Saturday, 30 April 2011


My first Grandparent to die was my maternal Grandfather. He went just after my mother was born. Three months after she was born as I recall. I don't know how Nana coped with that, but she did with spades.

In its own way it makes sense that she would be the last to go - but that's not the point. The point is that she was the last grandparent to go, and that means that the buffer zone has gone, because before now there's always been this thing where my parents couldn't die because there were still Grandparents. Now there are none, so I have to accept that my parents are just old now.

They're not old, old, just old. Dad will be seventy next year, and until now that's seemed young. I guess it's not. I guess none of us are.

Because Nana was, for want of a better phrase an old battle axe. I remember her as formidable. I remember her as caring. I remember her as this thing that made me... well me. Without her it's like I have to deal with the world again. It's like I have to grow up all over again.

The only thing as bad as losing a child, is losing a parent. We're supposed to cope. It's not supposed to touch us, but it does. We know, we understand. It speaks to the mortality within us.

This too will pass. That means you too. That means all that came before and all that goes again. Every grandparent, every grandchild. Everyone.

The first grandparent to go was my grandfather. I'll never meet him and now there's nobody left who can tell me about him - but I literally wouldn't exist without him. I wouldn't exist without this amazing woman who gave me everything and did her best to give me more.

Except I have no memories of her. I can't honestly say "this was her". I can't point to a thing that makes her real. I have every memory, and I search all of them for meaning. For some thing that gives her... for want of a better word, meaning.

This was her meaning. She was. She existed. She did that most magical of things - she left somebody behind, and as such she mattered to me. I would have liked to have known her husband some more. I would have liked to understand how that changed and affected her. But I missed my chance to ask, and when I did it was too late.

The same could have been said of my relationship with her. I could have asked who she was, but I didn't. I could have learnt who she was. I could have taken the time. I didn't.

But I stand here still. I stand as testiment to her. These are the choices we make. There are the decisions we have. This is who we are. And there are some truths that are buried so deep, and are so obvious that we never think about or question them. They are such a part of us that an entire section of our self, our inner being, is based upon them.

And we really don't have a clue.

But that's ok.

Friday, 22 April 2011


24/01/08 - excerpt

Nana has a heart-attack. She survives. This I consider to be a bad thing. Not that she's had a heart-attack, the fact that she survived. It's a selfish wish, I fully understand that. If I was her I'd want it to be over. I mean I joke that she'll probably outlive me. Well half-joke anyway.

There is a selfish side to it. Her body is slowly giving up on her, slowly locking her away in the cavernous ruin that is her mind.

She's not who she is anymore, and I'd rather be able to remember her as the tough as nails old woman who could take on the world. Maybe she sees it differently. Maybe I should ask her.

21/04/11 - Good Friday

Two days ago I bought my first car. It's a silver Ford Fiesta that Steve has nicknamed the Pyjama-mobile.

One day ago I got the keys to the new house I'll be renting with Steve. It's a three bedroom that I've nicknamed the Guest House.

This morning at 2:40 my parents received a phone call telling them Nana was failing, and they didn't think she'd last long enough for my parents to get to her.

At about 3:00am the hospital phoned back and confirmed it.

She died in her sleep, peacefully. Her last memories would have been of my parents before they left for the night. They'd been seeing her every day for the last two weeks as she finally faded away. Fortunately there was a family gathering a little under a week ago, so she managed to see all of her Grand-children one last time before she went. I think she even knew who we were.

There are worse ways to go.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


Time is a wonderful thing.
Time can be short, it can be long. You can have nothing but time, you can have no time, you can be timeless.
It is the river we all swim in, the ocean we drown in. It is a seamless progression of discrete chunks. It is a valuable resource.
There is no time like the present, everyday is a new chance to turn it all around.
Time can be the harshest of mistresses, but it is the cure to all wrongs and I know of no man who would not spend longer in her warm embrace.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Forward momentum

Over twelve years ago I got around to getting a provisional license and started learning to drive. I got most of the way through and was about to take my test when the accident happened. It took me two counsellors, a number of nights in tears, a lot of very bad decisions and nearly eleven years to start learning to drive again.

Tomorrow I take my first (and hopefully last) driving test.

Tomorrow in a way I can't really explain I close a chapter of my life that's been hanging over me for nearly twelve years, and I get to start moving again.

I've been saying to friends recently that I'm concentrating on me because I get to get better again. I'm not sure any of them really understood exactly what I meant and the sheer power such a statement has over me. I act as if I've got it altogether and like I'm calm and collected, but scratch the surface too deeply and you'll discover a rolling mass of neuroses and issues. Usually you just need to get me drunk, sometimes you just need to see me tired.

Over the last six months it's been a lot more prominent than normal. I've had panic attacks and flashbacks. I've randomly burst into tears for very little reason and I've made some decisions that I'm going to regret for the rest of my life. But I've had some successes too. I've managed to reconnect with a part of me that I hadn't even realised I'd lost. I've both grown and shrunk.

If I had to really describe it, I'd compare myself to a rubber band. A long time ago in a far away place somebody took hold of one end of it, and the two halves of it have slowly been stretching apart ever since. Now it's been let go and I'm snapping back into shape. There was a boom as the two halves connected, but suddenly there's a sense of movement, of forward momentum, that's been lacking in my life for the longest time.

The last six months have been about reconciling this newer, more complete sense of myself with the person I'd so painstakingly created. That although I am who I am, I also had to deal with the fact that I wasn't who I thought I was.

Tonight I'm meeting up with the two people, who in my head at least, are most tied up in the accident. One of them made the mistake of following me across a road, the other made the mistake of picking up the phone twelve hours later. Between them they bookend the events of that day.

Whether they like it, or in fact remember it, or not they were there at the very start of this chapter of my life, it seems only right that they're there for the end of it. I suspect that my relationship with each of them is going to change dramatically over the coming months, although maybe not.

In fact I can see pretty much every aspect of my life getting some sort of overhaul this year, whether I want it to or not. Not in a bad way, just in a... lets call it a realignment of my situation, priorities and motivations.

Because I've caught up with myself, and I can see where I am. If that rolling mess of neuroses and issues is still me then at least it's under control for now, which means I can start to get on with my life. I can take advantage of my current round of forward momentum and see where it gets me.

Or to put it another way: what's next?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Accident

The following was written not long after the accident. It was adapted for something else, but it was based entirely upon my memories. In it Jon is removed and Roby is changed to be a young woman called Ann. My part is played by a young man called Matt. It wasn't raining.

It's the closest I have to a written transcript of what happened from the time.

One second can change your life.

For an instant Ann was perfect. Her back was ram-rod straight, her body a flow of smooth lines and blurred action. The water in her hair glistened in the light, like a sprinkling of jewels and the rain fell in a halo around her. She positively glowed with movement and energy. Her sharp blue eyes were boring into him, her face was a mask of fury.

She suddenly seemed to notice the car beside her and in mid motion she snapped her head around to stare at it. The bumper hit her across the knees, sending her sprawling forward in a wave. Her thighs touched the front of the radiator. Her belly touched the bonnet. Her head landed just short of the windscreen. Her left hand continued it’s lazy swing to casually graze the glass, sending jagged lines shooting across its surface.

One second and your life is changed. It has happened so suddenly that you don’t even realise until it’s over.

The car’s brakes squealed, slowing it almost to a stand still. Just as quickly as she’d touched it, Ann left the car’s surface. She cart-wheeled through the air, her body turning in the rain. A foot caught the ground. Only one, but it was enough to send her crashing to the tarmac in a sickening crunch. She bounced. Her body spun in the air until she was facing the car, her legs away from Matt. That was about all he had a chance to see before she bounced again. Her body flipped in the air in the long instant before she hit for the third and final time. She slid. Her hair was dragged away from her face to lie in a fan behind her.

Two seconds and now finally your brain can start to catch up with the images that were, and still are, assaulting it.

Everything came to a stand still. The car stood stock still in the rain, two faces starring out from the front seat in the dim lamplight, rain bouncing off it in a steady patter. Ann lay nearly ten feet from where she’d started. A small pool of water, possibly blood, grew around her.

Nothing moved. Nothing at all, and for that instant it was as if the world had paused to consider what had just happened. Matt considered with it, his mind running back and forth across the memory a thousand times in the blink of an eye until he could comprehend what it actually meant.

Three seconds and now your brain is fully up to date with reality but, unable to cope with the completeness of the change, it immediately tries to discard it.

‘That must have hurt,’ thought Matt. ‘Thank God it didn’t happen.’

The rain ran through his short blond hair and continued down into the space between his upturned collar and the back of his neck, drenching his already wet back. He continued to stare at the scene before him but something seemed wrong somehow. The calm in his head seemed to have been defined by something and it was slowly starting to crumple up into him.

Four seconds and you suddenly realise that your life has changed and that you need to be able to function within its change. Given no other option you force yourself to accept something it can’t even comprehend through sheer force of will alone.

“Oh shit,” he heard himself say. As if that was the catalyst the remains of his denial vanished from beneath him and an overwhelming panic threatened to engulf him. A thousand options and thoughts flashed through his mind and disappeared before he could firmly grasp on to any of them. He didn’t know what to do, or even how to do it. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t breath.

Five seconds and your life has been changed. Maybe it has even been destroyed.

Deal with it.