Marker

This morning, at the grave of my Gt.Grandfather.

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Where My Great Grandfather Lies

The location is only recently discovered. An unmarked grave, a place where he has lay since succumbing finally to the gas that ravaged and burned his airways and lungs. Effects that would have thwarted any joyful, loving, homecoming.

New Year’s Eve, 1919. The day that the year would have trembled on the edge of extinction, dragged that wheezing, gasping man with it.

The world moved on to new beginnings.

Today, the ground is just the ground, unremarkable, undisclosed. The air is dank and cold, resonant with stirring echoes that insinuate images and moments that the imagination seizes and runs with.

A broken woman holds a young girl’s hand, their emotions fluid and merging, seeping deep into the soil.

The seasons pass, the earth turns, the girl grows into a woman who now holds the hand of another girl, a chain link of affected generations.

The original woman now shares the space with the man, beneath their feet. Black lace married to khaki for eternity.

This later woman lays flowers on the anonymous spot, watched by the girl who swallows her questions, then they both wander away to visit another, freshly festering, sore.

The girl glances back once as they near the chapel, sees me, distant, taking my turn.

Devoid of crosses, I leave this marker, small and consumed, in this place that has anchored fatherless girls to stare at an empty spot, while daring to contemplate alternative worlds.

I depart this ground with a solemn promise, and the autumn leaves gently circle, dancing to time’s capricious tune.

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Teenage Crushed: The Death Of Denial

I reblog this in honour of Agnetha Faltskog, who broke her twenty five year absence from performing live by duetting with Gary Barlow at the Children In Need Rocks concert. You go girl!! Erm, sorry, mature lady!!!

City Jackdaw

You can live in denial all you want, avoiding mirrors and old classmates on the school run with their own kids in tow who are almost as tall as you are now. You can ignore the fact that you now get out of breath going up the stairs, that your face turns crimson whenever you bend to tie your shoelace. That when you pull back the blinds on a winter’s day and see the snow, your first thought is ‘that cold is going to get into my bones’.

You can convince yourself that you haven’t changed since your late teens, that you still feel exactly the same, and in actual fact those carefree times of childhood and school days were not that long ago.

But then this imaginary, self-constructed world gets shattered when something comes along and smashes a thigh length silver boot right through your constructed facade.

That…

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When A Day Of Death Became A Bridge

My Dad died ten years ago today. Although we mark it, the day itself is not significant.

There were days when he was here, then there are days when he is not. There is just a before and after.

Time appears cyclical to me, when I view the seasons, married to the differing stages of our lives, but we chart things in a linear fashion. That day ten years ago perhaps became a bridge, where plans/hopes/dreams pass by memories/regrets/hindsight , each moving in opposite directions.

What is known of us, that which survives us, becomes less and less as memories fade along with the number of storytellers.

The personalities and stories behind the details, enshrined in the remembrance of others.

I was going to publish some photographs here, reducing a full life to a handful of images, but instead I have decided the best way to honour him and the role he played in my life is to continue telling his story to my children.

That is the best way of keeping my Dad alive.

Of Shadows and Sagas: A Time to Remember and to Read

As I write this in the comfort of my lounge, outside tonight the wind is howling, furiously, as though angry at its inability to gain entry into my sheltered refuge.

The odd, hunched figure can from my window be seen hurrying past, assailed by the calvacade of leaves and torrential rain.

The barely noticeable shortening of days, accompanied by the imperceptible shift in temperature from late summer into mild autumn, has definitely given way to the unmissable crossover point of autumn and winter.

Above the wind I can barely hear the fireworks exploding.

Samhain/Halloween…All Saints’ Day…All Souls’ Day…Bonfire Night…Remembrance Sunday.

It feels like this is the time for remembering. As the nights grow deep and long, just as we light candles and bonfires to hold off the dark, so we turn within to shine a light upon our own shadows, far within the recesses of memory.  Examining and reacquainting ourselves with the inner cast of our lives. Acknowledging those who have slipped from sight. We bring them out to breathe.

This time of year is also a great time for reading-armed with the fortitude of caffeine and electric or candle light, removed from the outside assault of climate and enveloping darkness.

I have always turned to stories around this time, without really analysing why, that can be found in books such as The Táin and The Mabinogion. Legends and tales told over centuries, losing myself in the storytelling of people long gone. Connecting with the idea of a people gathered around the hearth, imaginations fired.

When people ask me where my favourite place is, my reply is ‘North’. Scotland-the Highlands and the Orkney Islands, Scandinavia. You are never likely to see me sporting a suntan.

There is something in the landscape, the myths, the culture, born from the tummult of land and sea, that speaks to me.

And this is my time of year. The cycle has come around again.

I was about to start the Icelandic Sagas, but instead I have turned to East of the Sun, West of the Moon-Old Tales From the North.

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This is a collection of Scandinavian fairy tales that have had many interpretations over the years, but this copy is a reproduction of the 1914 version which has some fantastic illustrations in it by Kay Nielsen.

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The attraction of this book, as opposed to the Sagas, is that I can share it with my children. There are fifteen tales in it, so that is one per storm struck night, for just over a fortnight.

Wind, rain, darkness, a father, children.

Reading.

Remembering.

Imaginations fired.

My favourite time.

Teenage Crushed: The Death Of Denial

You can live in denial all you want, avoiding mirrors and old classmates on the school run with their own kids in tow who are almost as tall as you are now. You can ignore the fact that you now get out of breath going up the stairs, that your face turns crimson whenever you bend to tie your shoelace. That when you pull back the blinds on a winter’s day and see the snow, your first thought is ‘that cold is going to get into my bones’.

You can convince yourself that you haven’t changed since your late teens, that you still feel exactly the same, and in actual fact those carefree times of childhood and school days were not that long ago.

But then this imaginary, self-constructed world gets shattered when something comes along and smashes a thigh length silver boot right through your constructed facade.

That something for me goes by the name of Agnetha Fältskog.

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When I was young , way too young to understand what was cool, music in the seventies consisted of whatever existed in my Mum and Dad’s cassette and record collection.

Cassette and record. I may as well be talking about the gramophone now.

In those half-glimpsed scenes from back then I can recall listening to Brotherhood of Man, The Seekers, Bay City Rollers, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and Abba, as my brother and I played drums on an upturned bin or biscuit tin.

(Constant Friend tuts, carries on listening to Slade).

At that age, five or six, the corny lyrics written by the two men were just catchy and appealing, and it was the energy and the perfectly complimentary voices of the women that I liked. Then, as I got older, it was one of the women in particular that I liked, the quintessential Nordic blond, Agnetha.

I hate the word crush, it sounds all puppy dog and juvenile, but I was young, and definitely juvenile. And forming a crush is all part of growing up, although I think the kids these days are starting earlier. I have a daughter who at six years of age tells me constantly how fit Olly Murs is.

(Constant Friend shakes his head, Space Dust crackling on his tongue).

These moments are fixed and immortalised in my mind, my young mind, in my denial untouched by the passage of time. But then, suddenly, out of nowhere, it all comes crashing down. Agnetha steps back into the public eye, breaking her self-imposed exile from the limelight, to promote a new album. And, almost as an aside, it is mentioned that the blond, fresh-faced, forever fixed around 1978 beauty is now 63.

That stopped me dead in my excitable tracks.

63.

The same age as my Mother-In-Law.

Reality washed over me cold. Walls came tumbling down.

Admittedly, she still looks good for her age. But there is no getting away from the fact that my original pin-up girl is now a pensioner. Well, she would have been my pin-up if my Dad would have trusted me with tacks.

Agnetha 2

I am sure that there is an element of air brushing going on here, but still, the rate that the two of us are aging I reckon I will soon be overtaking her and could pass as her Dad. Or at least her elder brother.

(Constant Friend agrees, continues to shuffle his Star Wars bubblegum card collection).

Now my bubble of immortality was well and truly punctured, I began to cast my mind back three decades or so. Who else did I used to like back then?

Erin. Erin Gray from the great Buck Rogers in the Twenty Fifth Century .Full of foreboding, I fearfully began to Google from the suddenly shaky ground of the twenty-first century.

Erin

That’s no good, get rid of the silly hat.

Erin 2

That’s the one. Now, what does Wikipedia say? On the plus side, she is still with us.

But.

Again.

63.

The same age as Agnetha.

The same age as my Mother-In-Law.

You hear that, Twiki? Colonel Wilma Deering is now a pensioner too.

Twiki

And no, before you ask, Twiki never did it for me.

(Constant Friend stops eating his Kop Kops, raises a quizzical eyebrow).

Listening to Agnetha’s new album I was touched-this woman who had been written off as some kind of reclusive and eccentric Garbo, said to have turned her back on music, refusing to leave Sweden because of her paralysing fear of flying, was now in my country promoting her new material. She was singing about being back on our radios again. And she still has that beautiful voice, capable of evoking so well a feeling of fragility and vulnerability.

(“Wuss”, says Constant Friend, lay on his bed, hands splayed behind his head, gazing up at his Wonder Woman poster).

If I just close my eyes and listen, nothing has changed.She still has the moves. I have yet to shave.

In a bid to perpetuate the myth of youth, both for her and for myself, and forever anchor myself to a time long gone, I post this video now of how I remember her then. She, the Girl With The Golden Hair, and I, the Boy With The Full Head Of Hair.

The world was bright, and colourful, and young.

Trousers were wider.

(Constant Friend glances over at the video, nods his understanding).