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My BB is almost one. Although I have two days where I escape several times to teach piano, and the evenings are mostly BB-free, I think I can call her my constant companion. Looking after a baby is relentless, but I miss her when she’s gone to bed. I was driving to choir last night and took care not to swerve for the sake of BB in the back. I was sad to realise she wasn’t with me. It feels fantastic to leave BB with Dad and stretch my legs, cycle in the fresh air to my lessons, meet with the big wide world as one person, like I used to be. But there’s usually a point when I’m on the way back, lost in thought when I remember she’ll be waiting for me and I pedal just that bit more because I can’t wait to see her.

Communication is much easier now. We really know each other and share jokes. And she is comical! She likes playing the kazoo, making funny noises into cups, putting things on her head, cuddling the floor and splashing like a mad thing in the bath. She’ll pick up a book or magazine and laugh at the pictures of people. But when I’m dressing her, changing her nappy and cuddling her, I am often struck by the enormity of it all. BB is a funny roly-poly baby now, but I see in her a running child, a teenager, a young woman, a middle aged woman, an old lady. A lover, a mother, a grandmother. I guess in the same way that you have to respect old people for all that they have been, one must respect babies for all that they will be.

This is my manifesto. Most of it I realised in the years receding from adolescence, when I was a sorry self-conscious heap of nerves and pretention. Oh puberty, how happier I continue to be, the further away I am from you.

·         Don’t pretend you’ve heard of something if you haven’t.

·         Don’t pretend you know something if you don’t.

·         Don’t act like you’ve heard what someone’s said if you haven’t.

·         Don’t try hard to be interesting, you’ll be boring.

·         Only laugh if you think something’s funny.

·         Throw your head back and laugh long and loud.

·         Smile at people and assume a person is lovely until proven otherwise.

·        Pick other people’s bikes up that have fallen over.

·         Don’t speak to children any different from how you speak to adults.

·         Don’t ever feel that anyone owes anything to you, its an illusion.

·         Don’t love anyone to the exclusion of friends

·         Don’t love anyone to the exclusion of yourself

·         Live for only friends and music, the rest is all bollocks. 

stiff3.jpg

The lucky stiff, lost in Taranaki (with the red doc martins).

Written 06 September 2007 

I wrote a song tonight that I think encapsulates my particular brand of fatalism. I like the idea that a game of dice with death would be that if you won you would get to go with him, and if you lost, you’d have to wander about the planet for a little longer for no discernible reason.

It seems to me that the human mind is programmed to search for reasons for stuff and in life there just aren‘t any, but our brains are built to need order in the face of chaos so we go about inventing it. Inventing reasons can take up a lot of time, so you don’t have to think about reality. I’ve been accused of being morbid in the past but I don’t see anything I say as morbid at all, just truthful. I’m not that interested in death, I don’t read crime thrillers or watch hospital shows, I just look it in the bony face sometimes. And I think life is full of incredibly wonderful things, its just we die, too. How can you appreciate the complexity and colours of life if you don’t acknowledge the black vacuum of death? I only think its dark because that’s what I see when I close my eyes. Really its not light or dark, is it? Its just nothing.

A Buddhist told me that life-force is one mass that goes through all of us, and we’re all like light bulbs that light up for a time with the same life-force that goes through everything, and then it leaves us again. Why? For no reason. It makes much more sense than each living thing being an individual, unconnected soul.

My black vacuum cleaner showed signs of being close to death today, but the light bulbs are all still very much alive. Maybe that symbolises the truth of the two differing ways of seeing death. Or maybe its because Anny fitted the house out with energy saving light bulbs. That’s symbolic in itself. Good old Anny. Maybe its because my copious stray hair eventually strangulates all household cleaning devices. I don’t want to think of the symbolism in that.

Anyhoo, what I wanted to say was, the sentiments of this song remind me a little of a private joke I’ve had with myself for a while. I once saw a Far Side cartoon in which there’s two men working in a morgue, one of whom exclaims that the dead man they’re tending to has the winning lottery ticket in his pocket, and the other man looks over and says, ‘lucky stiff’. This still makes me laugh.

People throughout my life continually have insisted on telling me I’m lucky. Its not really relevant what for, its just that its this unquantifiable mysterious thing that people attribute to other people to make them feel – what? Guilty? Like cheats? Unfairly bestowed with something? A big magnet for the ‘lucky’ tag was my year’s travelling. I waded through peels of ‘you’re lucky’, ‘you’re lucky’, ‘you’re so lucky’ till they tinkled this way and that off my red I’m-regaining-my-teenagerhood-honest Doc Martins. And all I could think of every time I heard it was, ‘lucky stiff’.

It was wonderful and amazing and fantastic truly, but I was there because someone I loved more than myself had walked away and I’d dismantled every part of my professional life, left the town where I’d lived for ten years, stored all my belongings in my parent’s loft and spent all my money on a ticket to the-hell-out-of-here. So in this respect when people told me I was lucky I kind of felt like a dead man with the winning lottery ticket in his pocket. But only when people told me I was lucky. When they didn’t, I felt damn lucky. And I was. For the whole of it.

So my particular brand of fatalism? We’re all doomed, nothing can be helped, so let’s have a knees-up.

Lost

There was a time I knew reality
When everything was as it seemed to be
I never thought it might be all a dream
And that I’d wake up to be someone else entirely

Lost, what a lovely place to be
Lost, what a lovely time to be
Lost, what a lovely way to be.

I went down to the record office directly
Perhaps the beaurocrats could tell me my identity
But all I got was this apology
We’re sorry but it seems that yours is unaccountably

Lost, what a lovely place to be
Lost, what a lovely time to be
Lost, what a lovely way to be.

Did you hear the one about the pom when she drank too much tea?
They found her drowned in a pool of her own history
They sent her down to the antipodes
Where they asked her, how’s it feel to be so incredibly

Lost, what a lovely place to be
Lost, what a lovely time to be
Lost, what a lovely way to be.

And I saw death on a desert island by the sea
He had some dice, he said if you win you come with me
At least you’ll know where you’re supposed to be
Then he rolled a six, I threw a three and

Lost, what a lovely place to be
Lost, what a lovely time to be
Lost, what a lovely way to be.