Friday 11th August


Just keep walking, that’s the way to do it, just keep on placing one stupid foot in front of the other, and maybe all of this madness will disappear, maybe the world will fall back into place.   Perhaps she will wake up back in that little single bed in Leeds and none of this will have happened.  What on earth was her mother thinking of, had she gone mad?  Had she. Harriet, gone mad?  Had she really seen her naked in bed?   And with Uncle Ted of all people.  Her Uncle!!!   Her fucking mother was fucking her uncle.  And in her Daddy’s bed, of all places.  What on earth were they thinking of, were they drunk – or was it some silly sort of game and if she had opened another bedroom door she would have found her Daddy with Aunt Julie.  She just couldn’t get her head round it.  She kept replaying the scene over and over again in her head.  Neither of them had said a word, they just looked shocked, and scared.  Her mother l0ooked absolutely petrified.

Another corner, left or right? Who gives a fuck, just keep on walking.  Just keep on placing one stupid foot in front of the other.  That’s right, just keep on walking and maybe this nightmare will be over.  On and on she trudged, mechanically walking, forcing herself to keep going and she knew the town so well, she just kept going round and round in a circuit, turn left, turn right, cross at the traffic lights, up Combs Ford Hill, right at the top or you are in the fields, back down again and into the town.   Pounding out the streets, and trying to pound some sense into her brain.  What could it mean, what would happen next?  Should she just get a train back to Leeds and say nothing.  Not enough money to do that even, she would have to go back to the house, that hateful house where they were doing it, her mother, her beloved serene fucking mother and Uncle Ted.  Uncle Ted, for Christ; sake, couldn’t she have thought of someone a bit more original.  He was her uncle for fuck’s sake.  Oh my God, she has been screwing her own sister’s husband.  Whatever will Auntie Julie think?  What will her Dad say when he finds out?  Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God.  Just keep on walking and it will all start to make sense, just keep on walking.

*  * *

Jane is still amazed that it was Harriet who caught them, it just had to be Harriet, didn’t it?  What would have happened if Jane had been poorly and been sent home early from school, or if Aunt Julie had popped in to see her sister un-announced, or even more unlikely her own father dashing back for some reason or other.  But no, none of these quite possible situations happened, it was Harriet.  In her completely careless, or possibly drug-fuddled way, she just turned up out of the blue, she hadn’t even been expected that Tuesday, she had only gone back to University two days before, and so that was the last thing they expected.  And how remarkable that they hadn’t been caught before; they had been at it for years.  After the storm broke, her mother admitted it had been going on even before the girls were born, and who knows maybe even before Julie and Ted had married.

Of course,Jane was at school the day that Harriet caught them, so she didn’t know all the details, but apparently she had simply let herself in the back door, as they all used to; the front door was hardly ever used.  She had gone into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water and then decided to go to her room for something.  She hadn’t even consciously heard anything, maybe it had just been idle curiosity, or was she just nosy, but for some inexplicable reason before she got to her own room she wandered into her parent’s bedroom and there actually doing it was Uncle Ted and her mother.

Harriet told Jane that evening, as all hell was breaking loose in the kitchen, that she had quietly closed the door, calmly walked downstairs and drank that lovely cool glass of water.  Then, as upstairs she could hear them scrambling into their hastily discarded clothes and panicking and talking to each other, she put the glass down in the sink and quietly closing the back door, she left the house and just walked and walked.  She wasn’t sure where or what she was doing, no plans at all, she just wandered those well-trodden streets, doubling back every now and then, only making decisions as another corner loomed into view.

She walked for a couple of hours, not even thinking what she was going to do next, or at all, and certainly not about what she would do about her mother and Uncle Ted.  All that was going through her mind was that her mother had betrayed them all; their father, obviously; Aunt Julie, her own sister; and mostly them; Harriet and Jane.  That was why she had been so absent-minded during their childhood, her mind had always been somewhere else; she had constantly been imagining being back in Uncle Ted’s arms again.

And how often could they have possibly managed it?  Jane’s mother had no money of her own, certainly not her own bank account; her father paid for everything and she only ever had food shopping money in her purse, and Uncle Ted earned very little and had a family to fend for, so they could hardly have afforded hotels.  The only chance they would have had would have been in each other’s houses, and how dangerous that would have been, surely too dangerous to have tried too often, though that hadn’t stopped them this time.  Probably their old Morris Oxford had played its part, with its’ cramped back seat and leaky windows, or maybe it had been old outhouses or barns at the farm, or even in the summer al fresco liaisons down quiet country lanes, or in secluded copses.

The wonder is that they had managed it at all, and that they had kept it secret for so long, or even that they had kept it up for so many years.  Looking back, though everyone condemned them for wrecking two marriages, it was only the getting caught that wrecked the marriages, not the loving each other.  Because whatever Jane may feel now, and despite the hot indignation that she, along with everyone else, felt at the time, there was no doubting that they had really loved each other; and far more than most married couples too.  It must have been some undying passion to have seen them through more than twenty years of illicit meetings and secret passionate couplings, far more truly a love than either of them felt for their respective partners, or Jane’s mother for her own sister, or come to that for her own children.  Maybe Ted was the only thing she ever cared about; her husband, her sister, her children even, were nothing compared to her overwhelming desire for Ted.


Wednesday10th August

Never one to shy away from the big subjects…but what exactly is ‘Love’.  We all use the word, almost daily – sometimes as the name we call our partner, sometimes out of habit and sometimes with feeling – but what do we mean by it?

We all know what we mean when we say we love our children, although that can be sorely tested by the teenage years – that bond we have, especially for very young and vulnerable children is indisputable.  It is surely the strongest love of all.  In fact it is quite rare for people to fall out of love with their children – they may dislike their actions, they may even stop talking to them – but love, that rarely dies.

Children’s love for their parents seems a bit more fragile.  We grow up quickly and can’t wait to break the bonds and flee the nest.  It is often later, as we grow a bit older ourselves and have children that we begin to ‘love’ our parents again.  And as they get old and frail we begin to take over the role of parent to these old and vulnerable children.

But love for a partner is a different thing.  We, all too easily, declare that we love them.  This can be a mixture of sexual desire or satisfaction, the unbelievable fact that someone likes us enough to kiss and stroke and all the rest, a reciprocation as they declare their love for us.  And it is certainly a strong emotion, and of course it should be.  Our species main motivation is to reproduce, and ‘love’, sexual love anyway, is one of the devices we have developed to keep the species going.

They say that women are looking for a partner to provide for them while they have children, and that men are designed to spread their genes as far and wide as possible.  I am not so sure that that holds true.  We may all, or some of us anyway, go through stages where sexual conquest and an avoidance of entanglement are driving us – but I think that we are all mostly looking for love.  To be totally alone can be pretty scary.  I have had periods when I was with someone, and times on my own – and by and large the bits with another person, who you thought at the time that you loved, was better than having no-one to love.  Because it is this reciprocation that we are all seeking.  Unrequited love may work in ‘pop ballads’ but is a misery we all want to avoid.

I am sure that we are driven far more by instinct than we think.  The instinct to have a long-term partner and have children with them is still very powerful, even though often economically disastrous and emotionally draining, we – at least most of us, succumb and have families of our own.  And then, if the relationship lasts, a deeper love develops. The longer we live with somebody (usually, at least) then the stronger that bond becomes as a different and more lasting love grows.  Strange that both love for our children and long-lasting love for a partner are not so commonly celebrated in song, but young lust and sexual attraction are so prevalent in popular culture.  But like a horse and carriage – you can’t have one without the other…

It’s Complicated

Tuesday 8th August


What makes us?  Each human being?  We are all so similar and yet nearly 8 billion of us are different too.  What is it that makes us all so different?  Is it Nature or Nurture?  Well, I think it is a bit of both and a few other things too.

Certainly our genetic code, the particular way that the genes donated to us by our parents manage to combine and divide must be part of the puzzle.  We have all seen instances of two children, of exactly the same parents, who are as unalike as chalk and cheese.  Mind you some are strikingly similar too.  And from a very young age too.  Some sleep most of the time, seemingly contented with life – others are waking and unendingly miserable, unsatisfied by milk or nappy-change or cuddles they simply like to bawl away their early weeks and months.

Then we must also consider what happens for the first nine months of our existence. Slowly growing in the womb, floating in a sea of amniotic fluid, being fed by the placenta.  Who knows what stresses or anxieties we suffer while in this safest of harbours?  And if our mothers are smokers or drinkers, what difference does that make to our adult addictions?  Or if our mothers themselves suffer traumas or are unhappy, how much of that misery seeps into us?

The first few years of our lives too are important.  If we feel loved, needed and nurtured – or maybe slightly ignored.  My own personal history was complicated. I was fostered out for a couple of years, my real mother seeing me at weekends.  Who knows how this may have affected me?  If at all.  Then there the possible effects for children of working mothers of being looked after by child-minders?  These substitute parents may also affect our personalities.

The existence of siblings may well affect us too.  Or the absence of them.  Or, worse still, the arrival of a new baby to supplant us in our mother’s affections.  Another hungry baby to attend to may mean that inadvertently we are ignored.  Tough lessons to learn I am afraid.  Then school and our relationships with other kids, whether we feel included, whether we are the farmer or his wife or the dog, or even the bone.  All of this may affect us.

Adolescence too, with all those hormones raging. Our success or lack of it, with the opposite sex, our perception of our own appearance and attractiveness, all of this may affect our self-confidence.

Work, and our feelings of being valued by our colleagues may also make a difference.

Then marriage itself and the effect our own children may have on us.  Divorce or simply dis-satisfaction with a relationship.  Our reaction to separation or divorce, whether we consider ourselves the instigator or the unhappy recipient.  Once bitten, twice shy?

And then as we age our relationship with our own failing bodies.  I would hate to think how I might cope with a serious illness, pretty badly I imagine.  I am subject to self-pity a lot of the time anyway.

So; all of these things can affect our personalities.  It really is that complicated.  Or maybe people are simply correct when they put me down as a miserable old bugger….hahaha


Monday 7th August

We often hear the expression ‘The trials and tribulations of life’.  We use it blandly about almost trivial upsets – but almost none of us really know what “tribulations” are, or indeed have often experienced them.  The dictionary defines “tribulations” as
troubles, worries, anxieties, burdens, ‘cross to bear’, affliction, ordeal, adversity, tragedy, trauma, setback…

In other words something substantial, something life changing, something pretty awful.

The word is not in common usage at all today, except really in the saying above.  Maybe most people can manage to sail through life without any real ‘tribulations’.   It is not uncommon for people to live at home with Mum and Dad until they start a ‘live-in’ relationship, or indeed Marriage.   Many never lose their jobs, or experience life-threatening illnesses, or have serious injuries, or see their homes flooded, or lose a child – or even suffer a divorce or loss of a partner early in life.

Looking back, my experiences may not have exactly been ‘tribulations’ but given the ‘easy’ lives some people seem to have had, they may almost have been ‘tribulations’.

At seventeen I was unhappy.  I was in the Sixth form and supposed to be studying for my ‘A’ levels, but was spending every available moment either painting or writing turgid poetry.  Hard to remember now almost fifty years later just what I was thinking of, or most probably how unthinking I must have been, but I left home and school and came to London.  I ran away, leaving a pretty inadequate note for my parents.  For them actually; my leaving was undoubtedly a ‘tribulation’, but when you are Seventeen you have an incredible strength, a self-belief, a dogged determination to succeed no matter how tough life gets.  As it happened – it wasn’t too awful (well maybe it was), I survived somehow, got a job of sorts, got a room, got by.  And got in touch with my parents, and despite their pleas for a return, stuck to my guns and continued with my new life.

Pretty soon I suffered tribulation number two, when I got my girlfriend pregnant.  My response was typical of my stupidity – we ran away to Scotland.  Only to be dragged back when she wanted to be back with her family.  This was much worse in my experience than leaving home in the first place.  We carried on seeing each other, she had the baby.  Then ‘tribulation’ number three – we were homeless.  We had been living with her parents in their council flat, but were kicked out late one night by her drunken father.  ‘Tribulation’ followed ‘tribulation’ as we were in a homeless shelter for a few weeks, living in a tiny box of a room amidst other unfortunates.  At least I still had a job and eventually we were ‘housed’ in the ground floor of a house waiting to be knocked down by the local council.

Then probably the worst ‘tribulation’ was when my wife started going out drinking with her new best friend – an Irish woman who lived on the first floor.  Leaving me with the baby she went out drinking every night.  I was home waiting and imagining the  worst and before long she had met someone else.  Seamus was from Northern Ireland, a building labourer and much older than her.  He had the money and the looks and one day I came home and she was gone.   I was devastated, my worst nightmare come true.  My true love and the mother of my son, had left me for another.

At least she left me the baby.  But I was heartbroken.  All of this and I was still not twenty-one.  Oh I nearly forgot another tribulation.  I was moonlighting as a weekend security guard, (I know, hard to imagine) in order to earn some money, when my appendix burst and I was rushed to hospital with peritonitis.

Well, life did calm down a bit after that I suppose, but still a couple more ‘tribulations’ still awaited me.  Funny now, looking back, it doesn’t seem so terrible now.  It was all so long ago….but at the time it was a roller-coaster life, disaster following disaster as the ‘car’ rattled down the track….

Like most of us however, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I survived.  I wouldn’t like to have any more ‘tribulations’ now though.


Music Used To Matter

Sunday 6th August

You get the feeling that Music doesn’t matter anymore.  It is merely background. On adverts, or in dramas on telly, or in lifts or Restaurants.  It tinkles along but in no way does it really matter. But Music used to matter.  Really, since the Second World War, Music had mattered.  To whole generations, and each generation created or worshipped their own music.  It was tribal, it defined us, it divided us, it became a badge of identity.  It was almost the first thing you asked a new potential partner, often in an obscure way “Have you heard the new single by …….” And pretty quickly you found out if you had ‘The Music’ in common.  I have been drawn to women who liked Leonard Cohen in the past – but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore – just like Music itself.

But what was it about Music that mattered?  After all, in my youth it was quite hard to come by.  We were too young to own a record-player, though I had a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and I used to tape every week’s Top of the Pops onto two 120 tapes, having to tape over them every 8 weeks.  We would haunt coffee-bars which had the best Juke-Boxes and really think about our three selections as we grasped our precious shilling in our hands.  I had a tiny tranny (what a pity that word means something else now) and would listen under the bedclothes to Radio Luxemburg, turning my head with the radio glued to my ear, trying to get a semi-decent signal.  Downstairs we had a Bush portable with that big dial on the front, and I knew exactly where Caroline and London were to be found.

We talked about Music at school, marveling as the Sixties unraveled at the amazing cornucopia of new sounds and styles emerging.  Every new record seemed to be pushing the boundaries.  Just look at the trajectory of the nine years the Beatles were recording for – how different “I saw her standing there” is to “Abbey Road”.

And all through the Seventies and Eighties it continued, even into the early Nineties, but by then there were too many manufactured Boy and Girl Bands, and records were becoming formulaic.

Music can still be good, in fact there are hundreds of brilliant singers and some great songs still being written.  But as you can now listen to whole albums for free on Youtube or Spotify, or download from pirate sites – none of it seems to have any real value.  Music hasn’t died, but it doesn’t really matter anymore.

Technology Will Save Us

Saturday 5th August

I think it was President Bush who first suggested that we needn’t worry about Climate change – because Technology Will Save Us.  He meant, of course, that before a calamitous time our ingenuity would prevail and we would come up with a technological solution.  And, as an aside, he meant that there was therefore no reason to change our behavior or stop our dependence on Oil.  Hence, the Iraq War and the securing of yet another oil nation into America’s embrace.

Well, it is an interesting idea.  I often watch Click on BBC News Channel, where the wonders of new technology are paraded before our eyes, much like Tomorrow’s World in the Seventies, and predictions pour out of how this wonderful technology will not only make our lives so much easier but will probably save the planet too.  There is also a growing movement of Climate Change Deniers, or to be more precise those who believe that the planet’s warming has nothing to do with mankind and our emissions.  Well, it is impossible to be sure of anything, but two things seem blindingly obvious.  One, the planet is getting warmer – the warmest ten years recorded have been in this Century alone.  And two, Oil is dirty – like Coal before it, both in it’s extraction, transport and in the eventual burning of its derivatives.  Gas is not much cleaner either.

And yes, technology may come up with – indeed has already come up with – some solutions.  But it also needs the Political Will to make things happen.  The EU has proclaimed that all vehicles sold after 2040 must be zero emissions – in other words, electric.  Our Government has followed suit pretending that it was their own initiative.  But electric cars will not be the only solution, if we are still burning fossil fuels in order to generate the electricity in the first place.  There are plenty of renewable energy schemes already working, but they are not necessarily cheaper yet than Oil and Gas. So, if we really want to make electricity from renewables it needs Political Will to make it happen.    Technology alone will NOT save us.


Friday 4th August

What the girls hadn’t realised about their mother was that her thoughts were always elsewhere, and not a million miles away either.  The family had always been quite close to Ted and Julie, their aunt and uncle; Julie was Jane’s mother’s younger and only sister; she had no brothers.  Strange that Jane never saw the connection back then; her aunt was a younger sister to her older sister just as she was to Harriet.  But she supposed that must just be down to the self-importance of youth, but then, looking back there never seemed that strong an affection between Aunt Julie and her mother, as there had been between Harriet and she.  Their aunt was always around, and used to be dragooned in as a surrogate mother a lot of the time, and often the girls stayed over at Aunt Julie’s house along with her three boys, who largely excluded Harriet and Jane from their boyish games.  But they were so self-contained a unit that it never mattered at the time, and anyway, who wanted to play ‘cowboys and injuns’ all the time.

What neither of them knew at the time was that from even before they had been born, their mother had been having a thing with Uncle Ted.  And who would have guessed, they were as different as chalk and cheese.  Jane’s mother had come from quite a middle-class background, her maternal grandfather had died before Harriet and she were born so they never him, but Jane did remember her mother’s mother.  She was really rather posh and insisted she had married slightly beneath her, and into trade as well, her husband being a grocer in Ipswich.  She was quite disappointed that her two daughters had repeated the offence.  Not so much in Jane’s mother’s case, her father was after all a solicitor; but Aunt Julie had really let the family, or what she considered to be the important side of the family, her own, down.  And she, the youngest child too, the clever one, as my mother, slightly bitterly, would tell us, had married a farm labourer, someone who worked with their hands, a tiller of the soil, a mere working man.

But they had all loved Uncle Ted, he was such a vivid and happy sort of a character, and quite unashamed of who he was, always happy in his own skin. So unlike Jane’s own father who never seemed quite at ease with himself, as if he were always playing the role of solicitor, somehow never really believing that he was one. What they hadn’t realised was that their mother had loved Uncle Ted in a different way altogether.   She must have only been twenty or so when Julie married Ted, but even though she was her chief bridesmaid and her very own sister, this hadn’t stopped her from coveting and actually taking her sister’s husband to her bed.

How many family gatherings had they attended, where they would all be together, and no-one had ever guessed?  As the polite conversation went round and round along with the plates of cake and sandwiches, and as Harriet and Jane had fought for the right to be bounced up and down on Uncle Ted’s large knobbly knees; as everyone was so polite to each other, only the two of them knew the secret they had.  How could they have done it?  How could they have lied the whole time, because the whole affair, the whole damned thing was a lie.  A lie by omission, because Jane was pretty sure that nobody had guessed, and more importantly, nobody had confronted the two of them, nobody had thrown their dirty secret back in their faces and insist that they come clean; but a lie all the same.

*  * *

The silence had to end, of course.  It couldn’t go on forever.  Ever so slowly, and somehow whenever June replayed the scene in her mind it was in some weird sort of slow motion.  The bedroom door opened and there looking as shocked as Ted and she must have looked was Harriet.  Of all people it had to be Harriet.  June wasn’t getting on at all well with the girl, it was as if she could see through her, and right into her mind and what she was thinking.  June found it very disturbing, and used to avoid any sort of confrontation with her.  She would rather her get away with her increasingly bad behaviour than encounter that cold stare.  But Harriet wasn’t staring now.

She was stunned and raised a hand up to her mouth and just said, ‘Oh my God,’  over and over she kept repeating ‘Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God,’  Just as quietly as she had opened it she closed the door and June heard her steps, so slowly and calmly, descending the stairs.  Ted and she looked at each other as if they had both seen a ghost, which in a way they had.  They quickly started to get dressed and made themselves decent.   ‘Thank god we hadn’t actually been doing it’ she kept thinking, though it must have been pretty obvious that that was what they had been up to.  At least June had pulled the sheet around her, and Ted was not exposing any of his bits, but that was scant compensation really.

June had no idea what they were going to do, or say.  To Harriet, or to anyone else, because it was obvious that the game was well and truly up now, and there was no way they could pretend otherwise.  Then just as they were dressed they heard again the click of the back door, and peeping out of the curtains June saw Harriet calmly walking down the drive and closing the gate behind her she walked down the street without once looking back.

W – is for the remarkable Wainwright family

Thursday 3rd August

Loudon Wainwright (the third) was a singer-songwriter form the late sixties.  He came from a fairly wealthy background and sung slightly comical, slightly cynical songs.  In the early Seventies he married Kate McGariggle, sister of Anna.  The sisters had released a brilliant album ‘Dancer with the bruised knees’ but didn’t follow this up with any great success.  Loudon was mildly successful, especially in the early Eighties, but was too lightweight to really matter.

They had two children Rufus and Martha.  But after a very few years they split up.  Loudon wrote a brilliant sing to his children about it ‘Your Mother and I’ which is really hopeful about the future and is just about how parents who can’t live together feel.  Loudon wrote many songs and some others to his kids and ex too.  In one song he tries to pick up a woman who turns out to be a lesbian and insists her friend go with them on the date “Turned out she liked men but not their things – That hang down and the hang-ups they always bring – My brother has the perfect answer, this is what he said – You should have asked if you could watch them both in bed.”  That gives a flavour of his style.

His son Rufus has had a more successful career, though it has waned of late.  He is openly gay and often sings about this.  He released a couple of albums with orchestral arrangements which seem to suit his voice better than his usual piano “Release the Stars” and “Want” are particularly good.

Daughter Martha is not to be left out and has released a couple of very good records too, my favourite being her debut.  Both siblings often sing on each other’s records and the whole family record Christmas songs for close friends.  It is quite rare for children of famous parents to do so well, .let alone two of them.

Image result for images of loudon wainwright family


Wednesday 2nd August

Say what you want about Thatcher and Blair, but the main reason they stayed in Power for over 10 years was Competence.  They were actually quite good at the job, even if many of their policies you may have disagreed with.  They pushed through the decisions they wanted, and most important of all they controlled both their Cabinet and their Party.

We are now faced with an unprecedented degree of incompetence in both America and here in Britain.  Here we have a Prime Minister only in name – even her own party know she is a disaster, but because of the nightmare of Brexit nobody wants to take over from her.  It was an open secret that she wanted to get rid of Philip Hammond, her Chancellor, just before the disastrous election – but he is safe and secure in his post, because she dare not sack him.  Any of the ‘Big Beasts’ (though looking remarkably small these days) in the Tory party must be kept safe in the Cabinet, even allowed to openly argue for different forms of Brexit, as long as they don’t rock the boat too much. And Brexit is relentlessly being pursued, even though no-one has any real idea what the final deal will look like.  Sheer incompetence.

In America we have Donald Trump, once feared but now a laughing stock. We all knew he was an egoist, a womanizer, a racist and a bully.  What we really underestimated was his Incompetence.  He ‘presides’ over, or rather is the victim of, a completely chaotic White House.  There are at least three factions fighting for precedence and the President’s ear (though whether that organ is actually linked to his brain is questionable).  There is the establishment Republican party, represented by Vice President Mike Pence, and until just sacked, Reance Prebius (or however you spell such a ridiculous name).  There is the lunatic Right wing bigot Steve Bannon whose agenda is maybe closer to Armageddon than anything seen before, but he seems unmovable as a special advisor.  There is his family, or more specifically his daughter Ivanka (his wife is conspicuous by her absence and obvious boredom at the whole affair) and son-in-law Jared Kushner.  Nepotism of the highest order and stinking of corruption.  There is also General Kelly, who at the moment seems in the ascendant, but by the time you read this it could all change.  After all the latest ‘Saviour’ of Trump’s fortunes, Scarmucci only lasted 10 days.  In fact with sackings and resignations this makes about 7 changes – and must bring into question Trump’s ability to even judge other’s characters.  And the amazing thing is that he was apparently a ‘Good Businessman’ (a contradiction if ever there was one) who made a fortune through clever deals.  Well, either he was incredibly lucky in his former life or he has lost his touch.

And of all the dangerous character flaws in a leader maybe Incompetence is the most dangerous.

Nobody Told Me

Tuesday 1st August

John Lennon recorded a song on an album of unfinished stuff released shortly after he died called ‘Nobody Told Me.’  And that is just how I feel sometimes.  Nobody told me.  They teach you all sorts of stuff at school, most of it to enable you to hold down a job of some sort or other – but very little is about how to live your life.  And since Universal Education even parents have abnegated that responsibility to the school system. So, what are the things that nobody told me…

Nobody told me how tough it would be.

Nobody told me how to get a National Insurance number; when I started work and didn’t have one, they said my school should have told me how to apply for one.

Nobody told me how to respect women.  As young men, we just wanted to have sex and bugger the consequences; there was never any attempt to educate us about contraception, or on a more basic level that women actually had choice, that they mattered at least as much as your lust.  You just pushed and pushed until they gave in or chucked you.

Nobody told me there were Gay people out there, or that they were just as valid as me.  Nobody told me that Love was Universal, regardless of gender.

Nobody told me that people of a different colour were just the same as us.  Nobody told me that they deserved our respect, not our prejudices.

Nobody told me how to handle a relationship, how hard it is to live with someone else – and I am still learning.  How to keep another person, let alone yourself happy.

Nobody told me how to look after a baby.  You had to learn on the job. Trial and error.  I don’t remember any self-help books about bringing up children, you sort of did what your parents did with you – and made the same mistakes too.

Nobody told me how to deal with a break-up, how to keep yourself going through the turmoil of your wife leaving with another man.  Nobody ever tells you how hard that is. How to even get to sleep at night, how to stop re-playing the arguments, the vicious words hurled at each other, the despair and desolation of coming home to an empty home.

Nobody told me how hard work would be.  How monotonous, how long the hours, how tedious the tasks, how boring it would all become.

Nobody told me how long it takes for oil paint to dry, how hard to meld the tones into each other without smudging them.  How hard it is to get the paint to resemble even a fraction of your intentions.

Nobody told me how to let go of your children, how to let them go out into the big bad world; how to accept that they are adults in their own right.

Nobody told me how if life begins at forty, then why did I feel like I had died.

Nobody told me how tired you would get.  Tired of life even sometimes.

Nobody told me how to deal with depression.  They keep telling you to ‘buck up’, to ‘get over it’.  If you only knew what it was it might help.  The sheer misery of knowing you are miserable and not knowing why.

Nobody told me how hard it would be to get a story published.  How hard it would be to actually complete it, to keep going when the plot seemed lost, how to be honest in your writing, how to believe in yourself, how to handle the constant rejections.

Nobody told me how to deal with illness, your own and that of others.  How to be sympathetic, how to be empathetic, how to care when you feel awful yourself.

Nobody told me how to deal with getting older, the aches and pains, with the simple weariness of being.

No.  They taught me lots of stuff at school.  Some of it useful – reading and writing and Maths and a grounding in History and Geography, and an interest in Literature.  But two years of Latin?  Chemistry?  Algebra? Logarithms?

What they should have taught us was how to be decent people, how to avoid the pitfalls in life, how not to be so greedy, how to care for each other.  And what love was all about.  Nobody ever tells you about that.