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I open a forty-year-old can of worms

  Tue 2nd April 2019

Raoul Vaneigem described work as "a prison of measured time," and by the time I get home I am sapped of the energy to do much else, although I'm not too tired to plan my escape.

In the pub the other day I met a young couple from Yorkshire who offered some ideas of how to make a living in Bristol in a more interesting and less physically punishing way -- teaching English to foreigners, investing a few hundred pounds in acquiring a licence to sail the tame tourist boats that navigate the inland waterways of Bristol, or leading walking tours round the city during the summer. I spent many hours on an application and an online test for a post in policy research.

In the meantime, the job has its own menu of idiocies both small and large. My boss told me that a pen is part of the uniform. "You're supposed to bring a pen, looby," as she stood by a drawer containing a dozen of them. Daily we throw out kilos of food, which we are allowed neither to take home, give away, nor buy, hours before the shop's doorways are used as poor open air shelters by Bristol's homeless.


Trina asked if I wanted to come up to Liverpool the other weekend where an old friend of mine was DJing. We're falling into old patterns of behaviour: she pays, and I'm half friend, half escort, but without the sex now. We've been out dancing again this weekend, this time in Manchester. I arranged for flowers and chocolates to be sent to my mum, got drunk with Trina, who urged me, almost shouting in the pub, referring to Esther, "give her up! Just give her up!" I'm not giving Esther up at all. I'll be home in three hours and I'm going round to hers.


I had to keep my weekend quiet, since all my siblings were up in Middlesbrough as they unveiled a little plaque to my Dad at the place where his ashes -- i.e., some admixture of his and those of and whoever else was burnt that day -- have been placed. In vino veritas, I sent my brother this, about an incident decades ago of which he was unaware.

"Just to put you in the picture. I could have got today off and come up. But my relationship with my father died the moment he was kicking me in the head in the hallway when I was nine, and Mum had to pull him off from doing that. From that moment forth I froze him out of my life."

"I'm so sorry," he replied.

"Yeah so am I. It fucking hurt! Anyway, that was then and this is now. It was in the past and God knows what his relationship with Nan was like. It's gone now, and I hope it was a good ceremony."

"How dreadful."

I sensed I had the upper moral hand, and wanted to push my virtuous stance into the face of my brother, who is kind, generous, and priggish.

"It's ok it was forty-six years ago and whilst I can't ever forget that, he was probably visiting his own problems on me. He basically meant well and I've no idea what his upbringing was like, except that it lacked some love and affection. I don't know and I don't care. I feel sympathy for him rather than love him. Anyway I hope the whole weekend has been a good one for everyone."

"Seeing it with pity rather than blame. A good attitude to take."

Whether it was a good idea to bring this up after all these years I'm not sure. I was just a bit irritated by my brother's beatification of a man who never apologised for an act of violence upon his son that could have left me brain damaged.

6 comments

The ashes are mostly symbolic. Don’t be so scientific.

Well, you took the high road and you’ll never harbor any regrets for that.

Fri 5th April 2019 @ 10:48 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I find cremation repellent.

My brother, who is a part-time funeral director said “you’re getting an arm at most.” It’s The Ashes Delusion. Once you’re disabused of it, what you’re given afterwards is surely insufficient to serve as a symbol. In any case, I don’t understand how you’d want to burn someone you say you love(d) as soon as they’re out of the way.

Is this the high road? I wouldn’t like to see the low one.

Fri 5th April 2019 @ 15:50 Reply to this comment
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

What’s the difference? your physical form is dead. My dad was cremated as was my grandmother, it was their wishes. If someone you love tells you what they want after they die you do what they say. What else can you do? The boyos don’t want me cremated so i won’t do it most likely. I’ll go all hippy dippy and get one of those ecological things where they plant my dead ass under a tree, i’ll ask for the lyrics of the Guided by Voices song, I Am a Tree, to be placed near it and that will be that. Funerals and the like are for the living and people tend to spend an exorbitant amount of money on them. My old man even told me to do it cheap, lol!! and save the dosh for something more fun. To be honest the ashes don’t mean shit, it’s the symbolism and memory we attach to them because many people need to cling to something. When i attach something to my old man i prefer sunsets over Lake Erie or the sound of waves, not ashes in a box or a casket in the ground, he’s in the wind and the faces of my sons. And let us not forget, the Vikings were the kings of kick ass burial ceremonies and they burned their dead on a boat and pushed it out into the water, come to think of it i may have to see about talking the boyos into that!

Sat 6th April 2019 @ 12:18 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

That’s what I’m doing. I’ve got it arranged in a woodland burial site near Lancaster which doesn’t allow any form of stone or memorial or other stuff. It’s some rich person’s land and they have deer and all sorts of animals roaming around.

Your physical form is only dead in terms of being assembled as a human. I will have eternal life (well, for a few billion years anyway, and that’ll do). Worms and other subsoil creatures will eat me and my body will become part of them. They will be eaten by higher predators, carrying a bit of me with them. I won’t die, except in a human sense.

I can’t get my head round the idea that this person you have loved, in many cases, physically, you are so keen to stick in an oven once they stop being useful to you. And it prevents them from having the afterlife I will have.

Sun 7th April 2019 @ 13:12 Reply to this comment

I want to be burnt then chucked into the River Thames (the bit I live near). I want to be sure I am just dust; sod being worm food (opening cans of them is quite enough). A friend of mine likes the idea of the Tibetian practise of Jhator, or sky burial, where the dead body is left on a moutntain for vultures and other scavengers to scoff. Death is the only guarantee in life, so we should be allowed to choose our disposal - or at least think about it. Re your escape plan (smooth segue?), I make a good living selling words and grammar to foreigners -1:1- a good gig if that’s your shctik. Mind you, the tourist boats sound splendid when/if the weather picks up. I’m sure you’ll sort something out. You seem resourceful. 55 is a kick ass age.

Tue 9th April 2019 @ 07:50 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Yes I saw a programme about that method of death. It really appeals. We slightly lack vultures in this country (well, avian ones anyway).

I like your linkage, Lass. Funny you should mention flogging tenses to foreigners… [tries to sound tantalising about next post coming tonight].

Tue 9th April 2019 @ 08:30 Reply to this comment


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looby, n.; pl. loobies. A lout; an awkward, stupid, clownish person


M / 55 / Bristol, "the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England" -- John Betjeman [1961, source eludes me].

"Looby is a left-wing intellectual who is obsessed with a) women's clothes and b) tits." -- Joy of Bex.

WLTM literate woman, 40-65. Must have nice tits, a PhD, and an mdma factory in the shed, although the first on its own will do in the short term.


There are plenty of bastards who drink moderately. Of course, I don't consider them to be people. They are not our comrades.
Sergei Korovin, quoted in Pavel Krusanov, The Blue Book of the Alcoholic

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Tell me, why is it that even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a beautiful evening, or a conversation in agreeable company, it all seems no more than a hint of some infinite felicity existing apart somewhere, rather than actual happiness – such, I mean, as we ourselves can really possess?
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Using words well is a social virtue. Use 'fortuitous' once more to mean 'fortunate' and you move an English word another step towards the dustbin. If your mistake took hold, no-one who valued clarity would be able to use the word again.
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One good thing about being a Marxist is that you don't have to pretend to like work.
Terry Eagleton, What Is A Novel?, Lancaster University, 1 Feb 2010

The working man is a fucking loser.
Mick, The Golden Lion, Lancaster, 21 Mar 2011

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