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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rings and things

Last year. Wedding plans. Celebration, Kate and me. Me and Kate. Wheelchair into town, money out of the damn Nationwide, lovely purple dress for my soon to be wife.
Oh, and a ring. Simple gold band. And for me? No, I don't need one, because. Well? Because what?
Simple thing, denial. Words unspoken.
Truth around the corner, didn't want to see it coming.

When nothing's better

After the high of last weekend it's to be expected. I enjoy a storm, but the rainy weather has brought in a low front for me.

And I'm feeling - nothing? But, in many respects? Not such a bad thing. Detached me. Looking down as an outside observer. Sometimes it's best to have nothing going on.

Recently found a route map for grief. All written down in Helvetica Bold. The first few numb months. Anger at "someone" for being left alone. Guilt for finding something to smile about. Unnatural "I can do anything" highs, followed by crashes of worthlessness. Weight loss. Sleepless nights. Wanting to feel passion again. Distress crashing back over like it was only yesterday, as the first year end arrives. Even the late night, detailed, end it all plans. Ploughing straight on at every bend. Can't, thought, kids, stop.

All normal. Very normal indeed. Seems I've never been this normal.

So, to have a head full of nothing. A blank canvas for those that care to make their mark. Not such a bad thing.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

That nostalgia thang

So I asked myself the question. Is nostalgia what it used to be?
And the answer? Nope.

It was better. I'm not the frantic fool I was; too eager to cram too much into every too drunken second. Happy to wander back alone at dawn for a cup of tea, fried egg breakfast, and chill over a chapter in some charity shop novel.

Had a blast from the megaphone heckling of our earnest posing neighbours, to the meandering round the yard art garden on Dungeness beach. Oh I knew I'd come home incoherently shattered from staying awake all hours, with a sore throat from shouting above the PA. Also knew I'd find fun in everything. I didn't know it'd be because I have such great friends. Despite being by myself, I was never a smile away from true company.

Also, it seems I'm a tart. Who'd have guessed?

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Longest day today. Guess that means the shortest night too.
Hot and stuffy at work.
Reckon I'll cut some firewood at lunchtime, now winters coming...

Rattle and hum

I really am dreadful at remembering time. I recall every detail of an event, except when it happened. I'm a chronological failure.

A while ago, and thanks to the fact I throw nothing away an old email tells me it was February last year, Kate became quite tired and breathless. Trouble climbing the stairs, couldn't sleep on her right hand side. Found her having sudden gasping panic attacks at night, stuck at the bottom of the stairs or in the kitchen, waiting patiently for me to help her back to bed.

Kate always enjoyed having her back rubbed. Which was great because I enjoyed doing it. Aches and pains of the day, soothed away in the evening. It was then I noticed as she talked to me of the little things I'd missed in the day that - she was missing something. Hands on her back and... weird? No vibration on her left side as she spoke. Asked her to hum. Nope, nothing there.

Despite her constant trips to the doctors and hospitals, somehow they'd missed this. The cancer, free to roam her body and create havoc where it fancied, had settled in the lining around her lung, and the irritation had caused fluid to build up, collapsing the lung.

Rushed her to hospital; where matter of fact, no-one in a hurry, nurses popped Kate, the kids, and me, in a drug store cupboard whilst waiting for a doctor and a bed. You couldn't make it up.

Twelve pints of fluid drained over days in hospital, lung lining glued back in place, they packed her off for who knows how long. Well. I know now. But I was so happy to have her back for that however long.

To feel that rattle and hum of life one more time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On being alone with friends

Nostalgia. Is it what it used to be?

I'll find out after the weekend.

For many a year, holiday time was a pair of Rock and/or Roll weekenders either side of winter. Friday night to Monday morning on a diet of food when I could grab it, bourbon if I could afford it, and a modicum of sleep if I found time for it. Crammed together in money saving, friend filled, chalets in an out of season holiday camp.

Drifted away from that when the friends I went with began their family life. Started building more cars, then Kate came along, my own little family life, then the band. Whole life full to bursting.

Chance of a spare ticket to the Rockabilly Rave came my way, kids with grandparents, and why not? Question: how much could the "fake fifties" change in, oh, what seventeen years or so?

It's going to be a blast. A sleep starved weekend, listening to old music, discovering new bands, shouting against the PA, laughing, giggling, talking crap - memories from the past. 

And what memories? Being alone amongst friends. Really alone. For all that pressed together fun - waking alone. Good times past, but it's not the ones I miss.

If I've learnt anything the hard way this last year, it's that I prefer to be the nobody who wakes entwined. The nothing said, arm over, seconds grabbed, and join the day kind of morning. I'm alright alone, but always? That just plain sucks.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Not important

A few stalled career moves ago, a leaving card to sign lands on my drawing board. Amongst the "good luck" and "so long" messages for this sullen and morose individual, I wrote:

When you think the whole world is against you, and everyone is purely out to ruin your life, it's time to face the facts.
You're really not that important.

Years passed, and our work lives crossed again. He reminded me - word for word - exactly what I'd written. I think he'd taken it with the humour intended, but had remained resolutely peeved with his lot.

Been getting kinda anxious about things recently. Unquantifiable things. Life things. Convinced that my little precious oasis of happiness that I've nurtured with the people around me was falling apart. Worried about.. well? What? That everyone was out to get me? And then I remembered...

You're really not that important.

Just glad to be back to being part of the whole. Rather than wholly apart.

Friday, June 15, 2007

We sound great from over there

I'm tired.
And achy.
And I have a blister.
And I've worn the top off my finger.

Had a blinding evening out playing after Alice's birthday party tea. Full compliment of Them Harvey Boys descended on Liam's Buskers Night down at the wine bar in town. Even Part Time Dan. Bluffed and fluffed our way through tunes and songs long lost.

Home, hot and sweaty. Couldn't sleep. Window open and isn't nature noisy? Eventually decamped to Kate's old cane sofa on the porch of the summerhouse, where early morning birdlife, buzzing insects, and rain falling on the grass, eventually drowned out the church clock - I never heard it strike six. And seven? Back to the house for a cup of fix everything tea.

It's a strange old time at the moment. Messing with cars and music from the past. Mixed retrospective thoughts and feelings. Enjoying the nostalgia it recreates - missing the part that it can't bring back.

I am older, but no wiser.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Birthdays and icecream

Alice's birthday today. Ten years on from that Friday the Thirteenth.

Determined not to fail after running out of fuel on the way home for her party last year. Robert printed her a card on their postcard printer, using his favourite Alice picture - the one with a prominent bloody scar caused by falling on a toy combine harvester, but...

Mail ordered present never turned up and could I find the cheap tacky multi-coloured H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y banner we hang from a low beam for every occasion except Christmas?


So, bless her. A couple of cards and phone calls, and at almost turned ten years old - give or take an hour, off she goes to make her packed lunch. Sort the ironing pile. Empty the washing machine. Whistling a happy tune. Whilst I stand in the shower pondering my parental inadequacies.

Plus I've promised to go out playing after she's party tea'd off to bed. Guilt? Ah - no time for that. I think she actually enjoys filling in when I miss the mark sometimes.

Icecream van has just jangled round the corner playing "You are my Sunshine". Luckily just the tune. Bloody sad, desperate lyrics for drumming up sales of 99's I reckon!

You Are My Sunshine

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms,
but when I woke dear, I was mistaken,
and I hung my head and cried.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
you make me happy when skies are gray
you'll never know dear, how much I love you,
please don't take my sunshine away.

I'll always love you and make you happy
if you will only say the same
but if you leave me to love another
you'll regret it all some day

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
you make me happy, when skies are gray,
you'll never know dear, how much I love you,
please don't take my sunshine away.

You told me once dear you really loved me
that no one else could come between
but now you've left me and love another
you have shattered all my dreams.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
you make me happy, when skies are gray,
you'll never know dear, how much I love you,
please don't take my sunshine away.

Shattered dreams?! Mistaken love?!!! Regret it all?!
Don't take my, well, -icecream - away?
It's a sick world sometimes... and I love it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Never. Not.

For a boy with a grammar school education - English sometimes fails me as my native tongue, and I lapse into jibberish.

I remember this time last year, I told Kate that I'd never not wanted to be with her. Curious stilted sentence. "Ta" she said, squeezed my hand, and carried on watching Eastenders.

Well, I know what I meant. Guess she did too.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Day of the Trifids

Empty house, and in need of a good long rest, instead I woke up "normal" time. Oh well.

Hmmm. Still - pre-Archers Omnibus, Mark calls and I roll the old Sedan over to meet him for a party. The kind of party that involves spanners, oil, petrol and booster batteries.

Always a surefire bet, I jack up a wheel on my T, to make it easier to turn over. Added a battery and couple of pints of gravity fed petrol. Despite standing a while, full retard, handful of throttle, choke on, four priming pulls, choke off - ignition and.... well, about third crank in the end, but she's away. Took her for a quick bibble down the lane, across the field and back in time to run out of fuel a car length out of the garage.

Meanwhile, Mark's been priming the first Trifid.

Ah, the Trifids.

Sometime, a long, long while ago, myself and Mark built the original Trifid from an old Mini. We cut it down to just the floorpan, and built our "superlegerra" (steel tubes covered in sheet steel) body onto to that. A rear subframe was fabricated from a narrowed rear subframe with a tower to carry a single front rubber cone. Total construction time from Mini to MOT - three weeks of evenings and weekends.

Too much fun! We had to build more...

The "production" model came about after a six month on/off process of carving foam, wood, old doors and filler to make the plugs, some 2-part moulds for the wings and body were made. Four bodies were pulled before we moved on to other things. The glass tubs were a monocoque with plywood diaphragms. All but one (rolled WAAAAYYYYyyy out into a field) still survive although I've lost touch with the owner of my one, as I sold it a few years ago.

These things went like crazy with a whole string of standard engines in them. I eventually put my 100hp 1380cc engine into mine with a 2.9:1 final drive ratio. I have no idea how fast it may have been, but with an all up weight of around 370kg it felt like it was flying especially that close to the ground...

So. After all this time, how was it? Thrill still there?

Oh yes! In spades. To drive a Mini in anger, foot to the floor, chucking it around - brilliant fun. Now. Throw away the heavy tin shell, sit in a tupperware box with a castor holding your arse about four inches from the road. Big 1400 engine, wide open throttle, wheelspin in first. And second. And still a hop and a skip in third too! Squealy tyre corners. Pea shooter exhaust note, tyres scrabbling on grass fields, broken tarmac and gravel rattling underneath.

The second Trifid - fired up, so I had to try that one too. Similar build, smaller engine, bigger exhaust note. Builds to a howl through the back roads in the woods.

Used to run mine as a daily for ages in all seasons and all weathers. Love to do it again.

Reality though? My back would never stand up to it all! But - as a bit of escapism back to the past, perfect.


Offered to pick a friend up from the airport with all her brood. It was the least I could do - I'd dropped them all there last week...

Flight delayed - I kept myself awake with a banana and strawberry smoothie. Very nice. There's an idea for secret ingredients when I get the kids back tomorrow.

And it's getting on for dawn, which is a bit weird as I saw it yesterday morning too. Yet still I'm wild, wired, wide awake. Listening to the huge quietness in the house.

I'm sure I can hear voices...


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Therapy. Well. Sort of ...

Worked at home today. Leastways here I can see out of the window!
Also - popped out for a while. In every sense. Went for some therapy. The kind that gets a bunch of friends crammed together in a hot little room surrounded by microphones and mixing desks, in an effort to bang down that perfect track. Or two. More intense than the normal laid back pub sessions. And - playing it live, so to speak. Not for us the ease of seperate tracks for each instrument. Play it wrong and everyone gets to play it one more time. Unlike a live performance where that one wrong note is lost to the ether; here, they're preserved for all eternity to haunt you everytime you hear that song.

Could you live with that one wrong note? No me neither. Well. Hmm. Maybe just the odd one. Or two.

So how was my therapy? Y'know? It was real good, made a change, different. Couple of hours concentrating hard on not work, not cooking/cleaning/house, not kids, not life or death, not anything, except where the hell B-flat is on my fingerboard.

Refreshed and weary. Equal measures.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Driving to work this morning - sudden memory of a taste, not sure what it was. Some tooth rotting confectionery from the wayback past. Not Frys Chocolate Cream, but I stopped at a little shop to see what I could find.

Could have been sweet peanuts. But they had none.

Wasn't the plasticky cheap Turkish Delight wrapped in cooking chocolate I managed to buy either.

Certainly not the strange strawberry flavoured version of Klondike Pete's Golden Nuggets that coloured the milk a vivid pink and only seemed to be available at the repeatedly visited campsite shop in Skegness years and years ago.

Nor rice pudding and jam. However, I'm willing to give it a try.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Last night bitter memory

A nurse came to "relieve" me from my nightly vigil tending to Kate. Coping with her fitful dreams; and strength from who knows where demands to move around the house shouting " Will you let me go?". I was fine, on zero sleep and a diet of if only.

Made herself at home on Kate's rocking chair. Read a book. Reeked of stale cigarette smoke.

Wished I'd told her to bugger off. That smell lingered in the room long after Kate had left, destroying that last precious time for me.

This is an official, life's not fuckin' fair, moment.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Wild Wheel. Again...

For Julian who knows the history and can skip the rest - typed by Alice...

The Wild Wheel.

Five dollars a day, working for five dollars a day
sell body and soul for five dollars a day

Never had a reason to leave my family
No desire to ever leave my home
But the evening paper mentions, that old Henry's lost his senses
So I'll catch the train that leaves to Motortown

The doubters always said that there'd be riots
As the workers came to claim their double pay
'Twas a cold and jan'ry winter, as the hungry men grew thinner
Turned the hoses on to drive us all away

Five dollars a day, working for five dollars a day
sell body and soul for five dollars a day

Some of us we went to work for Henry
For eight long hours no second could we steal
Well the line kept going past us, and the next night ever faster
Wilder ran the wheels of industry

Five dollars a day, working for five dollars a day
sell body and soul for five dollars a day

Here I stand for now i'm a part of Henry
Extension of his arm is all I am
Each inch I move is costed, and no motion ever wasted
He raised the wage to fuel a bigger plan

Five dollars a day, working for five dollars a day
sell body and soul for five dollars a day
Five dollars a day, working for five dollars a day
Sell body and soul for five dollars a day
Sell body and soul for five dollars a day
Sell body and soul for five .....dollars a day

Henry didn't invent the assembly line. Borrowed it from Oldsmobile. But in January 1914, the sensational $5 dollars a day headlines drew crowds of eager workers to the gates of the Ford Plant.
$5 was double what other manufacturers paid. A weeks wages for someone working in the field. Plus it was a flat rate across the board from machinist to the man on a broom. And he reduced the working day from 9 to 8 hours! Had he really gone insane?!


First - the $5 had conditions. A team of inspectors came to make sure your housing and lifestyle were "suitable". No drunks living rough were going to see Henry's dollars. You may have had to attend language or literacy classes until these social workers were satisfied.

The 8 hours? Ah, simple maths. Henry had worked out it'd be cheaper not to shut the line each day. Keep the furnaces running all the time. A third shift at night meant endless Model T's rolling into the night.

He already had the workforce he needed - there were no thousands of vacancies, and the hungry, waiting, men were literally hosed away with cold water. In a Detroit winter. Those that stayed, and those that had work, soon discovered what assembly line work was like. Many left again, to work for less at rival plants, unable to stand the pace as the speed of the line was steadily increased. The price of the T went down. The nation bought more. The line sped up again. And the price of a Model T kept dropping.

Henry's soul destroying master plan.


In the past year I've never spoken to anyone else that really knows. Well. Except my occasional, can't find her at the moment, hairdresser. Young girl, tragically lost her husband a few months before Kate died. She really knows.

A question or two posed over on the recently discovered for me, Merry Widow discussion board - "Where do I belong?. Where do I fit in - what purpose have I got - what is the point? I would love to enjoy my own company. How do I do that?"

Well. Guess it's hard to explain. But those feelings? They're mine too. Belonging.

And having read them, I realise I have some of the answers. Not all. But some.

First. I belong to my kids. No question, from twilight to lights out, and the occasional nightly awaken. I am theirs. Sometimes till I scream inside. Sometimes till I scream out loud too - but when all else fails, they are my loving purpose. The point for going to work. And coming home.

Second. Family. They may disagree with me - I may shout, but they've known me long enough to cope with the wobbles. There's not enough time left in my life for pussy footing...

Third. Friends. Down the road neighbour friends, friends who need something, friends who'll hop in an open top car and drive through thunderstorms to spend an evening talking crap, musical friends who'll vaguely remember a three chord tune, friends who'll pop up an instant message to say "how's y'world?" right when you want. No purpose, or point - but fitting in and belonging to them, for the most part, works.

Enjoy my own company though? Guess that's going to take a while. Not sure that I ever did. Certainly all those years of waking together beat being alone.

But I'm not kidding myself. Often on the outside looking in - I belong to those precious moments that make me smile. A spot of joined up thinking stiches those moments into a life worth living.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sun's out. Blue sky up.

Sun's out. Blue sky up.
Last day of a full week off. Wonderful last weekend drive out with friends. Fun, fun, holiday to Cornwall.

Went to a local steam fair today. Woolpit. Haven't been in years - no better, or worse. To be honest we did it for the drive. Rolling the old Sedan full of kids along the back roads, followed by Mark in his speedster. Lovely. But the seat beside me - empty.

So. Why am I down?

Guess reality is biting. Paperwork to do, and back to work tomorrow. Dreading the two deskfuls to catch up on.

But also. There's something else. All those years of getting on and ignoring the "banished for how long?" cancer by day, and lying awake, listening for life, by night. 11 months on - it's not getting any easier.

Didn't figure on it being harder though.

Kids have been catching up on Doctor Who today. If the blue box landed though, and I've thought about it, no matter how hard, I couldn't take the trip back. There's nothing I could do or say that would change the reality of what happened. Just time re-visited.

Cruel time - give me back the surefooted feeling of certainty in life.

Meltdown Reliability Run - Mission 2

Last weekend - and it finally arrived. Or to be more exact, they arrived. A fine bunch of friends all rolled into the field behind the most remote pub in Norfolk, camped and made ready at the bar for the next day's drive to - somewhere...

And that somewhere? The grounds of a Hall belonging to Wing Commander Ken Wallis. 91 years young. A man who's lived more than one lifetime it seems and still actively cramming in as much as physically possible. Building everything from cars to boats to cameras - and of course, autogyros.

For two very short hours he entertained with matter of fact tales to a humbled audience. Blown away by shooting us all from his magnificent flying machine with his Pentax.

Along the narrow lanes and tracks, the meandering band lost and regrouped a few times, negotiating sand, gravel, level crossings. Oh, and running out of petrol. Oh well, one of those hazards of thirsty old modified sidevalve engines that powered the majority of the entrants.

Lovely tea back at the pub, and a few of us broke out instruments and played into the small hours until the tired, weary and now real ale refreshed travellers melted off to bed. Had a sad moment - remembering Kate coming over last year. Had to get outside and watch. Break away from the party. Silly, silly moment.

Oh - it was good though. Well worth all that pointless angst and fretting over getting there in the Sedan. So good infact that next year is a must!