Day Three Hundred and Forty Seven: Remembrance

Today marks the second anniversary of my grandad’s death. I still think about him a lot and whenever I go to my dad’s house I always expect to see him sitting in his old seat at the head of the dining room table reading the newspapers with his spectacles on and using a magnifying glass to see the words properly. Just sitting there, occasionally with a beer or a guinness, chilling, reading the paper or doing the crossword.

It’s easy to be pragmatic about death, I think. We experience it every day in some way or another and we’ll all surely experience it at some stage in our lives. When someone close to you passes away it’s hard to be prepared for the emotional maelstrom that follows and although time shapes that whirlwind of feelings into something more manageable, that feel of loss never really disappears.

He was in his 89 when he passed meaning that he, of course, served in World War II. He was stationed on two ships which were sunk in the war. My grandad wasn’t the type who spoke often or about his experiences in the war. Although I wasn’t present when this particular story was told, it later turned out that when he was diagnosed with cancer he relayed a story to his doctor and those that were in the room with him about one of his experiences during the war.

My memory is a little hazy here and no doubt I’ll get corrected by family afterwards but here goes.

When one of the ships he was one was bombed (torpedoed?) by a German U-boat those who survived the blast abandoned ship. Having gotten himself to safety, one of his crewmates was still in the sea calling out for help. They were unable to save him despite their efforts. This was a story that had obviously stuck with my grandad for a long time but quite why he chose to tell it then is a mystery.

Nevertheless, the last thing he said to me and my brother as he was swept in and out of consciousness by waves of morphine was “Try to help people in any way you can”, advice which was perhaps influenced in some way by what he’d seen in the war.

I’ll never forget that moment when he imparted that final piece advice to us. It was late evening and the side ward he was in was very dim, the off pink colour of the room and its curtains had taken on a sort of soft burgundy hue. The bleeps and boops of the machines around him permeated the silence whilst my aunt sat beside him holding his hand. When he told us that advice it was a quiet, breathless voice. It’ll always stay with me.

The only tears I shed were on that night, in one of the waiting rooms next to his ward.

A few days later I was awoken with my dad phoning me telling me that he was coming over to my flat, something which had never done before and hasn’t done since, to tell me that he’d died.

Strange memories. Strange times.

Anyway, I didn’t want this post to become a sad one.

After the war my grandad received a few medals. Below you can see his record of service, medals and various other things relating to his service in the navy. Rather than focusing on his departure, today I’ll be remembering what he gave for this country and what a fine gent he was.

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Day Three Hundred and Eight: The Day the Music Died

For me at least, anyway.

I went to see Rise Against tonight for Daily Dischord. The performance was good and the review will follow very soon. Something else happened, however. I apologise for any typos; it’s late and I’m tired.

Since the age of 12 I’ve let music define my life. I’ve let it define who I am, what I do and the kind of person I should be. Over the years my desire to want to be involved with music never waned, but for a while I was set in my ways. Content with the music I had, liked and enjoyed. Probably a bad thing if you’re in a band, really, because influence should be a process. It’s a process that’s not just tied to aging, but tied to the kind of music you like as you age. In the past year or so that changed and I can honestly say that 2011 has been the year when I’ve been involved with music more than any other year of my life.

This is beside the point. Tonight, Jennifer and I saw Rise Against play for the seventh time (I think, might be more). The performance was adequate. More than adequate, in fact it was pretty good. A review will follow shortly, actually. Despite favouring their latest two records they put on a typically good show. The show was basically sold out, which is always pretty good for a punk rock show even if it’s a bigger venue. Anyway, something interesting happened. As I looked at the people around me I could see just how much this music meant to them. This might seem like a strange observation given my opening lines, but I don’t think I’ve ever truly paid attention to this in others because I, like those people, go to gigs to let it all out to music I identify with.

The crowd were pretty young (at least, the majority of those down the front were; the myth about older people standing at the back continues to contain a large element of truth) and all around us people were screaming their lungs out, hugging their friends, dancing around, crowd surfing and just generally engaging on the kind of catharsis only a punk rock show brings. For a long, long time I was one of these people. I would go see Rise Against, a band I think are probably my favourite band ever, and add my voice to theirs, pouring my heart out, engaging completely with what was unfolding on stage.

Tonight, however, all I felt was profound sadness. As I looked upon those emptying their emotions to their favourite songs it dawned on me that I had lost that connection with the band, with their music and, I guess most importantly of all, with that part of my youth. Maybe I’ve grown cynical but the music they’re producing now just doesn’t have the same effect on me as it used to and because of that, it’s difficult to really bring myself to engage with it the way I used too.

A part of my youth has vanished. A band that once meant so much to me, a band that inspired me to create my own band, write my own music and to get involved with music as much as possible have ceased to matter to me anymore.

As I sit here writing this I now realise that tonight was not the moment the connection was severed. No, on reflection it seems it’s been a gradual process. It’s not because they’re more popular now. It’s not because their message has changed over the years. It isn’t because they’re playing bigger venues. The fact that they’re on a major label hasn’t got anything to do with it. Their music has changed. Their intentions haven’t changed, the message remains the same, but the method of delivery is different from what it used to be. They’ve become a hard rock band – a very bloody good one, as things go – and they are no longer create music I feel that I can hold close to my heart any more.

Other bands fill that void for me now.

It was great to see such passion from others tonight; however it just reminded about how much things have changed. Those first four records will always be dear to me, though.
Tonight, their music died for me. It’s time to mourn it.

Day Eight: Revisiting Eden Redux

Having finally cleaned out the loft yesterday, I still had a whole bunch of other photos to upload.

If you’re interested, I’ve put them onto Flicker. The links are enclosed below. I did try to add a slideshow but wordpress is rubbish and doesn’t allow it.

First up – the loft it’s self. Before, during and after. We found a dead bird in there the first day, so on the second day I decided to cover my face. Sexy look, I’m sure you’ll agree. Also contained is a skip which is full with bags of rubbish we took out of there.

Next up is photos of all the toys I found in the loft that I felt were worth documenting. Some are interesting due to what they’re missing – the Red Skull with one leg, Cyclops with one arm and a Green Power Ranger without that gold shield thing he used to have. I’ve no idea what happened to these. I also found the Terminator car pretty ridiculous, and the Terminator inside has a rather funny expression.

As stated in yesterdays post, most of the stuff belonged to my mothers former partner. Here is some of the weirder stuff we found.

And finally, we found a bunch of photos. One day I’ll scan them and put them online somewhere. But we also found a whole bunch of toy cars, some of which you can see below. I was MAD for cars when I was younger. I could tell you the name, make and model of just about every car I seen on the street. The most pristine model I had is enclosed in the slideshow.

We also found a couple of report cards from my first two years at school which are also interesting. They say I liked reading, singing, music and computers. Nothing’s changed there, then, less than twenty years later! Alongside these, are images of my mums wedding ring, engagement ring and eternity rings that she had when she was married to my dad.

And that’s it! Thanks if you persevered with me through this. It’s been weird, but interesting and a lot of fun today. Normal service will resume on Monday. Hopefully I can update this later with actual slideshows if my internet connection plays ball.

Day Six: Sort Of

Although I’m loathe to put a post on here that is not creative, I’ve spent most of my day cleaning my mothers loft and had no time to properly sit down and pour over something creative.

I’ve made a video but alas, I do not have time to edit it. Instead, I took some pictures to show that I’m still making some kind of effort.

The state before the clear out.

There was a whole load of toys from when I was younger. I was particularly amused by these two:

THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR! With arm moving action.
TAXI! A toy London taxi in unusually pristine condition.

Found a ton of photos, including this one – the first photo ever taken of me.

Circa 1985

And a charming first school photo.

Circa...1992 or something.

I’m also doing the same thing tomorrow, but by then I’ll have a ton more stuff to show you. Hopefully.

That video will follow soon, I suspect.