Category: writing

2/n

Grief is an odd thing. (Honestly I would laugh at such a trite opening sentence but I wrote it.)

I mean it is horrid, and it is cruel, and it is frustrating, heartbreaking, really just add whatever words that feel like you want to tear your own heart out here, as that’s what it can feel like, it’s basically a bag of shit…

I am in my fifties, clearly this is not the first time I have felt grief. I am still grieving over the loss of a good friend from 4 years past. And in some deeply sarcastic coinciclasm that was also in fucking April. I am not over it and I will have to pass that anniversary while grieving for my sister, in fact before my sister’s funeral I have an anniversary of a time I still cannot get over, so many regrets and so much loss. 

So, I have compounded my grief. And now I have mentioned it I honestly don’t know which grief is truly which. I don’t know if I am feeling different things because  of this. I don’t know because I can’t separate similar emotions, and I don’t know if the more recent emotions bring fresh the past.

The recent grief or the memory of grief. And whether I should even realise that I am comparing how different they are, like it matters what the level is, is this in some kind of grading… more on that later…

But this grief is different. But all grief is different. This is the first member of my close family I have lost. Someone who has been there every moment of my life and isn’t any more.

Thankfully I have had the option of hiding away for some of the week to process my thoughts and feelings (I have to say ‘Thankfully’, because I am thankful for this. But I also think I am being stupidly selfish and almost vindictive, hiding away to shield myself from others.). 

I have also had to deal with funeral directors and the coroner’s office, my sister had to have an autopsy to determine the cause of her death. This just extends the process. It is as if we can’t let her go as there is no understanding as to why she died. The physical cause, I should not have to say. So dealing with the practical aspects is a blessing in that I can focus my feelings. It is a curse as I have to deal with it and then be the emotional gatekeeper of each new piece of information.

Does this affect the grief? A little but maybe not that much. Or maybe to a great degree. I don’t have the introspection to know differently. I think it is just a factor in the process but it isn’t a motivator for much. Some confused feelings, some anger at having to wait, to have no explanation, to have nothing to blame. Then when we know, anger, relief and sadness as if it was just a death. there is no easy anger. There is no fault that was obvious. There was just a long series of compounding factors. No easy route to blame. So it just makes it more conflicted, more unresolved feelings.

But the grief would have all of those even if the situation was clearer.

There is this thing where if you are sad, if you are grieving, it is like you shouldn’t be laughing, or enjoying something. that you shouldn’t eat, or drink, just mourn in quiet loneliness or beat your chest in an agony of despair, or something (please fill in a standard socially acceptable response at this junction). It can be a bit of a grief ritual, it can be a bit grief shaming, it can be a bit grief competition.

When public figures die we often see people giving extended diatribes on how the grief has affected them. The media and focus of others doesn’t help in this. But it feels as if we end up wallowing in loss that has nothing to do with what we lost. We also try to justify, qualify, or worse compete to show our grief.

I want to say it is sickening, and in some ways it can become that way, but it isn’t. It is just processing errors. the inability to be able to functionally interpret how to respond in each given social situation based on how others are responding. In other words, people make people worse when we grieve. We all grieve in similar patterns, but our grief is our own and we deal with it in our own way.

So grief has you laughing at stupid things that are not that funny as a release from the crying at the things that you just can’t fucking change at all.

* A brief interlude while I go away to be sad, like you’d notice since you get this all in one flow *

So there are seven stages of grief, you can go and look them up I am not going to Google it for you. I broadly see how they categorise them, and right now you should have guessed by this sentence that I don’t think that does anything other than help us rationalise this.

As if you can rationalise looking at a minecraft t-shirt and feeling deeply sad that it means something that would have lifted someone momentarily. A smile in a world that can sometimes be hard. That would make someone feel good about something they did. But that moment is now forever gone and the joy it would have brought is a moment of loss that it never happened. That’s grief. 

Reconcile it. 

I am not saying we can’t rationalise, I am not saying we can’t even gain comfort of closure from understanding how it is actually a beneficial memory (run it all to its course and it actually is) but it can’t be reconciled. It could only have been reconciled if the event had happened. It can’t ever happen. It just gets pulled into your moments of grief that you can categorise into seven distinct phases.

Like how I can’t separate my feelings between my grief at the loss of a friend who died 4 years ago (a few days from now) and the death of my sister who died two weeks ago. I can’t separate the feelings and so now I worry that I am doing some injustice to one of them.

I only know that they both meant a great deal to me.

They were both quite exceptional people.

I am begining to really fucking hate April.

1/n

Where am I right now?
I’m thinking, or is that drinking?
Oh I am absolutely drinking (I would say deinitely but I forgot how to pronounce it).
my sister was kind.
But where am I?
Somewhere in the land of the lost. Slightly dramatic. But that is where I am. Having to deal. Things are real. My sister died.
People die.
They do. There is no escaping it. Though saying it that way is like saying ‘all lives matter’, as in context M’FO.
Why am I writing this?
She died suddenly. Quickly. Heart-wrenchingly…
There has to be a coroner’s thing…
We can’t even register her dead and do the paperwork fully thing…
We can do some of that thing…
I am also the one doing that thing. I am not alone, I am just… taking the stance that my family are too heartbroken to take…
She was the oldest of my mother’s children. I am the youngest. I am also the one who does this sort of organising paperwork thing. I am the one who thinks in the straight line objective ways. I am critical. I am objective. Basically I can be a logical/rational/unemotional cunt (please excuse the gender-specific abuse and fuck the fucking-fuck-fuck out of any wankery about cussing).
I don’t have typical (neuro or social) habits, friends, family, close relations. In fact if you took a survey I wouldn’t hit average for pretty much everyone in my life. Except me, and I am not sure about me. Unless the survey had the question ‘does anyone in your life exhibit x non-typical feature’ as a standard base of inclusion…
I have also seen dead people before. Several. I have dealt in this area. I have a way of martialling what needs to be done. I can COMPARTMENTALISE.
I am also the one who would be angry if I wasn’t the one doing this as it is fucking stupid to make anyone else do it. On that note, my family would do anything they had to, they never made me do this. I pretty much manipulated the circumstances where I am doing this. And thank fuck I did. My heart is breaking at the loss of my sister. I would be fucking manic if that also meant my brother and sister were tortured by doing things that I can do.
I can do this and the act of doing with confidence counts against the pain.
My sister died suddenly, it was medical emergency so it was brutal. It was 4 days ago. And because of bank holidays (I am not judging here, I am not blaming, it is just circumstance), today was the first day I could go and identify her.
My other sister came along. She was initially asked to identify as she was listed as next contact due to living closer. My sister couldn’t do it.
I went alone.
I am glad I did. I am better knowing that my decision to do so was best. I don’t want them to remember her this way.
I knew something of what it was to be.
It wasn’t my first dead person.
But I am still in the land of the lost.
I did that. It was the best choice. There are so many other reasons and understandings I could tell you to explain how and why it is better this way.
I just hate myself for knowing it was the best choice. I hate myself for being so strong in all of this. I hate myself for not having anything more than those as the only reasons I need (I have more but this is about me and not others).
Where is this going?
Oh yes.
My sister died and today I had to identify her body after she had been dead for 3 days (4 calendar days).
Today I started the process of going through all her paperwork and a life that was spent giving love to others (I am not being kind, she was generally a person who gave a lot of love to others as she had experienced a fuck ton of abuse in her own life and turned it to kindness.). Today I started to accept her death and be rational about how we deal with her loss.
Where am I right now?
I am lost. But not really. I have things to do. I have things to arrange. A funeral, financial matters. Family matters.
Not really lost…
Feeling loss.
“Always try, to be nice and never fail to be kind.”

My Mummy

On Monday I decided to get the boys to write a poem about their mummy as a test. I made each of them answer questions and then we compiled that into verse. To be honest it was a bit of fun to keep them amused. It was just as much fun for me. I did most of the compilation but almost all the words are theirs, and certainly all the imagery.

Enjoy:

My Mummy

by Ben, Elliott and Asher

My mummy is a nice grass,
A love that is good
With arms and legs.

Her hair is like candy floss
Twisting,
Paper filled with naughty words.

Her eyes are hazelnuts
They can see fear.
They play a game.

Mummies nose is a cone,
With dinosaur’s nostrils.
Or a big fat poo,
A towel,
Made for glasses.

Her mouth is a lipstick’s stick,
Of fiery breath,
That shouts all quiet.

Her ears just hear my voice,
Like a giraffe
Always listening.

She has legs that I don’t know,
Filled with muscles,
And with bones,
An organ wraps around them,
Right down to the toes,
As they came last.

Her arms are like her legs,
But they put things into cups,
Press buttons,
And create.

Mummies brain is the best.
Very, very, smart.
Is for talking just like me,
Is numbers
And a game pad.

But her love is so pretty,
And very, very, strong.
She loves Asher, maybe also…
Daddy,
Elliott,
And Ben.
Simply, all of us.

Bollocks to DST BST

Why we originally adopted DST (Daylight Savings Time) is a mixture of reasons (
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Summer_Time) but the actions were rooted in a time of war. I have thought it (un-ironically) a waste of time and an anachronism. It really isn’t needed in modern life, but it never overtly affected me until the last decade or so.

So, these days I really flipping hate it and the reasons are because I have kids and a more hectic schedule, let me rant on…

#1 Son

#1son is 8 years old and going on nine. He likes to get up at 6 a.m. and play some video games before school. This week he has only managed that once. Added to that he feels that we are sending him to bed an hour early (we kind of are as we want to re-establish his body clock as soon as possible and routine is good with that).

#1son is annoyed, upset and generally feeling that it is a personal attack on him, he is even surlier than when we told him he couldn’t have a week off school to play Mario Galaxy.

#1son is annoyed that the answer to why we have daylight savings is because more than a century ago we had a war.

#2 Son

#2son is 7 years old and Autistic. #2son likes to sleep in until seven in the morning when he is sleepily awoken and needs a little extra processing time to get to grips with the differences between the magic realism of his sleep and the neuro-typical realism of a world constructed for the differently abled.

#2son loves regular patterns as they seem easier to grasp. #’2son is out-of-sorts as some fucking idiot changed time and he cannot work out why they would do that and really cannot formulate properly how he feels about it.

#3 Son

#3son is a toddler, he is 2 years old. Ask anyone with a toddler, the changing of clocks is an auto-fuck-up to sleep pattern and sensibilities. It throws them all out of whack. It sends them all a little bit unfocussed and thus grumpy-McBastard is never far from those shores.

#3son was so disrupted by sleep schedules he took extra time to go to bed (including coming back down stairs which he very rarely does) and the next night he got up at 3 a.m. as his body clock switched itself to who-the-hell-knows and he had to come into mummy and daddy’s bed.

#Mummy

#Mummy is a very busy person who needs her sleep patterns to be regular as she spends most of her day in doctoral research and evenings switching between kids, work, hobbies and me. #Mummy doesn’t like BST DST as it fucks up her family and their routines.

#Daddy #Me

I get up most mornings at 04:30 (that’s when my first alarm is set for anyway) as I normally run/exercise between 05:00 and 07:00 before the rest of the house gets up. DST means my alarm now goes off at the equivalent time of 03:30 and my body is really saying fudge-that-shot … no I mean fuck-that-shit.

I am really tired of DST. It messes up my whole family. Very few people I know would actually want to keep it, except it seems #arsebowlers who believe it is British and not European (see the headlines in some popular press because Europe has decided to get rid of the stupid practice). I suppose some farmers might like it for some crop-rotation thing, maybe, or something, do the druids and pagans like it?

Oh well, let’s recycle this rant in October and March for some years if you please…

Let’s Grab Nigel and set him Alight

Who would have thought that four centuries after the notorious gunpowder plot there was a different way to blow up Parliament. All we needed to do was have a referendum on a politically divisive matter and the place exploded all on its own.

And as we rush towards a no deal Brexit as a worst case scenario (and a might be a deal but not what we wanted as an alternative) we have our own malevolent plotter, or divisive scapegoat (take your pick), in the Mister Toad of Twat Hall, Nigel Farage.

Heck Fawkes, Farage, the names are similar in a number of ways let’s be honest. I think that dear Nige’ would look good with the git-warmer facial hair and massive hat.

Brexit Night,
Everything’s shite,
Let’s grab Nigel
and set him alight…

(Mark Keating 2019)

One can only hope that the fate that awaits the premier crapmeister of this little fiasco matches somewhat his historical counterpart. But, that would be a pipe dream.

Will the future huddled masses of a post-Europe Britain huddle around bonfires on March 29th each year to celebrate the trashing of the country. Perhaps they will burn a number of different effigies and light miserable fireworks to mourn our collective idiocy. Or can doubters of the great and noble exit like me be mistaken? Will we celebrate these pioneers of falsehood and reward them as true architects of a Greater Britain?

For now, I can only ask, ‘Penny for the Nige?’

Do You Drink?

In pretty much every medical conversation I have had over the last few years the same question is always asked, ‘do you drink’. The same set of answers appear in my head but I never use them even though I really want to. I always answer fairly plainly and honestly as the flippancy will not help.

However the conversation that should happen is there in my imagination so I thought I’d share with you how it goes in my head.


Them: Do you drink Mr Keating?

Me: Yes. I have 3 children under 10, of course I drink.*

Them: How often?

Me: As often as I can.

Them: Really? How often do you actually drink?

Me: The moment I am not responsible for them.

Them: So every night?

Me: It doesn’t have to be night.

Them: Do you drink during the day?

Me: One of the kids is a toddler.

Them: So, no then.

Me: Are you joking, as long as I don’t have to put the little fucker to sleep I am straight onto the gin.

Them: So you drink spirits?

Me: I’d drink petrol if it was in a cocktail. I have 3 kids under 10.

Them: Seriously now.

Me: Good point, Petrol is expensive. You can get turps at Poundland.

Them: You should really have a few free nights a week without drink.

Me: I think the same about my kids.

Them: Well you made the life choices and need to deal with them in a sensible manner.

Me: I do. I told you. I drink.

Them: Excessive drinking can reduce your lifespan.

Me: I have 3 kids under 10, I’ll drink to that.

Them: How many units of alcohol a week are we talking about here?

Me: I find it best not to count, but a safe number is to add the children’s ages up and times by 10.

Them: Best medical advice is to have fewer than 14 a week.

Me: Kids or drinks?

Them: Units of alcohol, you need a different strategy for children.

Me: I had a vasectomy.


However none of this actually happens… maybe next time


*NB This is all just in jest, if I really need to say that. I love my kids. They are not the reason I drink, they’re the reason I get up and run each morning so I am more alive each day to enjoy being with them.

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.

 

Motorway Brexit Left

Driving along any motorway in England at the moment is an exercise in traffic control and cone watching. Everywhere you see the same sign, ‘upgrading to smart motorways expect delays [until after we leave Europe]’.

For like every other malaise that seems to malign this one sceptered isle it is the influence of the EU that has caused all this. Bloody European dictats from an elitist Brussels declaring the good old Blighty highways to be too dim for our Europhile drivers.

We wouldn’t have had any of this in the good old days of the early seventies before Margaret Thatcher was forced to sell us out to the greater continental landmass by the union pressures of the milk marketing board. Thank God we don’t need to mine milk otherwise she’d have had to exact revenge on the purveyors of dairy goods in the early Eighties. With such abhorrence avoided, the dear milk-snatchery one found it was far easier to force the dairy farmers into poverty so that large commercial giants could hoover up farms at low prices and instigate a regime of steroid-assisted bodyshaping of the new Euro-herds. Oh the happy eighties where every child could be transformed into a Yuppie demi-god for the mere cost of their humanity.

However we spin forwards so that everywhere you look there is a random Europeanite. Be it a  Polisharian, or Dutchovian, speeding backwards in their misaligned cars with steering wheels on the wrong side. Driving like respectable people shouldn’t on a British highway. What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they know that the best way to overtake is on the inside? Don’t they realise that road signs are an arbitrary advisory statement and not a rule. How dare they come here with their pretty vehicles touting their blue spangled banner.

Typical of the Eurocrats to insist on greater regulation, yet more rules dreamt up in the Belgium Ivory Towers. Now we have instructions enforced in a contemporary display of pin sharp LEDs engraving their regulations onto your retinas from one thousand yards (or about nine hundred and ninety Euro-metres).

No longer can the British brave all weathers and conditions firm in the belief that it is by skill and understanding that one can judge pace or direction of travel. Not any longer. Now the Brussels-born have birthed driving regulation upon driving regulation on us. Now we have safety conditions and speed monitoring, traffic flow management and car safety and vehicle emissions set from an air-conditioned chamber deep in the heart of the Euro-dictat.

But soon, oh soon, dear Britexitans we will regain control of our laws, our regulations and our destiny. We will once again shape this proud land with thick as pigshit roads for our thick as pigshit isolationists. For we all remember that time, before the European massive forced safety and sense on our shores when England, nay Britain, was a rough untamed wilderness of few laws. Yes, back in the sixties we had no signs, no rules, no belts or airbags to hold and constrain us when we choose to smash into each other at excessive speeds.

As soon as we leave the Government will dismantle the shackles of the Euro-state and administer a lobotomy on all our highways and free us once again so that we might prosper to an incipient end.

 

Wrimo Time

It is that time of year again the National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo as it is known to its participants. As usual Leigh Keating and I will be joining in on the madness and frustration that makes up this event.

In previous years I have both won and lost (winning is writing 50,000 words in a month) at the event but I have always started with at least a direction to take, this year is different. this year I have 3 directions and I am not sure I like any of them so I am doing all three.

So what are they… I am not going to tell you to be honest. Not at this moment, not right yet. Enough to say they cover a prose story (future fantasy), a slice of semi-autobiographical and prose contemporary story and a section that is more document or artefact.

If that is intriguing, good. if not, also good 🙂 I may or may not return to keep you updated. You can join us all in nanowrimo and if you are in the North West you can join our region. We also welcome people on Facebook in the Regional forum.

 

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.