Exit Music

With the pandemic putting a pretty serious crimp in the activities that would traditionally fill my evenings and weekends, readers might (quite reasonably) be asking themselves about the very poor volume of GofaDM output in recent weeks. They may, of course, be grateful: irrespective of the cause that has, at least briefly, stemmed the tide of nonsense – but I’m not here to pander to the readership!

I have taken on new, or modified, activities as part of my response to the reduced gig going opportunities with the resultant reduction in social contact and increased risk of the author running amok in some way. Writing the occasional quiz and attending and making silly remarks at other people’s quizzes along with preparing increasingly baroque adventures in both Generic Fantasy Landia and the kitchen (for the monthly Quaranstein) do take up a (perhaps) surprisingly large amount of time. I have done these things not as a result of any special virtue on my part but more a combination of rearguard action to hang on to the tatters of my sanity and a set of stupid ideas that got slightly out-of-hand and have now developed a life of their own. So, I was frankly gobsmacked when, last week, I was presented with card saying worryingly nice things about the author (clearly my attempts to conceal the real me have been wildly successful) and an apron decorated in a combination of appliqué, collage and embroidery with most of the key memes from my lockdown social life. I am fortunate in my life and friends far beyond any level that I could claim represents my just desserts…

Apron-as-biography

Work has also become really rather busy in recent weeks, leaving me rather less energy to write after a busy day of modelling or script-editing. Still, it has probably acted as a welcome distraction from the major life event which has occurred since the last post.

On 12 September, I became a demi-orphan (I think half orphan is the more common phrase but we seek out the uncommon and uncanny here at GofaDM) with the death of my mother. We’d had a few days to prepare for the likely end, with several family conferences to try and make the appropriate end of life decisions but the exact timing remained uncertain (until it wasn’t). I think it was as good a death as could have been achieved given the severe dementia: though I really have no way of knowing.

I find that I have been oddly unemotional (insofar as I can tell) about the event, but this may be because the dementia has meant that I have been losing my mother by instalments for the last 3 or 4 years. Or it may just accurately reflect the fact that I am an unfeeling monster: we will never know for sure. I have continued to think of things I’d like to tell my mother but now can’t, though to a significant extent that has been true for the last two years.

I now find I am unexpectedly knowledgeable about the wide variety of coffins now available in all price ranges and their ability (or otherwise) to provide sufficient kindling for the incineration of a human body. Holding a funeral during the pandemic is not ideal, but we had lovely weather and I don’t think we lost out on too much as a result of the restrictions. There were more masks in evidence that is traditional (outside of Venice or the MCU anyway) and we couldn’t really have any sort of do afterwards. Still, my father and sister – with modest input from me (I may be pretty good at quizzes but I have a very shaky memory of my own life, it turns out) – put together a jolly good eulogy and our celebrant (slightly improbably named Candy) did a good job running the service: even my eyes slightly moistened at one stage!

Death-related activities and the importance of spending time (as much as feasible and feels safe) with my fairly small family does mean that I have driven more in the last few weeks than I normally do in a couple of years: my car must think it’s been stolen! Despite regularly shuttling the length of the 27s A&M, I still feel a terrible fraud as a driver and constantly expect the next roundabout or right-turn will leave me (a) found out and (b) unable to break into the traffic flow and so living out the remainder of my days as an obstruction at a moderately busy road junction. So far, this has not happened – though I’m taking nothing for granted – but I still find driving very tiring and do tend to start each journey before 6am to dodge as many other road users as possible.

The last month has also seen a modest re-starting of live gigs at indoor venues in the vicinity. In the last month, I have been to four gigs in a building with other people and it is both exciting and rather poignant. The expressions on the faces of both musicians and audience make clear how important live music is to people and what a difference doing things together makes. Social distancing means venues feel very empty, even when sold out, and though this has definite benefits in terms of legroom and sightlines it really can’t be great for the economics for either venues or artists. One wonders how long even this limited re-opening can last but I shall enjoy it while it does…

Very belatedly the government appears to be taking time out from its self-appointed task of spreading largesse in the direction of totally unqualified suppliers (who, in one of the least surprising events of recent years, turn out to be entirely unable to deliver on their piecrust promises) and organised crime to offer some support to the Arts. Some of this support appears very oddly targetted, and that which seems better aimed misses huge swathes of the live events industry and is probably barely managing the overdrafts for those that have received funds. It also seems weirdly sinister, and somehow reminiscent of a totalitarian state, that recipients appear obliged to be publicly grateful to the Arts Council and/or government on social media for any money they do receive. I do feel that both the bodies wishing to be seen as Lady Bountiful would do well to remember that the money they are disbursing is not theirs but ours!

I shall now dismount from my soapbox and attempt to melt away into the crowds before the authorities feel my collar. While I continue to miss so much that was taken for granted prior to March, I seem to have made the transition to a decent back-up life which will hopefully see me through the return of Greenwich Mean Time and the winter that is to come. I shall be keeping an ear cocked for the belling of the hounds of Spring…

Without me

This post will enter dangerous new territory to consider a world without the author.  The whole ethos of this blog is structured around the centrality of the author to his own little world and the implicit assumption that this view is shared by a wider demographic.  The unexpected number (i.e. the fact it exceeds zero) of visitors to my digital domain has only worked to reinforce my opinion that my life, ramblings and bad jokes are far more important than could be justified by a more reasonable, objective measure.  The last post (not the Bb bugle call, but the post whose production directly preceded this one when viewed from the light-cone of the author) has proved alarmingly popular: though I would explain this by reference to its sharing be a young(er) person, rather than by ascribing any particular merit to it.

I cannot be alone, among those who have accepted that they are not (and would not wish to be) immortal, in wondering how the world (and indeed, the wider multi-verse) will muddle along without my presence.  I strongly suspect it will be fine (or at least largely unaffected for good or ill – fine might be overstating matters given recent current affairs) when the long awaited decree absolute in the divorce between me and my mortal coil is finally granted.  I have worked hard to ensure (OK, have wandered through life in such a way) that any ripples that I make in the pond of existence have minimal amplitude and soon dissipate.  The odd pub, cake shop and cultural venue may notice a brief dip in income but I like to imagine that they will survive my demise.  Though, frankly, once I’ve paid by obols to Charon and taken my terminal boat trip, you’re on your own folks!  My responsibilities (and insomnia) will be at an end!

Obviously, as part of my departure I shall be establishing a series of amusing (hopefully, flaming) hoops for those who wish to inherit my billions (currency to be confirmed) to jump through.  I fully intend for my will and funeral to be as far from plain vanilla as I can legally accomplish: is a tontine still possible?  I want them to be discussed for years to come as simultaneously a high and low watermark in the art of dying.  I want Hollywood to be fighting over the 18 certificate movie rights!  I want outrage in the Daily Mail and the Socialist Worker!  Actually, I’m making this sound rather good: I may have to fake my own death just to enjoy my funeral and the reading of my will.  I knew there was a good reason for moving closer to the sea!

You may wonder why GofdDM has suddenly taken a turn to the macabre or morbid. Others may, long ago, have decided that beneath the shallow veneer of self-obsessed whimsy it is darkness all the way down.  I couldn’t possibly comment on this theory, but am quite pleased that you might imagine that anything at all lies below intellectual shallows displayed in this forum.  However, there have been a couple of recent events which have made me realise that elements of my life continue without me.  Also, the previous post considered my position if a huge proportion of humanity were to be wiped out, so it only seemed fair to consider the position of the rest of humanity if it should (contrary to all natural justice) be that me that bites the bullet!

earth without me

The earth without me – spot the difference!

A much earlier post established that one of my nicknames appeared to by living an existence independent of me – and I like to imagine that this has continued.  However, this was merely a world 2 object (to mis-use the work of Karl Popper) and recent events relate to world 1 objects.

Of late, the National Blood Service has started to send me texts identifying where my blood goes after it has been donated.  To be honest, I’d prefer a postcard – but I will admit that their budget is probably better spend on their core business of blood collection and distribution.  When I say where it goes, they don’t send me the name, address and vital statistics of the recipient, merely the hospital where it was returned to a human host (or, depending on your point of view, first introduced to a human host).  Donation 92 went to Frimley Park – I place the rest of me has never visited – and donation 93 to Stafford (which I have visited but once).  It has been good to see that once it has left its fleshy prison (something which it seems increasingly keen to do given the rapidity with which my lie-down is overtaken by lemon squash and biscuits), my blood is getting out and about and exploring the country.  If only it retained some psychic link to its original home, I could deal with the challenge of too many gigs to attend and only one body to do the attending.  Equally, were it to be given to an EU national (something I would encourage, it would be nice to think a small part of me is living in Paris or Barcelona), could I reverse-inherit an EU passport?  Would any of the new host’s skills somehow rub off on me?  I fear I may have jumped the Lamarkian shark here and will stop before my scientific credentials are completed destroyed.

I am (tomorrow) going off to the Cambridge Folk Festival.  This will be my first, real multi-day festival which is likely to involve a field and mud: though I do feel a muddy field makes a more appropriate substrate for folk music than it does for grime or emo (to name but two).  Wish me luck, I may need it!  I am not camping, but staying in the relative luxury of student halls – and if it all gets too much for me, I can easily retreat into the city and its own cultural delights.  So, I like to think this is very much a halfway house to full festival-going and an approach commensurate with the dignity of a man of my advanced years (though clearly not to me, I have largely outlived both my dignity and my shame by this point.  They have very much played the same sacrificial role in my life that a painting did in that of Dorian Gray).

While I am away, my guitar will be gigging without me.  Interestingly, it has never gigged with me – though today I did use a capo for the first time (and my capo is very fine, a real capo di tutti capi) and learned to bend.  Nevertheless, I am far from ready to take to the stage – unless you wish to clear a venue – so I am leaving it the hands of a far more capable performer.  I feel that it is good for my instrument to get some proper gig experience in -well before its owner.  It’s probably best if we don’t both have first gig nerves at the same time – and I’m pretty sure I can internalise enough stress for the both of us.

So, even while I’m very much alive (or am I?) my possessions and even my very substance are already learning to live without me.  I suspect there is an important lesson here about our own unimportance – even in our own home and as its sole resident.  But I shall leave that for my readers to draw, I’m having fun here in the shallows!