“Couple Found Dead Beneath Fallen Chestnut Tree”.
“That’ll be the headline, you know”, I said to the good wife ,as we walked along by the river with the wind fairly roaring and tearing at my ears and the fallen leaves swirling about us , a whirling cyclone of shredded, golden confetti.It’s bound to happen , I was thinking .It’s literally a hurricane with my name written on it. The tail-end “Hurricane Henry” has arrived . There was me thinking they only named hurricanes after particularly wild and vexatious women…and then along comes “Henry” on the heels of “Gertrude”.
So what’s happening in the world besides Hurricane Henry and the myriad start -of -year -deaths ? There’ll be nobody left whom we’ll know to speak of if the cull continues at the present rate. It’ll be like walking through that town full of strangers …all looking decidedly very young all of a sudden. The wife asked did I meet anyone I knew while in town and I had to say “No”. In fact, most were strangers to me…either very young and from foreign lands whom I didn’t know… or older and as unrecognisibly raddled in physique and memory , as myself .
Now the Nanny State is taking on an “all world” aspect as there are now proposals to ban smoking in films .Well maybe not ban it exactly, but put an adult classification on any films with smokers in them so that they do not influence our youngsters. It is proposed as an attempt to stop our children ever copying the habit from actors on screen.I suppose there might be a point there , given that so many of the recent deaths of famous people really look decidedly cancer -related in some way. Cancer , most likely brought on by smoking. I suppose at some point in our lives we all thought that some actor looked really “cool” with a butt in his mouth and that may have set us onto that ruinous road of nicotine addiction.Mind you , it’s hard to look cool these days, huddled from the winter outside , damned and excluded to the cold of the hoary street, while you suck down that old tar in the corner of a doorway , or even worse , when you substitute one addiction for another and cling to one of those fuming “vapers”. Now …they really do look so decidedly and pointlessly uncool.
I smoked for a long time …all manner of things…but gave it up in my early thirties. My wife continued chuffing away relentlessly for some twenty five years more until she finally managed to abandon the habit within a matter of weeks.She went cold-turkey. My wife has willpower. There’s no doubt about that . She gave the habit up, only when she wanted to . The damage had been done by then , of course and she had developed some breathing problems with COPD which can cause some distress. She never had such problems at all, when she smoked , mind….just after she gave up the habit. Whether she would have lived her life any differently is open to debate.We both lived through a time when smoking carried a kind of glamour and most of us took up the habit as schoolchildren.I suppose it was seen as another badge of adulthood, like your first drink in a pub…..So much for that…they are about to banish smoking in hospital grounds across Norneverland, which , I suppose makes a certain amount of sense when you think about it..You really wonder why they have taken so long to get around to this….
On another tack…Remember a year or two ago when I was surmising that it won’t be too long before they’ll be digging up Jimmy Savile, possibly Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris and maybe several other former telly-luminaries such as Freddie Starr and maybe even Jimmy Tarbuck. ? I figured they’d be sharpening their wooden stakes with their Swiss Army penknives in readyness for hammering them into some black vampiric hearts. Remember that? Well I was thinking ,while I was doing a bit of painting and decorating these past few days, that quite possibly another victim might be added to that growing list…..
Oh yes, sometimes, I actually have to drag myself away from the art , crayons , paint-brushes and virtual colouring pencils …even abandon the wordsmithery of the keyboard, or the wee honeybees at the bottom of the garden and actually eat, sleep and do a bit of house-maintenance . The wife has notions about such other philistine things,…. such as bricks , mortar, body and soul, shopping ….rather than simply the rarified world of the arts and the almost lost world of the imagination ….you’ll understand.
“I saw that my witticism was unperceived and quietly replaced it in the treasury of my mind.”
― Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds
Anyway , there I was, up to my oxters in paint in the utility room, moving fridges about,walking paint all over the place , when I began thinking that David Bowie really got his entire life and his recent exit from it , down pat. He did it so well. He really thought it out with a bit of wit and panache. I told the wife long ago …and my children have all but demanded it anyway….that when I pop my clogs and drop off this mortal coil , cremation is the way to go.(“…it’s yer only man”)There ‘ll be no wailing and keening and sharpening of teeth…ha ha ! Burn me up and have a great party afterwards, I said. They’ll not have to sit around a coffin or do that whole Buddhist thing like Bowie, either …unless they happen to want a wee holiday in Bali to scatter the ashes. I’ll not worry either way. A simple exit…. Job done!
Bowie got it absolutely right. He was dust before anyone knew he was dead .No bugger is ever going to dig him up like they did with poor old Charlie Chaplin.
Do you remember that ? Charlie was another immigrant who left his homeland in England to make it really big in America . He became a “Sir” too,from Her Maj, in a belated , begrudging sort of way because Charlie, even though he was an iconic world-brand , he’d had a bit of a chequered career .There were a few dark corners in his soul. Charlie had been accused of being a bit of a “Commie” and of having a penchant for slightly too- young ladies ,in his younger days. He eventually married Oona ,the daughter of famed Pulitzer Prize playright Eugene (“The Iceman Cometh”) O’Neill …himself the son of an Irish immigrant . She was eighteen to his fifty four. Those kind of things didn’t fly too well in more conservative climes and times in America(Look what happened to “the Killer”, Jerry Lee Lewis when he married his cousin), so Charlie later spent some time as a persona non grata living in exile in Switzerland and wasn’t given a knighthood until two years before his death lest it would upend the UK’s diplomatic relationship with America.It was hardly worth his while picking the gong up ,really.When he did die aged 88 on Christmas day 1977, he left a family of eight children. He was barely cold in his grave before grave-robbers snatched his body some days later , re-buried it in a cornfield and held it for ransom. The robbers were caught and turned out to be political refugees from Eastern Europe who wanted $600, 000 for the return of Charlie’s body.
These days they’d be selling bits of him all over ebay and the internet ….or driving a stake into his blackened heart.
No…Bowie had the right idea alright.; an instant cremation before anyone had time to draw breath. Someone is bound to have hated him for any number of reasons, ranging from the colour of his hair , his sexuality , the way he looked or dressed or the kind of music and art that he made or possibly for all the sins of England and Empire…He had been born in London after all… People really are an odd lot.Gary Glitter has this all ahead of him, but then , he has some criminal form .
Just look at the hullabaloo that Terry Wogan’s death threw up on Jude’ s site recently . It was very instructive and enlightening as to the nature of love, morality and prejudice .This man didn’t seem to have committed any discernible crime other than in the way he wore sweaters and yet a festival of hatred erupted at the news of his demise.
You can write all you want about morals and economics and nobody will respond or give a fiddler’s fuc , but just mention one broadcaster with a taste for the laconic ..an afficianado of Myles na gCopaleen, who absconded from the Dear Auld Sod to set up shop in the hated England….. and the internet (or Jude’s little part thereof) went nutso.What it says for all those Irishmen and women who dared to go and live, work and love in England , I have no idea , but there are probably more or as many of them living there than there are left in Ireland . Many from several generations of my own family included.Should they have ever gone at all?
“I mean to say, whether a yarn is tall or small I like to hear it well told. I like to meet a man that can take in hand to tell a story and not make a balls of it while he’s at it. I like to know where I am, do you know. Everything has a beginning and an end.”
― Flann O’Brien
So when that falling chestnut tree , hurled by Hurricane Henry , or one of his windy cohorts such as “Imogen”, finally stops my time, just dig me out from under its branches , light a fire under me before the worms can get me ,or should the buggers deign to drive a stake into my own black heart….for Dear’s sake ….don’t bury me !