Letters to my sons.

Trying to explain the world to two very small children.

Archive for March, 2008

A better future because of the life lived.

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Dear Son,

well I got a couple of things wrong yesterday. I thought you would wake at 5.30am but you actually woke around 8am. I always confused when the clocks go back and forth.

The scattering of your grandmothers ashes went really well and was quite an upbeat affair. We were scattering her ashes in a place that she loved. We took it turns to toss handfuls of the ash from the edge of the cliff where a ruined castle stood. The view was magnificent and despite the popularity of the area we weren’t disturbed by anyone passing by. The rain that had been forecast and had thundered down yesterday cleared and the sun shone. As I tossed the ashes into the air I finally felt that I was saying good bye – I am still annoyed that I can’t speak to her and tell her what you have been up to, I do enjoy these moments for themselves and I’ll try not to feel disappointed that I can’t share them. She made a real effort to keep her self alive as long as did and I must repay that with joy, not sadness. She wouldn’t have wanted me to feel sadness. I felt as if I was letting her spirit fly free over the Scottish that she so loved.

This was also a fantastic bonding exercise between the three of us – something my mother would have approved of also.

I am now on the train heading home and I heard that Newcastle have just thrashed Spurs at Whiteheart Lane, just like they did when we took you to your first football match. My spirits could not be higher than they are now.

PS I am sat opposite two guys using identical Dell computers. They don’t know each other but they did look a little annoyed when I pulled out my MacBook. Their computers have serial ports on them – when you are older and able to ask me about serial ports I will tell you all about them, UART chips – the whole boring story.

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March 30th, 2008 at 4:29 pm

A final goodbye.

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Dear Son,

you cried when I got on the train and mummy told you that you couldn’t get on. I found that painful because I would have liked to have the two of you here with me but somethings have got to be done without the extended family and this is one of them.

I am on the train at the moment on my way to Perth where I will meet with Uncle Phil and Grandpa John, settle into our hotel for the night before setting off tomorrow to climb a high hill and scatter Grandma Audrey’s ashes.

It is nearly 2 and half years since she died but this is the first opportunity to carry out this task. Grandpa John has been unable to go far since Audrey died because their dog, Demie, would get very car sick. Demie died on December 7th 2007 just after her 15th birthday and the day we went to see Grandpa for the weekend.

I’ll see you again properly on Monday morning when you wake up and ask for me. I’m not sure what time that will be with the clocks changing this weekend but it may well be mummy who is having an early morning tomorrow.

Written by Administrator

March 29th, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Family

Our first few days in Trinidad

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Dear Son,

Sunday 9th MArch 2007. 16:13 GMT

We are just under 5 hours into out 12 hour flight into Tobago. We are 2 hours 2 minutes from Antigua doing over 1000km/h. You are watching the film Cars on my PSP after having had an hours sleep – I slept for most of that time as well. The woman in front of me insists on having her sate reclined so I have very little room to move and your mother is playing Patience. After Antigua we have a short hop to Tobago. We have one night there before a really shot hop over to Trinidad on Monday lunch time although with the 4 hour time difference it will feel more like the late afternoon for us. I’m sure you’ll be up at 6am GMT, 2am local time but I am hopeful that you will sleep on until around 4am local time. If you do we might walk down to Crown Point to have breakfast there when it opens at 7am. We have food to eat this time, unlike last time when we had wait 4 hours for breakfast.

Mummy is now taking you for a walk around the plane.

Last night we stayed with Alison and your God Father Lawson, who live 5 minutes from Gatwick. So instead of an early morning drive from Stratford we had a lie in, Alison made us all a loverly breakfast and then she dropped us off at the airport. So far so stress free – the problem with flights like this is the boredom factor. I have already written my thoughts on KK going back to SJP and I’m sure over the next week I’ll change it by adding some details.

You great Grandma’s funeral is on Tuesday at 10am, we don’t know where and we don’t know the format. But we do have our funeral clothes clean and ready to wear.

When we go the news in the early hours of Friday morning I knew that your Great-Grand Mother had died. Your mother had told me she was in hospital and not very well and the only time the phone goes during the night is when someone dies.

Again I am reminded of my mortality. I somehow thought, like the protagonist in the Green Mile, that would continue to be the same age and people around me would grow old and die while I reach a certain age and stop getting older.

Time to read you a story if Mummy remembered to pack it. She has.

18:32 GMT

We have just landed at Antigua – you are looking out of the window. The last couple of hours passed with no drama except that you pressed the emergency call button in the toilet so we had a knock on the door from a flight attendant. Also the landing was a bit hard – we seemed to hit the ground quite hard leading to me exclaim quite loudly “JESUS CHRIST!!”.

We arrived 55 minutes early so we may be here for a while. Unless all the people going to Trinidad have arrived early and can be bundled on board in double quick time. We already have our customs forms filled in and because you and mummy have Trinidad passports we can get in the much shorter residents queue. We need to go to a cash point when we land and make sure we put our departure tax (100 TT$ the last time we were here) to one side so we can get back out when we leave.

I can see from inside the air-conditioned airplane how hot it is outside. I know how hot it is going to be in my mind but my body is not prepared. The second time I came to Trinidad this did my head in and I sat in our hire car with the engine running and the AC on full until I was back down to a proper temperature. Now I can acclimatise in less than a day but I still know the shock of the heat is coming – some of this is due to jet lag. My body is telling me it is 11pm and it shouldn’t be this hot. The rest is due to the heat its self – it shouldn’t be this hot. The problem really manifests its self at night. In the UK on a very hot day it will cool down quite a bit once the sun goes down. But out here the sun goes down around 6pm but the heat doesn’t really drop that much – or not as much as it would in the UK and that, for me, is normal. Having talked to first generation Trinidad immigrants I know that it is not just me. Despite these people spending up to the first 25 years of their lives in the heat they still find it too hot when they visit their land of birth.

18:45 GMT

You have just met the pilot who’s middle name is also William and his first initial is also P.

You are now busy running around the plane with mummy following you. Although you are stopping to chat to people on the way around. I wonder when it is in life that we stop being social animals and coocoon our sleves.

22:15 GMT 16:15 Local TIme
We are now at the hotel (The Hummingbird) and already had a quick dip in the pool. All the rooms open onto the pool. While we were all naked when getting changed for the pool you pulled the curtain back so anyone passing could see in. Luckily no one was passing.

We have set the AC to 23 degrees C. I think I will shave tomorrow before we leave because my face is feeling really hot. I also need to get some sandals as my trainers are far too hot. I have scanned for open wireless networks and not found any broadcasting an SSID. I’ll load my copy of KisMac and see if there are any hidden networks. Naughty naughty.

23:45 GMT 19:45 Local Time
You are fast asleep and in a bed for the very first time on your own. We have pushed the double bed up against your single bed so that you can’t roll out and onto the floor. It will be interesting to see how you seep in a bed.

we have been stuffing socks into our shoes to stop any creatures crawling in – this is the same hotel were we had a scorpion in the room. A scorpion that could shrink it’s self to make it look like a bit of old string.

We have turned the AC to 27 degrees and put it on fan mode so that it doesn’t spew the cold air in one direction only. I cuddled up to you on the bed until you fell asleep and it wasn’t too cold for you.

I need to bring you trainers in from out side and then I am off to sleep as well. A late night fir GMT but an early night for local time.

03:30 Local Time Monday
You are asleep, curled up with mummy but I am wide awake as it is 7.30 GMT and I am wide awake. I’m going to lie in the bed and see if I can drift off – even it is for a few minutes.

07:26 A few minutes after the post above you were awake and you started singing “The farmer wants a white, the farmer wants a white …” over and over again. Mummy said to you: “The farmer wants a wife.” You started singing “The farmer wants a white, the farmer wants a white …”. “Okay,” said mummy “the farmer wants a white. Now go to sleep.” We have just finished watching Cars on my laptop and had a shower. Now it’s time for breakfast, nearly 4 hours after we woke up.

08:42 Local Time
We have just had breakfast. Something I forgot about that happened at the airport. When we were waiting to clear customs a behind you sneezed you turned around, looked him right in the eyes and said “Bless you”. He replied “Thank you.” At which point you replied “You are more than welcome!”.

We are now packing and going to the airport. We need to confirm our flights, top up the DigiCell phone and then fly off to Trinidad. Mummy is talking to the surveyors for a huge amount of money per minute.

13:25 At Aunty Helen’s house.

No drama’s getting to Aunty Helen’s house. You slept on the short flight over from Tobago to Trinidad. Now we are unpacking and settling in, ready for the funeral tomorrow. I’m feeling tired and I could do with a sleep. Grandpa Ken has gone out for roti, I hope he remembers that I’m veggie or I’m off to Trin City Mall to get a Subway sandwich.

The Roti was real nice boy. Had a small glass of wine with Aunty Helen and mummy while you throw rocks at a tree in the garden. I took some photos of a fig tree and a leaf cutter ant carrying a bit of leaf. We are going to your Great Grandma’s house tonight for a wake so I am having a little sleep before going.

22:32 Home from the wake. You were hard and fast asleep as you went to sleep at the same time I did. We dressed you and then went off to your Great Grandma’s house were the wake was in full swing. At Tantie Winnies wake there was a sound system, loads of food and drink and and an upbeat atmosphere. Here the upbeat atmosphere was present but the free flowing alcohol was missing. Your great-grandma was a 7 Day Adventist. I’m not sure what they do or believe but it appears that they like to sing for there was a lot of singing going on. We stayed outside of the house and enjoyed the cool night air, watching the planes going into Piarco and the moon rising.

Mummy is trying to give you a shower at the moment but you are so tired all you want to do is fight.

We found out that the funeral is at 2pm tomorrow and in Arima. I’m not sure what happens after the funeral or who will be there but your mother met one of her uncles for the first time tonight. He has two daughters, one of which is studying in Cambridge so we might meet her quite soon.

Tuesday 11th March 2008 06:46
Found an answer phone message on my phone from Lewis who celebrated his 9th birthday yesterday. I went up to Hexham the day he was born ad took some photo’s. I had them developed at a 1 hours place on the Monday and had them scanned and on the internet by the evening. These days we take photos on digital cameras and mobile phones and can upload the pictures straight from the device in the case of mobile phones. When you were born I had your photo’s on the internet within two hours. I had been practising for ages to make sure I got everything right.

You slept okay, until 5.30am today. More later.

We have just been shopping with your Grand Da and cousin Daniel. You had a good old run around LB’s supermarket in El Dorado. Managed to get some apple juice for you, some veggie burgers for me and some Evian for us all. The tap water here is very murky and highly chlorinated. While it might be impossible to taste the difference between tap water and bottled water in some parts of the world, in Trinidad that is not the case. You don’t seem to mind it though and I brought Peppermint Tea bags so I don’t taste the water either.

Our DigiCell SIM is not working and as I thought they have cut it off because the credit ran out months ago and the SIM hasn’t been switched on for over a year. I reckon if I get in touch with the company directly they might switch it back on. The only thing to do is buy a new SIM each time we come but I’m sure we can keep it alive some how. If they do web top-ups then we can keep the SIM in the UK, switch it on from time to time and then top-up for a few TT$ at the same time. A hassle but less hassle than having to take one of Heather’s family to a mobile phone shop every time we visit just so we can make cheap calls.

You have been playing with Daniel this morning but just returned from 24 with Mummy and she wants to talk to me. Sounds ominous.

Lunch is cooking but we have to be out by 1pm and I’m not getting dressed until I have eaten. I’m not getting food all down my suite – I usually get most of my food down my front when I eat. The chat your mother wanted was about the car seat. We are going to be cramming loads of people

Wednesday 12th March 2008 09:26
It is Lewis’ birthday today, he is nine years old.

The funeral yesterday was quite a joyous affair as people gathered to celebrate the life of your great grandmother. It also had some funny, strange and inappropriate events.

The service was held in a funeral home in Arouca that is also a crematorium. Your great grandmother was laid in her coffin with the top half open. Before the service started the manager (I presume) of the funeral home made an announcement regarding a parked card. The man was dressed in very casual clothes and seemed rather annoyed at the whole funeral that was about to take place. He then disappeared.

The Pastor started the service by welcoming everyone and then we had a hymn. This was quite funny as the woman who was leading the singing couldn’t sing herself. That didn’t stop her bellowing in to the microphone and drowning out everyone else. She told us before each hymn that we would start on four and then counted us in “three, four” and off she went. She also kept shouting out the next line of each hymn before we got there and then joined in herself. A few times she didn’t join back in with us and it was then that I could hear the rich voices behind me. The male bass end was perfect and the women seemed to have the mid and upper ranges covered perfectly with amazing harmonies. Then old-woman screech would join in and they would be lost to the sound of cat-murder being pumped out of the PA.

You fell asleep during the first hymn and I put you to rest on the floor near an AC unit so you didn’t get too hot. I knew that I was putting you in the walk way leading to the toilet but I didn’t expect a steady stream of people to be using it. Having said that it was mainly a little girl and an old man who seemed to be using it the most. Aunty Hazel did the eulogy and received some applause when she finished. The service proceeded and I noticed that the pastor was having problems with his English. Instead of saying “biblical” he kept saying “blib-bical” and this made me laugh a little, I also started having a laughing fit during one of the hymns when cat-murderer sounded like she had grown some more arms and was doing what she did best. I pretended that I was crying although your mother saw thorugh it and gave me a dirty stare that stopped me in my tracks.

When the service was nearly finished people where invited to pass by the coffin and say their final good-byes. Then the family was invited to do the same. I came over to where I had laid you because as you mother put it “grief stricken people don’t always think” and we didn’t want anyone standing on you.

At this point the manager came back in looking very unhappy and walked about showing no respect at all for the grieving people in the room. At the same time four men wearing gold chains, Timberland boots and t-shirts appeared and then walked though a set of doors – again showing no respect to anyone. One of them was on his mobile phone.

With everyone having paid their last respects the coffin was closed and the 4 men from earlier re-entered wearing white coats. The Pastor then said the final part of the service:

Earth to earth,
Ashes to Ashes
Dust to dust
In the sure and certain hope of the resurrection …

The last line got me and a few tears appeared. My own mother was sure and certain of the resurrection that the Pastor was talking about, unshakeable in her belief. This line also got me at the funeral of Arthur, our next door neighbour. When ever I hear those words I am transported back to Birtley Crematorium as the curtain closes and I see my mother (encased in a coffin) for the very last time.

The manager barked some orders and I’m back in the room. Again the manager was talking in a way that would be appropriate for a production line rather than a funeral – and the coffin was taken to some white doors. I could not see what was behind the doors from the place where I was standing but I could hear the sound of the furnace firing up. The relatives watched as the coffin was raised and then pushed forward – I’m assuming that they watched it as it went into the furnace and the furnace door was closed. The white doors where then closed and the service effectively came to end. Some people started to drift off but others remained some talking, some crying and others laughing. Instead of asking us politely to make our way out the manager had another coffin brought into the room and then got on the mic to tell us another service was about to start. The exodus was swift and total.

From there it was a short drive to back to your Great Grandmothers house and the food and drink started to flow. You had woken up by now and were happily running around with the other children and your cousins. The men disappeared in to the back garden to set up the “engine room” – a place to drink, play All Fours and be men.

I have the greatest respect for your Uncle Wendell and his All Fours prowess, but yesterday he was off the boil. We had 10 points and the other guys had 13, we needed 4 points to win, they needed just one. I knew that I needed to call out trumps but Wendell was having none of it and they hanged my jack. If I had been able to pass the Jack we would have won. The next time we played I took the lead and we won – the lesson here is that I sometimes need to assert myself.

By this time you were surviving on nervous energy and once in the car to go home you fell asleep and stayed that way until 5.30am. We nearly have you on Trinidad time.

We have both been bitten by mosquitoes. They have attacked my left arm and right thumb – Grand Father Ken reckons they don’t get a lot of white blood so when they find some they go to town. Another theory I heard is that the mosquitoes can see white skin in night better than black skin. Personally I believe that the mozzies have a personal vendetta against me. I don’t know what I have done and maybe I’ll never find out but they are all hell bent on revenge.

Written by Administrator

March 18th, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Culture,Family,Misc

KK and all that.

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Dear son,

I said I would explain about my feelings regarding the return of Kevin Keegan (KK) to Newcastle, so here goes.

I moved to the North East in 1982 when Grand Pa John’s work took him to Birtley. Before that we (Uncle Phil, Grand Ma Audrey, me and Grand Pa John) had lived in Grimsby. It was the day after my 12th birthday that we left, having moved there in 1974 so at that point nearly all of the life that I could remember leading had been in Grimsby. I didn’t really appreciate the North East during my teenage years and waited for any opportunity to leave. It came sooner than I thought.

My cousin Iain needed someone to look after his 3 and half year old daughter for the summer of 1988 and I jumped at the chance to spend three months in Chamonix looking after Emma. I finished my A levels in June, went on a family holiday to Scotland (the Piper Alpha Oil rig exploded while we were there) and then the adventure began. Iain had paid for my flights from Newcastle to Heathrow and then onto Geneva where I would picked up by his brother Andy. The morning of my flight I woke up mega early, really excited about the three months in Chamonix ahead of me. My mum and dad dropped me at Newcastle airport and I boarded my flight. I knew that depending on the direction of the wind the plane might fly over our house so I decided to look out and see if I could see it. At that point the co-pilot announced over the speakers “If you look out to the left you will see Leicester…”.

Uncle Phil wanted me to buy him some duty free after shave and when I got to Heathrow I went looking around the duty free shops only to hear the final call being announced for my flight so I hot footed it off to the gate to be see a whole load of people queueing, boarding hadn’t even started.

At Geneva I made my way to the exit and found Andy. Before long we were dropping my stuff off at Iain’s house and then on to spend the rest of the day at Andy’s house in Les Praz.

I enjoyed my three months in Chamonix, leaning how to cook, quite a lot of French and how to placate a three year old. The cooking and French skills I soon lost but my children skills I seem to have kept. A few weeks after coming back from Chamonix and going back to the North East I was off again to take my place at the lowest seat of learning in the land: The Polytechnic of Wales. I caught the bus to London and then another bus to Pontypridd. The bus to London did pass by our house and on the way past I flicked the V signs at it – I had never wanted to live there and I didn’t ever image I would come back.

But come back I did, in late 1993 I moved in with Uncle Phil. Effectively homeless and penniless I left Wales for the North East. There were two triggers that made me move; the obvious one was being homeless and penniless. The other was home sickness for the North East. During my time in Wales I had been back to the North East to see the family and to attend weddings and it was at a wedding in 1991 the seed of my desire to return was planted. This seed was watered by a TV program called Byker Grove that I started watching in early 1993 when my contract with Welsh Water wasn’t renewed and I was at home on the dole.

The third thing that really tipped over the edge of wanting to go back to the North East was football. Kevin Keegan had taken Newcastle into the Premership and the place was buzzing. At this point I had never seen Newcastle play, coming from a non-sporting family, but I had been a regular at Ninian Park to watch Cardiff play during my time in South Wales seeing the likes of Nathan Blake and Phil Stant under the management of Eddie May. I had even been to the Auto Windshield match between Cardiff and Swansea when police horses charged the Cardiff fans who were making their way peacefully into the stadium. This provocative action by the Police lay the foundations for the later riot. And I was at Ninian Park the day Cardiff won the old 3rd Division, doing the Aiatollya on the pitch when the game finished. I was sitting in a bar in Cardiff one night and they were showing something on Sky Sports about Newcastle and I watched 30 minutes of Newcastle goals. I knew at that point that I needed to “go home”.

When I heard that Kevin Keegan had been re-appointed at Newcastle my mind was thrown back to the time when I returned to the North; all the stress of being homeless and poor, and the realisation that this was the place where I called “home”.

After these memories had been thoroughly investigated and relived my mind went on to the two years I was back in the North East and the things that I did. This was mainly a happy time for me although there were some side times – being dumped by a girl friend springs to mind.

And then there were the thoughts regarding the events in the last 11 years – thinking I had found the one I was going to spend my life with only to be dumped on Valentines day, meeting your mother and knowing I was wrong about the other woman (this was very liberating), your birth, the death of my own mother and a hold host of other emotions both good and bad. All these thoughts played out in my mind in the few days after Kevin Keegan returned to Tyneside.

They say that smells trigger the most vivid memories and sometimes, for me, this is true. But the Return of the Messiah reminded me that I am growing older, that I have done a lot in my life and that I still have so much that I want to do.

Written by Administrator

March 18th, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Another death in the family

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Dear son,

early this morning we received the sad news that your surviving Great Grandmother had died. Today we have been trying to organise time off and flights to Trinidad for the funeral on Tuesday. I’m not sure we have a photo of the two of you together but I will look.

I haven’t had to write up my feelings at the news that Kevin Keegan has returned to SJP. It brought back so many memories of events so clearly that I could not believe that over 10 years had passed since KK left.

I will write this up fully as I need to get it out.

Written by Administrator

March 7th, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Family