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Use your Common Sense

18 Oct

break-the-rulesI’ve always believed that rules are there to be pushed and bent rather than followed to the letter. The responsibility for this lies with my father. When I was growing up, if someone told him he couldn’t do something I guarantee he’d be straight on it. For instance, he once bought a piece of land that adjoined his rear garden and in the process of deciding what to do with it, a hostile neighbor told him there was no way he’d let my dad fence it off. Well, that one rather rash statement set in motion a series of events not unlike the recent Russian escapade with Crimea. My dad, my brother & I started digging holes at 5am one Saturday morning and inserting fabricated concrete posts. Over the course of the morning we were joined by a series of mates and friends on what we jokingly termed ‘Operation Stalag Luft Drei‘ (a reference to the film The Great Escape).

By the Saturday afternoon, the posts were fully in place and were shortly joined by fence panels. As we had a gang, the irate neighbor didn’t dare issue a direct challenge, but we did spot him later on with a tape measure, making sure that the fence in question was within planning regustalag-luft-iiilations. My dad was a loose cannon, but he wasn’t stoopid. Or more to the point, despite his healthy disrespect for the law, the one thing he didn’t want was PC Plod knocking at the door and asking to see the fence. Our neighbor cut off diplomatic relations with our family after that and issued sanctions, such as refusing to take parcels while we were out and telling my dad he wasn’t to park in front of his house. In the UK, the road kerb in front of a house is a public highway, so the neighbor had no right to issue such an ultimatum. Parking hostilities weren’t on my dad’s radar until the neighbor told him he not to do it. Red rag to a bull. After that, every once in a while my dad would park outside the neighbor’s house overnight as a wind up. Unlike me, he used to enjoy a fight before breakfast.

Growing up as a teenager it all seemed like harmless fun. My dad must have been a nightmare neighbor for that one poor guy. However, he was as nice as pie to all the other neighbors, fetching shopping for the elderly, etc, which obviously infuriated the man next door, as he was unable to get anyone else on his side. What I took from this debacle and many others is the following: every street has an a-hole. Now I’m an adult, I’d like to add that if you can’t spot them, it might just be you…

learn_the_rules_like_a_pro

Based on my experiences of growing up in a world with rules that were there to be bent, I’ve gone on to develop a healthy disregard for the Nanny State. They say you can’t legislate for idiots, but this doesn’t stop the powers that be from trying. When someone figures out how to bypass a rule, more rules spring up to try and plug the hole. It’s like Hercules fighting the hydra!  One of my colleagues once told me that at his school they had only one rule: use your common sense. Apparently, the governors figured that if they had a set of formal rules, a smarty pants would soon come along and exploit a loophole. The end result would be a weighty tome of donts instead of a page of guidelines.  So they distilled every rule they had down to a single statement which covered all eventualities and also taught the kids to use their brains instead of referring to a rule book.  This I applaud and my father agrees. If only common sense wasn’t so uncommon these days…

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It’s been a while…

21 Jan

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, but then so much has happened over the last eighteen months.

On a personal basis, a family bereavement stopped me in my tracks.  My mother had been ill for some time, fighting Lymphoma.  I was desperate to finish the Ferret Files while she was still alive, and thus muffed the ending, which only became apparent on first read through.  Back to the drawing board for the last six chapters.  More importantly, from a writer’s perspective, I was faced with a huge dilemma.  The key event in my hero’s life is the death of the father he didn’t get to know.  This is an allegory for the relationship with my own father, which was strained for many years (to put it mildly).  With him being a good few years older than my mother, we’d always assumed as a family that he’d pop off first.  But then the stubborn ole bugger never has done anything according to plan.

That was Sept 2013.

The death of a loved one certainly brought clarity to my life and gave me a whole bunch of hitherto unexplored emotions to draw on in my writing.  It also made me question what I was doing.  Is writing really that important?  I’d grafted very hard to accomplish something, only to get it wrong at the last.  Perhaps I should have spent more time with my mother, rather than keeping my head down and persevering with the details of an imaginary world.

And so it was, with great pain in my heart, I put my writing down while I worked through the trauma.  My mother used to be a teacher, which is where I get my love of literature from, including comics, which was part of her dissertation.  Later on, she fell into business and ran her own successful employment agency.  As I discovered, she also had a secret life beyond all of this, which none of us knew about.  I suspected, but it was only once she’d gone that confidentiality was surrendered and all the pieces fell into place.  She was an amazing woman to have three lives.  So competent.  Yet at the end, so feeble and addled with massive quantities of prescription drugs.   That’s what hurts the most, the loss of strength and vitality.

I miss her and I want her back

For a while I thought I was writing Ferret for her, and with her gone, there was no point to anything.

It’s taken over a year, but I now realize that I’m writing for me.  And for you.  Because ultimately, it’s the YOUs of this world that have helped me get through the loss.  The real life YOUs, who say hello on a daily basis, who chew the cud over a noisy beer.  The Facebook YOUs who I laugh and joke with, but have never met.  The Twitter YOUs, who make me giggle out loud with your delicious sense of humor.  The Pinterest YOUs, who are so inventive it hurts.  There is pain out there in the world, yes – but there’s also so much more.  As an author, it’s my job to find the good in all that pain, and turn it around into something positive.  I’ve never stopped loving, but for a long time I did stop feeling loved.

Opening up was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

It was also one of the most rewarding.

I want my mum back, just not the mum who died on me.  The one before she got ill.

I’m descended from Vikings.  Hence the Old Gods suit me.  They suited my mother too.  She used to like a good drink, a cuss and a swear.  I can’t imagine her sitting on a cloud, playing a harp somehow.  Neither can I imagine her sweating in chains, moaning.  If she’s anywhere, she’s with Odin tossing axes in his Great Hall, sloshing beer with the gods.  The code she lived by was a Viking code.  She wasn’t perfect by any means, but she always did her best to show respect and not hurt other people, even when she was off pillaging in her long ship.

Here’s raising a glass to her in Valhalla!

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