A Birthday Poem – Just Another Day

Just Another Day

Today is just a day,
just like any other day,
just like any other time,
could be any other place.

Just another day.

You know this is your day,
and I’m just waiting here,
letting sorrow form and swell,
how hollow is the chest
that dwells?

I am holding onto tears,
beats thinking of the loss,
that I must shoulder on…
there I go,
feeling sorry for myself.
fuck it…

Just another day

No nearby grave for me to wail upon,
I cannot stand on the shore,
near to the dank earth that cocoons your ashes,
not the time to spend that pain,
to let my thoughts suppurate.

Just another day

An age has torn my memories apart,
each moment a thief steals a little more
sucked into a vomit of confusion,
fading to phantoms.

We become jolly fucking spectres,
half remembered dreams or wishes,
lost futures,
regrets that passed.

Just another day

I see you in photographs,
but the heart only knows your touch.

Just another day

In brief moments I see your face,
in the crowd,
your figure,
your gait,
but they are strangers,
it’s a stolen wish.

Just another day

Time passes,
day by day,
things submerge,
aches shrouded in layers,
I think of you,
my life can’t bear the loss,
So I bury you again,
day by day.

Just another day,
could be any other day,
just a birthday.

Notes

My best friend, probably the only person who rivals my wife in terms of how they have utterly changed me passed away last year. She would have been 47 this year. I still miss her. I still have so much to say to her.

Jane loved almost everything I ever wrote. It was a a tradition when i was at college and university that I would write a poem for my friends on their birthdays. Mostly silly stuff (I’m a terrible poet IMOO), but I would write them. People liked them.

I stopped doing it when Leigh wrote one for my birthday that was an epic, and one of my most treasured possessions (now matched by mini-voodoo-woollen me).

This year it came back. Because that’s how I feel. I miss my friend. I think I had one of the greatest platonic love affairs in history. I loved her deeply as a friend, a mentor, a guide and like a child, a sister or a parent. She was all that to me. She was a guiding force of morality, kindness and thought. She utterly changed everyone she touched and I will never stop missing her.

Specific memories fade. But the effect will not.

I miss you Jane. I miss my friend. Happy Birthday.

Rejected Lines

1.

Just another day,
could be any kind of day,
was just your birth day,
(but you had gone away,
you could never stay,
lost into the fray…),

2.

for shits and giggles easy rhymes say living all the fears,

Related Posts:

Doughnut, A Eulogy in Two Parts – Fit The First

Doughnut, A Eulogy in Two Parts – Fit the Second

Ere I am J.H.

 

“It was the best of times…”

“…it was the worst of times”

For those of you in the know the quote is of course from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it may have also been the start to some Victorian Novel by Charles Dickens called Tale of Two somethings-or-another.

So why am I using it?

Well it is simple, 2017 has been both a horrid and good year for me. I am going to Vaguebook a little and not fill in the exact details of what made it either bad or good. It just was.

This is just me off-loading a little to the world and saying that 2017 despite how it looked from the outside was pretty much a massive up and down period in which far too much shit hit the fan at the same time as having some excellent moments.

Is there a real message that I want people to take away from reading this? Probably not. Just that you can have both amazing and awful at pretty much the same time. You can have life-changing times where you learn from both the positive and negative things that occur.

How about 2018?

Well I wish I could say that there is some new dawn, a brightest time approaching, but there likely isn’t. It looks to be both up and down as well.

At this point life is a roller-coaster. I am affected by so many other forces that I cannot actively control the destination, but I am able to help navigate the path and in doing so maybe make it a road easier to travel.

So what was this?

Did you not read the part about vaguebooking? I am marking a point. It is the end of the year and I wanted to place a reference that it was bad, and also good. I wanted to remember that despite all the pain of 2017, there was also some massive highs.

In life we often focus too much on the lows and they can stay with us for so much longer. Especially grief and loss. So the good things that happened at the same time can become consumed by the bad.

So this is a marker to remind me that it wasn’t my horrible year (I’m not the Queen, I don’t do Latin). It was both good and bad. In fact it was probably both the best and the worst.

The ‘Approved’ Conundrum

There is a well known parents website (whose title suggests a single gendered focus) who have become an increasingly powerful presence and influencer. Quite recently I have noticed with increasing frequency that their awards or recommendations for products are now appearing on the packaging of those products.

I have no issue with this happening as the site should rate things if it wishes and getting crowd-funded response helps other consumers, so all good. But there is an issue and I think it will worsen and is unbalanced in regards to objective rating.

Advertising

The site has paid advertising and sponsored products. It also has competitions for submitting reviews on particular products. It has vouchers and offers that are exclusive to its readers. Now any one of these shows some slight favour, but nothing ‘bad’, right?

The reviews of the products are fair (broadly) and the way the ratings work is by mob decision, so that isn’t bad. Except I think you could game this system and get good response and I will highlight one way I can think of.

I have a product, it isn’t unique but it is new to my company. I want a high pickup and I want awards so the new product will fly off the shelves, I also want stores to stock it so need a high demand.

  1. Send free review copies to site owners in a fancy box with a few extra goodies as thanks for reviewing, but don’t insist on a good review. (This tactic will influence people, we all like being treated well).
  2. Offer a lot of discounts to visitors of these sites, make them special. (Increase demand).
  3. Run a competition that anyone can enter (spreading the word).
  4. Run promotion at the people who enter competitions or use discount codes to get further discounts on products and special extras and mention that a good review is loved, even tell people of the special packages that some reviewers get. (This will help to reposition any 3.5 out 5 star reviews into being a 4 – you want to be fair but 3.5 is almost 4 right?)
  5. Any site where the reviews are more positive and increasing push further offers and targeted advertising.

There is no guarantee that this will absolutely work, but if the product is good enough and you keep it subtle but pervasive you will see a change in behaviour and uptake.

Conclusion

So I think that you have to treat this in a balanced way. If you are a product advertiser who gets an award on a site like this then you shouldn’t advertise on the site. It is too much collusion and too much chance of bias.

Put it this way, if you had a bad review on the site and a worst product award you wouldn’t spend any money there and would consider it toxic. I think you have to do the same if you have great reviews.

It is a way of keeping a moral equilibrium. If you are the site owners you maybe want to think about the whole model you have created. A system that allows direct influence via numerical reward for products that (although may be fairly reviewed and loved) directly influence people’s spending has a responsibility to be fair.

You can’t be fair when someone is throwing money at you and your model is to take their discounts, advertising and free products. It is always going to affect your rating either positively or negatively.

</rant>

Love Your Community Feedback

This is just a quick post to note down a thing that I like to do and that I would encourage others to do. We all have communities whether we realise it or not, we have peers, friends, online groups and like-minded followers.

Most of us post to social media, or to private forums, or just to closed groups, and at some point you are going to say something daft, or make an error like a bad C&P, or (as is frequently the case) technology betrays you.

At some point someone is going to correct you.(1) If you say something in public they are likely to respond in the same public way. You can do two things about this:

  1. Fix it but get all butt-hurt at them for mentioning it.
  2. Fix it and thank them properly in the same public forum.

I like to opt for Option 2.(2)

Now sometimes it is especially sensitive, or you get supremely embarrassed by being corrected, you basically prefer that people correct you in private. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do option 2. It means you need to reinforce your preferences with that person so they know for next time.

As mst is always saying to me: ‘don’t attribute to malice what can easily be explained away as ignorance’.

Sometimes you need to educate people as to your preferences, and sometimes you need to tell them more than once. Doesn’t mean you need to get butt-hurt when they try and help you. You thank that person, they took the time to engage.(1)

(1) Even if they did it to be mean, small-minded, or have a sense of superiority. You get to be the better person by having the decency to reward their efforts.(2)

(2) If I ever manage to do this consistently I will be amazed as I am nothing, if not, a hypocrite who has to write blog posts to remind himself to be a better person.

So Very Busy

There is an old adage that if you want anything done then you should find a busy person and ask them to help…

So there are two parts to that. Either they are busy because they are always efficient and can handle a great deal of things, or they are the sort of happy moron who just cannot say no to helping people.

I am in the latter category.

Whih is why I am so very busy all the time and do not think that I at all organised about it.

Well enough of this, stuff to do.

Ere I am J.H.

[Last night, Monday 31st July, we scattered my friends ashes in a small ceremony near Friar’s Crag on Derwent Water in the Lake District. I naturally took the opportunity to write some more about her to share with the people who attended. It is reprinted here for everyone else.]

In Terry Gilliam’s seminal film Brazil we have an underlying narrative about existence, reality and the nature of understanding. How we can construct realities and not see the world around us. How we can live our life in a dream and be perfectly content despite the horrifying monotony of the industrialised world and corporate government bureaucracy that dominates and controls us.

The main protagonist in the film slowly has the perfect construct of his world stripped away. He is our dreamer and we get to watch his dreams, his flights of fantasy where he escapes and becomes a hero, an angel, a saviour.

He is a Walter Mitty who hides his feelings, and nature, and escapes to his fantasy world. As the film progresses, in its real world, our protagonist finds excitement and love before it is all torn from him.

The film ends with an escape from reality into a final dream world where a lost love is regained and happiness is ever after. A contrast between what is nightmare and dream, real and unreal, our dialogue on understanding.

Only we as an audience know that the dark reality continues.

“I thought the world of you
I thought nothing could go wrong
But I was wrong, I was wrong”
(Linger, The Cranberries, Written by Noel Anthony Hogan, Dolores Mary O’riordan • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group)

It is strange that I would discuss that with you as it seems to have no relationship to Jane. I mentioned in my eulogies at the Funeral and Memorial Service that Jane and I had a shared passion in art, in literature, film and theatre. We would often discuss movies not just in how we liked them but looking for their deeper themes and relationships and comparing them to our own existence.

This is generally the manner in which we spoke, this is the discourse we would fall into within minutes of seeing each other. Barely had the pleasantries of trip and life passed before some theme, meme or fancy would fly out and we would tease and discuss it. We did this type of discussion about most things and so I decided to use the same rhetoric with you all today. I wanted to talk to you as if you were her.

This film Brazil, though, came to my mind specifically when I was deciding what to talk about today, and at the end I will let you know why.

But first I want to mention what I miss the most about Jane, what is still burning in my mind and ripping away at my heart.

You might have noticed that I am a bit of a talker. I waffle along, making loose associations and connections, letting my thoughts wander and my narrative runs with it. I said before that I am a weave talker and so was Jane. I like mixing things and repeating, like a musical from the mind of a maniac.

But I also love the thrust of good argument, and like heated passionate debate. That style of discussion means that hurt feelings can occur. So in my life I have probably had a shouting rant with almost everyone I have met or come to know as friends.

Except one.

To my recollection Jane and I never argued from mere emotions. We had heated debate and disagreement but not bad feeling. We never upset each other or shouted from a purely emotional stance.

It wasn’t that we were cold and calculated, far from it, I just said I was passionate and so was Jane. It was more that the other person usually had constructed a clever position so that you couldn’t get mad it was too much fun being taxed into thinking how to counter what they were saying.

Also Jane was phenomenally good at using a sarcastic swipe to end a discussion and change tactic. I think that Jane was one of the people in my life who knew me on a very deep level for so long that we almost wore each other’s skin. We knew how the other person would think and feel.

What tears at me is that I will never have those conversations, I will never learn from her again, and I did learn from her. I know that Jane was one of my great teachers. A person who was not only my friend, my confidant in many ways, but she also had a lot to show and I had a lot that I had to learn.

The last thing that Jane had to teach me she did so after she died. I have lost a lot of people I know, we all do. I lost my grandparents when I was young and although I know I was sad, I wasn’t that sad as I was too young.

I lost my father when I was in my twenties but that wasn’t that sad, he was estranged and I hardly knew him to understand if I cared that much about his passing, even now I feel ambivalent to his death. He wasn’t that good to my mother and he seemed to care very little for me.

I have seen friends die but no one this close. Jane is the first person that I have lost who was so close to me that we were close family, we were siblings. Jane gave me a final lesson, a study in grief.

Had I lost someone this close who I didn’t have such a conversive relationship with it would be different I think. I find myself talking to her, like now, as if she was still there. This whole narrative, like the two other eulogies I wrote is made for her to hear, for her to approve of, for her to discuss with. I can wear her skin and know which bits she will smile at, which bits will make her roll her eyes and when she will touch my arm with quiet understanding or hug me to let a feeling be shared.

I wish I had never learned this lesson, I cannot really thank her for it. I wish she was still here to tell me to cheer up and not be such a miserable old bugger. I miss my friend.

I do though thank her for all the things she did have time to teach me. Jane had the most profound effect on the way that I discussed and thought about things, she still has that effect as I am drastically changed from knowing her. Meeting her at University at a point where I was expanding my thinking and seeing someone who was so clever, incisive, kind, cutting and funny without being selfish or malicious changed the way I am.

Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was
Someone else, someone good
(Lou Reed, Perfect Day)

Last week would have been Jane’s 9th wedding anniversary, and the great constructs that are Facebook and Google reminded me of this. Facebook showed me memories and asked me to reshare my day from nine years ago while Google did an On This Day collage of wonderful pictures of Jane.

Once again she haunted my whole day and every time I looked around I was sure I caught a glimpse of her. I could see her looking up at me eyes glinting from some secret thought, smile broadening as she was about to share some special insight. Again I was thinking about loss and I avoided songs.

I have been avoiding some songs. Some that we knew together, some that we didn’t really listen to with each other but they make me think of her. They bring her back to be an emotion colouring my day.

I was thinking that I would share another anecdote with you. I could talk about the time we drove Jane to London just before her Kidney operation. None of us wanted to talk as we had spoke all weekend and this was possibly a last goodbye. We had Sara Cox  on the radio and she had asked for stories of things that you had to do that were scary, she was facing a horse riding adventure and was worried about it.

Nathan, Leigh and I were with Jane and she sent the message about going for her operation and a song request. Neither Nathan or I can recall the requested song.[*] We spent all of that journey waiting without relief for the song to be played and just as we pulled up to stop the text was read out and Sara played the song. It was a good sign, a sign of hope.

I asked Nathan if he could recall which song it was as my memory was failing me but like me he had so many other thoughts from that day that the song escapes us both. A fragment of history whisked away by time and other feelings.

The differences between the organic and the inorganic, the people and the machine. One remembers and the other knows how to forget.

Our technology mirrors the construct of our minds, sometimes. Designed and built by humans the machines follow the same patterns and emulate the same abilities and affinities.

Even as machines and the software that controls them start to automate the construction and design of their own systems, it too is mirroring nature. The algorithms used to programmatically determine the outcome follow numerical values and are based around naturally deterministic systems. Machines will follow a society as much as we have for we are creating them to understand the meaning and not just the structure of reality. We create complex computer languages that underpins their relationships and understanding.

The dimension we can loosely call cyberspace is an exo-brain for the species, an extension of our shared, and maybe collective, consciousness. As a species our experience of the world is grounded in our interactions and shared definitions. So too is our relationship in the growing online world.

No Last Wishes

I see glimpses of you,
They drift across my mind,
Darkness closes in,
Smiles shift to tears.

Thinking of your words,
Phrases I thought I’d lost,
Memories left to haunt,
Emphasize, and punctuate, sorrow.

I’d trade all the time we shared,
Just to hear your voice,
Just to see your smile,
Just to hold you close.
(Mark Keating, 2017)

My memory already fades and moments of my friend seem to untether and slip away, when I think of her I see a lot of pictures and occasionally a shared experience. But the photos and electronic material are so much richer in colour and definition.

What they don’t have is her touch. If I focus hard I can feel her touch on my hand, the last gentle squeeze of friendship, the last hug where we kissed cheeks and she held the back of my neck.

I loved my friend. It was the love of a brother to a sister or a child to a parent. She was my family.

All that remains are the fragments inside my mind, the human machine, and the ephemera in cyberspace.

In Brazil the protagonist’s father is called Jeremiah, and that name is used as an anagram in an unlock code. In a direct quote from the film a character reveals the code when he tells the hero:

“‘Ere I am, J.H. …The ghost in the machine.”

Jane Haggerstone, who became Jane Harvey, my own JH. I came here to say goodbye one last time.

But I keep the spectres of her as electronic ephemera, shadows and reflections in my thoughts, and the lingering pain, a loss, in my heart.

Here you are Jane, a ghost in this machine.

[*] After reading this Leigh has made the point that we may not have requested a song but merely offered a text explaining what the thing was we feared. This would likely explain why we cannot recall what song was played. Nathan attempted to contact Sara Cox but had no reply by the time we had the service.

Facebook: the Sniper

Be wary as you travel the various plains of Facebook timelines as you will no doubt, if you have not been already, the subject of a sniper.

A sniper will hide in the tall grass and wait for their victim, when they engage with you it is by means of clever comment to your posts or by a subtly worded post of their own. The effect is still the same, however, you have been taken down by their superiority.

The Facebook Sniper is a perfidious breed, often greatly intelligent, insightful and witty they hone their skills not to engage, support and encourage but to destroy. They seek to balance some level of negative self-esteem by seeking superiority over others.

Their attacks are clever, always tilted to sound reasonable, balanced and above all passive, but the this is just a ruse. In truth it is an assault, intended to rile while providing the sniper with sufficient cover to hide. They draw you out to their killing ground where they can claim a justifiable kill. If you engage with a sniper it will look as if you instigated the assault and they will rally others to watch their kill.

They are a player of tiny games, seeking to lift themselves high by standing on the corpses of their kills, do not engage with them, you will lose.*

* An interesting note should be made that by publishing this post I am in fact doing approximately the same as the Facebook: Sniper myself in that I am drawing out a certain type of person into my killing ground. This realisation demoralises me slightly yet does not stop me posting 😉

Facebook: the Sharer

This Facebook type is the constant Sharer. You know the time of day by the sudden rush of shares from their timeline as they push item after item onto their feed.

Often they follow other Sharer’s, they work best when they are in packs, passing the same tired item from feed to feed in a ceaseless bid to prove that they are socially savvy.

This type is not usually a content creator, if they do update their feed or supply something new it is often another bid for attention, to be noticed.

Their deep inner need is to be noticed, to be admired for their ability to spot interesting content and to supply them to a waiting crowd of admirers. They are less prone to ‘Like’ or engage by comment with an original producer of material.

At the core their is a deep inner need to be noticed or admired which they try to encourage by being the joker, the iconoclast, the modernist or the reactionary. In reality they are rarely anything but. Often conservative, dour and traditionalist the Sharer just wants to be admired, noticed and loved.

Phrase that you imagine them saying: “Look at this cool thing I found!”.

Wonder…

I am always surprised at people who cannot find any wonder in their lives at all. I don’t mean people who are suffering, I mean the everyday folk who just cannot see any glory about them.

Every single atom of your being was made in the centre of a nebula. We are all literally made of the same stuff that the universe is constructed from. Each moment that passes sees atoms replaced so that you are constantly in a state of flux and being remade with new ‘stardust’ – we are as the hippies would have it, star children, we are made of stars – what is not wondrous about that?

If you like you can apply this to a theistic evolutionary model, personally I don’t but that’s a preference. I can certainly see the argument and have offerred it to those people who are confounded by the whole creationism/evolutionary argument as an olive branch.

This would only be my first thought about the wonder around me, I can quickly find many others, both natural* and man-made. In the world of man I personally like to think about great architecture, both modern and ancient, and find the wonder that the designers, builders and labourers must have had when they created such magnificent works. There is a glory in ome design that to me is wondrous.

Then there is the natural world, a love of the BBC Nature programs, and of David Attenborough, has instilled in me (and I think almost every other British person) a sense of wonder at the natural* world.

However, to not find wonder in the world at all, to be dour because being filled with amazement is too much like hard work, is to be quite a sad.

* I use the term with caution as I am tired of people who use ‘natural’ to mean ‘good’ and man-made to mean ‘unnatural’ or ‘bad’, specifically in the world of science. I am of the opinion that nature endowed us with the capacity to construct science and from that we create things so how exactly is that ‘unnatural’, it is ‘natural’ to the species.