My mother died the day before Xmas Eve, so we’ve been dealing with the consequences ever since. From numbness, through shock, gratitude, regret and happy memories, we’ve gone through the usual gamut of emotional turmoil, exacerbated by the uncivil warring between my brother and sister, both of whom would be happy never to have anything to do with the other ever again. When Mum’s house has finally been sold and the estate divided up, we shall all be much better off financially but all the poorer spiritually.
She had a humanist funeral, which went very well, all things considered, even though Elaine’s address was incredibly solipsistic. We managed to persuade the celebrant not to spout any “beliefs” about humanism, the point being that, as atheists, we do not believe in anything, full stop, period. Mum sent us to Sunday School so that she and dad would have peace and quiet on Sunday morning and told us that it was so we could make our own minds up; but both she and dad were confirmed atheists and we children developed the same way (though Elaine did go through a religious phase as a teenager and got confirmed, causing my Mum to giggle uncontrollably when the rather short bishop had to reach up to baptize her).
The music was mostly sad classical stuff by Schubert (Mum’s favourite), Beethoven and Mozart. Afterwards, we had a successful buffet at a nearby hotel. All Mum’s neighbours were there and many of her friends and relatives made it despite the snowy weather.
Now we’re distributing a few treasured belongings among them and trying to rehouse my brother, who lived at home in a symbiotic relationship. He actually found Mum and was knocked though a hoop by the whole thing. His depression and alcohol dependency have got worse, so he is dazed and confused and forgetful most of the time. We’re trying to sort him out so that he doesn’t just squander his inheritance on a pocketful of promises (to adapt a Paul Simon line). So that’s been keeping us busy browsing the internet, making phonecalls and driving up and down the motorway to Exeter on a regular basis.
It’s quite useful in a way that I haven’t had regular employment, so my time has been more flexible than it might have been but Mary has had more difficulty, shuffling her full time job with all this. I’ve also had my bird surveying to do. I’m taking part in a major project by the British Trust for Ornithology to map the nation’s birds throughout the seasons and country. I have four tetrads (2x2km squares) to cover in early winter, late winter, early breeding season and late breeding season, over five years (2007-11). This April I’m planning to do all four tetrads, given a spell of decent weather. Of course we’ve just had a splendid March (when no surveying was required), with two weeks of unbroken sunshine, culminating in a downpour last night. I expect April to be dismal …
In between times, I have been doing a short contract for two “Primary Care Trusts” in the National Health Service, much maligned by the Republicans, I have noticed. I’m not sure that what Barack Obama has achieved will actually help those people who are now going to be forced to take out health insurance but at least it is one in the eye for the greed is best school of politics. I expect the insurance companies, for all their bleating, will still make a fortune out of it all; and the poor will still suffer the most; but at least a few will be able to afford treatment they would otherwise have been bankrupted by or died for the want of.
I’m still scouring the web for more suitable employment but not having much luck, so it is as well that I have the consolation of music, which I am enjoying on those long journeys and at the gym, where I am spending as much time as I can find. Robin Trower’s
I just did a compilation for Mr Bill, who is abstaining from internet communication at present. My first cut of a compilation came in at 200 tracks, so I took an arbitrary decision to cut it down to listenable size by just selecting those categorized as “Alternative”. These 40 tracks fit neatly on 2 CDs, so that’s what he’s got (virtually no Blues, Rock, African or Country music has made it through this net, so no Nick Harper, no Jimi Hendrix, no Joe Bonamassa, no Paolo Nutini, no Seasick Steve, I’m afraid..). Still, lots of good stuff has made it through. Each CD is in alphabetical order of artist, so there may be a few unfortunate sequencing errors but I hope he can live with those: here is the list (apologies for the abbreviated titles, courtesy of iTunes):
For Bill Alternative March 2010
40 songs, 2.5 hours, 213.3 MB
Name Time Album Artist
Beach Baby 2:40 Blood Bank Bon Iver
I'll Never Tell 3:16 My Old, Familiar Fr... Brendan Benson
We Close Our Eyes 8:05 Do You Like Rock Mu... British Sea Power
Cookie Jar. 2:50 Ciao My Shining Sta... Chris Collingwood
Postcard Blues 3:36 The Trinity Revisited Cowboy Junkies
The Wanting Comes I... 6:27 The Hazards Of Love The Decemberists
Moonsoon 3:47 Ayrton Senna (Bonus... Delorean
Sun Giant 2:14 Sun Giant Fleet Foxes
Miles Davis & The Cool 4:11 The '59 Sound The Gaslight Anthem
Ready, Able 4:17 Veckatimest Grizzly Bear
Happy Birthday Yest... 3:36 Ciao My Shining Sta... Hayden
Happy 4:17 Rabbit Fur Coat Jenny Lewis
Josephine 3:22 Josephine Magnolia Electric Co
We Gathered in Spring 3:33 The Trials Of Van O... Midlake
Twenty Cycles To Th... 3:08 Molina and Johnson Molina and Johnson
Sink Or Swim 4:31 Belly of the Lion Ola Podrida
Before The Sun Goes... 2:26 More Of The Past Vetiver
Little Man - Vic Ch... 3:46 Ciao My Shining Sta... Vic Chesnutt
Neon Bible 2:17 Neon Bible
Woman Left Lonely 4:07 Jukebox Cat Power
Train in Vain (Stan... 3:10
Villiers Terrace 2:47 Killing Moon The Be... Echo & The Bunnymen
Starlings 5:05 The Seldom Seen Kid Elbow
Hurricane Drunk 3:13 Lungs
Golden Hair 6:24 The Madcap Laughs A... Hope Sandoval & The...
The Hanging Heart 9:09 Comets, Ghosts and ... Howlin' Rain
Johnny Got A Boom Boom 3:01 Now Hear This! 65 J... Imelda May
Wrecking Ball 4:33 Our Love To Admire Interpol
Communion Cups And ... 2:03 Around The Well [Di... Iron & Wine
Nora 2:45 Before Sleep Comes Luka Bloom
See Emily Play 2:18 I Know You're Marri... Martha Wainwright
Ain't Got Nothin' 2:15 Dig Out Your Soul Oasis
You Ain't Seen Noth... 3:36 Scraps Otway, John
Life Stinks 1:57 Datapanik in the Ye... Pere Ubu
For The Boozers And... 5:30 Daddy's Table Phil Campbell