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Sunday, 26 September 2010

My Daddies Daddy

Between moving out of the house and moving into our new place there was a bit of a gap. Which meant a little stopover with some Grandparents.

Little bit abrupt that ending wasn't it? Would it have read better if it ended ... I think it probably would have. I'll remember that.

So anyway, my Grandparents. Like most people I started off with four and the number got lower over time. I've now got two. I don't know what the statistics are on Grandparent retention; am I doing well or badly to have two left at the age of 31?

If I seem unduly flippant on here about the death of 'loved ones' it's because, by and large, they weren't. Loved ones, I mean. They were people in my life. People I spent time with and people who gave me presents and people whose mockery I had to endure in good humour, yes. Not people I loved though.

My paternal Grandfather (it's both of my paternal Grandparents that are dead, my maternals are still alive and kicking, if a little the worse for wear), was a keen collector of comics. Name a British weekly adventure comic of the 70's and 80's and he read it, religiously. Warlord, Victor, Battle, he had them all, and he was always willing to let you dig into them whenever you visited. We learned never to remove them from the premises though, that was absolutely forbidden.He also liked taking his Grand kids on days out during school holidays and every few weekends.On the face of it, he was pretty much everything you wanted in a Grandfather.

There was a problem though.A problem which was, to my young eyes, a pretty bloody big problem, thank you very much, even if the adults in the family didn't seem overly bothered by it. The man was a bully. He was a bully to his wife, he was a bully to his own kids and he was a bully to us little ones. He wasn't a big man, physically, but my Grandma was a borderline midget (not really, but she was very small) and he dwarfed her. Most of his own kids had outgrown him but I suppose years of conditioning had left them thinking his behaviour normal so they never stood up to it. As for us kids, well, what could we do?

I once sat in their living room with my parents, my Uncle and his wife who were visiting at the same time and my Aunt. My Aunt was only in her teens, and so still lived at home but she wouldn't have been able to leave had she wanted to due to severe physical and mental disabilities that left her confined to a wheelchair with the mind of a small child and very little use of her hands. (She could feed herself but it would leave a hell of a mess and her beloved crayons never stayed inside the lines)

The adults were sitting around gossiping about whatever it is people sit around talking about for hours at a time (I'm not the most sociable person so I don't know) and I was working with my Aunt on a model kit I'd received as a present. It was lots of bits of card with pictures of roof tiles and shopfronts and brickwork and such that you had to colour in and then they folded together to make a model High Street.

(It may give you a little idea of the level of compassion in my family when I tell you that I received a real bollocking from my parents when we went home for letting my Aunt help with it, because she would obviously just mess it up. Even as a little kid I thought that the fact she had a whale of a time and was dead proud of herself was more important than whether my model looked as good as the one on the box but I couldn't argue the point. Parents know best don't they?)

Anyway, the adults are sitting around, I'm working on the model, and suddenly my Grandfather, kindly old soul that he is, decides that he is not happy with the cup of tea he is drinking and my Grandmother should go and make him a fresh one. Seconds later, because she hasn't jumped to attention quick enough, he is out of his chair, grabbing her by the throat, pinning her to the door and screaming point blank into her face that she is a useless c*nt and if she didn't want 'knocking into next week' she had better hurry up with his tea. Not a single one of the adults intervened. I mean, come on, my father and uncle watched their mother being assaulted and verbally abused and did nothing. Whats worse is that my Aunt barely reacted. Given her mental and emotional condition, how many times must she have witnessed that, or something similar, in order for it not to affect her?

Another incident that immediately springs to mind about him, even after all these years, is when he took me and my sister to the seaside. South Shields, the standard destination for daytrippers in my part of the country. We piled on to the bus, first thing in the morning, each clutching our little plastic money bag full of coins we had collected in the days prior (we didn't get regular pocket money allowances, just when there was a specific reason, like this), all excited about going in the water and building sandcastles. That excitement is the only good memory I have of that day. I'm sure we must have had some fun but all I can recall is the public beating I received for leaving my money on a bench and us having to go back for it. Or the screaming my sister endured when it was discovered that her money bag had torn and she had lost most of her coins. He didn't give her any to replace it, in case you're wondering. He just made her do without.

So yes, he let me read his comics. Not really enough to qualify for 'loved one' is it?

Monday, 20 September 2010

My First Memory

What's the first proper memory you have? Mine is of climbing over the big pile of rubble that used to be my house.

I don't actually have any memory of living there, just of climbing on the rubble after it, and the rest of the estate, was demolished. I do remember the house we (Dad, Mam, Me, Little Sister) had been rehoused in by whoever it was that's responsible for rehousing 1000's of people when a developer offers a backhander for a plot of land. (May not be true. I honestly don't know the politics/economics of what happened, I was about 4!) The new house was about 5mins walk from the demolition site and we had to pass the heaps on the way to the park. At first their were fences up and barriers and stuff and the parents all made sure to issue strict warnings about the dangers of getting in amongst but that soon went by the wayside and all of us local kids would be swarming all over it like flies on... Huge mounds of bricks, shattered glass, rotten timbers full of rusted nails, it was heaven for an adventurous young lad like myself. Loads more fun than the park we were supposed to be going to.

Looking back, it's odd that the rubble mounds stayed where they were for as long as they did. You'd think that if the estate had been cleared for redevelopment the crap would have been shifted straight away. Unless a deal fell through or the money ran out I suppose. Even then, fear of public injury and the dreaded compensation claim would never allow it these days. As a child though, you don't think like that do you? We had our very own adventure playground, with added puncture wounds. No-one ever got really badly hurt though, at least that I can recall and lets be honest, gushing leg wounds and gouged out eyeballs make an impression don't they?

We (now with added Baby Brother) moved out of there when I was about 7 or 8. We still lived in the same little village but I don't recall ever going back to that demolition site (or the park) after the move. Maybe it was because I was lazy and the extra 10 minute walk put me off, I don't know. Perhaps we'd moved far enough that we'd crossed that magical invisible line that parents have that dictate which places are "too far for you to go on your own." A statement that never seemed to be followed by "I'll get my coat and take you" Funny how that works.

Between moving out of the house and moving into our new place there was a bit of a gap. Which meant a little stopover with some Grandparents.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Honesty in the face of ridicule

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately (and will be reading a lot more in the near future thanks to a thread on the 2000adonline forum). Blogs by writers, Blogs by artists, Blogs by people critiquing various aspects of popular culture and most relevantly, Blogs in which ordinary people talk about their lives. These in particular fascinate me. The concept is nothing new of course, it's little more than keeping a diary and people have been doing that for centuries. The thing that makes it noteworthy, and yet never seems to be commented on (or perhaps it was commented on, when the practice first became common), is that they are writing these diaries, traditionally very private things, and publishing them where the whole world can read them. Anytime it wants. This seems quite brave to me but maybe I'm just old fashioned.

Anyway, my own feeble excuse for a blog - this one here, that you're reading now - has been a bit neglected because to be honest I've never really felt like I have that much to say. I can waffle on quite happily for hours at a time about the telly - and do, over at The Impossible Quest - but when it comes to actually talking about myself, well, what is there, really?

Then inspiration hit. There is a girl on twitter. I can't remember why or when I started following her but she seems to have been a staple of my timeline for as long as I can remember. (This happens quite a lot. Mainly when I trace someone back from a celebs profile page to see what they said to prompt a particular response, find them quite interesting, decide to follow for a couple of days to see how it goes and then forget about them and they just become fixtures. I'm sure this is how a lot of people decide who to follow.) Anyway, this girl is in her teens, not sure exactly how old but she seems to be doing some kind of exams so...

At first, not being particularly au fait with the rules of netiquette, I felt a bit off, 'following' a teenage girl online. I kept getting paranoid about accusations of stalking, for reasons that will become clear in the next paragraph. The thing is though, and I make no apologies for this, she has become one of my favourite follows. For the simple reason that she is one of the most charming and entertaining bloggers I've come across so far. She'll talk about anything, trivial one day, earth shattering the next, with the same disarming honesty. It's not that she doesn't get embarrassed, she is quite open abut how embarrassed she does get, but it never stops her from putting it all out there. Also, somewhat sickeningly, she's a much better writer as a child than I can even dream of being as an adult.

I got to thinking, could I be that honest? One of my 'issues' is fear of ridicule. Or rather, fear of ridicule behind my back. It's a facet of my personality, one of many in fact, that I have never really been able to understand. In person I am quite a jovial, happy-go-lucky, wacky sort of chap, who doesn't care a jot what people think of him and will quite happily make a total fool of himself in aid of a cheap laugh. You know, the kind of twat you kinda like for 5minutes then just want to slap. On the phone though, or over the internet, I am constantly censoring myself, trying to anticipate what those at the other end of the line will think of any given remark, cheeks flushing with embarrassment every time I think I've said anything even slightly foolish. (In my last post on this blog I talked about visiting a prostitute to lose my virginity. I am not remotely ashamed of this and in 'real' life most everyone I know has heard the tale but it was pure physical torture typing those words. Even now, just thinking about it, my guts are churning. I claimed not be embarrassed, who was I kidding?) So, could I reconcile this fear of long distance ridicule with my desire to write something halfway honest on this blog. I was resolved to try.

The thing is though, as bad as my life is right now, it's not bad in any particularly interesting ways. Jobless, Penniless,Womanless, on the verge of Homeless. These things are not exactly news these days are they? Why would anyone care? I suspect quite strongly that they wouldn't. Then I had the idea that maybe I should do what this girl whose writing I so admire is doing. She chronicles her adolescence. Why don't I? Certainly, had the technology existed to have a blog when I was a young 'un I would most definitely have had one. Maybe had I had the outlet it might even have cured me of my paranoia in my formative years rather than have it dig in and establish itself. But the technology didn't exist, for I am not a young man and t'internet, sadly, came after my time. Looking back with todays eyes, I can't help feeling I've missed out on something.

So I've decided to write on here about my life. A look back at my formative years, all the crap I went through, all the indignities I suffered without even realising. Because we don't do we? We don't sit around as kids, bemoaning our lot and woe is me'ing till the cows come home. We get on with it and have the times of our lives. I look back now and I know, with my sensible adult eyes, that my childhood was somewhat lacking but when I was actually living it...

This blog has long needed a purpose and I think this is it. I just hope the paranoia doesn't kick in and shut me down

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Common Decency. Or a lack thereof.

I am once again inspired by current events to put finger to key and spout some ill thought out knee jerk drivel for the edification of probably nobody. This time by the use of the phrase 'Dumb Cunt' to describe the wife of a philanderer. Seriously, Dumb Cunt.

I have to tell you, for someone who has my utter disdain for all things football related, it does seem to have the ability to get under my skin more than anything else. After the last time I was compelled to blog on here, bemoaning the World Cup nonsense that was going on at the time, I've managed to avoid the whole shebang pretty thoroughly but alas, it has caught up with me again. In the form of a certain aesthetically challenged England player and his alleged dalliance with a lady of the night.

Now, I have no problem at all with people who spend their cash paying for sex. While it may well be illegal I see no reason to consider it immoral and have said as much many times in the past, often leading to quite heated arguments. In fact, I shall go on record, here and now, and say that I myself have partaken of the services of such a woman, just the once, when I decided that the age I had reached was just a little too old to still be a virgin. I figured that this was my best way of 'getting the first one out of the way' without worrying about the reaction of the woman to my inexperience. She was, after all, being paid to flatter me. The fact that I can type this, and post it on the internet for the world to see, without embarrassment, should tell you what my philosophies are about prostitution.

That aside, I do have a problem with men who cheat on their wives. Were the man in question single I would care not a jot about this story. To be honest, even now I don't care about the prostitution angle, which I see as secondary to the fact that he slept with a woman other than his wife. The fact that he paid for the privilege is beside the point. What I do care about is the attitude that has been thrown around, by people I would ordinarily like and respect, regarding the wife in the equation.

The prevailing attitude seems to be one of mockery. That she is a gold-digger who has no right to be upset because she's little better than a prostitute herself and she will obviously stick with him for his money so she deserves what she gets. My question is, when did our society become so fucking heartless? Assume for the moment that the allegations are true and she wasn't aware. She has just found out that the man she's been with her entire adult life has cheated on her. That doesn't engender just a little bit of sympathy?

Now, I may be wrong here, because as I've said I have very little interest in football and as a rule I have even less interest in the private lives of those who play it, but I seem to have the impression that these two have been together since they were like 17 or something. Is that right? I've definitely got that idea from somewhere. So as a kid she started going out with another kid who was a bit good at kicking a ball around. That makes her a gold-digger how exactly? Does she have The Sight, able to tell from watching a couple of school games and some 5-a-side at the local rec that this lad she kinda fancied was gonna one day earn millions on the international stage? Could it not be even remotely possible that she quite fancied him, went out with him for a while, fell in love and subsequently supported him in his attempt to build a professional career?

Does it make her a gold-digger that she stayed with her partner, who was not rich when she met him, after he made some money? Should she have left him? Would that make her more acceptable to the public at large?

Something else that has become more and more apparent over the last couple of days is that the people who seem to have the strongest reactions to this kind of story are those who spend the most amount of time bemoaning how celebrities have overtaken popular culture. The kind of people who will tell anyone who will listen, and a lot of people who'd rather not, that these celebrities are worthless and full of shit and a blight on our world and they couldn't care less about what they are up to and who they are up to it with. Then they leap on a story like this with all the ferocity of a starving fox in a battery hen shed. It seems that they view this evidence of celebrities being flawed as validation of all the abuse they have so delighted in heaping on them over the years, whereas I would be more inclined to see it as evidence that they are ordinary people who make mistakes and maybe we should leave them alone to sort it out in private.

At this point it is traditional for someone to pipe in with the age old arguments of "They're not shy of publicity when it suits them" and "They shove themselves down our throats and then complain about invasion of privacy". To these arguments I say "Bullshit". Football players play football. If you want to go and shout at them at the ground, be my guest. If they sell the photo rights to their wedding, feel free to mock their tasteless excesses. If they show up at a red carpet wearing a ridiculous outfit, tell a few jokes about it by all means. Then stop. Recognise the line. They do these things because it is a part of how they make their living. They would not do these things if they did not think that a market existed for it. That they do does not give you, me, or anyone else the right to pry into the deepest recesses of their private lives. It is voyeurism, pure and simple and frankly, I despair at the thought that I live in a society where this is not only commonplace (rape, murder and robbery are commonplace) but also considered acceptable.

He was in the wrong, she is a victim. Lets not lose sight of that. But also, lets not lose sight of the fact that there is a marriage on the line here. They are a young couple , not long married, who have nevertheless been together for a long time. Perhaps some would say that they settled on each other too young, I don't know. Regardless, many marriages survive this kind of mistake. I would hope that this one could as well. Why can't we leave them alone to sort out their problems. I would consider it a shame if a salvageable relationship faltered because of public indulgence in schadenfreude.

Oh, and if they do stay together after all this, can we please refrain from assuming that the 'Dumb Cunt' only stayed for the money and is as good as a prostitute herself. Cheers.