Saturday, June 30, 2007

About my dream

I have a recurring dream. I suppose you could call it a nightmare, although it is not frightening. It is sad, and I sometimes wake up in floods of tears; sometimes, even, I feel down for the rest of the day because the dream seems so real that I forget that it is just a dream.

In the dream, I have a few months to live. I write letters to my children, for them now and for them when they are of age, for the adults I will never seem them become. This is the heart of my dream, and it is one of my -- any parent's, I suppose -- biggest fears, that I will not live to see what becomes of them, particularly of Zenella, because she is my first and the person I love most in this world.

But the tears are for myself, I am sure, because I know that if I were to die in a few months, I would feel my life had been unfulfilled, that I had made too little of it. And I know the resolution for that feeling, it is no good to tell me, because we all know that we can easily make more of ourselves, stop wasting the hours of our days, throw away the TV, the magazines, the PC, the million ways to piss time away.

In the dream, I write to Zenella that I have nothing to teach her about how to live her life, because I had no idea how to live mine. And besides, I do not want to teach her anything; I want her to learn whatever lessons there are to learn by osmosis, by experience, by trial and error, not by being handed a roadmap and crucifying herself for not being able to follow it.

I visit my parents and my sisters in the UK and I ask them not to come to the funeral. After all, I say, they will just be paying their respects to a dead body, not to me. I will be gone.

I write to Zenella that she will have forgotten me and that I regret so much that I am not there to see the beautiful woman she has become. I am confident she will be a wonderful person. I do not know what I write to Zenita and Naughtyman because my dream has recurred since before they were born and they are not really part of it.

I do not believe love is eternal. I do not know what that even means. But I believe it lasts as long as the person loved lasts, so long as they know they were loved and value it. I know that my dream is not about fear of dying, although I am afraid of it, and it is not about how sad it is to waste your life, although I do feel sad about that, but it is about the fear of not being loved, of the love I have for her not being enough, dwindling in her as I become a distant memory, until it is unvalued, and itself dies. I am more afraid of that than anything in this world, and I want more than anything that when they in their turn are saying goodbye to their children, mine will be valuing my love.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Just teh facts, ma'am

This is just brilliant, the best summary of the facts on Iraq, as we know them, that I've seen.

Those who claim that the invasion of Iraq was a well-justified attack that went wrong (and astonishingly, those people do exist, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary, and one can only presume they are blinded by loyalty to their rightist hero or their own stupidity, take your pick) should read it carefully, and recalibrate.

They lied to us. They lied repeatedly and continue to lie. They did not lie for our own good, which we might forgive, at least somewhat. They lied for their own ends.

They will never face the trial they deserve, never receive the punishment due for the many, many murders they are responsible for, never see justice. But we can do it ourselves, in a small way. A tiny way, if we are little-read smalltimers, but an important way. Because a single small voice cannot stand against a tide of lies, but millions can. And maybe that will be enough to spare the people of other countries the hurt that we let Bush and his criminal buddies visit on Iraq.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The food's crap but don't quote me

This is quite shocking and rather chilling. One has to bear in mind reading it that Australia has quite restrictive defamation laws, but it does seem that if you have a shit meal in a restaurant, you will not be able to say so here.

I remember, some years back now, the actress Charlotte Cornwell suing a paper for saying she had a fat arse. At the risk of being sued myself, I think it was fair to say that she did have a meaty butt, but she argued that she was in the business of acting, not of having an arse, and that while comment on her acting was fair enough, comment on her arse was not. She sought to draw a line between fair comment on her work and unfair comment on her personally. I think it's a fine line, and courts should probably be careful only to decide on cases that are clearly one side or the other. However, restaurants' business is to produce food. With all the monstrous posing that goes on, that might be obscured, but still.

But reviewers can be turds. They can quite purposefully put the knife in; they revel in their (presumed) power to make or break a restaurant, film or book (probably a realler power so far as films are concerned than restaurants, and only then with films that are aimed at a more discerning viewer: Shrek 3 will be a hit regardless who says it's rubbish). And food writers do have a culture of viciousness, in which each tries to outdo the next in the waspishness of their review. Even so, I don't think they should be sued for giving their opinion, even if it stretches the envelope of fair comment. I sympathise with the restaurateur, whose business went under, but restaurants do come and go, and I tend to think the bad reviews are outcomes of bad food, not of the wish of reviewers to destroy reputations. Yes, they'll attack with relish when they find something they don't like, but it has to be unlikeable to begin with.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The best seaside town

What's your favourite seaside town? asks Teh Graun.

I won't be entering but I do have one.

Mine is Hayle, my home town when I was a child. It is not the prettiest, not the most charming (there are many charming villages in Cornwall, with streets sloping to the sea and beautiful old houses fronting the sea, but Hayle is rather workaday, once a busy industrial port, now a tourist centre solely because of its beach), in no way outstanding or wonderful, except for one. I love it more than I think I will ever love another place.

Why do I love it? I love it because it had places to explore, because the beach was long and flat, because the people were friendly and kept an eye out for little boys up to no good. It was safe and warm.

I love it because it is the place where I was happiest, running with my sisters and my friends along the dune tops, rolling down the dunes to the beach, cycling the lanes, swimming in icy water, playing in the barge that was beached by Harvey's dock. Man, the games we played. I still have vivid dreams in which I am a secret agent, a soldier, a man of action, content to do and not to think too much.

I love it because I never felt I wanted there. I had everything. How could you want more when you had a loving family, a beach within walking distance, a field to play in over the back fence? I learned to smoke there, to talk tough, to kiss girls and to drink with abandon. I learned to love indie music and I learned how painful it is to lose something you love when we moved away.

I remember sitting with H. in a cafe off Causewayhead in Penzance. She is crying because I have told her I am leaving. I want to kiss her, but I don't. We are not boyfriend and girlfriend, although we're close. I wonder whether she remembers me. I don't suppose she does. She had been an outsider, and I had welcomed her and befriended her. I had lived in Hayle long enough to become a local, long enough for it to become my home. For her, it was a long way from home (she had been brought up in Kenya). I wish I had reached out and touched her face, and I wonder how much of my life has been about wishing I could be sitting there once more, able to find a way to defy my father and stay there (at 15, a big ask, but when you dream, you can dream as big as you like, the bigger the better).

Clocks run only forwards though. A ton of shit has been piled into that innocent heart, but it still beats, still resonates with the sound of the surf, still yearns for a not so charming, rough and ready, safe and warm seaside town -- still the place that "home" means for me.