Sunsets On Mars

It looks like a scene set on the fictional world of Tatooine, but this shot is of the sun setting on the empty, desolate planet of Mars.

In the whole of our history, we are the first human beings to witness a Martian sunset. Just think about that. We can see from the vantage point of an island that we as a species should never have reached.

I’ve said it before-this is a place where the silence has never been broken by spoken word.

One day it will. I wonder what that first word will be?

I say ‘silence’, but if you do a search you can discover an audio video that enables you to listen to the sound of this far-flung place. A place with few natural sounds except the wind.

I find things like this awe-inspiring. And there’s now lots of images to keep me going for some time yet. Rocky landscapes beneath a salmon sky.

I hope they instil in you the same sense of wonder that they do me. But if you are looking for a photo credit, though – I’m sorry, I didn’t take them.

My Annus Horribillis, But On We Go

I’ve lost track how long I’ve been blogging here. Nine years? Maybe ten, wishing you guys a Happy New Year at this time, scattered as you are all over the globe.

2022 for me wasn’t a good one. In fact it was an awful one.

I lost a childhood friend in the first half and then there was a terrible end to the year when I lost a family friend and then my Mum. I won’t tempt fate by saying that 2023 will definitely be better, but I always go into a new year full of hope.

One thing this last year has underlined is that I have great family and friends. And that includes all of you Jackdaw followers, extended friends who take the time to comment, encourage and console.

Have a healthy 2023.

See you all on the flip side. Much love to you all 💙

Christmas Greeting: That’s A Wrap

It wasn’t until Boxing Day night that I realised that I’d not had my Christmas pudding. Nor my brandy sauce. We are going to have to do Christmas Day all over again.

In the meanwhile, my daughter, Courtney, tried to make a nice, spontaneous Christmas greeting photograph for her friends with our dog, Bryn. You know, one of those cute festive things that would have everyone going “Aw.”

Like I said: she tried.

Christmas Lights? If Only

We had not been to a match for a while. We support a local Non-League club (Prestwich Heys), at a level which is always susceptible to weather. Following two postponements, I had to break the news to my son that, for that night’s game, we had no means of getting there. After my Mum passed away, the tax was stopped on her mobility car which then had to be returned. So, for a month or so, we had no car and couldn’t get to a night game.

“You’re joking!” he exclaimed. “You mean, we could have gone but there was a waterlogged pitch. Then we could have gone but then there was a frozen pitch, and now we can’t go and the pitch is fine?!

You’ve got to love irony. He doesn’t.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, thinking that our lad, still grieving the recent loss of his Gran, could do with a bit of normality, we managed to arrange a lift.

But some things just aren’t meant to be. For, just five minutes from kick off, the lights failed. Floodlights out, clubhouse lights out, changing room lights out, the league advised the referee to give us thirty minutes to see if the electricity could be restored before calling it off. The problem was obviously with the floodlights, because the clubhouse lights were restored, but when the floodlights were turned on everything tripped and we were plunged back into darkness.

The first time that happened, the lights came on and I’m sure that the ref raised his whistle to his lips and then they were off again before he could even blow it!

What is a night match without floodlights? Well, it’s not a night match.

The match was called off. Twice through weather, once through for God’s sake what we gotta do to see a game we are cursed (according to my son).

Our approach to the ground, if only things had stayed this way!
People milling around outside. First check was that local street and house lights were on, in case it was a localised power cut. They were, it wasn’t.
Heys by night. Bit of a stark beauty about it. Wonder if my son appreciated the view?
In the clubhouse, fans gathered around the only light source, a small bar-top Christmas tree. Isn’t that what Christmas is about, after all, the light in the darkness?
The bare essentials: light and gratitude.
My son, in his duties as corner-flag guy, admitted defeat and set off to bring the flags in again, using his phone to light the way.

See you next game. But don’t count your chickens.

Cold Morning

This morning the estate I live on was a cold one. People seemed to carry more weight as they moved about it, with backs bent and shoulders hunched.

But there was a beauty there, too (something not often said about the place), if they would just stop for a moment, straighten up, and take it in.

A stark urban beauty, shaking off the shackles of sleep.

The Post-Parent World

Tomorrow is my birthday.

I will be fifty-one years old. Is that too old to be an orphan?

From this point onwards, in this post-parent world, I will never have a card bearing the word ‘Son’.

It can’t be said to be unexpected. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last. Every generation moves up a row. Of my old gang there’s only two who haven’t lost at least one parent. I’m the fourth to lose both.

I was waiting in the chemist last Friday, the day before she passed, trying to get hold of her end of life meds. Beyond the shelves on the other side of the counter I heard a woman exclaim:

“Aw no, Marie’s had to have Jackson put down.”

“It’s always sad when it’s a dog, isn’t it?” a colleague agreed.

“I’m always more upset about dogs dying than humans,” she continued.

It could be said that the conversation was insensitive, given the prescription that I had handed over. I didn’t mind. Mum would have agreed. She loved dogs. We always had dogs.

I always had parents, until I had a parent.

And now the world has changed irrevocably. It’s a paradox, those ties have now been severed, but those ties will always be joined. In memory, in legacy, in story.

It’s a story rooted in place. I’m glad that we fulfilled a promise and were able to nurse her in the home where she’d lived for forty-five years.

She remained in her own house, in her own room, a room that became a sacred space. For that room became a portal through which the soul that I knew as ‘Mum’ passed. A room that will look the same, seem to be the same, but has now gained a considerable weight.