Measure of the Man

Here’s a piece. about the utter vacuity of people who describe homosexuality as a choice. The following paragraph is as moving a thing as I’ve read this year:

He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn’t the measure of the man.

The Daily Mail, journalism at its slightest

For those of you lucky enough to have lived thus far without bumping into it, the UK has a ‘news’paper called The Daily Mail. I say ‘news’ rather than news because it has several facets, none of which are particularly concerned with news. Online it’s primarily interested in which reality TV tramp has slept with which boy band vacuity. In print it’s primary issues are:

1. The outrageous intrusions into our lives carried out by the government on an hourly basis, and
2. Crime/indecency/exploitation/other outrages, and when is the government planning to do something about it.

What it isn’t worried about, however, is accuracy. A couple of weeks ago they had a brilliant piece on kid’s school lunch boxes, claiming that they contain as much sugar as 10 doughnuts. They illustrated this with a picture of a lunch box containing, among other things, 2 doughnuts. Amazingly, if you chuck another 5 doughnuts in there it would contain as much sugar as 15 doughnuts! As an added bonus, they show a picture of a disgustingly high-sugar drink, only the picture they chose was for the low sugar version.

But today they did even better. In a piece alleging, in passing, that Jackie O. had an affair with her brother-in-law they included the following:

Jackie O's brother in law, apparently.
Jackie O's brother in law, apparently.

You’re not a journalist (probably), so you might be forgiven for not noticing that he looks a little worn out for a man who died when he was 42. You might not twig that his attire is rather contemporary for someone from the 60s, especially as most of the common pictures of him are in black and white, not colour. In fact, you’d probably not wonder about it at all, unless you knew that he had a son, also called Bobby Kennedy (Junior, this time), who has grown to look older than his father ever did because he has lived to be older than his father ever did, and dresses in the styles of today because he’s alive today.

Of course, if you were a journalist you’d know that immediately, wouldn’t you?

(Update: Here’s the link, if you must)

The Funeral

Mum’s funeral was, as these things go, not a sombre affair. Temporarily lacking a vicar one of the lay readers, and a friend of Mum’s stood in for the service. He did a great job at keeping things relatively light, and there were no Holy Spigot moments (particularly impressive for an ‘amateur’ doing only his second funeral).

I’m not much for public speaking, but it turns out that the crowd is willing to cut you a lot of slack on such occasions, so I was able to ramble without notes for a few minutes. That means I can’t report exactly what I said, but it went something like this:

When Mum was in hospital there was often something that needed to be done, whether it was a bed change, injection or whatever. Her standard response to being told about these, especially as communication became increasingly difficult for her, was to say “right”. I’m sure that the nurses took that as a pretty normal response, and of course it was. But it meant more than that.

‘Right’ meant that there was something else to be done. That could be as routine as making me breakfast, or doing the ironing, or one of the other hundred things she did to look after me. But it could just as easily mean she had to go to Brownies, or some outing for the old folks, or a PTA event, or any number of other charitable events. ‘Right’ meant that she could stay in her chair by the fire and watch TV, but there was something to be done, and if she didn’t do it then it might not get done.

That was the story for as long as I knew Mum. She was never involved in anything that would change the world, and indeed it’s unlikely she ever turned around the life of a single person. But she made a thousand people’s lives just that little bit better. That seems to me like a pretty good way to have spent a life.

Bye Mum

My Mum passed away last Friday. We’d originally planned a holiday for the last two weeks, but cancelled that and switched to a week in Derbyshire. We’d go out during the day with the kids (Gulliver’s Kingdom, Alton Towers Water Park, etc.) and then I’d visit her in hospital in the evening. By the Thursday one of the nurses suggested I might want to stay over, so we set up a mattress on the floor of her room and I kipped there (until she got tired of me being so concerned for her comfort and kicked me out). We hadn’t quite allowed for Mum’s tenacity, however, as I spent a further 7 nights sleeping on the floor, allowing myself an hour a day to wander around Ashbourne while someone else sat with her. I can’t honestly say it was an easy passing, but the awesome staff at the excellent St Oswald’s hospital made it as close to one as was possible.

That’s all I have to say about that for now. The funeral is next week, and I’ll be making a speech, so I’ll share what I come up with later.