The Final Countdown – 1…

Well, my big move from Sweden back to England is almost upon us. There’s packing to be done. The apartment is littered with unfilled boxes, and a little procrastination seemed in order. So I made a cup of tea; told facebook I was procrastinating; told a few of my friends, and had a conversation in the kitchen about procrastination in general. It seems as though all that remains is to spend a little time with you people, and then I guess I’ll actually have to put things in bubblewrap. Incidentally, to make this all seem even more last minute than it actually is… I am actually writing this on Friday, though you will be reading it on Monday.

So… it’s nice of you to have stuck with me through all 10 of these. And, if you haven’t done… I’m sure you’re just as nice, just perhaps not as bored as the ones who have. By this time tomorrow I will have landed back in the United Kingdom. So I should give you one more example of something I will miss about Sweden, versus something I have missed about England.

As you may or may not know, I have never really been much of a people person. I’m not exactly anti-people, but I have never actively sought the company of other human-beings. I never got very good at interacting with them really. So many people over the years, having observed my awkwardness, would say:

“Just be yourself, and everything will be fine.”

After a few years I accepted that this might be a good plan and finally actually started not to try so hard… After observing this , those closest to me started saying things like…

“You do talk… a LOT! Perhaps just try not to give so much information.”

So, now I was confused, because that’s what I’m like when I’m “being myself”. So I tried not speaking, and people thought I was weird. It seems as though I was always struggling to find an in-between. And then… I met the lady who is now my wife. She remains the only person who has ever told me to be myself, and actually meant it. She knows I’m a procrastinator; she knows I sulk sometimes; she knows I talk waaay too much for a single human-being, and she doesn’t care. She knows I’m a perfectionist, and is well aware how often that goes hand-in-hand with procrastination, but she just laughs it off.

I guess what I’m doing here is being myself, and giving you far too much information about why I don’t seek out the company of others. However, when others find me, I’m usually very happy to have them in my life, just so long as they don’t expect a regular schedule of social interaction, or indeed interactions of any kind that take place before noon.

Why am I banging on about this? Well…

What I will miss #1: These People

Everyone

 

Some people drop into your life and drift out just as quickly. New family and friends usually come as part of a package deal when a new relationship comes along, and where my wife’s family and friends are concerned I have been fortunate. I love them all, and will miss all of them. Not that I won’t see them from time-to-time, but they certainly won’t be just around the corner any more.

But then… if you’re really lucky, you get a part of that package which was much more than you expected. For me, that is this person:

Tilda

She has been a friend to me in ways I could never have anticipated, and she means more to me than she knows. I might even go so far as to say… all I want to do is praise her. Sometimes she is a pain in the ass. We have our differences and I’m certain there have been many times when she would have liked to wring my neck like a chicken, if not for the fact that she would never do that to a chicken.

All of these people were unexpected benefits of being married to the lady I waited my entire life for, and I hope they know how deeply their absence will be felt.

Of course… as with all the other things on this countdown, there are compensations. In this case…

What I have missed #1: These People

UKpeople

There are one or two missing from here, simply because I have no photographs of them, but basically, the people in this photo are those around whom my life in England, to a greater or lesser extent, revolves. Some of them are a greater influence than others, but all are important to me.

Of course, none more so than these ones:

Me & Kiddies

…if you can ignore the elderly bloke in the middle. He’s only there to stop them from escaping.

My children are a couple of years older now, but this is still my favourite photograph of all of us.

But there is one missing. The boy who became a man… the man who became a King… the king who became… a GOD!

Richie

Whoa! Did I oversell that, or what? Alas… his plans to become ruler of the world have so far come to nought, but he did get married and become a father. And he remains one of the most important parts of my life. I’m looking forward to seeing him again. To that emotional, heart-rending moment when I knock on his door again, and he answers it with the words…

“Oh it’s you. Come in and try not to break anything.”

All of them (though I have seen them many times since moving here to Sweden) have been dearly missed, and all of them… more than the Springtime; more than 24 hour shopping, or the beautiful countryside… are the things pulling me back toward home.

I don’t seek out company, but sometimes it finds me and refuses to let go. Sometimes, in spite of myself, there are people who my world feels emptier without. Most of them are on this page. My beautiful wife of course, is going with me on this next adventure.

This next, will be my 28th address. When I was younger, I used to long to keep moving.  Every time I moved was a chance for new friends, and new adventures. The rootless life was something I craved, like so many other people in their teens, and their 20s. Nowadays though, I have much more of a solid idea of the people and places that I want around me, and – to borrow a phrase from Marvin the paranoid android – when people tell me that a whole new life awaits me, my response is likely to be…

“Not another one!”

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Phoning it in

*For those expecting humour; the management would like to apologise for the tone of recent posts and assure readers that normal service will be resumed as soon as the author can find the funny bone which he apparently lost in the recent move*

In the last fortnight, it has surprised me how many people have asked how I am, and actually meant it. I’m talking about genuinely concerned people, who are actually waiting for a real answer to that question, because they really do want to know that you’re ok.

The problem I’m having is that, for the first time in my life, I really don’t know how to answer that question… I mean, I really don’t know whether I’m alright or not. I have felt more alive in the last 5-6 weeks than I have in the previous 15 years, and flown higher than I ever hoped I might again. But I have also been smashed hard into the ground for flying too close to the sun, and had to address damages of my own making. My brain is alive with a million things to say, but not a single clue who I’m supposed to be saying them to. I have experienced happiness, and made others happy. I have experienced devastation, and also been the cause of it. At times like these it becomes very difficult to answer the simple question “Are you OK?” and very easy to become lost in self-pity, simply because you don’t know whether you’re ok or not. So, you assume you’re not and start looking for someone who will kiss your sprained ankle and make it better, rather than saying “Well… if you didn’t want to fall over, perhaps you ought not to have run down the stairs!”

Perhaps some of the best moments of the last week though, have been surprising (and often surreal) phone conversations. Surprising, not only because I don’t normally like talking on the phone, but because, in all three cases, they have involved people whose voices I have never been so happy to hear. The first was a conversation I could so easily have had before, but avoided until it was too late. The last, was a very kind old friend; uniquely placed to offer their perspective on a potentially dangerous dilemma. It was the one in the middle however – A bittersweet, teary conversation with a troubled young girl who means far more to me than she thinks she does – which pulled me out of my self-pity.

Sometimes we think we are in a burning house, when it might just be that we need to turn down the lights and give our eyes time to adjust to the brightness. But, even in situations that really are beyond repair; if it becomes impossible to escape without causing pain, the very least you can do is to limit the damage. To my shame, I did not.

If you love someone, they should never have to figure that out for themselves. If someone is important to you, then so should their happiness be; if they are unhappy, move heaven and earth to make them happy; if you can’t make them happy, at least listen.

Finally… If you are a comedian at heart, don’t write this kind of sentimental nonsense. Here’s a song, for Lea, for me… for anyone else who wants it.

I know I didn't try very hard with this picture... sorry about that. See disclaimer at top of post.

A 21st century Father’s Day

So today is Father’s Day. I won’t be at my computer, and I’m entirely too long-winded to bother blogging from my mobile phone, so this blog will be coming to you from the future… or the past… whichever. I just hope there isn’t something tremendously interesting in the news tomorrow.

Anyway… since everything is relatively quiet here at the moment – the book submissions are awaiting a new printer, and there is no filming for the next week or two, because I’m building virtual sets – I thought I’d give a shout-out to 21st century families.

I have a 21st century family, and today I will be sharing the day with most of them. We have unmarried partners; most with children. We have divorced people; parents and grandparents alike. We have remarried parents; some of them married several times. We have half-sisters and step-sisters, half-brothers and step-brothers. We have step-fathers, step-mothers, and poor, confused little children by the dozen, who are happy to call anyone Uncle, Aunt, Granny or Grandpa based upon their willingness to remain in their lives long enough to have hung up their coat.

To add to this confusion, we have all kinds of ridiculous nicknames for EVERYBODY. My brother is referred to as “Uncle Crisp” for example. Earlier today, my children were asking what silly nickname my niece might burden me with, now that she is on the verge of speaking. “That’s complicated” says I… “My family don’t call me Jim, like mummy does. They call me Simon.” (don’t ask) Various suggestions were then given by the little darlings, and we all had a good laugh. We settled on “JimSim”, until it occurred to me that a toddler would almost certainly announce my arrival by yelling
“Uncle Jism”… at which point questions began, and I quickly changed the subject.

The point is (yes… there is one), that the world hasn’t really worked out how to deal with the problems of 21st century families. The kind of problems I’m talking about have always been there, of course. Previous solutions have included “Let’s not talk about it” and “Pretend you didn’t hear the question”. The main problem in the late 20th/early 21st century seems to be that we DO talk about it.

You have no idea what I’m talking about, have you?

OK, let me give you an example:

Unmarried parents are quickly becoming the norm these days – I am one myself – but what to do about the child’s name? Around here people like to hyphenate. Brilliant! But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we’re going to run into problems pretty fast if that becomes the accepted solution.

Imagine introducing your latest girlfriend; a product of just 3 generations of hyphenation: “Hi mum. I’d like you to meet Jenny Douglas-Johnson-Daniels-Smith-McPherson-Woods-Hughes-Clarkson. Please say you like her. It took me three months of dating to learn her surname.” Marvellous. It’s a good job the internet revolution got here before the un-married family revolution. Imagine the problems… Phonebooks would have to be delivered by forklift truck… bookshelves would have to be twice as deep… Nametags would cause more injuries than the nurses wearing them could reasonably be expected to cope with… the personal number-plate industry would probably suffer to some degree… It doesn’t bear thinking about!

And what about today? Father’s Day? Have you tried to find a step-father card? They are available, but they are certainly not easy to find. Even finding a card that doesn’t say “Dad” on it, limits your choices to one of those dreadful vomit-inducing things that mean the greeting-card aisle in the supermarket has to be guarded by a pissed-off looking bloke with a mop and a weatherproof poncho.

OK, I’m getting carried away. So I’ll leave you with this:

"Hey, man. It's just Sunday... Y'know?"

What do you want from me? It’s 2.45am for crying out loud.