Goodbye my friend…

If I’ve been a bit absent from the internet this week it’s because I’ve had a fair bit on. An exciting meeting about a new project on Monday, I really can’t wait to get started on it. But as life often is, the high about moving onto the next stage of the project was tempered by the death of a good school friend. He was a strong and noble character and towards the end of his life, he fought with mental health issues and addiction. He withdrew from us all, fell out of contact and then, suddenly, after a long absence, he popped up on facebook. I sent a friend request at once, but then discovered he had suffered a heart attack a few days before. This was all two years ago. The heart attack left him brain damaged and partially paralysed. Oh he was all there but he couldn’t speak – I went to see him just afterwards. Slowly but surely, since then, improved. I kept in touch through his family and I really thought he was going to come back to us. Sadly it was not to be. He died of pneumonia, in his mother’s arms, at 6.35 on 13th January.

I wrote this about him, I sent it to his mum and sister and I’m publishing it here, because it’s all I can do.

Duncan Abbott. 1968 – 2015 R.I.P.

What to say about Duncan? Not so much a case of where to start as where to stop.

Duncan was one of my best mates. He was part of the family scenery for a long time before we actually met as he was in my Dad’s house, at our school and our families had been friends for generations. I would hear his name bandied about (along with others). Our paths crossed many times at school; Duncan and I were cartoonists for the school magazine and he was in my art set. He used to turn up for our art class on Saturday mornings with a full Mohican hairstyle, ready to go to Brighton for the afternoon. As someone who wanted a blue Mohican but never quite had the heart to do it to my parents, I always admired him for this.

It was after I left school, when the two of us were living in London that our friendship really blossomed. The Mohican had gone by that time, “I took it down because no-one would take my intellect seriously.” I think both of us bonded through an eccentricity, and possibly a love of cars, which could make us feel like very square pegs, and the world like an extremely round hole!

This is the internet. I don’t want to go into identifiable detail. So, these are the words that speak of Duncan, to me:

Funny: Duncan was very witty, in an engagingly irreverent way, and not afraid to prick the hide of the pompous. He made me and many others laugh. Lots. Indeed, one of my enduring memories of Duncan is the high guffaw quotient of any time we spent together.

Enthusiasm/Energy: If Duncan was into something, it was impossible not to get carried away with his enthusiasm. I remember visiting him in Sussex just after he’d bought an e-Type. As we drove down a country lane he found a straight and shouted gleefully, “Watch this!” He proceeded to floor the accelerator, guffawing madly as he did so. It was like taking off in a rocket. He was also sensible though, because when I retorted with a, “Go on then! Faster Faster!” He told me there was a bend coming up and slowed down.

Fun: Duncan was effervescent and he knew how to throw a dinner party, which he often did. Usually, after stuffing ourselves with wine and the food he and Lucy had cooked, we’d play a few rounds of the board game, ‘Risk’. Many is the time I remember playing late into the night. Usually we’d give up and go home at about 3 am. We all cheated, decimating the armies of anyone who’d been unwise enough to go to the bathroom by removing half their pieces from the board while they were gone. Nobody ever won because nobody’s bladder was strong enough to achieve world domination.

Generous: Duncan was generous with everything. I remember during my time in London, when I was about to move into a new flat and the deal fell through. I had a month with nowhere to stay. Duncan was one of the most supportive of my friends over that time, letting me store a load of my stuff in his tiny flat – and leave my car parked outside – when he had very little room for either.

Intelligent and a little rebellious: Duncan was very bright – prodigiously intelligent, in fact. I mentioned this to my Dad who said, “Dear Duncan, he was such a naughty boy. It was because he was so intelligent of course! He got bored. If you were teaching Duncan, you needed to engage him. He was one of the brightest lads I ever taught.” Tom Griffiths, our art teacher, also thought similarly.

Kind: Duncan was unfailingly kind to me. Always. I remember in art class, Griffiths saying,

“It’s no good trying to pretend you’re a hard man Abbott, not with those hands, they’re the hands of a pianist not a Hell’s Angel.” This used to make Duncan guffaw both at the time, and when recounting it afterwards. (Griffiths always referred to Duncan as a ‘hell’s angel’. Despite being an art teacher with a goth for a daughter, it seemed he didn’t really understand about punk).

Positive: Duncan had been through some pretty heavy stuff and although it affected him, deeply. One of the things that amazed me, throughout the time I knew him, was the courage and pragmatism with which he attempted to deal with it. He just put his head down and tried to get on with his life.

Sure, he could be mercurial, pig-headed and he didn’t suffer fools gladly! What’s more he could be spiky, difficult and childish (although he was never like that to me). But he was also kind, generous, lively, funny and brim full of energy and joie de vivre. He was a larger than life character and a true and loyal friend. I thought about him or (since his heart attack) prayed for him most days. He was my friend and I loved him. I will miss him.

Wherever he is and whatever he is doing now, one thing is certain: there will be laughter, and lots of it.

Life, like a never ending stream
Bears all its sons away.
They fly forgotten, as a dream,
Dies at the opening day.

Except we won’t forget you mate. Goodbye my friend. Good luck and God bless.

If any of my school friends read this and would like to know the when and where of the funeral,  feel free to leave me a comment or drop me a facebook message.

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Missed the M T #interview on Radio Suffolk? Here’s a link.

Well, the interview went quite well. I probably said about 1,000 words all told and I suspect that at least 500 of them were, ‘um.’ Apart from that it was fun. I hadn’t realised how much harder it would be to do a phone interview than it is to do one face to face.

Lesley Dolphin, the host, clearly liked the books or at least, the bits she’d read and is going to give them away over the next few weeks so, my local peps, keep listening if you’d like to try and bag a free copy courtesy of BBC Radio Suffolk!

You can find the interview here, it starts at 2:08.05 and runs for about 10 minutes.

 

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M T #interview on Radio Suffolk today.

Yes, it’s true. If you’d like to share my 15 minutes of local fame with me, I will be on the Lesley Dolphin show this afternoon at about 2.40, or thereabouts.

For information about the show and to listen on line, follow these links:

To listen live – choose the live link from  this page.

To listen afterwards – I think you have about a week from the date I’m on – click on Tuesday 13th Jan.

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MTMail: with added incentives. Are you on my mailing list?

Would you like to be? That, my lovely peps, is my question for today. What would get you signing up for MTMail?

You see, I’ve been doing some more navel gazing and the piece of fluff I’ve prepared for us to examine today is my mailing list. I intend to revamp it a bit, ie, actually do something with it. I want to offer interesting bonus things to people who join and I want to make the idea of joining my mailing list sound a bit more interesting.

It’s not just that I want to shower people with mail shots though – lordy me, even if I’m ruthlessly efficient about it my mailing list members are going to be lucky if I can organise more than about three a year. There is an ulterior motive, in that you folks have offered me support, bought my books, left me lovely comments when I was down and humoured me by laughing at my crap jokes. So I’d like to set up some kind of thing where my mailing list and blog peps who are mostly one and the same, anyway, get bonus stuff. Either things nobody else gets or stuff early… that kind of thing.

In addition, I’d like to bribe incentivise folks to join my mailing list list. Not in a Lord Vernon, I-will-murder-each-and-every-one-of-the-people-who-you-hold-dear-until-you-do-my-bidding-and-I’ll-make-you-watch, manner but in a nice way, as outlined above: a touchy-feely, let-me-give-you-gifts kind of approach.

I’ve had a think and come up with some ideas… I was just wondering… if you’re able to give me any feedback, in the comments or on the poll.

Here are some of the things I’ve been mulling over.

First up, would you like a choice between general mailings and just hearing about the books? General mailings would probably take place once a quarter if I really got my finger out and tried hard so it’s not as if I’d be raining folks with spam. Although if I mailed subscribers about interviews and things it might be more often but I doubt I could manage to make it more than once a month: tops.

Second, what kind of free things would appeal? I can give away short stories or secret blog posts and I can also give away versions of my short stories read aloud, by me – this is something that a couple of folks have requested. Unfortunately, I don’t have the budget or equipment to produce audio books properly: I have a cat, a son and I live on a main road for starters – all things that make the recording process … interesting.

Thirdly, I wondered if you’d like to read out takes. Bits that were honed and toned but didn’t make it into the books. They are un-edited; by a professional at any rate.

Finally, if you’d like to sign up to my mailing list anyway, before any bribery incentives are in place, you can sign up from this link.

 

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It seems I’m #KBarthan even though I live here.

I thought I’d share my morning with you. No real reason. Just for a laugh.

It was McMini’s first day back at school so we had to be up and out of the house at about the time we woke up yesterday. McMini, however, was ace. He got up and got dressed.

“Car or bike?” I ask him.

“Car,” he says

Breakfast eaten, clothes on, teeth brushed and coats on we duly go to the garage. The Noisy Cricket is still in bed. McMini climbs in. I put the key in and press the starter button.

“Click,” it goes. That’s how cars that are made in Norfolk tell you to fuck off.

“Ha, never fear, I have the battery boost starter um… thingamy,” I cry and so I plug it in and connect it all up.

“Click,” says the car.

“And fuck off to you too,” I think but manage not to say it out loud in front of McMini. Ka-Ching! M T McGuire awards non swearing points to self and allows a nano second of smugness.

It’s OK. We have seven minutes. There is still time to get there on the bike. I get my bike out and attach the Incredibly Heavy Trailer Bike. I have to do about 110 turns to get the nut off and the towing bar out and about another 109 turns to do it up after I’ve attached the trailer. It takes approximately fifteen years (Oh alright, a couple of minutes). Never mind, it’s on.

Also – major achievement – we’ve managed to do all this without letting the cat get into the garage AND I’ve remembered to lock the garage door.

Ah yes. Cycle hats. I run back to the house. Actually I do the ‘Special Gait’. You know, like the Monty Python folks do when they’re pretending to ride horses in the Holy Grail? The one which makes you look effing stupid. People with less than the pre-requisite number of functioning knee ligaments do tend to default to the Special Gait in place of actual running.

Cycle hat for McMini retrieved I rush back. Ga dump, ga dump, ga dump, I ‘run’. We get onto the bike to discover some random bloke has parked in my drive. Why I have no idea, there’s another 20 minutes, at least, before the permits and scariness kick in.

“Excuse me! Who are you?” I ask, probably a bit more aggressively than I intend to due to my current state of panic.

“Er… I’m looking for number 2.”

Grrr. He could stop on the single line outside the house.

“Well this is the drive for number 3. If you want to park here, you have to ask.”

“I’m very sorry.”

“Good, it’s not a good time, how long will you be here?”

“Not long.”

“Good. Cause it looks like I have a breakdown truck coming.”

“Oh when?”

“Five minutes,” no you daft cow, that’s how long you have to get to school, “No wait sorry not 5 minutes, as soon as I’ve dropped McMini off at school.” Yeh, look like a twat while you’re bollocking him why don’t you? Anyway why are you bollocking him? How did you get into this? What are you doing?

“That’s OK I’ll be gone by then.”

McMini and I pile about 300 yards up the enormous hill – thank you Bury town planners, you bastards, for configuring the one way system so that I have two massive ups and one down not only on the way to school but on the way back too… cluddy bunts – then I remember his school bag is in the car.

“Nobs alive.”

Back we go.

We make it to school, I pedal like the blazes but it’s like dragging a gothic cathedral on wheels through treacle. Wheezing like an asthmatic sea lion I manage to go slightly faster than walking pace while McMini pedals with all his might behind.

We arrive at school and the door is still open! Huzzah! No late entry and paperwork to be filed. Except that as I wait to wave at him from the window I remember I’ve left his drinking water on the sodding draining board. Nobbing sodding sod.

I go home, two hills up one down, via the bank to pay in a cheque. It’s not open yet. Arse.

When I return home the random Saab has gone from our drive. I put the trailer in the garage and get the water, get back on the bike and cycle another mile and a half through treacle to get back to school. Deliver the water. Discover that McMini’s guitar lessons start TONIGHT and I don’t even know if he’s been scheduled in. Ride home via the bank, which is open this time, to ring the guitar man.

Get home to discover I’ve forgotten to buy a birthday card and that McMini has quietly chomped his way through all the carrots I was going to serve up with our dinner tonight.

Ring guitar man.

Sort lessons.

Tell school.

Realise I’ve given Guitar Man a duff e-mail address. I look out of the window at what I think is a nice hedge hog on our patio and realise it’s a sodding great rat. Now I’ll have to organise some kind of rat catching thing. It’s very cute but I don’t want it nesting in my cellar.

And so it goes on.

Then there’s the ‘help’ I receive in all my endeavours about the house from my omnipresent cat-shaped assistant.

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No wonder I never get anything done…

 

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2014 in review – I’ve never had one of these before! Blog round up from WordPress

For the first time ever… WordPress has given me a lovely blog round up.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,700 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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All I need is Little Nellie! Learning to love #Christmas (and myself).#scrooge

Christmas. The traditional time of unfulfilled expectations and almost unfailingly the death of a friend or relative. I have to admit that the best bit about Christmas, for me, is the day we get back from whoever we’ve been staying with that year, and I can relax in the knowledge that it’s all over for another 12 months.

It pains me to confess it but I am the original Scrooge, although this year I think I am finally beginning to understand why. If it’s OK, I’d like to share my breakthrough with you (phnark). So let’s have a rummage through my season-specific navel lint.

Warning: this one’s outrageous and fairly lavatorial.

Right then.

Here goes…

When I was a kid, I thought that Christmas would always be a time of fun and light and laughter. Strangely, when I look back over the actual Christmas Days I can remember then 99.9% of the time it is exactly that – even the years people died or got sick.

Yet it hangs leadenly on my spirits and I dread it more with each passing year.

Looking at it, the big thing, for me, has always been that I’d like to ‘do’ Christmas, myself. My Mum always told me that once you have kids you can put your foot down with the grandparents and tell them that from now on, you’ll be having Christmas at home. My Mum did this successfully. However, she was younger when she had my brother and I. Furthermore, both sets of grandparents were hale and hearty and perfectly able to hop in the car and drive to us if they wanted to. They were only about 45 minutes away, anyway.

Our world is different.

Nonetheless, the dream persists of waking up in my own home on Christmas morning. In 20 years. we’ve managed two home Christmases, yes I’ve managed to cook two turkeys (and a goose but that’s another story). Both those Christmases were lordy-never-again style jobs. One because McOther and I were going through a rough patch, I didn’t even know if we’d be together in a few weeks’ time and we had to present a united front to the visiting grandparents for 8 days when I had no idea if, in 20 days, we’d still be an item. McOther was at work the whole time anyway, to the point of spending two hours in a conference call on Christmas day. The next year, the other set of grandparents stayed for less than 24 hours and gave us flu. I spent the turn of the millennium in bed with it. Later, my father’s condition, coupled with the cold temperature of our house, meant that if he visited us in winter he went completely loolah (too cold = not enough blood to the head) so that was out.

In other words; we know Christmas at home doesn’t work. Now that neither set of rellies can actually stay here, we also know that, were we to tell them, “We were having Christmas at home this year,” we would have the most awful time, sitting at home feeling guilty. We’re talking a level of guilt that eating our free range, local butcher’s, locally sourced turkey with actual red meat; that having our boy get his stocking in one hit, because we haven’t had to leave the 3/4 of it that doesn’t fit into the car on his bed at home and pretend Father Christmas delivered here too; that being around to help with the Church flowers etc and even finding a lonely local to invite, would not do anything to assuage.

Why then? Why this endless longing to make Christmas my own instead of bolting onto other people’s? It’s a completely insoluble problem. And yet once I actually get to whichever set of parents house it is, then, even with its strange or too-distant bathroom, the strength sapping levels of vigilance required to take a lively small boy and incredibly clumsy mother somewhere else for a week without their accidentally breaking something precious or spilling something dreadful or eating something they shouldn’t, it’s actually fun.

Yes.

I do enjoy myself. We all do. And it distresses me deeply that I feel this utter misery and curmudgeonliness about going to see people who I actually want to see and love dearly.

Why the dread?

Well I think I’ve finally sussed it out.

It’s the travel. I loathe and detest using the British motorway network. However, at Christmas when there are high winds so the QE Bridge is closed and we have to queue for hours to get through one side of the tunnel. Or when we are driving through six inches of freshly fallen snow for two hours, with an ice covered road beneath and a sheer drop into the River Tweed a few feet from us pretty much all the way and meeting something coming the other way on. Every. Single. Blummin’. Corner. It’s really grim.

In a nutshell, Christmas is an absolutely rubbish time to attempt to travel. It’s not just because every other git in the UK has climbed into his car to clutter up the roads. It’s because the weather can be unremittingly awful and we all get stuck in it.

Borne out of the travel comes the second downer: organising stuff. I am incapable of organising a piss up in a brewery. Lord knows I try but even when McOther organises everything – because he is a control freak who runs like a smoothly oiled machine – I still manage to balls up the few things I’m supposed to be doing. There is always the Eureka moment, as I unpack the stuff in the kitchen at whichever of our victims we’re descending on that year, and I remember about the very important thing I’ve left on the kitchen table at home. Something without which the other five bags of gubbins I’ve brought are completely pointles… you know… something like… the turkey or the pump for McMini’s blow up bed.

Naturally, the reason my organisational skills are so poor is because I actually dislike organising things.

After travel and my piss poor organisational skills we come to the third factor: my social lumpiness. The minefield of staying with other people and trying to adjust your routine to fit in with theirs when what is natural and instinctive to them is less so for you.You know deep eternal questions like these, which are all real:

  • Is there enough hot water/time to wash my hair this morning or do too many other people need the shower for us to a) all shower before we go out or b) for me to spend the prerequisite 10 minutes rinsing my hair?
  • If I don’t have a shower, will I smell (I usually have a cold so can’t tell).
  • Will I manage to get through the whole week without having an IBS attack?
  • Talking about IBS. When’s the time the other members of the household are statistically least likely to follow me into the loo for at least an hour – or to put it another way, can I have a poo now, or will I be asphyxiating a whole succession of subsequent lavatory and/or shower users?
  • How many times can I ask for seconds before it becomes rude?
  • What are those odd noises in the night?
  • Are those really bits of wasp coming out of the cold water tap and is that why the loo cistern won’t fill up? Because the outlet on the header tank is clogged with dead wasps?
  • Will next door invite us all round to drinks and poison us with dodgy pate?
  • Can I make my way to the loo without falling down the stairs?
  • If my knee clicks on the stairs in the dark can I manage to yell quietly?
  • Can I get past the stair lift to go down to the drawing room and retrieve my iPad/Phone/Book without falling and waking the rest of the house?
  • Will I successfully fill up the cistern using the bath tap and the bucket provided, or will I spill a whole load, sending a flood of water through the ceiling onto the lap top at the desk in the room below?
  • Have I remembered my torch?
  • Have I remembered my cough lozenges?
  • Do they have a dog? How much of it’s attention will it give my crotch? A: all of it’s attention. If dogs are the rule of thumb I have the smelliest girl parts in Christendom.
  • Where are McMini’s pyjamas? A: on the kitchen table at home.
  • Should I put this utensil away where I think it’s kept and risk unwittingly hiding it from my hostess forever, or should I ask her for the umpteenth time? Is the least irritating course of action to leave it on the table?
  • If both the taps in the guest bathroom basin bear the letter H, which one is actually the ‘real’ hot?
    It’s the left hand tap*, by the way, if you ever visit my parents.
  • Will I leave my horrible gacky ear plugs under the guest bed?
  • Will I snore loudly enough to keep people in other rooms awake? I am more than capable of this.

This is not a side of me I like. It feels disloyal and mean to dread going to see the grandparents – especially when I love both sets so dearly. They would be horrified to read this!

But at least I’ve spotted the difference between Christmas when I was a child and now; why it was different when we did pretty much the same things. Amazingly, I think I’ve hit on the answer and it is all down to journey time. My family was local. It was 45 minutes to each set of grandparents so even if we weren’t at home on Christmas Day, itself, it wasn’t a big deal because we woke up there and we went to bed that night in our own beds. If we had to be on our best behaviour and not eat too much, not spill anything and help out in a succession of relations’ strange kitchens day after day over the Christmas period it was OK because at supper and breakfast we were in our own.

WE NEVER STAYED THE NIGHT.

And that’s it in a nutshell. None of the worries I have about my social lumpiness are ever going to impact on a day trip, hence it was a breeze as a kid. But on a week long stay, when I’m also responsible for the behaviour of my own child it’s very different. They become monstrous spectres in the days and weeks beforehand. I even have dreams about stuffing it up and letting down smoothly oiled, robotically organised McOther. There’s nothing I can do about it but at least, now that I know what it is, I should be able to deal with it better next year.

Furthermore, if I could find a way to do the two journeys in say, 35 minutes… or maybe an hour… I could pop home to poo, or wash my hair on a morning when everyone else wants to use the shower, or relax about cutting myself shaving without noticing and bleed happily over my own scabby (rather than someone else’s nice guest) towel. Hmm… Flying’s no good, sure it’s 35 minutes in the air, if that, but it’s still two hours each end phaffing about in an airport and an hour in a taxi at the other end.

Snurds may be imaginary right now and a magic thimble is right out. But I think I have the answer.

Yeh. So. If you’re listening, Father Christmas, I’d like a gyrocopter, please.

See that? That’s me that is, nipping home for a poo.

What I want to know is, am I the only person who gets all worried like this? Tell me about your experiences peeps!

* That’s a faucet, if you’re French or American.

 

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