometimes writing (for me at least) is like push starting a car. You’re back there heaving, and the car feels so heavy and it’s got so little movement and your back is breaking and you’d better just call the roadside rescue and sit this one out. Maybe you’d better. Except that if you can keep on pushing through the backbreak, something might spark, something might click, and you’re off and running towards something or other.

(This is a waste of time, I should stop now, have some cornflakes.)

(No, I can’t).

Look around the desk. A bit cluttered. Write a paragraph about something on there.

Well, there’s my beloved Bluetooth headphones. Status BT Ones. I hinted the fuck out of them for last Christmas and got myself a pair. I love to listen to podcasts in the kitchen when making the dinner and I love to watch a crap movie loud late at night when the rest of the house is sleeping. These puppies were gifted to me to let me do that better. And, partly, they do and, partly, they don’t. The ‘podcast in the kitchen’ part is a dream. I do my weekly Kermode and Mayo (the ones that I didn’t get in the car) or just play some Tom Waits or something.

The telly thing, though. Not so good. The headphones connect and the sound is wonderful. They just don’t always stay connected. Accidentally flick your head a little and the sound becomes broken and disjointed. And the trouble with TV sound on headphones for a movie is this: it’s either perfect or it’s absolutely no good at all. There is no middle ground. So that’s a bit of a disappointment. Every now and again I try them again and they work for a while and it’s perfect (just like the kitchen podcast is perfect.) But then, out of nowhere, it’s all “ah-oh-eh-oh-ah’ again and the effect is ruined.

The movie effect is a fragile one. When me and Sam went to see the most recent Star Wars film, it was in the afternoon in one of the smaller screens in the local Multiplex. For some reason, the sound channel carrying the dialogue stopped working halfway through. We could hear the sound effects and the music, but the character’s lips moved, and no sound came out. I went and found a young man in the sweet shop who promised he would attend to it. I went back to my seat and watched the partially silent space opera unfold. Then, suddenly, the dialogue came back. Hurray!

The movie stopped mid-frame and the sweet shop guy appeared in front of the screen. “Sorry about that,” he said, “I will rewind the film for you. How far back should I go?” The consensus was that fifteen minutes would be about right. He vanished and, a few moments later, the film on the big screen started cranking back, just like it would on your DVD or streaming.

The point is that ‘cinema rewind’ has forever since coloured my view of the cinema experience. Before that, there was a naive impression of huge film reels and coordinated change over of projectors. The ‘rewind’ drew back the veil and showed the mundane reality of digital projection at work.

These things are fragile. They're either perfect or no good at all.

10.01am and, once again, I don’t know what to write now. I had no idea I was going to write that ‘Star Wars Rewinded’ bit so I suppose that’s the 'car pushing' effect in action. What now though?

Suppose we were in the pub, having an Americano ‘cos the sun/yardarm thing is not quite right yet. The conversation has momentarily lagged. What would I tell you?

I got an image for the poster for the new play. I’m very happy about that. I was surfing Flickr looking for something that might work when I came upon the perfect image. It was both exciting and nervous making. If the owner of the photo doesn’t allow me to use it, then it’s all for naught. I banged off a message, knowing full-well that Flickr messages are not often read and even less often replied-to. Wonder of wonders, a short time later, a reply came back. Yes, I can use the image. This is bigger than it might seem. It’s like a sort of benediction. A note from the fates that this play-thing might just go quite well. And why wouldn’t it? I have such a stellar cast and such a lovely venue in The Linenhall. Plus, the rehearsals are so good. Funny and collaborative is the best of ways. It’s all very exciting.

That’s all I want to say about it for now but, rest assured, you’ll hear more about it soon.

10.11am and 1,000 words are in the bag (or they will be when I’ve done this bit). God knows they aren’t particularly good words and there isn’t a lot of value in here for you, the valued reader. I’m sorry about that. I’ll do better next week. Part of the reason I’ll do better is because I pushed myself to do this one today. The writing muscle had been stretched. That will serve me well for next time. At least, that’s how it usually works.

Have a good day. Do something nice for yourself.

Now… Cornflakes.

I've Looked at Lights from Both Sides Now

If the many posts on this silly little blog were to be categorised and broken down into related sections (which are both pretty much one and the same thing), there might be surprisingly few themes to choose from. Over the years, I have found that I tend to go around and around in small circles with the things I choose to scribble about.

One such ‘category’ that I tend to come back to is the mediocre quality of driving and road manners out there in my world. Search back, if you dare, and you will find me giving out yards about all kinds of perceived crimes and misdemeanours. I can get quite shirty about it too. It’s not my most endearing quality but what can you do? Nobody’s perfect.

So here I am with a new driving gripe. It’s been a while since I turned up here to rant a bit about how y’all behave out there but settle in. I came to complain and chew gum and, as the man said, I’m all outta gum.

So… red lights and green lights, that’s the subject for my TED talk today. To illustrate my concerns (for concerns, read rage) I will restrict my observations to two sets of traffic lights, both of them no more than 300 metres from my house. They’re down there now, I can feel them, ticking quietly from red to green via orange and back again. Listen, can you hear them? Of course you can’t. You’re miles away. Catch yourself on.

Let’s get the serious one out of the way first. We have a pedestrian light down at the main road. You know the routine, the cars whizz by without a break so we’ve been gifted a light by the council so that we can get to town and not starve. The trouble is that a fair percentage of drivers do not bother to stop when the light turns red. Let me try to quantify, as it might save me from spinning off into uncontrollable rage here. Emmm… I’ve been using this light for well over twenty years… based on my observations… I will say 5% - no that’s too much – let’s say 3% of drivers fail to stop when the light turns to red.

Why? Why would the bastards not stop? (Calm, Ken, calm) Well, the reasons can be observed in the demeanour of the drivers as they shoot past my nose. 20% of them are people who have just woken up to the fact there’s a red light, at the exact moment they shoot through it. They look around in shock and seek to beg forgiveness from some higher authority. Another 20% carry a facial expression that says, “I see the light, but that strange looking pedestrian hasn’t even thought about stepping out yet, besides the light has only just changed, it benefits nobody for me to stop now, plus I’m late.’ 20% more are on their phones and don’t even know there’s a light. 20% more are old and don’t seem to know there is a world beyond their windscreen and it’s a miracle that they’re not in a ditch somewhere already. Another 10% are sundry reasons that would take too long to cover here. It’s the last 10% that really boil my micturition. These fuckers see the light, slow down to almost a stop, but then change their mind and drive on through instead. I can only conclude that these ones are serial killers and psychopaths and I suppose I really should be writing their plate numbers down. There are a small subset of well-meaning folk who stop on the green light and wave you warmly out into the oncoming traffic on the other side. I have a soft spot for those ones, even though I shout my distain at them. They are the good people paving the road to hell. You can’t entirely hate them.

It all sounds quirky and fun when I write it out like this but, really it is very far from that. When I stand at the side of the road and wait for the green man to tell me to cross, I am rarely alone. My compadres are generally young children on their way to and from school. They are lovely but not as clued in as I am to the wayward world that we live in. Someday, I fear, some small person will trust the green man too much and step out and one of the 3% will be barrelling down at them. It’s not an irrational fear, at the side of the road there is a fresh bunch of flowers and a candle that somebody keeps lit as best they can. Lives have already been lost here.

Moral of this part of the story? If you’re a driver and the light goes red, please stop. It’s not rocket science. If you’re the pedestrian and the man goes green, make sure before you step out that the car bearing down on you is one of the 97% who might stop.

There. Let’s call that the ‘Red Light‘ section.

Although I’ve set a sombre tone there (not without good reason), I feel it can be instructive for me to now climb behind the wheel and view my world from there. So here I am, no longer the humble pedestrian but, now, the omnipotent driver. It’s a different world from back here, an altogether altered point of view.

You see, we have another traffic light within 300 metres of my house and this one is new. Where, previously, there was an ordinary junction where you waited your turn and pulled out when it was safe, there is now a traffic light. It’s a significant improvement. You could have sometimes been waiting ages to get out on this busy road. Now, when your light turns green, it’s your turn and you can go.



I mean, people don’t go, do they? The light goes green and there’s three cars in front of you and this light only lets about four cars through before it goes green again and the car in the front, right at the lights, is just… fucking… sitting there.

Why won’t you go, car at the lights? The signal is clearly green and yet you sit there like a big gobshite and I’m never-ever going to get through the light now.

Why are you still there? Have you lost your cough lozenge down the back of the seat? Is your Narcolepsy kicking back in? Can’t you find the right gear?

It’s usually none of these things.

It’s usually the same thing. The same thing that has 3% of drivers racing through the pedestrian light up the road. It’s selfishness and lack of care for anything other than themselves (they’re one and the same thing again, Ken, you did that earlier too). The person at the front of the queue knows they will get through the green light, they’re right there. So, they don’t give a thought to the people in the queue behind. It doesn’t matter a jot to them whether anyone else gets through or not, just so long as they do. It is the same reason why the person at the front of the queue won’t even bother indicating which way they are going 58% of the time. They are okay, nothing and nobody else matters.

This driving behaviour is all over the place. An insular lack of care of regard for anything. And the road is a microcosm of the world at large. We are boxing ourselves in more and more as we go. Looking out for number one. 

Absolutely nothing else matters.

Except it does. It really does.

Catch yourselves on.

We All Know It Flies but It Really Does Fly

Yesterday was Saturday and, for reasons best left unexplored, we drove through the same town we had driven through on the Saturday before. Are you with me so far? While driving through the town yesterday, the revelation came to me with something akin to a blinding flash of light.

“Wait,” I said, to Patricia, who was alongside me in the shotgun seat.


“It’s been a week.”

“What’s been a week?”

I could hardly say it. It had been a week since we last drove up this street in this town. A full week. Seven days. But it couldn’t have been. It simply couldn’t. It seemed like yesterday or, at the very most, the day before yesterday. Not a week. Not an entire week.

Sorry to prattle on about this, about something that I reckon we all experience all the time. It’s just that this particular instance of it was so pronounced. It was remarkable. So here I am, as I do, remarking on it.

It wasn’t like a memory-loss thing, or anything like that. I audited my week a little as I drove along, and it was all there. University Challenge, lots of work, first rehearsal, power outage, Sky box going up the Swanee, chips on Friday and here, in the car again, in this town, one Saturday later. No amnesia, no dotage.

Just time.

Time flies.

I was at a thing a few weeks back and, on the back of a nice discussion about time travel movies, the idea of the actual viability of time travel came up. One of my favourite people, a committed scientist, patiently explained why time travel simply was not possible and stoically weathered the ensuing storm of the Back to the Future fanatics shaking their heads and saying, ‘But it might be. It might.’ Afterward he took me aside and whispered an explanation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to me and, truth be told, I was not much the wiser afterward. I’m more of a smart-arse than an intellect. The complexity of time eludes me.

Except in practical, day-to-day terms. Time moves slowly sometimes. It drags along and we look at the place where we used to wear our watches and wish that things would hurry the hell up. That certainly happens sometimes. But generally, time moves fast. Time flies and it sometimes blinds us how very fast it can go.

I find if I’m moving fast, time goes quickly and if I’m moving slowly time goes slowly, except when I look back on the slow time it also seems to have gone pretty darned quickly.

(Hopefully, by now, you’ll have gone past the sneaking suspicion and reached the firm conclusion that there isn’t going to be any sensible resolution to this little musing. The object of this weekly exercise is to reflect a little on something-or-other that happened in the week preceding. And, although the aforementioned power-cut, Sky box breakage and the Friday chips are all events ripe for further exploration, the fact remains: this past week went bloody fast.)

In maths, you do a little sum, and it leads you to a bigger sum. (I’m about as good on maths as I am on Relativity). If the little sum is that the week commencing 11th Oct 2021 flew, then the bigger sum is also one we are all very familiar with.

Life is short.

It’s a week for stating the obvious, isn’t it? We should make it a national holiday. One where we all sit around remarking on how green the grass is or how wet that water is. I bet that day might drag a bit, at least until it was over and then it would seem like it actually went… oh, you get the point.

But time does fly, and life is short. This week proved it or reminded me of it or… something like that anyway.

In another chat from the past couple of weeks, I defiantly proclaimed myself to be middle-aged. The reply I got was a bit smart but also a bit thought-provoking.

“Well done,” the person replied, “I’ll see you when you’re 116.”

It’s true, innit? At 58, I’m not going to see the same span again. In truth, I’ll be lucky to see another fifteen years.

And time is flying.

And I don’t do very much. I work and make some dinners and watch a little TV and fall asleep on the couch and tumble to bed and get up and work. And the weeks and the months and the years roll around and, like that past week, you sometimes wonder where they went and how they did it so quickly.

This is the end. No, not that end. The end of the piece. Ideally, I would come out of this with some resolve, some drive to do better. If I can’t slow time down (and I can’t) then I should do more with my allocation. As they said in that movie (when the guy quoted Jack London) “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

Yes, I should do some of that. I should ‘Ride, boldly ride’ like they said in that other film.

But I probably won’t. I think I live my life more from song quotations than movie quotations so I’ll just ‘keep on keepin’ on’, as I do. No great revisions to the script, no great reinvention, just 'keep on keepin’ on.' That’s all…

…but, man, that week went quickly, didn’t it?

Metal Gear Bond Kicks the World Back Onto its Axis

I can’t ever tell you if a film is good or bad. I just can’t. All I can do is tell you if I liked it or not, it’s for you to draw your own conclusions from there.

So, this won’t be a review of the new Bond movie. It will just be one of my typical Sunday morning short pieces. Except, this time, it’s about how I went to see a particular movie at the first opportunity so that it could be all mine rather than just an amalgam of what everybody else might say about it.

I only do this ‘Early Bird’ thing with the Bond movies and it’s a long-standing tradition. The first night of ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was my first non-parent-accompanied evening show. Even back in the London/Timothy Dalton days, I would be into Leicester Square on the opening Friday evening. Making up my own mind before everybody else told me what to think. It’s always been a rare opportunity to catch something before everybody else does. The movies have always come out on this side of the world a week before America gets them so, just for once, we could be ahead of the game.

Enough, already. Tell us about your day at the movies, Ken. How did it go?

I sloped off work. Four O'clock on Thursday. I work for myself so it’s not quite a salacious as it might sound but it’s still a thing I never do. I hatched the plan on the Sunday before. I rarely do anything purely for myself. That makes me sound like a saint, which I’m patently fucking not, but I do tend to overlook myself sometimes in the rush of everyday life. Would I, could I, continue the tradition of seeing these silly old flicks the moment they came out? I could. I would.

The cinema was only letting fifty people in. That suited me just fine. I hadn’t been in over two years, and I didn’t need it to be a buzzing occasion. In fairness, it felt a bit like coming home, although I haven’t been the most faithful of attendees, even pre-pandemic. The audience was made up of a few couples with quite a few dad and son combos, which was nice. There were also a few solo males like me. To be expected. I bought a bag of Maltesers and, true to form, had most of them eaten before the iconic gun barrel sequence even rolled. Then we were off.

I can’t tell you if a film is good or bad. I just can’t. 

But I can tell you that I really, really liked this one.

Do with that what you will. I have to be a little careful. Bond films, for me, are a lot like the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol. They both come on the scene all massive and boisterous but, as time ticks on, they deflate and come to seem more ordinary. This continues until they appear on ITV4 for the twentieth time, and you can’t bear to look at them again. This happened most notably with the most recent Spectre. Only 'From Russia with Love' has retained, and even improved on, its initial sheen. The others have faded like a festive season. But in their ‘Early Morning, Christmas Day’ mode, when everything is bright and shiny and new, man they can be really something. And, sitting there in Mayo Movie World in the dark, with the dregs of my sweetie bag in my lap, this new film was really something.

For me, Daniel Craig’s - and Purvis and Wade’s - crowning achievement has been to redefine the character as a man. Where other JBs might delight in late night gambling, clandestine affairs, and myriad assassination, Craig’s man has evolved in someone who tends to find his joy in people. From being a misogynistic clothes horse, JB has become a fella who talks just like we do (90% of the time) and who doesn’t suffer bloody fools gladly. If not a depth, there is at least a firm reality to him.

You might have got a sense by now that I’m not going to tell you much about the actual film, beyond that I liked it. You can get all that plot stuff elsewhere. Like I said, this is not a review. I will say roughly three things about it, none of which will spoil your film or your day.

Firstly, director Cary Joji Fukunaga and cinematographer Linus Sandgren have delivered a beautiful product. I had often thought how I’d like to see JB in action here in Ireland and the Skyfall finale, with its Scottish setting, came close to that. But the foggy Norwegian Woods section of the new film come closest of all. It is a beautiful thing. There is also what I would call a ‘Metal Gear Solid’ sequence in the film where JB has some bigwigs in his earpiece telling him how things stand while he ruthlessly picks his way through a ‘level’, dispatching villains hither and yon. For me, it is pure video game cinema and, as an antidote to all the caring and feeling that necessarily goes on elsewhere in the flick, it is very welcome.

Reservations? Well of course there are some. Elements sometimes feel shoehorned into the plot to satisfy respectful nods to earlier times. Like the poison garden from Fleming’s novel ‘You Only Live Twice’ or Dalton’s V8 Volante, which has a dust sheet whipped off it like it’s going to do something brilliant and then it doesn’t. Some characters have nothing to do and are just there because they were there before. One particular minor casting choice seems very strange indeed. Bad guy Malik is just okay, and Waltz is largely neutered.

But these are quibbles. For two hours and forty-five minutes, I became immersed in the show. And though it’s a fine movie (in my opinion only) nostalgia and relief certainly played their part in achieving that. After a long pandemic run, I was back in a cinema and Metal Gear Bond was kickstarting my normal life. In the end, what with one thing and another, was there even a hint of a little_

No! Big guys don’t do that. Nuh huh. Never.

I sat through the end titles, as I always try to, even though the lights might be up, and the clean-up folk mobilising. Hans Zimmer delivered his ‘BRAAMS’ moment after we heard a golden oldie favourite all shined up. And then those old familiar final words on the screen ‘James Bond will Return’.

Of course, he will. When I was a kid, this end message would always give me a buzz. This time, not so much. It is a compliment to the film that I actually considered that there could perhaps be no more. That everything that could be done, had been done. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

Finally, as Daniel Craig finishes his tenure, I’ll give him the best kudos I can. As a lifetime fan of the series, everything allowed, he has, in my opinion only, been the best of all James Bonds.

You just can’t say more than that.

Further Afield

Back in 2017, I did a post about my younger son heading off on his school trip to Barcelona. The quiet joy and the dull ache of it all. You can have a look at it here if you’re bothered. This week, four and a half years later, and he’s off on a plane again. This time, though, he’s not coming back on Saturday night.

It’s all good. He turned twenty-one just after he left and he’s a seasoned university-goer who is well-used to living away from home and looking out for himself. He’s been looking forward to going and will be back in this country come Christmas. So, it’s all good.

Still, the tug.

Neither of us had been to an airport for a couple of years. Where have all these cars come from? We have to go up and up and up through the multi storey car park to even get a smell of a parking space.

The automatic bag check-in machine nearly defeats us at the first hurdle. No matter what touch pads we touch or how we present the damn case, the device will not co-operate. All around us, people are weighing their bags, attaching their sticky labels, and moving on while we remain confounded. It is almost enough to make you say, ‘sod it, let’s just bugger back home and try again next year when it’ll all be easier.’ But no. It turns out we have chosen a machine where someone has abandoned their check-in in mid-process. A quick shift to another machine and everything is fine. We are as good at it as everyone else is.

A brief discussion about going through security, which has always confounded both of us a little. ‘Best take the Docs off, stick ‘em in a tray. The eyelets might set some bloody thing off.’

Then it’s the departure gate, up the long escalator that seems to get you halfway up into the sky already. That’s as far as I can go, Buster. A brief tight hug. Weave your way through the simple maze of queueing-barriers. Round the corner past passport control. A fleeting wave and gone.

I find a quiet spot. He’s never flown on his own before. There’s security, find the gate, fly, land, find the baggage, get the transfer, find the place, find the room, get settled… ‘Know what, though? It’ll be fine. The Dude is calm and resourceful. Everything is doable, nothing is all that hard.

The occasional text throughout the day confirms all this. Everything gets done. Any glitch is waltzed through. I’m an old fool to ever consider worrying. But you do, don’t you? It’s hard not to.

It reminds me of something I’ve forgotten or at least of something I know but which isn’t as much to the forefront of my mind as it used to be. It’s just this. You have to do hard things to do great things. The easiest route to everything is not always the best. You have to occasionally pull up a stake, shake your leaves a bit, stretch out to the sun.

I’m only writing this for all the parents and young adults who are feeling that university separation tug in this current week. I don’t think you are alone, and I don’t think you should feel that you are. Everybody feels the tug, I reckon, it’s only natural. Plus, as with most everything, our Pandemic has made it all that little bit harder. We’ve all been comfied-up together for a long time and, even if it hasn’t always been totally idealistic for everybody, it’s still something we’ve got used to having. It makes the tug that little bit jerkier.

So be easy on yourselves, parents and children of the newly separated generation. If I know anything, it will get easier quite quickly, even if it never quite gets A-Okay.

Our practically grown-up kids are off on something like a slightly qualified Star Trek mission. Boldly going where it sometimes feels like nobody has ever gone before.

And they'll be fine. 


Driving the Wrong Way Down the Road to the Final

I had to make an unexpected drive to Dublin on Friday evening. My son needed to get there for early on Saturday and this was the best way to make it happen. I didn’t mind at all. Sam is always fun company in the car and the playlists on his phone are unerringly great. I stayed over for the night and got back on the road home the next morning.

This was Saturday morning. The morning of the All-Ireland Football Final.

I was heading firmly west while meanwhile, over on the other side of the road, everybody from my entire county was heading east. That’s how it seemed anyway.

Looking back on it now, exactly one day after, the drive seemed like something of a privilege. It was a view of something that I might never have otherwise got to see. Not to overstate things, it was a small joy to behold.

A line or two of context. Bear with.

The Gaelic Football team of my adoptive home county of Mayo are, without question, one of the most powerful forces in the game. Few could argue against that. But the team have not won an All-Ireland Final, and thus the coveted Sam Maguire Cup, since 1951. That makes it a round seventy years this year. For many years, the team to beat has been Dublin. A team could do very well against all comers and then face Dublin and find an immovable block wall in their face. Dublin won five in a row and were looking for a sixth this year. Except this year, Mayo beat Dublin in the semi-final. Suddenly, the block wall was gone. The final lay ahead, as it had done so many times before, but this year was different. Dublin would not be there, waiting.

So, as I made the three-hour drive home to Castlebar yesterday, the football faithful were making their way to Croke Park in the hope and expectation of seeing history made.

I had expected something on the road. I silently gave thanks that I wasn’t going the other way, trying to get into the city in all that traffic. I expected there to be cars whizzing past me on their way. What I got, though, I didn’t expect that.

It was a parade. A quite wonderful parade. More than that, it was a legion on the move. The Mayo fans, heading to Croker.

When you’re in Castlebar in the weeks before the big match, you may see little flags attached to a car. You may see a licence plate, illicitly changed out for a red and green ‘Mayo4Sam’ sentiment. Individually, these things look fun and nice.

But when practically every car going the other way is decked out in the red and green, when every car is packed with families and friends, it’s an entirely different effect. Every petrol station along the way was replete with fans and flag-ridden cars. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh they went past me. I couldn’t help but wave and occasionally toot my horn at people I didn’t know. I glanced in my rear-view mirror and figured that the person behind me thought I was a damned lunatic. Who cares? Wave, toot, wave toot.

Even more than the legion of vehicles, there was the people and the gestures that lined the roadway in every county. Tractors sat in the highest point of fields, bedecked in the colours. Cherry pickers raised as high as they go with kitted-out mannequins up on the platforms, watching out. But the people. Ah, the people. They were the best of all. Outside of houses and farm gates, all along the way, entire families in Mayo garb bounced up and down and waved and cheered as the parade tooted past. Rare bridges above, all Mayo clad and cheering. It was like how I imagined the Tour de France might be. It only happened yesterday but I don’t think I’m ever going to forget one man alone on the grass verge outside of his house, easily eighty years old. Beside him, his trusty ride-on lawnmower and, on it, a massive teddy bear in a Mayo Jersey. The old guy bouncing and waving his flag like a good thing, the cars responding in kind.

I smiled all the way home. I felt I knew a little more about the passion and the glory of Mayo football. How it raises its people up.

Mayo fans never give up, never will. It is a key part of what defines them/us. Every year that they can, they will ride in that parade, filled with pride and hope and expectation. All the arid years that have gone before only adding further to the love and respect that the place has for its mighty team.

The parade thought that yesterday was going to be their day and, in truth, so did I. I said it out loud where most townsfolk concealed their hopes and anxieties in endless discussions about tickets. As it turned out, it wasn’t our day. We couldn’t get more scores than Tyrone. Pages will be written. The exact ‘whys’ will be addressed by people much more qualified than me. We will be gutted for a time and then we will regroup and reassess and go for it again, the passion undiluted, the drive undimmed.

I’ve written it before, I think. Ours is a team of superheroes who walk among us every day. They give their everything for so little reward. History and glory and the victory itself being the primary goals. In consistently pushing as hard as they possibly can, they elevate our little place to something so much more than it would otherwise be.

So, thanks for the ride, Mayo. Even if, for me, it was in the wrong direction.

Next year will be great.

Company in the Wall

As I wrote in a recent post, after my brother Michael died recently he left a wish that he be put in the Wall in Sligo Cemetery. He wasn’t keen on the idea of leaving somebody with a grave-maintenance job, so he favoured the Wall. The Wall is something fairly new to us although it is a thing that is seen the world over. We certainly see them a lot in the movies. It’s just a wall of little compartments where your ashes go after you are cremated. A little plate is put on front of your space and that’s you sorted. It’s a regular thing but a relatively novel one in my hometown of Sligo where you generally go in the soil and push up some daisies.

So, we put Michael’s ashes in the Wall a few Saturdays ago. It was a nice low key gathering of friends and family. The sun shone, which was nice. Margaret, my sister, gave a lovely eulogy for her elder brother, who may not have been the world’s greatest chatterbox when he was younger. “He left me with two great pearls of wisdom,” Margaret told us, “’Where’s Mam?’ and ‘Shut the door’.” Having said that, she did go on to confirm that in his latter decades, he was as cheery and communicative a man as you could ever hope to meet. After that Eamon, Michael’s little nephew, read his little extract from Saint-Exupery, “And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…” and Michael would have liked that quite well, I reckon.

Then the little wooden casket, with his ashes in, went in the Wall and we stepped away for a moment while the cemetery men fixed the plate in place.

It was only when we stepped back again that I noticed who was there in the wall beside Michael. Martin, Alan’s dad, right there on his left. Alan is one of a small handful of my very best friends. We go way back to when we were young teens and, as the saying goes, we’ve all passed a lot of water together. Alan is a great man, one of the strongest, most deeply moral, people I know, brilliant musician, motorbiker, dad, husband and (he’d slap me gently for this) outrageously handsome. His dad was always there when we were teens. A cool guy, a man’s man, someone you’d be happy to meet and maybe also be a little in awe of.

And I guess it’s indicative that business is a little slow at the Sligo Cemetery Wall because it’s been a few years now since Martin passed away. I remember travelling up to Sligo and meeting some people who I hadn’t seen in a long time. It’s been a while, yet there they are, Michael and Martin, side by side.

This made me happy. Well, as happy as one can be when the ashes of your beloved brother are being laid to rest. Maybe not happy but more content, definitely content. There was Martin, my good friend’s dad, and Michael. I was glad they were beside each other.

This ‘Ashes in the Wall’ day was the hardest day of all for me. All of it was hard, make no mistake, but that part seemed even tougher than the rest. That may seem strange, weren’t other parts obviously harder? I think it was because this was a little social gathering in the sun, the usual suspects, all together and, critically, Michael wasn’t there. He wasn’t over there chatting to Jim, or hanging back a bit with Liz, or having the crack with Harry up the way a bit. I get all the positive thoughts about how he was there in our hearts and memories but, dress it up however you like, he wasn’t there. And that was hard. And Michael’s place in the wall being there right next door to Martin’s somehow made it a little easier.

I should just leave that alone. It’s enough that it’s true. But it in my nature to ask myself why. Why is it that the presence of my best friend’s dad’s ashes next to my brother’s ashes gave me some kind of solace?

I thought about it and it isn’t some childish notion that they will be company for each other there in that lovely location. Chatting away or some such thought. It’s not anything like that.

What it is, I think, is something that relates much more to the living than to those who have gone.

When I go to visit the Wall, in the future, I will see Martin’s name there too and I will remember him and the fun times we had in his home as teenagers, as well as what a wonderful cool guy he was. A golfer, a dad, a husband, the best man in the world to decorate a cake. All these things will be there at the wall for me, along with of the things that are Michael’s and mine too. And, maybe, when Martin’s family come by, they will see Michael’s name there too and they will recall, perhaps subconsciously, some of the great things about him and his life and what a good man he was.

I think that’s why it makes me content.

Yes. I think that’s it.