Saturday, July 07, 2012

2012 - 46

Death & Taxes

One of the possibly more bizarre things I teach the kids in my charge is that there are only two things in life that are certain - death and taxes. I always add the caveat that while they might believe they can cheat on their taxes, they won't be able to cheat death.

I've been thinking a lot recently about death, especially in light of my 'scare' on Wednesday. It's possibly got a lot to do with me arriving at 50, which, oddly enough, only seems weird when I write it down. The idea of being a half century old doesn't actually bother me that much, especially considering the single most annoying thing in my life is the passage of time. I sometimes wonder what animals with no concept of time must make of existence, but, I fall into the usual pet owners trap of thinking that deep down all animals are actually anthropomorphic and think the same way as we do.

Limpet #1: Jesus, is that the time? I have to go home.
Limpet #2: Why?
Limpet #1: I think I've left the cooker on.

Until death touched me, I used to laugh at it. Literally. Until my mother's death in 1998, the half a dozen funerals I'd been to were probably not my finest moments; but a lot of that has to do with my mum's family; always something of a bunch of jokers, I remember giggling in church with my aunt and uncle at my grandfather's funeral. I loved the old man, because he would have seen the funny side of me and other relatives taking the piss out of the distinctly Lurch-like funeral director or the vicar with the speech impediment.

The wife's brother's funeral, now ten years ago, was one of those tragic/celebratory exercises in how to really put on a send-off. He died young and played a big part in planning his own funeral and when the time came it went off exactly as he would have wanted. There were lots of tears, but also lots of laughs - especially when the coffin was being trundled down the conveyor belt to the ovens to the sound of The Prodigy's Firestarter.

Since mum's death, I've been, at times, almost on talking terms with the Grim Reaper. It felt for a long time like he was just weeding out people on the periphery of my social circle, while simultaneously offing members of my family. As the funerals started to come thick and fast, the humour about death started to bleed away. Death really isn't a laughing matter; at least it isn't until you can laugh again without crying.

On my blog (this one to be precise), I've started something I call The Nostalgia Factory, an irregular series of memoirs about, on the whole, people and things I've loved and lost. Harvey, Chester, Megan, Gifford and my parents - because forget all this heaven bullshit, the only real way to keep people alive is to keep them in your memories.

Since I started smoking again, the worst thing hasn't been the fact that I'm tracing my own invitation to meet death a bit earlier than perhaps I should have, but I've also stopped dreaming again (or at least I can't remember my dreams as vividly as I did for the 6 months I stopped). This has stopped the rare treat of dreaming about being with the people who are no longer with us. I've said it before, but there's nothing better than dreaming of being with someone you love that you can no longer be with. It isn't upsetting, it's uplifting. On days where I've dreamt of my folks, I've had good positive days. I have been of good cheer; like I would have been had I just been to see them for a cuppa.

Of course, I'm being a bit blasé about it all at the moment. During my hours at A&E on Wednesday, I had a barrage of tests - blood, ECG, chest x-rays, etc and the upshot was apart from the lung infection, I'm in pretty good nick for a 50 year old. My heart is healthy (amazingly), my lungs ain't riddled with something terminally nasty, there's nothing to suggest I'm going to drop dead from my blood work (so if I do die in the next week you can all point at this and say, 'hey, you tempted fate, man!'), so I can at least enter the next few months thinking I have a fighting chance of being alive at 75 - which is sort of the figure I'd be happy with.

However, watching some of the things this week about how pensioners are basically living in squalor and fear, perhaps Logan's Run had the best idea.

Oh and the wife works for the tax office, so I have the two givens thrust in my face quite a bit!

Soggy Obsession

Okay, I admit that the weather is becoming an unhealthy obsession for many people, especially me, but I make no excuses for it. I'd like to have a summer every year; one that lasts for 4 months and has an average temperature of about 23 degrees. I don't want it too hot, not do I want it to be like the last half a dozen Julys, which I believe have been winter in disguise, popping back for a short break because spring invaded his party too early, again.

I'd like a dry drought!

Seb Coe must be nervously looking at the long range weather forecasts and wondering where he's going to get enough sand bags to stop the stadium from flooding. Will Usain Bolt need water wings? Will they move the sailing from Weymouth to Thetford? Obviously the positives could be that the beach volleyball becomes female mud wrestling and Rebecca Adlington will win the 110 metres hurdles.

I did suggest we'd have a god-awful summer, but it was packed with 'I'll be as negative as I can so it can't be worse than that'. I'm beginning to wish my tongue-in-cheek weather forecast was now accurate.

My back garden is boggy. It squelches under foot. There are puddles in the low spots. My potatoes are going to get blight, I can just sense it. They've flowered a month early and the last time we had a shitty and wet summer, I might as well have grown mould. Obviously the ducks are loving it.

I've also go the impression I haven't been the only person who thinks the BBC's weather people have been trying to put a positive spin on the poor weather; because the last couple of days the cheesy grins and 'between the wind, rain and cold, if the sun comes out it will start to feel a little like summer' bon mots have dried up and the guys and girls presenting bulletins now look as fed up as the rest of us. The girl doing the weather this morning - the strangely attractive Susan Powell - ended her broadcast by saying the foreseeable future will be very much the same as it has been and she seemed to give an indignant sneer that suggested she was now being threatened by idiots with webbed feet in the street because they can't char meat on an outdoor fire.

Free Food

Winning quiz jackpots on a regular basis has meant that our quiz team is and has essentially been in the black since it started. What began as an initial £1 per person one-off investment has yielded something in the region of 15 restaurant meals for between 4 and 7 people. 15 free meals (plus several taxis and free nights on the piss).

Now, you could argue that every week we attend a quiz, we spend about £10 on booze and inconsequential stuff, but we'd do that any way if we went for a drink; these costs are just a necessity to be able to enter the quiz and have a good evening with the chance of going home not out of pocket.

Roger, being an accountant, is the quiz team treasurer; he keeps the money. The wife is the team captain, she decides what answer we're going for if we can't decide. I am normally responsible (with Roger) for the sports round and I tend to do the picture round and let the others fill in the blanks. Colin offers obscure and ridiculously nerdy information and Barbara is there to answer the question none of us get - normally a late 50s record or the name of a soap star. We have a good balance and as a result our win rate is somewhere in the high 40%. We have a laugh and if we come second, we get £5, which means that our quiz kitty doesn't take a hit. We could sit in the pub for the duration and not drink anything, but even if the Vic is a bit below average at the moment, I think that would be a bit silly (we've started bringing our own snacks because they never have any for very long).

Tonight, we go for free meal #16. There will be enough money left in the kitty for us to do the quiz for another 10 weeks without the safety net of coming second. Going quizzing only costs us our entertainment. It has proved to be a sensible and mildly lucrative little past-time.

There is obviously one catch. For this to work for you, you need to have a team member who has a brain the size of a small planet. If me, RnB and Colin did the quiz without the wife, we'd struggle to come second. However, the wife could do the quiz on her own and if it wasn't for the sport round, she could probably win it. My wife is not for sale or hire; find your own genius.

Some Things Are Never Spoken About

Some of my close friends heard about this last week; in a far more detailed way. Last Sunday morning I caught a glimpse of one of my neighbours private areas. It was not a pleasant sight and I felt more like I'd witnessed a scene from a nasty horror film than a voyeur. She was doing something on their patio and her robe had fallen open. I was just looking out of the window at the time, it was only 7.15am. I went back to bed thinking it had put me off sex for at least a couple of days...

You see, when kids ask me why I became a vegetarian, I could tell them about this butcher's window, but I think I might lose my job!


So, how much do you reckon Rafa Nadal was paid to throw his match, then? Between the fading Federer and the magnificent Djokovic, who would you prefer Andy to be playing? Everything seems to have fallen into place for the dour Scotsman (who allegedly laughed when England got knocked out of the Euros) to win Wimbledon during a Jubilee year.

It's not going to happen is it? Roger F will beat him 3-1, probably with a couple of tie-breaks thrown in to simulate that penalty shoot-out effect. But at least Andy will have beaten Tim to reaching a final and, who knows, one day a series of freak accidents might mean that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer all break legs before another major, leaving Andy to fulfil his destiny. Or maybe not.

Every time I look at the Williams sisters I can't help thinking of Robert Crumb comics.

  • I have been listening to The Heart Throbs (after suggesting it to One El on Tuesday). It seems my memory of their output has faded with time. I always thought their first two albums - Jubilee Twist and Vertical Smile were excellent and the last album Cleopatra Grip was a bit poor. On reflection, Jubilee Twist is a fucking awesome album; Vertical Smile isn't; it's more like their last album, which according to a mate, was dogged by record companies and the band not being very happy; hence why it isn't particularly good.
  • I have also been listening to: Axess/Maxxess's Impact; Triple S - Poles (which is rather excellent); Landscapes - a collection of tracks that Max Schiefele recorded before he became Maxxess. I have also been listening to The Chameleons, the House of Love and a new(ish) track by Steven Wilson that he's recently put up on Soundcloud - which has a surprisingly indie sound about it.
  • Quote of the week from Fuckwit (overheard through my office window) when referring to the building work the Sexually-Explicit Family are having down. "Probably building a missile launch pad, fucking Russians." I believe they're actually from Croatia. Someone should invent a time machine just so they can go back in time and kill that twat's father.
  • Oh look, it's raining again. Actually, it's bucketing down. It must be July.
  • Eel jazz.

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