Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The longest year

Posted: April 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

Dear Jessica,

It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. And yet sometimes it seems like no time at all. It was Thursday, March 31 last year when I last saw you, your face lighting up with that beautiful smile as we met you off the Dallas flight in Miami on our way home to Bermuda.

You looked and sounded so relaxed and happy as you told us about your trip to visit your beloved Grannie and Pop-Pop for Grannie’s birthday. You were thirsty so I bought you a Coke Zero and gave you a chocolate Easter bunny I’d bought you in Telluride. Your brother Toby was there too, on his way back from a school trip, and as usual gave you one of his special big hugs.

After we landed in Bermuda we shared a cab from the airport. We dropped you off at your apartment with a kiss and more hugs and you said you’d to let me know if you would be coming round on Sunday for dinner. I sent you a text on the Saturday to remind you but you didn’t reply. I figured you were busy at work and made a mental note to call you the next day. Except by then, of course, the unimaginable had happened and you had already left us without a goodbye or an explanation.

A year has now passed and I am no wiser about why you took your life. I don’t believe you meant to hurt anyone; I just wish you had known how much you were – and still are – loved by so many. You could not have known that in ending your life you would take so much from ours.

For the last 12 months we have faced and got through all the first milestones – what would have been your 26th birthday, Father’s Day, Christmas, all our birthdays – and we will, in our ways, get through April 3 as well but this feels the hardest. I find myself replaying those last few weeks, days and hours as though I can somehow stop the movie and save you.  

But as devastating as it is to no longer have you with us, I want you to know that the family and your friends have come a long way from the raw emotions of a year ago when it seemed impossible that our broken hearts could keep beating. Some days we’re more “okay” than others, but the edges of the hole that will always be in our hearts are gradually softening.

Yes, we have been changed forever by the experience and it has brought many of us  intense physical and mental pain, but none of us have shied away from facing it. In Bermuda, America and England, family members have been open about sharing their feelings and experience, not because we’re “brave” or “strong” but because we hope that we can, in some small way,  help break down the stigma that still surrounds suicide and mental health. 

We have talked, written articles, walked to raise money for suicide prevention and awareness, had tattoos done, got involved with bereavement work and programmes that help children cope with problems in their lives.

We have come to understand that people take their lives for complex and often unknown reasons. We will never know what made you take yours but you have made us sharply aware that right now someone, somewhere is thinking about doing the same thing and, like us, their loved ones will be left to wonder what happened and how to pick up the pieces.  As a family, as a community, and as a society, we need to keep talking, listening and learning. No one should be afraid or ashamed of asking for help.

Jess, if you were here today, I would take you in my arms, hold you tight and reassure you that however deep and dark the depths of your despair may seem, there is always hope, there is always help. And, above all, love. There will always be love.

Miss you, beautiful.
Dad

 

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It’s the questions that haunt you.

Long after the initial shock has subsided, and the funeral flowers have faded, the unanswered and unanswerable questions that a suicide leaves in its wake echo over and over again in your head no matter how hard you try to shut them out.

Why?
Why didn’t she call us?
Why didn’t she ask for help?
How did we not know?
What was she thinking?
How could she do this to the people she loved?
How could she do this to us?
Why? Why? Why?

If, as someone described it, suicide is “grief with the volume turned up” then the suicide of a child cranks it up to 11 and beyond. The sudden death of any loved one hits you with a sledgehammer to the stomach that makes you weak at the knees and sucks the air from your lungs; the intense shock of a suicide shakes you to the core, paralysing you with fear and anxiety as you feel your whole world give way beneath your feet. Disbelief quickly dissolves into anguished, primal howls of despair and floods of tears that you think will never end.

And almost immediately, you start asking the questions, seeking answers to the unexplainable, desperately looking for something or someone to blame. Something to be the focus of all your anger, frustration and raw anguish. Anything but having to accept the unacceptable: that your child alone did this to herself. There is no cancer or other hideous terminal disease to blame. No drunk driver, no gunman, no freak airplane crash. At some point you have to accept the cold, harsh reality that your child deliberately took her own life.

You start to question whether you really knew your child at all and even whether love – the deep unconditional love that only a parent knows – can ever be enough when it couldn’t protect them when they needed it most. You search in vain back and forth through your lives in search of anything – family history, a bad childhood experience, an unintended slight, substance abuse – that will somehow explain how this could possibly have happened.

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Low: Life after Bowie

Posted: January 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

For previous generations it might have been seeing Elvis or The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. For many of my generation, growing up in the early 1970s, our musical epiphany was on Thursday, July 6, 1972 – the night David Bowie sang Starman on Top Of The Pops and changed rock music forever.

It was, given the huge audience and influence that TOTP had in those pre-cable, pre-internet, pre-gender fluid days, a jaw-dropping performance. With his spiky orange hair, space-age clobber and androgynous appearance, Bowie looked and sounded like no pop star had ever done before. Shocked Middle England (TOTP was a weekly, almost religious prime-time family ritual back then) had certainly seen nothing like it. I remember my father saying he was “not sure if he was a boy or a girl” (a prescient observation that I like to think Bowie swiped a few years later for Rebel Rebel). For a 14-year-old, it all seemed thrillingly subversive.

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Je suis … ?

Posted: January 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

Like 9/11, 7/7 and so many other dates now seared into our collective memories, 7/1 is another that will forever be associated with the deadly vengeance of Islamic extremists.

With the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket shootings in Paris followed by news of the horrifying massacres by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the public flogging of activist Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia it has been a depressing and disturbing week.

My emotions have run the gamut from shock and outrage to fear and defiance.  It has made me question what that freedom really means to me and what my values and beliefs are. As a former journalist, I have had conflicted feelings about freedom of speech and the role of the media. Like many others I was quick to change my Facebook profile to “Je Suis Charlie” in solidarity. However after the last few days of debating, reading and watching the deluge of coverage, I’m inclined to change it to a more nuanced “avec Charlie”.

Here are ten things I’ve learned this past week:

  1. Charlie Hebdo is a marginal satirical magazine in Paris that now has a worldwide circulation of more than a million.
  2. Its writers and cartoonists were brave and did not deserve to die.
  3. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is even braver.
  4. Publishing a caricature of Mohammed on the front cover of Charlie Hebdo’s post-attack issue was insensitive and needlessly provocative.
  5. Poking fun at Muslims is considered freedom of speech. Satire of Israel is anti-Semitic.
  6. On October 17, 1961, Paris police killed an estimated 200 Algerians protesting against the Algerian War and dumped their bodies in the Seine.
  7. Around 40 percent of Muslims in European countries want to live under sharia law with its stoning of adulterers and execution of those who renounce the faith. The figure is reportedly higher among 16-24 year olds, many of whom want Western countries to become Islamic states.
  8. We may aspire to the oft-quoted ideal, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”[Voltaire did not say it, by the way], but we can no longer afford to tolerate intolerance.
  9. A photo op in Paris is worth more to world leaders than one in Baga, Nigeria.
  10. If there is such a thing as Satan, Boko Haram are his foot soldiers.

And finally one thing I didn’t.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many lives for a cartoon?

Rewind: Picks of the year

Posted: January 1, 2015 in music, Uncategorized

Tis the season for list-making  so here’s my annual look back at the albums I enjoyed listening to most in 2014. You can  listen to whole albums via the Spotify links provided (where available) or sample 50 of my favourite tracks on this special Spotify playlist.

 

1lewis. The Voyager – Jenny Lewis

“Where you come from gets the best of you,” sings Jenny Lewis on the title track of her third solo album. After a challenging period dealing with the breakup of her band, the wonderful Rilo Kiley, the death of her father and years of insomnia, Lewis channeled all that into arguably her most polished album to date. Her talent of combining acerbic, bittersweet lyrics with gloriously catchy melodies has never sounded better.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify

 

Robert-Plant-lullaby-and-The-Ceaseless-Roar_6382. lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar – Robert Plant

While former bandmate Jimmy Page noodles endlessly with Led Zeppelin master tapes, Robert Plant continues to widen his musical horizons, exploring the far corners of Americana, folk and world music. Backed by the Sensational Space Shifters, Lullaby was another eclectic triumph. Rainbow was one of my favourite tracks of the year.

 

atkins3. Slow Phaser – Nicole Atkins

I fell in love with Nicole Atkins’ extraordinary contralto voice – somewhere between Roy Orbison and Lana Del Ray – and brilliant songwriting a couple of years ago and this, her self-released third album, did not disappoint, ricocheting from country rock to faux disco via music hall with ease. She deserves to be so much bigger.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify

 

now-porongs4. Brill Bruisers – New Pornographers

The New Pornographers rarely fail to deliver and their latest was exuberant power pop at its best with Neko Case’s Marching Orders the standout track of a very fine set.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify 

 

sonic_Highways5. Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters

Had I not seen Dave Grohl’s accompanying HBO series, this would have probably passed me by like every other Foo Fighters album. But their journey across America, writing and recording a track in each of eight cities, absorbing the musical culture and history along the way, was fascinating. Watching the songs take shape made the album much more rewarding.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify

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Football focus

Posted: October 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

England Expects

Better late than never. Have edited and posted some of my favourite shots from the FIFA World Cup in Brazil on my EyedropFX photo blog. Fooftball Fever includes a gallery of crowd/stadium shots while Journey to Brazil features a few of the sights.

For more of my iPhoneography, check out my EyedropFX Flickr feed.

20140709-144313.jpg

It wasn’t meant to end like this. Not this way.

Anyone with half a football brain knew that whatever unifying effect the fallen Neymar may have had on the Brazilian team, it was unlikely to be enough to beat Germany.

To lose a close-fought match is one thing but to be so completely and utterly humiliated, not only by the ruthless brilliance of your opponent but also through your own staggering incompetence, is quite another. For it to happen to Brazil of all nations? In a World Cup semi-final? At home? It still beggars the imagination.

And yet, being in Brazil these past few weeks there was a sense that while organisers had been frantically papering over the obvious cracks in the infrastructure, Luis Felipe Scolari had been doing much the same on the field. Neymar’s luminescence couldn’t completely conceal Brazil’s alarming shortcomings in defence and with Thiago Silva’s absence, the whole thing unravelled. In their increasing desperation to erase the ghosts of 1950, they sowed the seeds of a disaster that will long outlive the Maracananzo in infamy.

Has there ever been a more shambolic defensive display at this level than that of David Luiz, Maicon, Marcelo and the ironic Dante? An inferno indeed. Incredibly, of course, David Luiz’s transfer to Paris St Germain has just made him the world’s most expensive defender. I do hope they kept the receipt.

Watching the game was a strange experience, going from surprise and shock to eventual embarrassment and nervous laughter. The Brazilian fans, who to their credit stood and applauded their German conquerors, probably felt much the same and it is they who I really feel sorry for.

Whatever unrealistic expectations they may have had of their clay-footed heroes, their infectious joy and emotion, and generosity to visitors, has done much more than any confected FIFA hype to create a truly memorable tournament.

I have no doubt that there will be much anger among them now, which may increase to dangerous levels once the final is finished on Sunday. The irony of one cruel joke doing the rounds – that this was Brazil’s biggest World Cup loss since paying for this one – will not be lost on them.

Victory would not have assuaged any of the deep socio-economic issues that afflict this beautiful country but on a football level it mattered. It really mattered.

For all their big fat salaries and sponsorship deals, this defeat – and indeed the manner of Germany’s victory – was a reminder to the big name players that this is what the game is truly about. As Danny Blanchflower, captain of the famous Tottenham Hotspur side of the early 1960s, memorably once put it: “The game is about glory. It’s about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” It is matches like this that are remembered, not your latest Nike or Beats ad.

It may take time but Brazil and its football will recover from this. There have been, after all, five world titles since 1950. It will recover precisely and perversely because of nights like July 8, 2014.

Except that now we all want to play like Germany, not Brazil.