Atheism

Religion’s biggest and most fundamental problem is that it’s complete fiction.  I don’t mean that just in the sense that it’s not true.  I mean that in the sense that it’s deliberately fabricated.  Ironically, the reason why it’s a problem that religion is fiction doesn’t have to manifest itself in religious ways. To wit: the problem is religion, but the consequences of the problem can manifest themselves in any manner imaginable other than and including religion. The following anecdote will help articulate my point:

I once shared a duplex with a man who was religious.  Christian, of whatever denomination, to be specific.  He was also an early-30s full-time student earning not possibly any more than $400 (and usually some or much less) per week.  To compound this, he had debts in the tens of thousands.  And he also had serious anger management issues, which is beside the point other than that I can’t resist pointing out religious hypocrisy (despite the fact it’s EVERYWHERE).  One day, this man decided he was going to buy a house.  He did have two financially reliable housemates in me and another guy. 

Nevertheless, one day I tried to explain to him the unlikeliness bordering on impossibility of his at the time current personal circumstances gaining him a mortgage.  His response?  He had “faith”.  I like to think I did, but if I didn’t then I wish my next words had been something like: “Economics doesn’t care about faith.”  Needless to say, his application was denied.  To this day I’m still not sure whether I hope the bank laughed at him or not (like I said, he had anger management issues, and while living with him for a full eighteen months I didn’t escape entirely without incident).

Once you believe the in actual fact stark, raving lunacy of there being a “God” out there, who you can talk to and ask for things from, you can and probably will accept literally any imaginable nonsense in any part of your life.  I’ll leave the various ways that can and definitely has fucked up the world to you.

For most of my life I’ve been agnostic about most things.  I’ve always valued learning about a wide variety of topics, albeit not to enough of a degree of depth on any one of them to become an expert on it.  I’m a generalist.  And if I aspire to anything, I guess it would be to move from being a generalist to a polymath (though in my opinion, in the strict definition of the word, I don’t think anyone has lived long enough to genuinely become a polymath and it’s probably a state only truly attainable by advanced artificial intelligence).

This has taken me to interesting topics and encounters with interesting (sometimes for all the wrong reasons, such as in the anecdote above) people.  Such as religion, and the religious, respectively.  The first notable example is a concise history of religion I read probably a decade ago.  To put it simply, it outlined the various religious beliefs humans have had down the ages.  From paganism (worship of many gods, often represented by features of the landscape or small figurines) to monotheism (worship of a single deity, ie Christianity, Judaism and Islam).  This book caused me to ask myself one simple question, which may have actually put me on a path to atheism: if religion can change, how can it ever be true?

In other words, if every single ancestor of every single Christian, Jew or Muslim on this planet at one time backward through history once had absolutely no idea who Jesus, Yaweh, or Allah was, how could Jesus, Yaweh or Allah then, now or ever exist?  Again, I’ll leave that up to you.  The second example is more controversial: the Koran.  It took me a good year to read, because it’s laboriously preachy and repetitive.  Positively, it’s a staggering work of imaginative (if somewhat plagiarised from Judaism and Christianity which came before it) genius.  And proposes many ways in which people not only can but should be a good person.  Negatively, it mentions some pretty reprehensible stuff about treatment of women.  Without intending a defence of it, it was written in the 8th century.

The Koran cemented for me the question of how could religion be true if it changed (arguably the next, and second in ridiculousness only to Scientology, big one to appear was Mormonism, from the United States in the 1700s, from memory).  It also caused me to ask another, not particularly original, I must admit, question relating to terrorism and child marriage and the like: if religion proposes such good, antique attitudes toward women aside, why does it seem to cause such bad?  The answer lies in the fact that, as I said at the start, it is deliberately fabricated.  Religion is literally everything, only just to religious people and not in the way they believe.  Every time something good happens, they interpret it through their religion (God’s work).  Every time something bad happens, the same (God’s plan).  Ever heard of Christians saying a natural disaster was the fault of gays or some other scapegoat? Yep.

The difference for atheists is they see good things as a purely human construct, even and regardless of if done by a religious person or people.  And bad things as simply the weather (or climate change, but that’s another story), or again a non-spiritual human construct in the form of some nut with a gun/bomb/car, or some religious nut (terrorist) with a gun/bomb/car.  There are two things and two things only which need to be used to explain good or bad things: science, and psychology – which could also come under “science”.  Attributing anything to a fictional construct is dangerous at worst, and an unnecessary waste of time at best.

So why isn’t everyone atheist?  Again, let me refer to the beginning.  Religion is not just fabricated.  It is deliberately fabricated.  The Bible, Koran, Torah, etc. didn’t just fall from the sky.  They were written (and rewritten and translated countless times) by people, and almost certainly, in the case of every religious text ever written, exclusively by men.  But why did men write them?  To control women and other men.  That’s why religion’s fundamental problem is that it’s complete fiction.  Because, it is complete fiction written by men to control other people. And, it’s complete fiction written by men to control other people not just in regard to their religious (or absence of religious) lives, but their entire lives. Or as much of them as possible.

And they’re still using it to control people to this day. But not for the sake of control. For the sake of manipulating you into believing lies. Like my former housemate above, if you can be convinced there’s a god, you can be convinced  (or convince yourself) you can afford a house, even if a reasonable person can see you can’t. If you can be convinced of that, you can be convinced that prohibitively costly medical care for your needlessly terminal child is all part of “God’s plan”, when it’s really because of bloated pharmaceutical company profits  and shareholder dividends. Or you can be convinced that, when you die after blowing yourself up in a crowded shopping strip, you’ll awake in eternal paradise. I don’t want to be controlled, or at least I’d like to be less controlled in ways I have choices over (as opposed to ways I don’t, such as living in a capitalist system of wage slavery).  So I’m atheist.  And in the spiritual aspect of my life I am perfectly free, ironically because there is no spiritual aspect of my life.  I highly recommend it.

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That Time I Was Called Racist

Once upon a time in a former, office-working life, a colleague of mine called me racist.  I was bagging out (Australian for criticising) “Kiwis” (New Zealanders).  Can’t remember exactly what I said, but it inspired her to call me racist.  I can’t recall if she directly said: “You’re racist.”  But the word “racist” was in there somewhere.  My response that was I was not racist.  She said something to the effect that if I had to say I was not racist, there was a good chance I was, in fact, racist.  Defensiveness implying guilt.  My reply, and last word was: “Well here we are.”  In other words: “I don’t care for that reasoning.  I’m not racist.”

Her partner at the time, who just happened to be a New Zealander – and specifically Maori (native) – was visiting her later that day.  I’d asked her earlier that day or week if he might be able to set me up with hospitality work, as my office gig was only temporary.  And he worked behind bars.  Not sure if she said she would or not.  Later that day, the day I was accused of being racist, I was downstairs getting something from the nearby convenience store, when I saw her and him as I walked back to the entrance of the office.  They were both outside the entrance.  She pointed to me, looking at him, and he started walking toward me.

From memory, he was smiling, and as he came up to me he tried to give me one of those handshakes in which you come from up high with your right hand, in a more casual manner I can’t describe any better.  I prefer normal handshakes, and more recently fist-bumps.  Or no touching at all when greeting another man in a casual setting, and quick hugs either way with women.  Other than asking me how I was going, and me returning the greeting, nothing further transpired and we both went on our respective ways.  I later thought perhaps that he was going to help me with hospitality work, but decided not to.  And that his girlfriend had put him up to it.  When I got back upstairs I said nothing to her about it other than that I prefer normal handshakes.  She either said nothing or little but a murmuring sound.

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The hoop I used to shoot at during lunch breaks in this particular office job.

Much later, I realised why she had called me racist.  It’s because she thought I was talking specifically about Maoris, instead of New Zealanders in general – the latter being the actual case.  (It’s somewhat of a good-natured national pastime for Australians to give bulk shit to (criticise) New Zealanders, and vice-versa.)  And I still can’t help but suspect that what she was actually pointing him to do that day outside the office was punch me in the face, or similar.  Though that might just be paranoia.  Either way, it’s been playing on my mind for some time now, occasionally, the fact that she incorrectly labelled me racist (I actually believe and have seen evidence to the effect that there is in fact no such thing as races, or racial division within the human race.  It’s just another construct designed to divide and control us).

I’ve thought about getting in touch with her and clarifying.  But frankly I don’t wish to get in touch with her for any reason at all.  She was a regular, and often quite galling (deliberately or not) critic of mine.  So all things being equal, I felt it easier to simply use this blog post to square the ledger, so to speak.  I do agree that sometimes it’s not generally a good sign if your only defence to being accused of being a bigot is to simply say that you are in fact not.  But then, if your accuser has misinterpreted what you’ve said, and you haven’t realised they have, then what other argument could you possibly make.  Ironically, prejudice on her behalf might have kept her from hearing me correctly.  Though, she too might since have come to understand the way things actually went.  Whether you, dear reader, think me racist, is up to you.  I’m not going to repeat that I’m not.  But I will say that I find bigotry of any kind to be stupid at best, and abhorrent at worst.

Hansonism Mk II

We are in danger of being swamped by Asians, is the gist of what I remember from Hansonism’s maiden voyage into the Australian consciousness.  This was the ‘90s, when my focus was more on adolescent existentialism.  But now we’re nearing the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, and history, as it does, is repeating itself.  Now it’s a Muslim swamp we need worry about, apparently, which is not the least of the, nor the sole, irony, considering Islam sprung from the desert.  What is a swamp, really?  I see it as a stagnant body of water in which exist somewhat base creatures such as bacteria and fungi and frogs and birdlife.  So was she saying Asians were bringing the swamp with them, way back when, or that our home was a swamp and they were going to en masse join us in the fetid pool?  And surely she’s not saying Muslims are bringing the swamp, unless from certain parts of Indonesia or perhaps Malaysia outside of urban centres.  So in this case ours must be the swamp?  Or our home becomes a swamp upon letting them through the door?  Or Asian and more recently Muslim culture is swamplike?  Is she even capable of effective analogies?

Let’s leave the waste of consideration right there – is something I’d not normally say about anything.  Because there is absolutely zero point in giving serious consideration to anything this crazy bitch and her political movement has to say about Australia or the outside world.  Hanson is to a true reflection on this country what shaving is to using a broken, mouldy, rusted mirror: ineffective, distorted, and bloody.  Now, forgive me for using the B word, but I’ve long been of the mind that if a man is a bastard or a woman is a bitch – especially those with baffling relevance and influence – they should be labelled as such.  I guess a unisex term for the two could be: arseholes.  But I’ll leave that up to you.  There’s a reason why Hansonism, at least and almost exclusively (Cory Bernardi aside), deserves only some attention and zero consideration.  It’s quite clear what her movement really is.  Even clearer, now, than it used to be – as her policies and their appeals have not just expanded but also strengthened.  Sometimes, this has occurred very recently, and on the run, such as in regard to vaccination.  And obviously others are longstanding, and quite crystalised policies of hers.

Hanson is exploiting bigots and dullards’ ignorance and prejudices through her own intelligence and bigotry, which are just strong and restrained, respectively, enough to at all effectively do so.  This is Hansonism II, and hopefully it goes the way of the first.  I prefer not to believe that after this pimple of hatred whiteheads, pops, and heals, this country can’t learn from its two former mistakes and keep its damn face clean.  I refuse to believe that Hansonism turns normally intelligent, tolerant people into stupid bigots, and that she simply empowers those who incurably are already.  And I am absolutely convinced that the particular brand of hatred and ignorance she represents and propagates will be increasingly, if not ever totally, rejected by Australians in the future.  It could get worse before it gets better.  But if it were ever to become so strong it were considered mainstream, the tragic irony for me would be too much to bear.  And if I at the time had children, I would fear for their future; and if I did not yet have children, I would never have children, to spare them the crushing dystopia their potential country had become.

The human race is at or approaching many of its to date most consequential crossroads – Hansonism and Trumpism and Putinism and Kimism and the like, being not the least of them.  We must reject hatred and bigotry and exploitation and oppression and inequality wherever we can.  Because if we don’t, or not enough of us do, or not enough of us do often enough, we may all be fucked.

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Pub Passout.

There were concerned, freaked out even, people gathered above me. All recollection of a vivid, pleasant dream, immediately gone. I’d felt dizzy. Stood up to try and shake it. Couldn’t. Sat back down. Gone. Bruised skull and ego, but glad I’d been sitting down. The bar staff gave me a lemonade, then I went outside to be picked up by my used to the madness but not this particular type girlfriend. We fell asleep at my place to my mutterings about too many cigarettes and weird conversations and how much I enjoyed running into my grandparents earlier in the Friday I had off due to Deb the Bogan Cyclone.

My brother and I are making a habit of frequenting this particular southern Gold Coast tavern on Friday afternoons after work. It’s an enjoyable weekend beginning ritual, from which he departs my company after one mid- strength and two-light beers – on account of him working Saturdays. I tend to hang around afterward, if not seeing my girlfriend or someone else or having something else more constructive to do other than drink and smoke and talk with local characters and play the pokies – the latter of which I’d quit due to inadequate returns on my many, but modest investments.

It was the smoking and talking, together, that did it, I reckon. I’m normally a smoker, for hopefully not too much longer. And especially while boozing. I’m not normally a conversationalist, but can become so while drinking and smoking and being in the right state-of-mind. Which I was last night. Plus there was a band playing, with saxophone and errthang, so I guess I can blame over-stimulation, too. Not that I didn’t enjoy it at the time. So my brother had left. And I’d wolfed down a kebab from the shop next door. And returned to the bar. Then to the smoking area, where I was to later embarrass myself.

There was a brunette girl, covered in tattoos and cheap gold jewellery, of 27 there the entire night. Up until I passed out, when she was the only other person present and the most freaked by my loss of consciousness. More on her later. The first person I began talking to was a portly teacher with a unique laugh; a regular feature of the pub, with a penchant for Long Island iced-teas who I’d become acquainted with in my semi-regularity. Conversation was struck with him when I joined in poking fun at him for the shorts he was wearing, which I referred to as “yachting boardshorts” due to their horizontal white stripes over navy blue. But he has fascist-tending opinions – he’s a Trump supporter, which puts him massively in the minority in Australia, if possibly not the Gold Coast, for one – so we grew weary of each other’s irreconcilable yet eloquent differences soon enough, upon which time I began speaking with the second of this episode’s characters: a 27-year-old from Tamworth named, of course, Dustin.

Dustin was a jittery bastard. Like something was busting to get out of him. Or he just didn’t feel entirely relaxed or comfortable. Before we even started talking I overheard him saying he’d had his last beer. Then, a few hours and four or five or six pints later, he finally had his last beer and we parted ways with a fist bump. Ended up liking him. He didn’t like country music. Or once had, but had heard it to death growing up in Tamworth. His mum used to rent out his room during annual Country Music Festivals, but he didn’t mind because he spent most days of most weeks surfing mates’ couches, anyway. He’d moved around a lot since leaving north-central NSW probably about 10 years ago. Even done jail, possibly juvie, time, for reasons I couldn’t get out of him. Now he was camped out at one of the Mould Coast’s many corporate-owned bar/pokie/bistro wallet emptiers, with the likes of me. And this girl. Whose name escapes me. Think it started with a D, too.

At first she was just sitting in the corner for the first hour or two, on the phone, engaged in some vague drama with what seemed to be various family members. As is the way with taverns, she got talking to us – mainly me and Dustin. Turned out her mother had brain cancer and her brother was a junkie (So badly a junkie, it seemed, his life was as or not much less than imminently over as his mother’s.) Her dad had been kept from her for most of her life so far, under the false pretence, perpetuated by her mother, that her father didn’t want to see her. And that she didn’t want to see him. One of the last things I can remember is her crying. I asked her if she was ok and she responded, “Yes”, in such a way that I knew it was a polite lie to a sympathetic stranger. We talked for a few minutes more, until I started to feel dizzy.

It might have been too many cigarettes. Was less likely many, but no more than often for me on a Friday night, drinks. I think I was overwhelmed by the sheer, not entirely humorless but certainly tragic humanity of the experience.

Art of the Floating Crap

The poor bastard.  I get it now.  He’s in over his head.  He realised not all that long ago he was nothing but a brand.  Otherwise useless to anyone but himself.  So he ran with it.  He put his name on everything he could.  And in the superficial morass the late-capitalistic USA has become, it served him well.  Money fell out of people’s pockets and, seemingly, the sky.  Of course whenever he tried to do something entirely unfeasible, his brand failed.  Brand power can only twist reality, not outright destroy it.  But he held true to the brand because he knew he was on to a long-term winner that would serve him well until his death.  Not that it would do his reputation, among from his closest friends and family to the most distant cave-dweller remotely aware of him, much good.  But it was never about reputation.  It was about money.  And power.  And both.  And he was and is and always will be insatiable.

Now, he’s the President of the United States of America.  This was not intended.  He figured he’d run in the primaries.  It would improve his brand.  He won the primaries.  It was unexpected.  Hell, he thought, I guess I might as well go up against Hillary.  It would improve his brand.  He won.  Totally unexpected.  Somewhere in his tiny, simian brain he had earlier thought “Surely they won’t actually be stupid enough to vote in a man who has no political experience and heads a business empire that would be a spectacular failure if it weren’t propped up by little but his gargantuan ego and baffling celebrity and the couple of actually competent people who’d managed to slip into his staff”.  But they did.  And here we all are watching one man basically tell the rest of the fucking world “You’re fired!”  (Or more crudely: “Fuck off!”)  Except they’re not accepting his dismissal.  And the frustration this causes him is hilariously agonising, or agonisingly hilarious, to watch.

So I guess I can sympathise if not empathise with him.  I have my own weaknesses and character flaws, as do we all.  The difference is I and many others who are not paranoid, delusional, megalomaniac narcissists, are discrete with our weaknesses and character flaws.  We admit them where necessary.  Deal with them.  Manage them.  Play instead to our strengths.  Whereas he plays to his weaknesses so relentlessly – and only in America could relentless indulgence of weakness prove so fruitful – that if the man has strengths, I have no goddamned idea what they are.  He might not know either, because in the upside down and inside out reality of the existence he’s crafted for and around himself, he actually seems to see his flaws and weaknesses as strengths.  I mean, it’s fucking sad – to use a word he enjoys abusing in his unappreciated, ironically Orwellian Tweeting.

So where to from here?  It’s hard to see for Trump.  (Plus to be honest, I don’t really care.)  If he’s not assassinated or impeached – the former being unlikely because all the assassinatey types are his supporters, and the latter because if he was under threat of being impeached he’d probably find a way to change the law so impeachment is impossible – I guess he’ll just get back to cashing in his dignity for more money and power.  Only he might not have any dignity left that he doesn’t manufacture in his own damaged mind after what will surely continue to be an entertainingly sad – there’s that word again – up to but hopefully not including four years (eight!?) in power.  And to repeat, to be honest, I don’t really care.  For the world?  Well hopefully we’ll all take a collective sigh of relief as Marine One takes him from the White House for the last time (or as he’s dragged through the streets and pelted with rotten tomatoes, then tarred and feathered and placed in a stockade for more tomato target practise for a while).

And ensure that an IGNORANT, EGOMANIACAL, NARCISSISTIC, HATEFUL, LYING, BIGOTED PSYCHOPATH IS NEVER AGAIN GIVEN THE POWER, THROUGH SUPPOSED DEMOCRACY, TO LITERALLY DESTROY THE HUMAN RACE!  Ahem.  I guess I’m reassured by the fact that his rise to power has emboldened his like-minded (magnanimous of me to refer to them as “minded” at all, no?).  Why?  Because if the world or at least the US, for starters, decides to vote into power men or women who actually wish to lead the human race to a better place – instead of divide us into easily controllable and perhaps crushable groups based on superficial barely recognisable differences – I know that their like-minded becoming emboldened will revolutionise the universe.  If Trump doesn’t get us all nuked in the meantime. . . .

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My Father, Currently

(For background to this blog post: https://wordjourneyer.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/every-disease-is-a-heart-disease/)

On my way to visit Dad I heard over the radio the axiom: if you can’t find the bright side of life, polish the dull side.  I resolved to share with him this newly learned wisdom, as soon as I had arrived at the aged care facility he had moved into not long after his 65th birthday.  His reaction: “Bullshit.”  For better or worse, a dry, stubborn sense of humour had been one of Dad’s genetic gifts to me.   Fortunately, for my older half-brother and sister, younger brother, and me, his Parkinson’s disease had (at time of writing) not been and I hope won’t be.  When I visited him a few weeks or months earlier, on a hot day, one of the nurses had given him a glass of water.  When she went to take it back from him, he played with her; withdrawing the empty glass repeatedly from her outstretched hand until finally releasing it to her.  He can tell me he’s sick or dying (neither which is exactly true in any conventional sense) until he’s blue in the face, but if he tried to suggest he didn’t still have a sense-of-humour I’d laugh, then quickly stop laughing, then reply, simply: “No.”

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I don’t remember when he was diagnosed.  All I remember is that he surely had it a few years before it was finally discovered.  And the years since – despite DBS (deep brain stimulation) and endless juggling of different medications – have proven little better and often much worse.  Within the context of his disease only, of course it’s the negatives that stand out.  Like the time he’d tried a new form of medication and started hallucinating; at one point in the early morning yelling out: “Hey Colin!  How do you piss out of a plane!?” while himself using the bathroom.  Or the time I’d heard a loud THUMP downstairs, ran down them, screamed “DAD!” upon seeing him lying motionless on the floor, then felt relief when he groaned and was ok despite the fall.  And when, after we’d moved to a single story house, he’d be suffering insomnia – the major symptom of his Parkinson’s (but not necessarily everyone’s) – and wandering into my room on a semi-regular basis.

Moving Dad into a nursing home had not been any easier, emotionally, than enduring his troubles more closely with him.  But, as his up until then primary carer, it was certainly easier on Mum – in practical but of course not emotional terms.  A principled as she is loving and caring (yet sometimes stern) woman, she early on determined to stick with him for better or worse, for richer or poorer.  But during early 2015 he had surgery in Brisbane to relieve stomach and chest pains.  As a consequence of the (otherwise successful) operation, he began suffering delirium, languished in hospital for a couple more months, and on discharge was admitted straight into a pleasant, modern yet naturally solemn Gold Coast nursing home.  He now spends his time surrounded by generally much older and more infirm people, which does nothing to improve his state-of-mind.

Fortunately, all of Dad’s family, besides his sister in Victoria, and daughter about an hour north-west of Brisbane, live close enough to visit him at least once a week.  He smiles sometimes, usually if one takes the opportunity to stir pleasing memories from his past.  Or make light of them in a not disrespectful manner.  I discovered, or had forgotten, on a recent visit with Mum that Dad during his professional footballing days had been nicknamed Magic.  I cracked: “Was that what the ladies called you, Dad?”  He grinned, and Mum playfully reprimanded him.  We all had lunch with him on his 66th birthday in the BBQ gazebo outside his new and we still hope not permanent home.  And again had an early Christmas lunch there two weeks before my older sister and brother had to leave for engagements with their partners’ families on the 25th.

Dad didn’t make it home for Christmas Day, 2015.  Probably for the first time, now I think of it.  My brother and his girlfriend drove me to visit him in the morning.  I went in first.  Dad has trouble handling too many visitors at once.  Mum had spent an hour or so with him earlier in the morning.  He complained of being sick.  Then he said something that, suffice to say, was depressing to hear from one’s father.  He also told me to tell my brother not to come in (which I did, but added that he should go in anyway).  I wished him a Merry Christmas (it’s unlikely dad had any enduring idea what day it was), and left.  This is it now, when it comes to Dad.  I tell him I love him a lot more these days.  Not because I’m worried he’ll be dead soon, but because I’m sure he’ll be gone soon, besides.  A man who appeared godlike when I was a child, a stern bore when I was a teenager, a fountain of wisdom during my 20s; now, a memorial combination of all three encased in a body controlled by a brain that is swiftly failing him.

Dad was a professional Australian Rules footballer back in his heyday.  The past, in a wonderful way, is catching up with him.  Mum’s been receiving video testimonials by players from the Geelong West (Roosters) Football Club’s arguable, as far as I know, peak during the late-‘70s/early-‘80s.  It’s not important what exactly what they say in the videos, about their playing days or the club or dad.  What’s important, humbly, is what I observed after watching them with my mum, her parents, my younger brother, his girlfriend, older brother, his wife and two children (during Good Friday 2016): “Dad, what we’ve just finished watching is people we don’t even really know telling us things about you that we already know.”  To which he responded to the effect that that was a wonderful thing to say.  I responded: “Well it’s just the truth, isn’t it?”  And it was.  I said nothing special, but I said it (because someone had to) plainly truthfully about a man who is special to more people than he still probably realises.

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We’re planning on videoing Dad, mainly for his own benefit if he’s up to it but also for the blokes down south who’ve without exception spoken so highly of their memories of him.  And also for us, too.  For posterity.  Dad is still Dad.  He’s not well.  But he’s also not a vegetable, and nor is he dead.  If we can capture him recalling what was one of the (if not the) highlights of his life, we can pass those memories along the outgoing branches of our family tree, forever.  Dad’s father was an abusive alcoholic, and died when I was very young.  (In fact one of my earliest memories was of dad’s dad lying in a hospital bed, dying of (from memory) prostate cancer, and dad standing nearby – both ashen faced – and then the door closing.)  Mum’s father died after being kicked by a horse, when she was seven.  I’ve never known a blood-related grandfather.  And nor might my children.  So my hope is that if we can take dad back to a happy past, however momentarily, and capture it, it might help my children, and their children have happy futures.  I hope they’ll learn that the past, though sometimes sad, was also joyous, rich, bright; happy – and so too can be their futures.