RIP, my lovely father, my hero …

I cannot find the words to describe how I feel, but a kind friend reminded me of this poem …

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.


the language of a disease …

I’m not entirely sure how to start this particular post, or whether it is appropriate that I should write about the man lying in the hospital bed beside me as if he is no longer with us … One of the things doctors are very keen to get through to you about cancer is that there is no cure; one only discusses the future in terms of survival, but alas for my father, the prognosis is, as one oncologist suggested, ‘very bleak indeed’.

Personally, I find the whole language surrounding cancer very … disengaging to the point of frustration. It is after all, one of the biggest killers of the human race, and so it seems a little disingenuous and totally baffling why people give it pet names like the Big C, as if to call it by its full name might somehow incite the wrath of the god of acronyms and bring about an earlier end for the victim.

At the other extreme, cancer also brings with it a whole unsavoury smorgasbord of technical vocabulary. There are abbreviations that require early familiarisation, cold-sounding terms such as HCC, AFP, CT, MRI, TACE, PEI. You also learn very early on which words are your friends and which ones are your enemies: metastasize, for example, is not a friendly word. And even when the doctors use big powerful terms like Interventional Radiology, Chemo Embolization and Radio Frequency Ablation, one gets the feeling that these action words promise so much, but yet deliver precious little. In the end, there is only one term that matters, and it is associated with a number. Unluckily for my father, his initial diagnosis cited Hepatocellular Carcinoma with a Staging of 4 – which basically means, he was fucked from the word ‘Go’.

I’m spending a second night with my dad who is in the palliative unit at Mount Miriam Hospice, Penang. I’ve heard people talk about the fragility of life before but never really understood its meaning but here, in this dark room I get it, I mean I really get it.

Imagine this setting: initially, your senses are drawn to the comforting hum of the air-conditioning unit which provides a calming backdrop for the oxygen pump which adds a water feature to this happy landscape with what sounds like bubbles dancing on an icy lawn. But this audial nirvana is short lived because you soon learn to look out for the little mechanical ‘whizz click’ sounds made by the automatic timed dispenser as it releases more morphine into the bloodstream. You look out for these tiny clicks because you know that they will take away the frowns from the forehead of a man who is trying not to wince from the pains of cancer that has already consumed his liver, lungs and bones.

But the sound that rips through the quiet hospital corridors in the early hours of the morning and reverberates incessantly around the room is the dyspnea – the hopeless and most pitiful sound of a short-breathed man who is using his entire torso to draw every last molecule of oxygen into his body in order to stay alive.

the demons of capitalism …

Unless you have retreated to a yurt in deepest Mongolia, it would have been difficult to miss the headlines of meltdown in the global financial markets in recent days. But, tucked in a corner of yesterday’s FT was a curious rallying call by David Cameron to not allow the ‘lefties’ to destroy capitalism by putting the blame of the recent crises on ‘this important part of the British and world economy’. Excuse me???

When Gordon Gecko espoused the virtue of greed in the 80’s, Wall Street was awash with city yuppies with fast cars, and faster incomes. Two decades later, it seems not much has changed – the financial instruments have evolved in technicality but the basic desire to get rich quick is more prevalent, albeit a little less transparent. Today, simple debts have been transmogrified into complex securities and bonds, to the point that no party in the food chain fully understands the risks … until it’s too late, when bad creditors default on mortgage payments and savers like you and me start withdrawing our hard earned cash from the banks, thus fueling a bank run like the one we witnessed on Northern Rock. But as someone observed, banks buy long and sell short – that is what a bank does – so when they to use funds from their retail business (our money, and ultimately our pensions) to gamble in complex products in the wider financial markets … AND lose, should we feel sorry when we see images on the telly of jobless bankers and their sad office boxes walking out of the building of a collapsed bank? I think not!

I suppose the irony of the Lloyds and HBOS merger is not lost on the ‘lefties’ either: in the golden days of capitalism, mergers were used to promote growth and now they are being used for reasons of survival, and in the case of HBOS, handed on a silver platter to Lloyds TSB with the full blessing of the UK government. Whilst I agree that administrations have a duty to maintain financial stability, I can’t help thinking that perhaps it may be worthwhile to do nothing, thus sinking the economy in order to teach banks a lesson in liquidity and risk management. The only problem is that the collateral damage in these sorry times are folks like you and me – people who would feel the pain from a greed we never subscribed to. And the medicine used by governments to cure this ailment? Oh, that will be taxpayers’ money too. Someone please explain to me how this is good …

social networking 2 …

I had hoped to break radio silence with a more uplifting post rather than returning to an old paradox that has been playing on my mind these past few months – that of online friendships. Loyal readers of this dusty corner of blogosphere may be familiar with a previous entry where I contended a somewhat cynical explanation for the explosion of social networking sites; that we use them to actively seek out long lost friends to satisfy ourselves of our comparative position on the social ladder, so that we do not need to feel inadequate in any way about our own modest achievements. 

What utter poppycock!

Perhaps experience hardens our hearts and age softens our judgement but I must admit surprise at myself sometimes for writing some of the drivel I write. You see, on the question of online correspondence, there is and can only be one simple purpose – it is the opening gambit in a game of chess, a prologue to a yet unwritten book, a precursor to something that may become very special, or putting it in terms of today’s financial language – it is an investment for a future wealth that cannot and will not be realised … until friends actually physically meet!

Someone once said, if you want to bring someone into your life, you need to take a step into theirs. And last night, I made a move which hopefully will earn me a place in this person’s life. It helped that we shared some memorable times in the past, but we could have easily continued to ‘message’ each other without ever meeting and in doing so, lose the opportunity to become great friends.

on social networking sites …

So, good people – are sites like Facebook, MySpace, Friendster and dare I mention Bebo a curse on modern society or an asset? Discuss.

I’ve procrastinated my deliberations on this very topic until now for a couple of reasons: firstly, it was necessary to amass enough entries on one’s ‘my friends’ list to enable useful analysis (afterall, one swallow does not a summer make!) and then, I needed to find and get in touch with an old friend the old fashioned way, i.e. by picking up the telephone.

It is recognised that humans are a gregarious species, so why do we cower behind our computer screens, preferring to deliver one-liners to friends we have recently rediscovered, rather than pick up the phone to arrange a reunion? I partially accept that physical vanity may be to blame – faces do get wrinklier, breasts inevitably succumb to gravity, and tummies and hairlines do the inversely proportional thing of enlarging while the other recedes. Or perhaps, I suggest, there is another more sinister explanation.

The Singaporeans call it kia su [lit. fear of losing] which loosely translates to that western nirvana of not only just keeping up with the Joneses, but to excel and be king of the hill, top of the heap. And whereas it might have been possible for friends and colleagues to disappear after school/university and retreat to places where one is considered a bigger fish in a smaller sea (e.g. the so-called White flight of city dwellers to the countryside, emigration to Australasia etc), today the phenomenon of the Internet has brought us back together with a big awakening bang. Not only has it shattered all geographical boundaries (real and notional), it has also created a global village where peer pressure is now on steroids, and living an ordinary existence is about as appealing as a fungal infection in the groin 😉 You can run, you may even choose to hide … and succeed … but god help you if the commit the mortal sin of coming out and admitting to mediocrity, online or worse, in person!

Tomorrow I have an opportunity to telephone someone I have not seen in over 25 years. Back in those carefree days and what seemed like a lifetime ago, we didn’t have much to worry about – hell, we didn’t even worry about worrying! But I wonder – will we be more guarded on the phone or perhaps there is something to be said for getting through the ice breaking ceremony semi-anonymously via email. Churchill once observed We are stripped bare by the curse of plenty – his comment may yet have some relevance in our 21st century techno-rich world …

work work work …

Unlike last year, I celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau a couple of Thursdays ago in the relatively quiet surroundings of my kitchen with a rather generic and instantly forgettable bottle of George duBoeuf. Still, wine is wine and we all need an excuse to be merry especially right now, when the weather outside is cold and wet, and the prospect of staying indoors can only mean one thing: slaving away at the computer, righting a few corporate wrongs, and generally getting on with mortgage repayment activities.

So, some recent diversions and distractions have proved to be much needed life savers – such as my bebo page, the latest 007 outing with Daniel Craig, J2’s birthday party at Laserquest, and of course, my imminent visit to Marrakech.

Life could be worse, I suppose …

have you been waiting long …


Yesterday, J & I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary – that’s twice the average shelf-life of a marriage these days. But if one begins to itch at 7 years, surely it is only natural to develop an insatiable rash at 14?! Not so Sherlock. And as I managed to forget to buy SWMBO a card, penitence involved a quick dash into town to procure some floral bribes (see pic above), arranged by Yours Truly. Don’t they look pretty?

I’m not sure that I should celebrate my return to regular blogging with a confession of a latent interest in flower arranging, but somehow one needs a way to break the ice after 8 weeks of radio silence – and needless to say, much has happened in that time – J1 started at secondary school,

there was that *long* week-end in Champagne/Paris transforming David’s flat into a Pussy Palace,

and another one in Dublin generally chilling with the in-laws over a pint of Guinness (or four),

and that time when I turned my hand to decking and changed the back garden from this:

to this:

and of course the highlight … my milestone birthday party in late September (sorry guys no pics of the stripper as this is strictly a family blog 😉 ) which reunited a number of good friends, including some who diligently visit this rather dusty corner of blogosphere. Life may very well begin at 40, but I rather suspect that brain cell decay begins to accelerate exponentially henceforth to the extent that it becomes more challenging to put pen to paper … well, fingers to keypad. Anyway, that’s my excuse for this barren period in this blog’s history and I’m sticking to it!

But fear not loyal readers, for I have a cunning plan. At the risk of turning myself into a stats whore, I’ve decided to give my blog a mini theme. More will be revealed in the coming days …