Mourning in the digital age

It would have been my dear old Dad’s 77th birthday today.

This is the fifth of his birthdays where I can’t buy him a carefully chosen card, or even make one for him as i used to like to do, I can’t buy him presents that I think will make him smile, or even roll his eyes if they were jokey ones, and I can’t feel the utter, all-enveloping, warm comfort of a Dad hug. I can’t cook him the Sunday roasts he adored. I can’t do a damned thing for him now. In 2014, as in previous years, I’ve marked the occasion by taking flowers to his and my Mom’s grave and posting a status on Facebook.

Why though, do I post a status on Facebook? Why? Why do I sit looking through photos, getting more and more upset, post a photo that I’ve finally chosen that I think sums him up at the point where my nose can’t get any redder through blowing it? And then I sit watching friends and family ‘like’ it, comment on it and all the time I’m getting more and more upset. Of course family and friends will ‘like’ it, because they remember my Dad or they’re being empathetic. Possibly they’ve lost their own much loved Dad and want to let me know that they feel my pain.

There’s a pressure to lay your grief out there so that everyone knows you still grieve, in a hair shirt kind of way, on special days. In the pre-digital age, it would be the equivalent of not getting to the cemetery first with your flowers. I went last night after work, so I won that one :-) Kate Dad Bean and Tony circa 1993 or 1994

Grief doesn’t just hit on their birthdays and the anniversaries of their deaths though. We miss and think about our special people at odd times and for reasons, often quirky and known only to us, throughout each year. That’s how I’m choosing to remember my Mom and Dad, and other special people who aren’t around any more; I’ll say something about them when I have something to say.

So, I’m calling ‘time’ on the pressure for Facebook posts for people I grieve over. I will still mark certain days, but if I don’t do it on Facebook, its nobody’s business but mine.

I also probably won’t ‘like’ stuff like “if you have/had a Dad who could walk on water, share this within 5 minutes or all the pixies will die”. My Dad wouldn’t have used the word, in my hearing, but I’m sure he would have thought all that stuff was bollocks.

I’m my own judge and jury, so you can’t try me :-)

 

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Summer Lovin’

For the last few weeks, I’ve seen a pretty much constant stream of mentions of ‘Proms’ by friends, family and people I barely know. Its all a bit alien to me, with my school days nearly 30 years behind me, but everyone seems to be doing it so I guess it must be the norm now.

Its nice to see the photos of the kids all glammed up and looking forward to their big night out of course, but I’m staggered by the expense that seems to be involved. There’s the all important outfit of course, but then there might be hair, nails (and that’s just the boys) and a limo, and heaven knows what else. It must be a nightmare for parents who are already struggling in these austere times. Probably a nightmare for their children too, if they have to turn up in anything less than a perfect state. Probably also a nightmare for any kids who don’t feel comfortable in that kind of atmosphere because they’re porky, have weird teeth, are introverted or whatever.

I do ‘get’ that its a sort of rite of passage for those leaving school for good at 18; it maybe puts a nice full stop between childhood and becoming an adult. Ah though, it’ll never be like the Prom night in Grease, or even American Pie. On reflection, that probably isn’t a bad thing.

Whilst I appreciate the rite of passage element for the 18 year olds, I’m a bit ‘meh’ about Proms suddenly being a thing for 11 year olds. It just seems to me like more pressure on both parents and kids.

I know I’m coming across as a complete killjoy here, but this is one tradition from across the Atlantic that I’m not altogether keen on. It just seems a little forced and false to me and also, sorry, this isn’t the 1950s and the age of innocence is long gone.

What has struck me today, and it isn’t a Prom thing, is all the posts from parents of children leaving junior school today. I’ve seen pictures of kids in floods of tears and statuses detailing how all the kids are crying through their leavers’ assemblies and so on. I can understand their parents being a bit misty-eyed as their kids are about to take a huge life step, but I’m baffled by the kids being so distraught. Is it because such a big fuss is made maybe? I don’t know. As I said, I’m baffled. Do feel free to be offended, but I’m not at all sure that the Prom thing is suitable for junior school kids. Maybe they’re not mature enough to cope with all the hype and competitiveness.

I have a good memory and I don’t remember anything special about leaving junior school. We probably did what we did on the last day of any school year, namely playing games and being awestruck by the record player in a suitcase that the teacher produced. Oh come on, it WAS 1978; expectations weren’t high. I don’t remember anyone being upset. I suppose we just assumed we’d see each other again.

The leaving do from senior school was a little different. We had extremely civilised sips of wine with the teachers for an hour or two, then the hard core de-camped to what used to be the Vine pub. Its a teetotal social enterprise these days, and I hugely recommend it for lunch, but back then it was a biker pub with live bands in the yard. It wasn’t a quiet night.

For any locals reading this, the Arboretum island was just being finished and the spiky plants (I don’t know what they were, so let’s go with berberis) had been planted. I particularly remember this, because the next morning I had the pleasure of tweezing spikes out of my mate’s jacksy. Her belief in her own athleticism, fuelled by several pints of snakebite, lead her to believe she could vault the pedestrian guard rail easily. She couldn’t, but she fell ever so sweetly like a happy sack of spuds into the berberis. Funnily enough, she couldn’t do it after leaving the school (post wine) either, which lead to her skirt being somewhat indecently ripped and thus her jacksy suffering the berberis attack later on. Happily, she fell in the same spot as she’d fallen earlier and found the purse she’d thought was lost forever.

Back to the subject then. I think leaving school should be celebrated in some way, but I’m going to be an old fart and say noooooo to Prom style events and yessss to ordinary booze ups that don’t cost parents an arm and a leg.

Where do I pick up my old fart badge?

 

 

 

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#Commscamp14 and Bond(ing) and other stuff

This was, for various reasons, the first time I’d attended the curry night preceding the event. Whilst eating curry is always a pleasure (until the 2am cramps), it was also great to meet loads of new people, as well as catching up with some familiar faces, in a really informal way. I’d really recommend it for people attending their first event of this sort. It means you know more people the next day.

So, on to the main event.

A really huge and sincere hip hip hurrah to Emma, Dan and Darren for organising #commscamp14. You have to have organised, I think, an event of some profile, to properly understand all of the heart and soul that they put into it. Nothing went horribly wrong, yay! As an event organiser, that’s good enough, but I do think the day went exceptionally well.

I’m quite reticent in large groups, so I don’t generally enjoy the introducing yourself part of the introductory sessions at these events. I must admit to being rather buoyed by a few whoops when I introduced myself as Kate Goodall from Walsall. Even as the whoops sounded though, I was thinking “shit, people are applauding because they think I’ve come all the way from Poland”. Its a good ice-breaker, but when you have 100+ people, I’m not sure how effective it is in terms of us taking in all that info at once. I wonder if similarly brief introductions in sessions might work better instead?

I attended the event in my own time. Why? Well, I know I always learn a lot, but can I sit down with my boss the next day and say “I learned this, that and this, and here’s how I”ll apply it all and you’ll be able to measure the value of my attendance in x weeks/months because I’ll have saved £x or improved performance by y%”? No, I can’t.  I can tell him that I’m bursting with ideas and really excited about what other people are doing and I’d like to see us do some of these things. He’s interested and supportive and will give me space to try things out if he agrees they’re worth a shot.  Is it just me who feels the need to justify attending these events?

And how can we get the people who are directly responsible for providing the front line services that aren’t fluffy, happy or interesting unless you need them to embrace digital? I mean the people who empty bins, fill potholes, clear drains, deal with ASB, pick up your litter, take away the fly tipping and clear up your dog’s crap. It isn’t a happy conversation when people are being made redundant, services are being slashed and the people remaining are run ragged lurching from crisis to crisis. Bins, potholes and ASB are all, as far as I know, amongst the top reasons people contact their Council. I think these are the very people who should develop a pro-active digital presence, but I hugely sympathise with them not being able to muster any energy or enthusiasm when they get slated all the time.

#commscamp14 and other such events are pretty amazing to be a part of. Its really wow wow wow that so many people come together, with this collective BOOM of knowledge, experience and sheer audacity. That there is such a spirit of sharing the sweets is bloody great. As ever, I’ve come away full of ideas I hope I can put into practice.

And Darren? Great footwear mate :-)

 

 

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Father’s Day

A bit of a ‘meh’ day for me. For a while this morning, it seemed like every happy sod on Facebook and Twitter was wishing their still alive Dad a happy Father’s Day. I felt somewhat cheated for a wee while that my Dad (obviously a better Dad than ALL of your Dads) isn’t here to hug, kiss and generally make a fuss of.

As the day went on, my digital timelines were filled with all sorts of happiness, sadness, loveliness and hope. Mothers trying to be both Mom and Dad because the Dad has buggered off. Step-Dads being lauded by their partner’s children for being ace. Divorced Dads being publicly loved by their kids. People laying bare their anguish, bitterness and, sadly, sometimes,  a ‘don’t care’ that they have no contact with their Dads. There’s a friend who wishes her Dad had lived to walk her down the aisle. Another friend lost his Dad when he was just 14, but still looks to his values for how to live his life. There’s also a lovely friend, a Dad of three young ones, who is fighting harder than you can believe to hang on to life for them and his wife. And another, who recently lost her husband of many years and grieves for both him and her Dad. And another, who just wants her little daughter’s Dad to call her from abroad. Another dear friend is having her first Father’s Day without her lovely Dad.

And so the day carried on. I did the cemetery visit, which I don’t like at all. It was when I got home that I noticed the difference in my timeline. What had changed? I don’t know how to explain it, but it seems to me like all the happy people who have their Dads wake up, get online and go “yay, my Dad’s ace and we’re going to have a fab day”. Maybe the “I don’t have my Dad anymore” crew only come to life by the afternoon, because they can’t hold it in anymore and think their Dad deserves a mention too? I certainly noticed more people who don’t have their Dads now commented later in the day.

I had in mind today too the 600+ looked after children in Walsall. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day must be really crap days for them. A forlorn hope maybe, but I hope these young people are protected as the Government’s cuts swathe through our local services.

My day felt ‘meh’ for a while, but, although I’m sad my dear old Dad isn’t here, I know I was blessed to have had him as my Dad. Some kids don’t get the chance to know their Dads, don’t want to know them, their Dads don’t want to know them or maybe their Dads barely acknowledge them. My Dad loved me unconditionally. It doesn’t get better than that.

 

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May 2014

May 2014 had some highs and some lows.

A high should have been my Mom and Dad’s Golden Wedding anniversary. That day was just ‘a day’ and saw me taking a flower arrangement to their grave. They deserve a huge WHOOP, because they were two of life’s lovely people.

And then there were the local and European elections. The results saddened me. The turnout saddened me more.

Why are people so hysterical about people from European countries coming here to work? I just don’t get it. Are Spaniards frothing with rage that around 750,000 Brits are living it large on the Costa? Are Aussies frothing at all the incoming Brits? If I’m reading it right, 5.5 million Brits are living permanently abroad. WTF would we do if all the countries they live in vote to turf them all out? *gasp* 

Obviously, its OK for Brits to move abroad. We iz British, or summat. God forbid anyone else thinks that free movement is OK though.

What I find inordinately odd is the children of immigrants saying that there should be no more immigration and that the UK is full. I don’t think the UK is full. I say, if you want to come here to work, then come. We need skilled immigrants now, just as we did post WWll. Its pretty shit that people with degrees and masters degrees come here to do cleaning jobs and so on. That’s life though. Hopefully once they’ve got a foothold they’ll move on to better things, Eastern european immigrants aren’t all bag-snatching Romanians. Get over it.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27543012 Oh dear.

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Mothering Sunday

If my Mom (and Dad – they came as a pair) were around, tomorrow I’d be going to their house for a sumptuous Sunday roast to mark Mothering Sunday. I could have cooked of course, but my Mom much preferred being in her own home. I’d have got her a card, of course, and some thoughtfully chosen presents. She was always delighted to be given presents, but what she really liked was looking at the card you’d chosen and the words you’d written inside.

She kept all those cards over all those years, as well as the cards she and my Dad exchanged over the years. Both sets are precious in different ways and, being born to a family of hoarders, of course I’ve kept them. In their cards to each other, you can see the passion and love settle into contentment, in jokes and general joy. My cards, on the other hand, don’t seem to display much understanding, gratitude and real love until I was in my 20s. By my 30s, I appreciated my Mom and Dad a damn sight more and didn’t hold back in saying so.

Tomorrow marks the sixth Mothering Sunday I haven’t had my Mom to fuss over. I’ll take flowers to the cemetery tomorrow, because that’s what we do. My Mom really isn’t there though; not for me. She’s there when I cook a Sunday roast, telling me to separate the beef essence from the fat, she’s there telling me the best place to plant bulbs in the garden and she’s there telling me that ironing is for bored people.

And I remember how she got so fired up playing Eco the Dolphin on my mega drive, her cigarette fell out of the ashtray and she didn’t (immediately) notice that it burned a hole in my duvet cover. I didn’t know for a few days, since she’d turned the duvet over to hide her transgression. When confronted with her crime, she dutifully owned up and said she’d intended to fix it before I found out.

She never did repair it and I didn’t care. It was just a duvet cover after all. My Mom would never have phrased it this way, but she was never one to worry about the small shit. All she cared about was making sure her family was well fed and happy. She did that in spades.

So on to tomorrow. if you still have your Mom/Mum, don’t tell us online numpties you love her, because we’re not interested. Get off your arse and tell her.

 

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Stormy night in King’s Cross

Ooh. Just found a draft blog post that I didn’t get round to posting. Bit behind the times now, but shush, still free.

In 1987, I was on my “sandwich” year of a four year Town Planning degree course, ostensibly undertaking research for a much published professor who I won’t name in case he reads this and comments on how idle and useless I was. Anyway, the Profs were holding a bit of a high brow learned type beano one night not long after I started my stint and I invited my bezzie mate Maz along to hold my hand through all the polite sherry sipping etc.  It didn’t last too long and so, sweet with sherry I’d purloined and sneaked back to my office, we then took off to King’s Cross, where my mate Ali was working in a gay pub/club,  the Bell, at Kings Cross.

I should say that I was only 20, and although I’d met and befriended some gay guys at college by then, I was still as green as could be. And I came from Walsall, so it wasn’t like I was hugely au fait with the gay scene. For younger readers, note that being gay in Walsall in the 80s probably wasn’t something to shout about.

We had a totally storming night in that place. Ali was a great host. We were completely accepted with no questions asked. Well… when I was queueing for the loo one pissed up queen did ask me if I was a floating dyke. It’s taken me 20 odd years to wonder if I should have been offended. I still don’t know, but I doubt it. Lager on top of the Profs’ sherry made us become total idiots when “Dancing Queen” and other classics were played and we danced like total loons until we were completely knackered and decided to get a taxi to Maz’ place in Hackney.  It was probably about 3am by then.

With the pub/club being just about opposite Kings Cross, getting a cab over the road wouldn’t be a problem we thought. It was raining so I got my brolly out. Man though, it was really, REALLY windy, so I gave up and put it away. We got a cab and dropped into our beds and slept like the drunken sods we were. I needed the loo in the night. I tripped over someone in a sleeping bag on the floor by my bed (still wonder who that was) then got to the hall and hit the light switch. NADA. Oh well, feel your way time and then back to bed, stepping over the person in the sleeping bag in the exaggeratedly careful way a drunk person does.

We woke around noon the next day. Maz’ flatmate either called us or came back (can’t remember) to say she and the person in the sleeping bag couldn’t get to college what with all the roads closed due to fallen trees. Eh? That was why the electricity was off. That was the night of the infamous hurricane when Sevenoaks became two oaks, or whatever. Me? I thought it was rather windy then went to sleep.

I never can tell a short story. In a dubious segue, I suspect this is because I was raised as a Roman Catholic and was duly trained to make a full confession. So, onto what I really want to blather about – marriages for gay people, since its in the news.

I get a little irritated with people wanting to get married in a church when they’ve not set foot in a church since the last wedding or funeral. Maybe they want the pomp and circumstance, or the nice photos, I dunno. I’ve never felt the urge to get wed, but if I had, I know Catholic guilt would have made me discount a church wedding. It might sound daft, but I do appreciate where the Catholics etc are coming from. If you don’t believe in God and all the rest of it, why get married in church?

The argument of the day is around, as I understand it, whether gay marriage, rather than Civil Partnerships, should be made lawful.  My gut instinct is YES, of course it bloody should. But then we maybe need to look at the religious side of things. I struggle with this. I’m not religious. I can’t get my head around why people would want to be part of a movement (yes, I’ll call it that) that thinks a same sex relationship way of life is sinful.

Why can’t people who love each other just be able to marry?

 

The text above is a blog post I drafted a year or so ago and. for whatever reason, decided against publishing. I’ll guess I was watching BBC Question Time or maybe Newsnight; something clearly wound me up.

I’m hugely chuffed that gay couples are going to be able to get married now. Civil partnerships were always a bit meh to me. I still feel for gay people who have faith, of whatever kind though. I feel for them, but wonder why they want to be part of a club that doesn’t accept them. I don’t have their  faith though, so I can’t walk in their shoes.

Huge DING DONG and woo hoo hoo for all the gay couples getting married tomorrow and onwards.

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