The news came right out of the blue. It says a lot about the world we live in when, on hearing about the death of a middle-aged male, your immediate thoughts turn to mental health and did he take his own life? Even when there was no reason to suspect so.
It seems that those initial fears were well-founded, though. Well-founded regardless of our last spontaneous meeting the week before, unable as I was to see beyond the handshake greeting and the same old laughs. If only our vision could see beyond those superficial things.
It’s a cliché, but the next day, when opening the curtains, the world outside was going on as normal. It was just that he’d fallen away. Fallen from those familiar streets that we’d shared since our childhood of the Seventies. I walked them today, carrying him around with me. Along with his daughter’s words that struck like a dagger on social media:
Dad, I’ll miss you forever. I know we will meet up again someday, just not here
Here. The place of our roots, this housing estate where he was a well-know, popular figure, where we got taller and the world got larger. It’s a poorer place for his absence.
As well as our beginnings I think of our shared interests. He was a huge Lennon/Beatles/Oasis/City fan. Music loomed large in our conversations. He was in a band and I used to listen to his music while he used to read my writing. He once asked me to provide lyrics for something he’d done around a riff he’d come up with. To the best of my knowledge he never got to record it, and the lyrics found a home in my second poetry collection.
On the evening I found out I had a beer in the back garden while listening to his stuff on Soundcloud, along with a couple of demos he’d sent me. They provided the soundtrack while I read through our convos on text and WhatsApp. There was me, informing him of a new John Lennon exhibition in Liverpool. There was he, exhorting me to go to those early Beatle stomping grounds he’d visited in Hamburg.
I live next door to my Mum – my childhood home. I looked to the wall at the rear of the ginnel that we shared. When my son was younger I used to use my friend’s name as a warning for him when he was trying to climb onto it. “There’s a guy called *** *** and in 1982, when he was a kid, he fell off that wall and split his head open!” He’d had a crew cut back then and you could see the blood on his scalp. He still bore the scar in adulthood.
Right up until that middle-age cut off point.
The air began to turn chilly. There’s only seven tracks on his Soundcloud page, the vast majority of his creativity remains uncaptured. I put them on repeat. It’s easier to picture him playing that bass than to think of that room and speculate about his final thoughts.
Wherever he now was, I raised a glass to him.
just not here
I drained my beer as the sun went down on this old town of ours. It will outlive us all.
from my poetry blogUkraine
Anyone who is up to date with reading The Owl Journal will know that my last entry — The Where and the When — ended with one helluva cliffhanger. …Notes on The End
I’ve been following Howard’s blog for a while. A musician suffering from ALS he was given six months to live back in July 2020. I saw my Uncle go through the same thing (though here we call it Motor Neurone’s Disease). As usual I began to read this latest post but was knocked for six on learning that it had been posted the day after his passing. We never met, having only spoke through ‘comments’, but what an emotional hit it was. Rest easy, Howard. Thanks for allowing us to journey with you ❤️
I took this first photograph while waiting for a funeral cortège, a funeral we couldn’t attend. The mother of a friend had passed after catching Covid, despite being jabbed. We’d spoke with her once in our town centre, not long after lockdown had ended, and she was afraid of catching the virus. Despite following all advice and taking all necessary precautions, she caught it and having underlying health issues sadly succumbed.
My wife and I were waiting the results of our own PCR tests and so couldn’t attend the funeral. But, with it being local, we wanted to stand at the cemetery gates, away from everybody else, to show our respects as the hearse and family cars arrived. As we waited in the car, sheltering from the rain, the wind scattered leaves across the windscreen and this one caught for a few seconds.
The dark day had persuaded the streetlight sensor that night was falling.
The smell of wet leaves, that mulchy, earthy smell. This bench, on the cemetery edge, was waiting for Spring to bring with it regular occupants, to maybe bask in early sunshine and watch the world awaken. It helps to think of cycles and the natural order of things.
It reminded me a little of the more famous, Autumn bench that those four Swedes once sat on. I’ve actually seen that bench in Stockholm. Perhaps this one would attract someone of equal renown. Perhaps it already had. Who but the bench would know?
Another day and another break in the clouds. My wife, son and I all received negative results, but my daughter tested positive and so she’s isolating. With my Mum living next door, unable to remain out of our home due to her Alzheimer’s, we are having to navigate all that.
So far so good.
We nipped into Middleton and, in the midst of a deluge, the sun came out and I took this photograph. It could have been better but I was too slow – by the time I’d got my phone out the sun was already slipping behind a cloud.
At this time of year, a time of change and lengthening shadow, you have to be fast to catch any light.
I heard the news early on that Prince Philip had died.
I’m not particularly a Royalist, but I’m not anti-Monarchist either, and I do appreciate the history of the many Kings and Queens we’ve had on these shores.
An American woman once told me, when I was in London, that she envied us of our royals. And of our history-she said, myopically, that hers was a modern country compared to Britain, which isn’t strictly true, but I knew what she meant.
Philip died in the castle that his mother was born in, and regular Jackdaw readers will know that I’m a sucker for connections like that. He was 99 when he passed, which means that he was almost eligible for a telegram from his own wife.
Incidentally, during my time as a postman, I delivered one of those telegrams from the Queen to a delightful woman who’d just turned a hundred years old. Her family, proud, were awaiting my arrival, and she, of a deferential generation, held a certain understated satisfaction. It truly was the Royal Mail that I worked for that spring morning.
The Duke’s death is a reminder that our Monarch herself is 94, and whether she steps down or not there really is the sense of an ending now-a closing of this second Elizabethan age. For most of us, Elizabeth is the only ruler we’ve known, with her husband the mainstay beside her. For the first time in our lives a Coronation is coming. That will be something to behold. The American woman would love that.
Seven weeks on from my post about the three lost fishermen (one of whom was related to someone my wife knows), it’s been revealed that their bodies have been recovered from the coastline of Wirral and Blackpool. It’s tragic, but not altogether unexpected.
At least now they can be given a decent burial and their families afforded some closure.
That evening I came across these lines by George Mackay Brown, and once again my thoughts turned to those men and the loved ones they’d left behind:
Eight years. That’s how long WordPress tells me that I’ve been blogging for.
Eight years – my anniversary passing last week. Wondering if there was anything significant about this number, and knowing nothing of numerology, I looked it up:
It seems that eight is male, who’d have though that numbers had gender? And it represents infinity-is this a sign that I’m going to blog, like, forever?
What about the number outside of numerology? Where would I be without Google?
Eight is the natural number following seven and preceding nine.
Now that I can get my head around! It’s that number in between seven and nine. I should have put money on it.
Then next there was this:
An eighth is a common measure of marijuana, as in an eighth of an ounce.
Hmm . . . maybe Jackdaw will continue flying high, so to speak?
On other blog anniversaries I’ve tended to think about the posts I’ve done in the past, the journey I’ve been on. This time, though, I started thinking about the people that I’ve come to know along the way. This was prompted by a comment I made tonight on a US friend’s blog ( https://laurabrunolilly.com/blog/ ) about how I once met a fellow blogger face to face, quite by chance, at a funeral of all places. I recognised her and (re)introduced myself, and she later blogged about this coming together of both her ‘real’ life and her ‘virtual’ life.
There are people that have been flying with City Jackdaw since its very conception, there’s some that have joined along the way, and there were some who fell away.
I took some time to look at a few of my early posts, recognising among the comments names of old friends who, for whatever reason, appear not to blog anymore.
Some of them were very generous with their time and their friendship back then, and I felt genuinely saddened that they were no longer around. I wondered what they were up to now in their own part of the world, and hoped that life was treating them well.
Sometimes it’s the not knowing, and being deprived of a chance to express my gratitude, say farewell and wish them luck.
But sometimes it is the knowing-
there was a woman who read my posts and often left encouraging comments. I’d noticed her absence for a while before I learned the reason: she had died at the hands of her husband. Awful, and I was grieving the senseless end of a person I’d never met.
Wow! What has happened to this post?! I was supposed to be celebrating my anniversary!
I think instead I should just take this opportunity to express my gratitude now to all of you still following City Jackdaw, and hope we have some time together yet. If life does take you away from this virtual world at some point in the future, and you see in advance that approaching fork in the road, come and say goodbye first.
I’d appreciate that. I really am the sentimental sort.