Archive for the 'Dad' Category

The impossible dream

I have this dream that I get sometimes.

Dad is alive after his surgery, back in the good period when he could cut the lawn and paddle a bit in the canoe.

And it’s all great.

And then I realise in the dream that it’s about 3 or 4 years from his diagnosis and he’s still alive and he’s doing great and you know what – he’s going to be alright, he’s cured.

Then I remember it in the morning and I know it’s not true.


Worst at the best of times

Most of you who know me will know that today is a year down the line from Da dying. Odd how these arbitrary dates and timings acquire some kind of significance. They do. Whether I want them to or not. You see them coming over the horizon, like a great big box waiting to be ticked.

I was on call overnight and slept poorly and just as I did get over I got rang by work anyhow. Leaves me an excuse for being tetchy and grumpy.

Me and Simy had both booked the day off and we took wee Liz to Castlewellan for the day. With ever present puppy of course. No trip these days is complete without the pup.

We have too many good memories (yes I know that’s a stupid thing, it’s like saying you’ve too much money – oh I’m so sorry for you, it must be so hard…) everywhere you go you remember how happy you were. Not always in a bad way but still it seems tough some how. I suppose you need to be a certain kind of person to get annoyed by happy memories.

Castlewellan is like that. Me and Simy would both (well really just Simy, but if he went I’d keep him company) gladly go back to the late eighties and cycle down from the caravan to feed the ducks in the lake at Castlewellan. We both do the pleasant nostalgia thing.

We did the boundary walk. two and a half hours and saw two people. Great stuff. Found our view point looking over Newcastle and Donard and cracked open a tin of Magners and toasted Ronaldo from plastic cups. Good moment. Good as such a thing can be anyhow.

When we got home Simy produced a DVD from his wedding of Dad’s wedding speech at Simy’s wedding that none of us had seen before.

Weird watching it and have the memories come back.

Number 1 – growing the hair has been such a good move for both me and Simon. I know we may look like prats these days but seriously you should have seen us with the shaved heads.

Number 2 – Dad makes a bloody good speech. Managing foul humour, insults, grace and emotion all in one move. Special kind of gift.

To Ron.


I started reading this on zoomtard‘s (with all the Karl Barth I can see why he liked it. Really you should keep the Zoommatics thing going. Otherwise I’ll have to read Barth myself and that’s just not on)  and Transfarmer‘s recommendation.

[That in itself is worth discussion – very few things in my life I have discovered on my own. Simy introduced me to almost every cool thing I ever got involved in, Da introduced me to sarcasm and writing (and so much more), Liz to Anne of green Gables… Not so much Liz. (You introduced me to much more than that I just thought I’d take the piss while I could.)

I listen to Pedro the lion because someone I knew listened to it, Skeeno introduces me virtually all my new music, Spuddy pulls his weight in that department too, Phil has bought me more books than hot dinners. I know these people because of people.

I enjoy what I enjoy not because I discovered it in a vacuum but because other people did before me. These things I enjoy have had quite remarkable influences on my life (fight club changed my life I tell you) and I let them because these other people introduced them to me.

Books are dangerous things. You open a book or listen to a song and a few years later you’re not the same.

I’ll stop there.]

Back to Gilead. A letter (a really long book length letter) written by an elderly dying preacher to his still young son. So that the son will know the father as he gets older.

It is nearly a year since Dad died. And this is what I think about. Gilead. The thoughts of a dying man. And I miss him.

To quote:

There have been so many fine days this summer that I’ve begun to hear talk of a drought. Whatever is coming I’d be sorry to miss it…

Dad died with a coming financial crisis that at least gave him an ironic laugh. Before swine flu, before Obama, before Spotify, before Transfarmer, before sitting here in a pub in Ballyconnell with me wishing i could give him a ring and laugh about it all.

Worth an extra non-dad related quote

He could knock me down the stairs and I’d have worked out the theology for forgiving him before  I reached the bottom. But if he harmed you in the slightest way, I’m afraid theology would fail me.

Last days of my bitter heart

I have big issues with happiness. Not that I object to it in principle. Enjoyment is pretty much what Christianity is all about for me, joy is a moral good and all that.

What i mean is that i find myself uncomfortable with it. I am suspicious of it. I listen to too much miserable music, i read too many miserable books, i love miserable movies. But never mind this, i have eyes to see that life is a long (though occasionally brief) stream of pain and suffering interrupted by periods of peace and joy.

Perhaps i jest. Perhaps.

Not that i am describing my life. My life is a long stream of privilege and blessing interrupted by the odd major life event but mainly lots of melancholic wallowing.

But when I am joyful i always have one eye on the pain. You can’t have the sweet without the sour (baby) as i learnt from Vanilla Sky. Or rather, Vanilla Sky articulated what i already supposed.

This has become more of an issue in the past year. Since Da dying and all that.

I struggle to remember him without bitterness – not in the sense of anger or regret, more in the sense of sadness. I cannot have the joy and the thankfulness without the pain of remembering.

Yes i rant about this a lot. About memory and its effect on me. That the older I get the more memories i accumulate and the slightly more unhinged i become.

Lewis wrote in the great divorce about how people wanted to bring hell with them to heaven. That hell wanted a veto on heaven. That because there was pain, there could be no joy.

So why does my memory of pain (not only Da, but all the horrible things that happen to people i love every day) get to veto joy?

Surely it’s not a question of veto? That something or someone should be able to shout down the whole affair. Yes there is truth that it’s rare to find the sweet without the sour but they do at least get to co-exist, not one eliminating the other.


I took a long walk here in the sun and i think i had my first purely joyful and thankful memories of dad. Toes in the ocean and all that.

When it feels like you are losing

Distinct lack of blogging over past week. Mainly cause I’ve been too depressed to even get out of bed. It has not been a good week. So it goes.

Nearly 6 months have gone by since Da went. And i haven’t the slightest clue what to make of it all. Too many memories. So it goes.

Life is not easy. This is probably elementary to most of you. It is likely as plain as the life before you.  I’m only beginning to get used to the idea.

Anyhow. Wrote a song. If you’re gonna feel miserable you may as well get something out of it.

The cost

Blogging while sleep deprived and a bit pissed off makes for good reading I expect but perhaps you say more than you meant to. I imagine this is the type of thing I’ll re tell on a comfy leather couch in about 20 years (or months depending on how it goes…)

The problem with medicine (says he, with finger pointed and all eyes watching the figure with the air of authority as he gets ready to put the world to rights…) is not neccessairily the medico-legal responsibilty.

Say that I cock up and kill someone, or miss something big or whatever – then there is a certain medico-legal responsibility that I have been negligent or incompetent and should (though not always and occasionally too often) face some kind of disciplinary action.

I figure I get paid for that kind of responsibility. That seems to be the way things work in the world, the more responsibility and education and learning you have the more you get paid. Like a top class economy crippling banker – you bring the world as we know it to an end and you still get your golden handshake…

[Although that is probably a tad unfair on the old bankers – no doubt they were unscrupulous and greedy but they were merely in the position to be so. Yes they’re bastards but I’m pretty sure we all are. Anyhow the dodgy millions they made are what paid the taxes that fund the whole NHS and now that their incomes (and tax revenues) are falling then the NHS will suffer. Anyhow it’s all a tad more complicated than a quick “bastards are bankers” “bankers are bastards” joke allows…]

Legal responsibility is one thing. Moral responsibility is a whole other kettle of fish.

You see that’s were the problem lies. I don’t give too much of a stuff about whether I’m legally responsible for a patient – fine sue me, see if i care. What I do care about is my moral responsibilty to the patient in front of me. Yes I am that self-righteously pious. It has taken years of practice believe me…

They turn up with their woes and sicknesses and it is to me they come. And me with my mythical diagnostic and healing powers, foisted upon me by a legacy of TV shows, movies and dishonest doctors, is the one that that has to give them some kind of answer and dare i say it – final solution to the whole mess. (No nazi killing reference intended…)

Do not get me wrong. I am not grumpy and moaning. I am not saying “why can’t you blood sucking parasites leave me alone and sort your own lives out and crawl into a corner and die as you best see fit”.

I enjoy the job. I enjoy that position. It is one of the highest honour and priviledges to face and speak to these people who are part scared, part hopeful, part accepting of what may lie before them.

It is the moral responsibility that I carry around with me. The simple notion that these people need sorted and that in essence is my job.

It is also what keeps me up till 3am worrying about all these little broken, sickly creatures wandering around out there in the community. It is what makes me come home and be grumpy with my house mates and my family. When you see me staring into space and grumpy and  uncommunicative I’ll either be thinking about Da or about all the patients I carry around with me in my head.

Without a doubt this is part of what makes me (i think) good at my job. It is also a large part of what makes me walk across the car park each day swearing inwardly at myself, the patients and the way we serve them.

While trying not to be too melodramatic – oh why the hell not… –  they come to me like ghosts, or apparitions, their faces, their names, their x-rays their CT scans, their veins and arteries and wounds all their weeping, worried relatives.

I have this uncanny knack of remembering every patient I’ve ever seen. Well not everyone but a scarily high proportion. I go in the cubicle and ask have i met them before then i’ll remember – you were in cubicle 4 two and a half years ago and you’d hurt your wrist and there was no fracture on the x-ray. Which is all very impressive till the patient says “oh yes but i came back a week later and the consultant said it was broken…” Which always takes me down a peg or two but I could do with that.

But i remember them all, the things we got right, the things we got wrong. Each one tells me a story.

I’m not entirely sure if all this psychotic craziness is since Da died or not. Certainly watching one of your own go through it makes you painfully aware of how important all this is. But I think I was like this to start with. Only now more so.

I sometimes I think I have a shelf-life, a period of time that I can pull this off for before it all comes crashing down around me and I end up pulling an into the wild and doing private practice as a dermatologist (awww that’s unfair on dermatologists, sorry…). I hope not.

“a man who has no memory has nothing left to hide… nothing and i like it…”

Fix you

I hate my 4 to midnight shifts. Well not hate, but I’m certainly not a fan.

I get up and eat bacon and clean the house and by 11.30 I’m ready to sit in front of the fire and read and listen to music till it all gets dark and I fall asleep.

But I can’t do this because I know that as soon as I get comfy and settled and onto the fourth cup of coffee it’ll be time to go to work and deal with all the sickly, grumpy, moaning, demanding people in work, never mind all the patients.


So I set aside little projects, little things to do. Like trying to finally fix my bike since the bastard let the tyres down outside work one day about 3 months ago.

Admittedly it is an old bike, possibly even older than me. I ask if it remembers the Falklands and the Iranian embassy siege or even when I was born but it just sits there and stares at me from under the blue tarpaulin.

You see it was never really my bike, it was always dads. This is why I like it. I like old broken things.

But just like most of the possessions and personality traits i have, i merely found it brought into my ownership by repeated “borrowings”.

I ask it if it remembers Dad, and where they used to go on it. And whether or not it was bought merely during the brief “keep fit” phase of his life when he bought that odd chest expander gym tool that neither me nor Simy could ever make any movement on.

I ask if it remembers the roads and hedges round Drumnacanvy, or the time I used to try it before my legs were long enough to touch the ground and i got scared.

Still it stares from under the tarp, its tyres bursting quicker than I can buy new ones from Halfords.

3 months since it has been in decent working order. All through winter, under the blue tarp, worrying bout where someone in the 21st century would get a 630-32 tyre to fit it.

In the end I didn’t. I got it a nice shiny continental brand 622-32 which despite messy hands and 2 hours effort I realised would not actually fit.

I was convinced it sniggered at me. Laughing at my greasy, swearing self.

I resorted to the old tyre but with a new inner. Only to find I couldn’t quite remember how to put the whole thing back together again.

I didn’t remember the gear mechanism being quite that complicated.

The bike stopped sniggering. I think it began to smell the fear. That maybe I couldn’t get it back together again. And I knew it was on the tip of its tongue, but too scared to ask. I could almost hear it whisper – why don’t you ask Dad?


April 2020