Archive for the ‘death’ Tag
When the evening came, she sat down with them all
Holding court in the sparse bedroom
One by one she comforted them
Giving audience from her bed
As her time was at hand
As she had given life in the Rotunda
As she had given comfort to the sick and dying
Are you right there, Ruby, are you right?
As she had given friendship, given compassion, given care
Given, given, given til she ate away at herself
Like the gnawing cancer
But the hollow always filled
A child’s hole at the seaside
No echoing hollow
No resounding gong
She spoke human, she acted angel
She has love
Love one another
As I have loved you
Some people are crazy
Some are just plain good
The crazy Celt was in search of her people
Lost in the wilderness
Wandering through the book
Joining the dots from Bob to Ruby
And the only Jew in the village
Whatever you want
The trail brought her to
The tribe’s pied-a-terre in New York
Spreading loose change behind her
Tokens of love
There weren’t no machine gun big enough
To protect what she loved
But who could protect her
From the black eyed dog at the door?
It shadowed her to the tip of the island
Growling around the cloisters
It hung her head in Bernard Shaw’s village
How to keep yourself clean and bright, GBS
In the rising tide of that NYC disease
The dulling senses of old age, waxy flesh
Boulders of cancer blocking the ducts
Blood, sweat, shit and tears blocking the hospital drains
City grime blackening the hospital panes
I’m the window through which I must see the world
And I’m black as a dog
Sure look pretty now, bitch
My name is Sorrow
And my soul is exceeding sorrowful
Then she bursts through the door
The life and soul
Her skin-tight black catsuit
Draped in the stars and stripes
Wrapped in glory
She plays the numbers game
Adding a second passport
(And secret light blue from the older country)
Soft emerald conjoined with Safad sapphire
North, South, East 14th
East to her former life in Baghdad
Wandering through hollow lands
And the hills of Derry, the black pool of Dublin
Kilburn, a fire in her head
Irish rover and lover
Finally back home in Carlingford
The last Christmas dinner
Bald as Sinead
Nothing compares to her
Rotunda – the circle closing
Bloated as Brando
Full of grace, dressed in white
Take, eat, this is my body
And a drop of my favoured red, I’m no saint
The flesh is weakening
But the spirit is high and willing
Whatever you want
Yes, the sweet tasting good life
The hour is at hand
Sleep on now, and take your rest
Don’t cry for me
I’ll never leave you
She loved Madonna
Holding court in the bottom bunk
Sister of mercy
She comforted us
At the hour of her death
She loved her own
Until the end
Watching the Six Nations rugby this weekend (the Ireland victory sporting theatre at its best) I couldn’t help seeing the incidents when players’ heads hit the ground (that happened in both the England and Ireland matches, with stretchers sent into action) in a new light, with a frisson emanating from our fragility. Our fragility as spotlighted by the genuinely sad news of Natasha Richardson’s accident and her rapid decline over just half a week.
I only encountered Natasha once, at a recent party of the old friend of mine who I met my wife through. The party was appropriately theatrical, with the historical venue done out like Mandalay (complete with Mrs Danvers), and Natasha appeared in a glittery outfit fitting the surroundings and her star quality. She looked fabulous.
Her poor husband Liam Neeson I’ve also only met once. It was in sad circumstances too. It was at the memorial for another old friend, actor John Keegan, at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn. I was introduced to Liam by Adie Dunbar. We had a ridiculous conversation about Dundalk and I found myself talking about the Four Lanterns take-away when what I actually wanted to say was “Liam, I think you did a cracking job with Oskar Schindler.” (It was the reverse of an encounter I had with Ralph Fiennes in the bar at the Almeida where I had the opportunity to say “Ralph/Rafe/whatever you call yourself, I think you did a cracking job with Amon Goeth” – and did.)
What can you take from a tragedy like this? To enjoy each and every day. To cherish the simple pleasures. To be conscious of everything you have, every privilege and happiness.
Watching the first episode of the new series of The Secret Millionaire last night, featuring ex-Rover boss Kevin Morley, you couldn’t help but detect that Kevin’s journey into the dark heart of Hackney has brought him back in touch with what really matters – he came to recognise the true value of his home and family, clearly regretting that his children’s growing up had passed him by while he was in the office. The one thing that seemed to escape him was that things like his collection of sports cars, which he showed off at the beginning of the programme with reference to shiny little models in a cabinet, come at a cost – beyond the readies he shelled out. Someone, somewhere pays for it ultimately. It could be a homeless person in Hackney. Or a starving family in southern Africa. Someone, somewhere always pays.
As Liam Neeson wakes his beloved wife and comforts their children none of the Hollywood glitz adds up to much. As my Irish mother-in-law always says (not a million miles from Liam’s home town of Ballymena): your health’s your wealth. Gandhi, much though I admire him, was more long-winded than Mrs Murphy: “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
This morning I was involved in launching the government’s new White Paper on informal adult learning (doing a case study around Picture This and illustrating how Channel 4 brings motivation, purpose and inspiration to networked media), so with both learning and fragility in mind another Gandhi quote rounds things off: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Bumped into Adie Dunbar at The Pigalle Club watching an intimate performance by Sinead O’Connor. Adie hails from Enniskillen, not a milion miles from Ballymena, and knows fellow thesps Liam and Natasha well. He underlined the great tragedy here by describing the powerful, positive energy the pair of them radiated together. In the words of the great Matt Johnson: “Love is Stronger than Death.”
In our lives we hunger for those we cannot touch.
All the thoughts unuttered and all the feelings unexpressed
Play upon our hearts like the mist upon our breath.
But, awoken by grief, our spirits speak
How could you believe that the life within the seed
That grew arms that reached
And a heart that beat
And lips that smiled
And eyes that cried
Could ever die?
My late, much lamented sister-in-law, Bronagh Murphy, was in her time a playwright, a nurse, a poet, an actress, a midwife and a highly qualified expert in infertility treatment. She brought people into this world, and ushered them out, she brought poetry into this world in her writing and her actions, and ushered herself out of this world in a way which showed us how to live – she did all this with extraordinary care and compassion. There was nothing ordinary about her. Ruby is a poem of hers I heard her recite a few times at gatherings of family or friends – it captures a particular moment in her nursing experience when a dying woman’s daughter was unable to get to her in time… (and it says everything about the kind of person the poet was).
You lay as on a beach
Spindley legs entwined
Nails bloody red
Waxy flesh, draping brittle bones
Like a golden yellow stole
Courtesy, not of a Floridian tan,
But a boulder of cancer
Blocking the duct
Visions of you in your days of yore
A lusty Jewish broad
Vocals etched with
Sediment of Scotch and tobacco
And as you gasped your last
I begged my God to make it fast
Bereft of drugs to ease your pain
I thought of French’s sweet refrain
As your daughter wrestled with traffic
On the Finchley Road
I climbed in bed and held you tight
And from crazy Celt to dying Jew
I did the only thing I knew
“Are you right there, Ruby, are you right?”
An oldie but goldie that came to mind when first reflecting on this subject on SP4:
Q: What comes between Fear and Sex?
One for the cunning linguists.
So the subject is Fear. From day-to-day personal development to the realm of global politics it’s a big driver – and very destructive.
I thought it would be interesting to try this experiment – take a newspaper at random (in this case the copy of the Daily Mail for Wed 21 May I was given getting on the plane to Glasgow that afternoon) and analyse it in terms of how big a role Fear plays in its headlines. I reckoned Fear’s main rival would be Sex.
I worked my way through the first 25 pages [the news pages] recording every headline without exception (they all fitted into either the Fear or Sex category). From page 26 to the Sports pages at the end I kept just a selection (though still the majority). Here’s the results:
Fathers not required (gender roles, redundancy)
IVF vote sidelines fathers
The girl crushed to death by a tree in freak bus crash (random death)
Pupils aged five get a spell in the sin bin (youth delinquency)
The prickly prince (decline of monarchy/social order)
Spend-it-all parents give their children a bad heir day (where money meets death) Party leaders at war on abortion (death before you’re even born)
10p tax debacle could still cost families £150 a year
With no friend, I really am a Solitary Man says Diamond (loneliness)
Let us strike say police (social disorder, crime)
Our editors have total freedom says Mail chief (lies, misinformation)
15 beers, 20 vicious punches… and 6 months in jail for England footballer
Soaring oil prices push diesel near £6 a gallon
The power bills stitch-up
Police car that killed girl of 16 ‘didn’t have blue lights or siren on’ (random death meets social disorder)
The micro-particles that could pose the same risk as asbestos
1M more Britons in just 3 years (immigration, foreigners)
We moved to escape the FEAR of crime
Beware scentists who insist they know best (science)
Sorry Fergie, I can’t stomach you or your porky pies (social disorder)
Where did all the real men go?
Why this horror makes me FEAR for the future of South Africa
Care home chief is jailed over death of Alzheimer’s patient (disease meets social disorder, distrust)
Suicide note in star’s pocket
Why do clever women fall for second-rate men?
Bosses ‘picked on’ registrar opposed to gay marriages
Tax payers will fund Sky ‘propaganda’ show
Labour’s pledge on farm cash in tatters
Milk float mobsters
Vicar’s war on ‘wicked’ Playboy (moral decline)
Gwyneth’s hitting the heights again
The real battle for Moscow (Wags)
Bad parents are the villains of the age says Cameron
Crooked dentist put a dog on his list of patients
Heroic undercover soldier Robert Nairac was savagely tortured by the IRA
Exchange trip girl was killed jogging with iPod
Long-term care: a national disgrace
Insurers pocketing your pension
Don’t fall for this card trick
Fuming over BT cold call (anger)
Our care system? chaotic
So furious he’s lost for words
Will new stem cell research create monsters?
We work hard, but Britain doesn’t repay us
Yell cries out as £3.8bn debts pile on the pressure
House price crash could jeopardise Rock’s recovery
ICAP takes a dive
The mining prop begins to creak
Oil-rich Russian economy ready to takes off (money meets foreigners)
Shaw future in doubt
Make sure greed does not wreck 20Plenty
Horne is braced for long lay-off
It’s over for Faldo as he gives Open a miss (aging, mortality)
Essien won’t risk penalty pain
Why is it we can’t love Rooney?
Usmanov’s knives out for Gunners
Moscow’s hell, Michel
Guns, concrete and football’s new power base
What surprised me most was how little competition from Sex there was. Scary!
In these Twittering days of virtual community it’s refreshing from time to time to be reminded of how Simple it all is on one level.
Earlier this week I went to Brum for the memorial service of one of my best friends’ mum. Her body was being flown to Jamaica the next day to be buried beside her siblings.
Mrs G. was born in St Ann in the hills behind Ochi on the North coast in the mid 30s. She came to Britain in the 50s and became a district nurse. From the family stories it’s clear she engaged with enabling technology – she bought a car, passing her test with some trouble, using the machine to get her to family events in Manchester, Aylesbury, Leicester, wherever her family had landed.
I first met her when Nigel and I were at college together, a couple of years apart. The first time he brought me to meet his family Mrs G put on an old style Jamaican spread and I remember how lovely she was when she found out I don’t eat pork, fussing in the most maternal way despite my protestations that it was no problem at all. So my first encounter was all about the tradition and culture of home, caring, sharing food and welcoming friends.
In 1996 I met Mrs G again after she had retired back to Jamaica. She built a beautiful home in Ocho Rios. My strongest memories – the first hummingbird I ever saw (in her garden) and the young cousins razoring their hair in her front room to be cool for Nigel’s wedding. She built that house with her own energies and set off for Jamaica alone while her other half acclimatised himself to the idea back in Yorkshire (re-joining her a while later). So this second landmark in my memory was one of family gathering, coming home and strength of will.
The memorial service brought a big crowd to a declining Victorian church in Perry Bar, outside Birmingham. There were three other white faces in the crowd. So the hymns were lively and the sense of community strong, well turned out representatives of all the generations gathered, from the elderly brother-in-law with the handle-bar moustache to the nine year-old grand-daughter who read a poem with her daddy, my friend, at her shoulder, just as he stood at his younger brother’s shoulder, his arm around him, as his brother spoke eloquently and emotionally of the qualities of his determined, caring, fun-loving mother. (I like to picture her shaking a leg to a blue beat tune at some family gathering she got to in that hard-earned car. I dug out a couple of early 60s Jamaican (or as the sleevenotes say “from the British West Indies” “where the Queen’s English is spoken” – I kid you not) calypso records from my collection and gave them to Nigel as a reminder of his mum’s youth.) At the end of the day there’s no substitute for the real and the slow, the unmediated present and the human warmth, the simple pain and pleasure.
To a land where joy shall never end, I’ll fly away
Notes for a movie by Albert Camus & James Cameron
We are biological machines programmed only to survive.
We are born condemned to death.
To survive we must not take that ludicrous condition lying down.
We must rebel against it with kindness (as in ‘mankind’).
We need to learn to live in the present to maximise our own happiness.
That happiness must be available to the whole of our kind as a context for our individual happiness.
Marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on 27th January 1945
This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end of our elaborate plans
The end of everything that stands
The end, no safety or surprise
I’ll never look into your eyes… again
Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free?
Desperately in need of some stranger’s hand
In a desperate land
In the beginning
And the earth
And the earth
was without form
and darkness was upon the face
of the deep
Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain
And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters
There’s danger on the edge of town
Ride the King’s highway, baby
Weird scenes inside the gold mine
Ride the highway west, baby
Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles
Ride the snake
He’s old, and his skin is cold
And God said: Let the waters bring forth abundantly
The moving creature that hath life
And God created every living creature that moveth
Be fruitful and multiply
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind
And cattle after their kind
And every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind
And God saw that it was good
Now the serpent was more subtle
Than any beast of the field
Which the Lord God had made
The Lizard King
King of the universe
So God created man in his own image
In the image of God created he him
Male and female created he them
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the East
And there he put the man he had formed
The West is the best
The West is the best
Get here and we’ll do the rest
The blue bus is callin’ us
The blue bus is callin’ us
Driver, where you takin’ us?
And God said: Behold
I have given you every herb
And the earth brought forth grass
And God said: Let there be light
And there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good
And God divided the light
From the darkness
And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Divide the light from the darkness
The killer awoke before dawn
He put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived, and then he
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he
He walked on down the hall
And he came to a door
And he looked inside
“I want to kill you”
“Mother… I want to… fuck you”
And God blessed them
And God said unto them
Be fruitful and multiply
And replenish the earth
And subdue it
C’mon, baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus
Doin’ a blue rock, on a blue bus
Doin’ a blue rock, c’mon, yeah
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill
What have you done?
In the middle of the garden were the tree of life
And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
The voice of your brother’s blood
Cries to me from the ground!
This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me
He made the stars also
Let me tell you about heartache and the loss of God
Wandering, wandering in hopeless night
Out here in the perimeter there are no stars
Out here we is stoned
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end.