Wednesday, June 21, 2017


enjoying a bevvy

Awakening to the ‘good’ in our lives and to the fulfilling sense of gratitude which follows often comes to us via the most simple and sometimes indirect means.  I’ve found myself catalysing these freeing thoughts and sensations by attending Al-Anon meetings, which is a worldwide support group for friends and relatives of alcoholics.  Al-Anon delivers a platform for attendees to listen and to speak with candour and honesty in a confidential setting with like-minded persons.

I’ve been to three Al-Anon meetings thus far over three consecutive weeknights.  There’s a church up at Randwick that hosts both AA (alcoholics anonymous) and Al-Anon meetings on Thursday nights.  My partner is in both AA and A-Anon.  We figured that I might give Al-Anon a go – given I’m a blue ribbon qualifier - while she can choose between attending either AA or Al-Anon depending on her own needs at the time.  She came with me to my first two Al-Anon meetings and went off to AA on her own on my third sitting.

Al-Anon, unlike AA, is a small group and maxes at about six or seven people on those three occasions I attended.  I discovered quickly that there are ‘branches’ to Al-Anon with mine being ACA – adult children of alcoholics. ACA meetings are held around Sydney and I’m considering going along to one, partly out of curiosity and partly out of a want to experience some of this group’s emotional intensity.

This Randwick group is a somewhat generic Al-Anon group that welcomes all comers facing issues related to someone else’s alcohol use affecting their own lives.  About half of the participants were in ‘dual recovery’, meaning they attended two (or more) types of support groups, invariably Al-Anon and AA.  I certainly have nothing to do with either AA or NA (narcotics anonymous), but I’ve everything to do with friends or relatives or children of alcoholics support group.

I turned up on that first night wearing my new leather jacket.  I’d come straight from work and I noticed myself to be better dressed than the other attendees (my groovy partner excepted of course).  I felt overdressed and overqualified given that the men in particular were dressed like they were on parole, all nervous and fidgety in their trackies and hoodies.  My leather jacket I’d purchased a few weeks ago at a second hand clothing store in Katoomba.  I was really pleased to find a good, inexpensive leather jacket as I’d been meaning to purchase one for sometime.   The jacket symbolised something, some sort of movement towards a greater “independence” of my inner ‘man’, and another ever-so-slight moving away from the cloistering or debilitating influence of being that child of an alcoholic.  As I donned that jacket when walking out of that shop in Katoomba I felt a noticeable uplift and sense of authority.  I love my leather jacket.

I enjoy these meetings.  It’s great to hear people speak and to tell their stories, and I enjoy speaking myself.  Maybe I just like to hear the sound of my own voice.  I attribute a sense of theatre with public speaking and it’s handy to have support groups as a means of improving one’s own speaking for work-related situations, even if this is only a secondary consideration.  You don’t have to plan your talk when attending support groups; you just speak, and let the words and narrative flow through you, going where they may in the hope of getting a better understanding of your own processes along with hopefully inspiring the other participants in the group.  I was unashamed and candid when speaking.  I told them all about the slow-burn of my dad’s drinking, how he was enabled by everyone around him, that no-one even considered the word ‘problem’, or ‘alcoholic’, during his lifetime.  I guess he was one of the last of that swathing generation of Aussie ‘blokes’ who carved their own meaning through pubs, schooners of “Reschs” or “New” and all that bullshit; ‘shouts’, ciggies, and finally coming home sozzled each and every night with that dark shadow shrouded over what was essentially a brilliant man of magisterial integrity, though who was to know, we certainly didn’t.  He was everybody else’s ‘best mate’, not ours.  When he came home from that fucking pub, we had a dead codfish in the house, night after night after night.  I never had a proper conversation with the man in the entire time I knew him even though he was, incredulously, “my father”.  A gruff pontification here and there was about the extent of any dialogue he threw my way.

A square grimacy smile surfaced on my face when I divulged some of the gory details, and when talking about the relief I felt after he passed, throwing his coffin in the hearse as one of the pall-bearers.   I was quick to add that this didn’t mean I didn’t love him, rather, when a life is lived in a shell-like and destructive way then isn’t better for this energy to be freed, to move onto the next gig?  I guess that physical death is a gift in its freeing-ness, and something we all face sooner or later.

A woman who turned up at that second meeting mentioned something about attending an ACA meeting in Bondi Junction the week before.  She talked unnervingly about another attendee, a man, sobbing uncontrollably.  I thought that there must be some heavy juice to ACA and it’s probably where the most painful ‘shares’ of Al-Anon are to be encountered.  I’m an ACA, so I hope to go along at some point to speak and meet these people.

I didn’t discuss my dad much at all in that third and most recent meeting I attended.  Instead I gave a summation of my situation as someone whose point of reference died twenty-five years ago.  Twenty-five years is a long time, but it takes an equally long time for circumstances – and the facing of these circumstances – to play out.  Sure, an alcoholic father may pass away, but this leaves the mother acting out her own denial in a tight-fisted and strangulating way, the siblings playing out their own worlds of bad marriages, instability, and anger.  Partners are chosen on the basis of what you already knew so invariably these encounters are painful and soul-destroying, and friends and situations coalesce into enmeshments, fear, and conflict.  Circumstances appear difficult, natural expression is repressed, and a shadowy fog of vague torment envelops your thoughts and emotions.

With that third meeting came the clear realisation that each individual present were in a lot worse situation than me, meaning that their lives were conflicted and problematic, now.  I realised that despite the trauma of alcoholism in my family, and the negative circumstances and situations that played out thereafter, that it’s all over – I’m at the point in life where the negativity has played itself out.  There is no one in my life who is reflecting active para-alcoholism (anymore).  My partner is an alcoholic, but she’s sober and works the steps (creepily, she stopped her promiscuous drinking at around the same week my father died).  My sweet mother is still in denial, though she’s getting old and her all-consuming focus now rests on her own health and well-being.  Everything else that may have caused problems has moved on and sorted itself out.

I read, I’m educated, I noodle on piano, have a nice job, live close to work, have a lovely partner, and live in a nice-ish part of town.  One has to count their blessings constantly, and at this meeting I felt grateful for what I have.

I haven’t come away unscathed.  I have adult-onset diabetes which is very boring and unsexy and always has doctors asking me how did you get that?  Well, I identify sudden weight gain at age 17 as the first signs of insulin resistance, meaning pre-diabetes.  I finished school, and then blew up like a balloon.  My parents didn’t notice, one was a pisser and the other a para.  Fucking hopeless.

You crave love, but can’t receive it.  You long to give love but you can’t find the key.  You have an urgent desire to communicate and to be your natural ebullient self but the appropriate persons or situations never seem to manifest.   Most of all you need a dad who’ll actually talk to you and help you along in his own loving, dad-like way.  Didn’t happen.

This is where meetings are vital, they help you work through this stuff.

I look into my life and all’s clear and all’s good.  I am alive and well.  I am reminded of a meditation tape I have where Barry Long the speaker talks about releasing “emotional prisoners”.  I play this CD most mornings as I’m preparing my oatmeal.  Allow me to paraphrase according to memory, and with that I do acknowledge any copyright considerations in relation to the Barry Long Foundation International:

Perhaps it’s the feeling that your mother or father failed you at some time in your life.  Let’s say it’s your father.  Smile. Forgive him.  With love, not necessarily with love for him, but just love and goodwill. See that what you’ve been holding onto was your own self-centred expectation of what a father should be. 

If he was not a good father, so what.  It’s all behind you, and all the more reason to let go of him.”

I love that, if he was not a good father, so what, it’s all behind you

Barry continues: “He gave what he could, all that his nature and conditioning allowed, just as you give…”

My dad’s worldview was simple – you got food, something to drink, a roof over your head, that’s all that matters.

He’s right.. fundamentally.  Granted however it was my mother who was the one nervously scurrying around trying to balance the budget while my old man was blowing his own on booze cigs and horse races.  If my mum weren’t so good of character and just plain amazing with managing finances then really we would be fucked.

That however, has passed, is past.  I look now, as I did in that most recent meeting, and can see there is no problem.  The alcoholism, the para-alcoholism, the cause and effect, the circumstances, are all behind me now.  This I see clearly, and it’s a very good feeling.  I don’t have a need to do the Steps to Recovery.  All I need is to stay grateful, true, clear and Now, and be real.  Life is good, and it has taught me a hell of a lot.  But that imperative or necessity to stay true and present, it never ceases…

Long, B. 1983. Start meditating now. Barry Long Foundation International. Compact disc.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Solitude standing

I graduated from high-school 30 years ago.  The boys are on for a major reunion, so out come the Facebook groups, comments, photo uploads.  Suddenly I'm drawn into this yesteryear world of peering over schoolboy headshots appearing on Facebook and attempting to recall all those long-forgotten faces.  My immersion into this group has been an odd experience, a surreal journey where I find myself flipping between 1987 and the present and sometimes capturing the essence again of being that exact person I was when I was 17 years old and left wondering if anything in my life has actually moved on since then.  Songs or feelings I had in 1987 suddenly flash in my memory and consciousness, vivid and alive.  Suzanne Vega's Solitude Standing album.  The innocence of living quietly and studying.  But that sense of life coming full-circle is somewhat unsettling.  I may have left school, though I haven't really left university.  I work there, and by January 1988 I will have been there 30 years given 2 years and 8 months hiatus between 1992 and 1996.  The university is near the old school, too.  So I haven't really gone anywhere, I'm still here..

No, not much point in turning up and having to justify my non-material, non-trappings to guys who have either houses or families or both while I'm still living like a battler-boho.  And there are some people I really don't want to see.  Having said that, many of those men would like me to turn up and it may be a very friendly experience - they did join ('yank') me into the Facebook group after all.  My face looks the same: fresh-faced and green as a blade of grass though my hair has thinned and greyed around the edges, so I'm probably still better looking than the lot of 'em, the snot-faces they were. Ha!

My 1987 headshot is scowling and unhappy.  That same scowly surliness will be present in me if I attend the reunion although I would more likely put on a contentedly cool front.  Too many blokes, too much garrulousness, too many guys asking the same questions to each other and which I've no answer to.  What have I been doing all these years?  I don't know.  I am here now, as I was thirty years ago.

I'm in two minds about going.  Thirty years is a long time, and the past is well and truly over.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Gav Fitzgerald: Another

Our illustrious editor and SSA stalwart Gavin Fitzgerald has come out with ‘Another’.  Another what?  Another album, named, ‘Another’!  ‘Another’ follows on from his debut solo album ‘Just’ of 2008, the album that broke away from many years of playing and recording with his band, Velvet Road.

‘Just’ and ‘Another’ are in many ways a complementary pair of albums, not unlike the two Syd Barrett solo albums recorded after Barrett’s absconsion from Pink Floyd in the late 1960s.  Compared to ‘Just’, ‘Another’ is stylistically more varied, and introduces to the mix a wider variety of guest musicians.  On ‘Another’, James Englund makes a special guest star appearance on saxophone for a couple of tracks.   Ross Bruzzese plays bass on most of the 16 tracks, with Marc Mittag playing bass on four songs and Gav on one.  Backing vocals were shared by Megan Albany and Ross, who also adds some ukulele to one track.  Peter Thompson adds djembe to many of the songs, which may account for this album’s distinctive percussiveness.  Stewart Havill of Dog Star Productions recorded, mixed, and co-produced the album from his studio, and recorded all the drums and some of the keyboard tracks.

I wouldn’t suggest that ‘Another’ is a better album than ‘Just’; from a songwriting perspective they are on a par, although ‘Just’ was recorded in a much shorter time-period than ‘Another’ and so appears to be, arguably, the more cohesive record of the two.  ‘Another’ follows through with tighter production and more inventive arrangements.  Gav’s singing has also improved.  What both albums do share is consistently good, to great, to excellent songwriting, and Gav’s trademark facility with words and music.  Here is a man who loves his songwriting and guitar playing, and it shows.
The sound quality on ‘Another’ is enhanced by better mixing and mastering: Gav’s vocals are now sitting more comfortably in the mix than ever before, and the sound is generally cleaner.  ‘Another’ was mastered by the legendary Don Bartley.  Don has mastered the lion’s share of iconic Australian albums over the past forty years, and the listener can hear his distinctive presence on ‘Another’.  Bartley’s trademark is his magic balance of crystallising the sound while retaining an elemental rock focus.  ‘Another’ is a rock album that delves into funk, boogie, country and reggae, and Don Bartley’s mastering instinctively captures the ethos of Gavin’s sound, albeit with the professionalism that is expected of good mastering.

Gavin is also an illustrator and artist (and photographer –the photos on the sleeve and cover are his).  He has an instinctive flair for evocation and “feels”.   The album’s opening track is one such example, ‘West wind’.  Written sometime in the late nineties, it evokes wide fields, wind swept fields, looking onto the setting sun.  Gavin overlays some fine rhythm and lead guitars with a discernable build up as the song progresses into the second verse.  The Major 7th “jazzy” chordal pattern, Pete Thompson’s djembe and Marc Mittag’s funky bass all contribute to an excellent piece of music and song.

Just as the Church’s ‘Starfish’ (1988) started with ‘Destination’ leading into ‘Under the Milky Way’, so does one of Gav’s most enduring songs come in at track two on ‘Another’.  The River’ is a crowd favourite and is performed extensively by Gav and formerly by Velvet Road.  It’s a classic country-rock track, featuring a gritty cod-funk bassline in the verses, underlying Gav’s blues riff in E.  The boogie-esque changes into the choruses are particularly enthralling “…but I won’t cry…” ; Gav’s dominant 7th chords are particularly swampy.  The arrangement allows more space for Gav’s delicious lead work compared to Velvet Road’s more muscular 3-piece arrangement.  Megan Albany’s backing vocal appears to conjure up the ghost of the girl whose life got taken away.  And for those who know the Australian countryside well, you can almost taste the dust of the dirt roads and the whiff of irrigation canals as you hear this track.  Every turn of phrase and chord change is emotionally and musically excellent.  Turn it up loud.

I don’t know’ is a standout track, and one of Gavin’s most intriguing songs to date.  It’s one of these songs where the lyrical ambiguities convey much more than is reflected on paper.  The music here complements the dreamy sentiments, starting with a soft chromatic guitar refrain redolent of Syd Barrett before going into a gutsier verse, and moving again into the softer sub-psychedelic ‘I don’t know’ chorus.   The questioning, poetic, albeit inscrutable verse lyrics are juxtaposed by the middle eight where Gav bares his feelings quite candidly (“…how can you blame someone where emotions are involved…”).  Like automated writing, or free-form painting, ‘I don’t know’ is starkly revealing in its ambiguity; uncertainty, apprehension, attraction, conflict, and perhaps a passionate neediness are some of the feelings that waft like the song’s pulsating coda.   Gav’s creepy background lead guitar and Megan Albany’s backing vocal enhance this mood.  I don’t know’ is a great song that captures the essence of what creativity, or art, is all about. 

Take me as I am (Everyday Man)’ follows on a theme taken from Gav’s iconic ‘Imperfections’.  The themes are straightforward, and with a healthy dose of “Gav” humour and double entrende in the middle section: “…I might be ordinary, but when I’m holding you I feel a lot bigger…”, along with Gav’s talent with writing and rhyming where he quotes a list of famous people before coming onto the aforementioned line.  It’s the sort of song that appeals to the ‘everyday man’, to quote from the song, and accounts for why Gav was so popular with the blokey crowd when he used to perform with Velvet Road.

Practicality’ is an appealing and excellently recorded song with a Police influence.  It’s distinctly reggae influenced, featuring stylishly layered guitars, a vibrant bassline, and a smattering of keyboard.   The song is about the difficulties of mixing a ‘straight’ versus a ‘creative’ in a relationship setting; the singer here is definitely the ‘creative’ while the other is the “practical” one.  Gav’s howling towards the ends of each of the choruses enhances the track’s liveliness, and there’s also a pleasing move into a jazzy middle-eight.

 Just like that’ is another live favourite from Gav’s solo and Velvet Road sets.  This is a song about losing your loved one(s) suddenly.  The song has an overall country flavour to it, and the poignancy of the delivery is balanced by the sharp chorus “…just like that…” and the swinging bassline and drums.  There’s a good balance of major and minor chords here reminiscent of Neil Finn, again showcasing Gavin’s craft as a very good songwriter.

Danny McCrocker’ is, yet again, another live Gav and Velvet Road favourite.  This is Gav’s one song that blatantly expounds his Irish roots.  It captures the feel of Irish jig and town hall jive, all the way through to the Celtic style lead backed by marching drum beat and the bars being counted down in the background.  The double choruses at the end are wild and rollicking.  This is celebratory, party music, and you can virtually taste the Guiness that you hear Gavin call for at the beginning of the song.  Danny McCrocker’ is great and quite original – no-one else in the local songwriting scene writes songs like this, and very few songwriters capture this much joie de vivre in their work.  They’d love this at Irish pubs!

Been so long’ is a danceable track, starting off with an 80’s style drum refrain not too dissimilar from Prince’s style.  Gav sings the verses in tandem with Megan Albany, being a song about coming back home to his lover, and both deliver a passionate and inspired performance, particularly as the song reaches its coda.  The song maintains a contemporary sound while being quite influenced by 80s rock, in particular INXS, (note the saxophone) and even Go Betweens.   The middle-eight here is inspired; the move into “…life can make decisions…” lyric is musically quite stirring, similar to many early Crowded House songs.

Acting funny’ is another great pop/rock song with a classic Australian rock influence.   There is a vague country flavour to it, again, similar to the Go Betweens or Gang Gajang, and those repeating 12-string (or double-tracked) lead motifs that are heard throughout the song are also reminiscent of bands like The Church.  Those dreamy refrains at the end of the each verse, too, are also somewhat Church-like.  Acting funny’ is also infused with stylish and expert guitar lines, and is possibly the only song ever recorded with the word “petulant” in its lyric!

In ‘I don’t want you’, Gav tells the object of the song that he doesn’t want them, but paradoxically “…wish[es] that telephone would ring…”.  Lyrically, ‘I don’t want you’ suggests an occasionally recurring theme recurring in Gav’s songs, where the woman or object of his desire appears to be kept at a distance.  But the music is so boppy and upbeat, you come away feeling that Gavin is possibly being tongue-in-cheek and humorous about it all.  There’s plenty of walking bass, and ukulele in the old-time music-hall style middle section.  An excellent song, and very Gavin!

Mr Elevator Music Man’ is another reggae track, this time underpinned by a prominent walking jazz bass, tasty lead licks, and a decidedly impassioned lyric.  This is something of a ‘message’ song, with Gav using his lyric to tell an unnamed second person what constitutes good music “…it’s the passion that makes the music come alive…” – passion that Gav has in spades.

Baker’s town’ is one of the album’s more rock-influenced tracks in the style of Hunters & Collectors or Midnight Oil.  This is a song about the need to escape from a country town.  Gav creates a soundscape complementary to the lyric, and his own experience growing up in the country is what probably gives this song its unquestionable authenticity – a city-slicker could not have written this.  And somehow, the female backing vocal appears to enhance the sense of desolation and desperation; perhaps this is what Gavin (or Stewart) had intended.

Penitentiary’ leaves Australians shores and plants itself firmly in America’s southern hybrid of white country and zydeco.   It’s a wonderful track, one where the saxophone really shines, and which captures these musical influences so evocatively; you really feel you’re in Louisiana, or Mississippi.  Gav records the keyboards himself here, probably to ensure that the musical flavour remains true to his intentions.  The middle-eight goes off into ¾ time before coming back into the dance grooves and a saxophone solo.  This is a great dance track in the vintage musical style of southern-USA.

Sweet Little Angel’ similarly has its roots planted in southern USA.  This is classic 50s style rock with that mix of rockabilly and blues within a rock’n’roll setting.  “…I believe in my sweet little angel…” is a memorable lyrical refrain and hook – this song would’ve fit well back in the late-1950s, and yet sounds vital and fresh today.  A fantastic final song to a fine record.

Gav includes two fine bonus tracks here (with no extra lead-time into them), ‘My alarm clock’, and ‘My fair game’.  These are both excellent rock tracks that fit in nicely at the end of the CD, which overall representing great listening value to the listener. 

Gavin Fitzgerald has always maintained a very high standard of songwriting both as a performer and as a recording artist.  But on ‘Another’, his standards are lifted even higher, with very noticeable improvements in his singing, producing, mixing, musical adventurism, and - not least of all - his deft guitar playing.   Thus far, Gavin, either as a solo act or in Velvet Road, has attracted a small but loyal following often comprising of other songwriters, friends, and friends-of-friends.  He doesn’t quite have the gravitas or “pulling-power” of other songwriters local to the scene, and neither does he have the “cred” so easily attributed to many of those other writers or performers.  In my opinion though, Gavin is quite unique; his is a fruitful talent which often exudes – for his humour, his wit, his radiant liveliness - a twinkle of definable genius.   Gavin must be considered as one of the most gifted unsigned songwriters in the local or national scene today, and we can only hope that ‘Another’ brings this “everyday hardworking man” the notice and recognition he actually deserves.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The 2 Caesars

Malcolm Turnbull is the re-Constituted Andrew Peacock of our generation of asper-ant Aussies.  Malcolm's a hell of a lot smarter than Andrew.  He's quick-witted, illumined, and not at all unlikable.  But he shares that same insouciant smarmy Liberal-ness of Peacock, albeit in a Sydney Point Piper kind of way, compared with Andrew's Melbourne Toorak-ness.  Malcolm is also monumentally narcissistic.  His narcissism is better-contained than Andrew's because he's so much more intelligent and channels his emperor tendencies into work and occupational achievement.  Peacock was a fop by comparison who could never rise above the criticisms foisted on him by the Labor opposition and by his own party (including his biggest enemy, little johnny howard).

Turnbull the name is a somewhat imperious one.  Even his head is shaped like some post-AD Roman emperor.  His brand of narcissism is shared with Bob Hawke's, who Paul Keating compared himself to as a "shrinking violet".  The two Caesars, Turnbull and Hawke.  Powerful, smart and capable, until their narcissism eventually parades them through the streets of political triumph as mere shells, rather than as collaborative and purposeful on-the-up politicians.  Time will tell how Turnbull develops as a Prime Minister if he is to be re-elected on 2 July, but chances are he will be the shell of Narcissus until broken down, suddenly, in one brittle blow.

The Liberals are pricks.  Best thing is for them to be voted, RIGHT OUT.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Huon Pine

I walked into a guitar shop today which stocked wall-to-wall specimens of a local brand of acoustic guitar.  It was almost as hot inside as out, and was dismayed to think that these guitars would have to live in the swanky heat and wondered of any damage caused to the delicate bracings and woods.

I played a lot of the guitars and conversed with the nice sales guy who brought them down for me.  I was too scared to handle all these thousand dollar plus guitars from their wall-hangings, fearing breakage and banging that often happens when taking a guitar from a wall in the shop.  I didn't want to let on I already knew a lot about the product and was happy anyway to try a few woods to see how they sounded.

Californian Redwood on Rosewood sounded quite magnificent.  This Californian Redwood is locally grown and apparently makes this particular model quite a drawcard in the US where Redwood is a prohibited wood for harvesting.  It looked amazing too, with a spectacular leaf-like pattern of a cream-centre surrounded by that lustrous, deep red.

The real cream of the crop was the Blackwood back and sides topped with Tasmanian Huon Pine.  This Huon Pine was 10,000 years old and was harvested from an already felled tree residing within the bottom of a Tasmanian lake.  This particular set of Blackwood was highly-figured in "fiddleback" style, giving off a brilliant 3D effect; it was difficult to take one's eyes off.  Me and the sales rep were standing there for a while, he holding up the guitar, and us just staring silently for a few seconds.  The Huon Pine was clean, a gorgeous faint yellow, and it produced that unmistakable, everlasting smell of Huon Pine that seems to possess some sort of ethereal power beyond the sensory realm.

The Huon Pine guitar may not be the finest-sounding acoustic guitar - but it arguably comes fairly close.  No, instead, something else came through, something almost shocking.  This guitar throbbed with 'soul', some kind of timeless intensity.  It sang a song of its own language.  It was alive.  It felt like a masterpiece of the earth, with woods that could spin a wordless story which transcend all times and ages, and yet remains tied to the place and region from whence it sprang, and was built.

This guitar had a $5999 tag attributed to it.  It's worth the money.  You can't put a price-tag on a totemic guitar like this.   I'd only procure such a piece if it somehow came my way to purchase.  That I was able to handle it and sniff the pine and play it was enough to be impacted by something that was quite vast.  It's just so amazing that this kind of potency can be built into one acoustic guitar.

Monday, December 29, 2014


I went to my first AA meeting the other night.  It was Christmas Eve.  I personally had no need to attend an AA meeting other than I was guided along into the melee of old and young alcos speaking of their pathos and determination to stay off the bottle for just one-more-day now.  Alcohol pervades my life.  It pervades the lives of those closest to me, particularly since 2008, and it pervaded my life most directly from birth up to the age of 22, when my father passed away.

All I could think about during the meeting was my dad.  I'd be listening to the speakers and couldn't cease to reflect off my own memories and experience with good old dad, comparing my experiences with the stories I was listening to, here, now.

'Alcoholic' never passed through anyone's lips when dad was alive.  After all, he worked hard, and kept his jobs all the way into his final terminal illness.  He 'only' drank beer, and that not what alkies drink, is it?  No, he didn't do wine or spirits, so he couldn't be an alco, could he?  I bristle with a twisted smile now to think of dad hating drugs and drug dealers while all the while he was making the local drug dealer in the form of the publican(s) filthy rich through his own debilitating habit.  Mum was passive.  She didn't interfere.  It was only beer, after all.   Except that throughout my life up the age of 22, and as far back as I could remember, dad was up the pub every night.  He'd always come back stone cold like a wet sloppy dead fish.  And that drinking increased incrementally so that in the last couple of years in his life he'd be at the pub all day on the Sunday.  Ostensibly, he'd be up early to play lawn bowls.  He'd take a biscuit from the tin and go off with his bag of heavy balls.  He'd be back sometime in the afternoon so utterly and elegantly plastered I had to wonder how many beers it would take to achieve such a state.  But I didn't wonder so much.  When you're immersed in it, you live it, you get on with it, and you take it for granted.

Everyone loved Ralph, good ol' Ralph.  Sure, he was incredibly likeable and had a true social nous, so he had loads of friends.  So much so that he overfilled the large church at this funeral.  He was loved in the way others may have loved Keith Moon and Oliver Reed, y'know, meeting your best friends in pubs and all that bullshit.  Still, there must be some virtue in that.  I don't have the same social nous as my dad and tend to be way more aloof.  My dad truly had a lot going for him in many ways and therein lies the tragedy.  Magnificent build, good looking, great hair.  By the end of his life he was enfeebled, wracked by pain, emotional and otherwise.  I'm pleased to say he never lost all his strength despite the rivers of booze and the pack-a-day habit - right down to the butt.

I could attend an A-Anon meeting and speak there.  Financial insecurity, lack of love, all that fucking drinking as I remember it.  But there's an overriding part of me that's a stoic and a believer in bettering the situation.  Bettering the situation does not entail naval gazing into the events of decades passed.  It involves loving the being for who they are, were, what they did for you (for they do much amidst incredible emotional pain that is constantly balmed by the alcohol), and to give now, be of service to your late father and life within and without, for that's where the service to life lies.

I feel that alcohol and its effect on me is something I could talk about forever and ever.  Sure, I will have a glass of red here and there, or a beer, but I'm not really a drinker.  Thank God.  I can't stand hangovers, and the vile stuff has caused more than enough pain for me already in this lifetime.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I was huddled together with two architects in a small meeting-room going over plans for a total refurbishment of the library space.  I'm no architect, but when spot-pinned for suggestions by these two architects I was apt enough to proffer some idea or other that seemed to go down well.  There were moments where I noticed my hand brushing into my hair as I gulped with the pressure of knowing that a lot of changes were underfoot that I had no control over.  It's all going to be different; less space, new colours, and if I have it my way, a new software management system.  One year's time from now - a totally new space, probably a totally new everything.

Last December I walked into the university's bookshop and went straight up to the sci-fi section.  I haven't read sci-fi since my early teens and my was, for whatever reason, longing to read some sci-fi again.  A book called 'Dust' which had a "Staff Recommended" tag at shelf's edge caught my attention.  I glanced at the blurb and thought this'll do.  Then my contact/supplier from the bookshop, Emily, walked up to say hello.  I immediately solicited her opinion about this 'Dust' book.  Emily told me that 'Wool' was the first in the trilogy, that it was a massive hit, and had something to do with a futuristic scenario where people were forced to live underground in a massive silo.  There was something about Emily's explanation that caught my interest and excitement.  Taking a risk, I bought Hugh Howey's 'Wool', and walked out of the shop into the languid early-summer haze of the pre-Christmas out-of-session campus.

I loved 'Wool'.  And I loved its prequel, 'Shift', too.  I related to Donald, a central character who was intimately and intricately swept along with a terrible movement of events beyond his control.  I want my project to go well.  I know from my own experience in this job I've been with for 18 years that big changes or movements at work are invariably reflected in full in my personal life.  I wonder what's going to happen?  I wonder if that halfway through the beginning bit of the project, when the roof is blown off before the uppers levels are constructed that some event will occur that will delay or blow off the project.  I'll be anxious.  I'll want the refurbishment to be over, to walk into a safe place and reset my digs, if that's to be.  It might not be meant to be.  What is certain, everything will be different.

I loved the Juliette character in the 'silo' series, Howey's heroine.  She was brave, clever, sharp, and she was compassionate, human.  A true leader with a discernible charisma, or as Howey described her, "...she had a fierce intelligence that could be measured from a distance."

Sometimes as I'm gliding around on soft shoes inside the facility or when I shift my gaze in different directions as I'm walking stealthily ahead I think of the place a silo of sorts.  Sometimes I feel as tactile as a Juliette, as furtive as Donald, and sometimes as much a slayer-type as Thurman, someone who knows too much and holds secrets.

And when I walk outside and look up at the clear blue sky I feel so consciously thankful for the air I'm breathing, moreso since I read 'Wool'.


enjoying a bevvy Awakening to the ‘good’ in our lives and to the fulfilling sense of gratitude which follows often comes to us via ...