An inspector fails to call.

June 15, 2017

I’ve just finished  watching a documentary about cultural signs and signifiers in Japanese culture, whilst it was mostly things that I already understood, gundam, gojira, yakusa, geisha and the like, it went into the notion of kannagara to a much deeper extent than I already understood. Kannagara is a philosophy linked to the Shinto religion, loosely translated it means something like community or social responsibility. In Japanese society  people are naturally respectful to one another and crime is virtually non-existent. From what I can gather, this situation exists for two main reasons, firstly because children are taught at school to respect and take care of everything they use, cleaning up after themselves and carefully folding and putting everything away, and secondly, shame and disgrace are seen as major no nos in Japanese culture and are things to be avoided at any cost. 

Shame seems to be an unknown sensation in the west nowadays, it seemed to disappear as an emotion with Monica Lewinkski’s presidential spunk splattered dress and Tony Bliar’s dodgy dossier and a slew of reality shows of the Jerry Springer, Jeremy Kyle, persuasion. In fact, the only time I’ve seen the word used lately is in the defending of those wrongly shamed for their weight or sexual proclivities. Some people really should feel ashamed though but it seems to have gone out if fashion along with self control, acting your age, knowing the difference between right and wrong and most importantly, knowing when and how to apologise.

I was sitting with a few local friends the other day and we were passing comment on how the attention various people draw to their own charity or community minded activities is directly proportionate to the size of their egos and inversely proportionate to the level of their actual talent. Did anyone actually do things for the right reasons? We didn’t think so.

I watched “an inspector calls” again recently and was wondering while I was watching it how it would stand up to today’s crop of the middle class, or indeed anyone. I saw a production in the eighties with Tom Baker playing the inspector, who was playing it for laughs. It was the strangest thing, being led through something that dark and chuckling your way through it and thinking about it now, that is probably what it would be like trying to get anyone to feel a shred of remorse now…. A sick joke.  By the way, if you haven’t seen the play or any of the movie versions I have included a link on the photo to the crib note version using playmobile toys for those with short attention spans. 

I can picture it now, the rakish fiancé would now be drugged up as well as drunk and the girl he knocked up whilst in his twenties would probably be fifteen and he would blame it all on a bad upbringing because his parents got divorced and wouldn’t buy him a scooter/pony/ back tattoo/whatever. The sister would claim to have some vague disorder that would prevent her from being civil to anyone, particularly lowly shop assistants and shrug her shoulders and proceed to snort another line of ketamine off the silver salver on the table with a rolled up twenty. The husband would chuckle at the thought of sacking the dead girl and wonder out loud if this would qualify him to be a bigger bastard than that bloke off the apprentice or those mouthy celebrity chefs and would it be possible for him to get on television. Then the wife would explain that her only interest in running the charity that wouldn’t help the girl who topped herself was that it was that she was only doing it so that she could network herself into some more paid work contracts and the girl’s situation wouldn’t have got her enough attention if she spent her precious socialising time trying to help.

The inspector would be sent away because someone had googled what to do and they would start quoting their rights at the poor spectre, then they would all drop an e and go out clubbing and then to a swingers party and shag a few strangers whilst pilled up before going out and doing something the next day that they are morally unfit to do, like look after vulnerable children or give advice to the unfortunate.

This may seem to be satire, but all I am doing is cobbling together various actual things that I’ve heard done by people who should behave better and changed the details slightly. In fact, I have toned things down somewhat. Sadly, I can’t help but feel that the world today has become a place where corruption and immorality are starting to become a baseline norm amongst certain circles and I can’t believe I am actually having to write this. I regard myself as pretty normal, not predudiced, not homophobic, I have no real religious beliefs to speak of, but I believe in right, wrong and having a conscience and I spend a lot of time right now being disgusted with people. When someone like me started being appalled at your behaviour, you know you are a bad person and heading for a fall.

All I really know right now is that I should have been born in Japan.

Three dads, no dad.

June 19, 2016

It’s Father’s Day in the uk today. I have been trying to treat myself to some new pyjamas recently but in every shop I went in there was a barage of naffness as the gift industry cranks into overdrive to punt  mass produced crap to tell many of the male parents in the uk that they are the best, the world’s best dad. 

I’ve never been a father myself and while I guess my testicular tadpoles are still swimming well enough for me to be one at forty five, I wouldn’t want to inflict being an old parent on a child. It certainly didn’t turn out that well for my parents. They were parents at a distance, too tired, too out of touch, too culturally detached. However much I would like to think that I’m “down with the kids” I’m really not. 

So Father’s Day is a double source of sadness, not being a father and no longer having one for the past twenty years. Twenty years and it may as well be yesterday. The day he died is congealed in aspic in my brain, clear and raw and stored in high definition with surround sound. As is the funeral, the buying of the coffin and every unkind thing my brother came out with on that day and many since. He called my dad a wanker on the day he died. His crime? To be kind, to be generous and to have empathy for others, to have not been ruthless enough to con, fiddle, bribe and bully his way into having a business empire to leave to his son. 

He gave my brother something far more precious, to my mind, and what happened to that still haunts me to this day. But I will come back to that. 

When we are children we regard our parents as the infallible answer to everything, or should do. Thackerey wrote “mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of little children” I guess that can be extended to fathers as well without much of a stretch. It isn’t until we ourselves or our contemporaries become parents that it dawns on us that our own parents must also have been muddling through in just as must of an inept and precarious fashion. I think I realised a lot earlier though, I would hazard a guess that I was aware of the degree of my parents many failings by the age of eleven when they left me stranded with my sister with learning difficulties to work many hundreds of miles away for weeks at a time. Followed by years of squalor, debt and poor decision making of every variety. I did love my parents dearly and I know that they loved me but I am and always was aware of their fallibility. 

I really had three fathers. First there was the witty, hard working northern family man with a fiery temper but a heart of gold. Sadly the heart turned out to be less golden and more flesh and blood and prone to failure as the arteries narrowed and furred and gave out to leave me with father number two, a bitter and fragile man who was deeply conscious of his limitations and all that he had lost. Thirdly, when one stroke too many left  a man child in an old man’s body, highly emotional and full of joy for the simplest of things, I had my final father, who left the world in 1996 with the phrase “I’ve got a tiger in my tank!” as his final words. 

Both my mother and my father take / took my love for them for granted but with my dad then and my mother now they claw(ed) for every scrap of attention from my emotionally stunted elder brother. After my dad had suffered one particularly debilitating  stroke he had to undergo many months of rehabilitation to get even a semblance of normality back into his body. He never really regained more than the most basic of motor functions back in his left side but regardless he attended a local day centre where,  amongst other things, he struggled and toiled one handed to make a wooden bird box. It took many months, every week he did a bit more until it was finally complete. It wasn’t the most amazing bit of woodwork ever but it was clear how much time, effort and love went into it. Then, when it was complete, he presented it to my brother… My brother sneered at the last thing my dad ever made and chucked it on a shelf in his garage, where it was eventually crushed to matchwood under a pile of other assorted detritus that got dumped there over the years.

My brother has similar contempt for me, exacerbated by his jealousy of my closeness to one of my nephews, never understanding that being a good father is not about who can throw the most stuff at a child but who can give the most love time and stability. The simple act of reading a story says more that any pile of mass produced crap. 

So on a cardless Sunday in June I’ll remember my dad or rather dad’s 1.0 to 1.2 and if you are a dad… Try not to fuck it up mate. 😉

Back from the dead

March 29, 2016

    It’s been a strange few months in my world.  A period of general awfulness punctuated by an emergency hospital stay. The appalling level of strain I was under by rights should have killed me as the main artery of my heart was 94% blocked.  A brush with death makes you take a good hard look at yourself and your life and it gave me a need to try and make sense of a lot of the appalling things that have happened to me lately. I’ve contemplated death repeatedly and it has given me a need to value what I do with the life I have left. I know this will sound dramatic but in a way, I am in extra time now as people (not I ) who understand sport would say and I really don’t want to waste that on anything pointless. Once I got home I started thinking about  the bible and of the religious imagery that has found its way into churches ever since. I am not at all a religious person and, if anything, the invasive nature of the procedure to fit stents, the effects of the dyes on my vision and watching my own heart beating beneath my rib cage. It looked more like plumbing than the work of some bearded guy in the sky. 
  Hearts are important in the bible and so is the notion of coming back from the dead. I mean that is the basic idea isn’t it. Lead a shit painful, miserable and short mortal life and then you get gifted with a world of la la fluffiness and pixie dust when you die. The thing is though, I did almost die and I guess seeing as I now have reinforced helixes of metal shoring up my heart I guess we are talking Lazurus and Jesus territory here. Please note, I am taking all this with a HUGE pinch of salt here and I have in no way gone all messianic but the notion of a stented sacred heart fits soooooo nicely. Well, it was either that or Frankenstine’s monster and give me a halo rather than a bolt through my neck any day of the week. Plus, I always wanted to have a proper go at gilding, which was endless hour’s of fun. I didn’t do that good a job of it but, hey ho, it all adds to the charm. So, Erm, hallelujah! Happy Easter!   

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