Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Futility, Mike Dicko And My Granddad

I don't feel good right now. It's Tuesday night. I've just come back from work. On the plus side Emma is ordering Papa John's for tea but this is a mild diversion from my malaise. Frankly I feel deflated. Existence seems somewhat futile which is a statement that is both berserk and lacking in perspective. But work is an endless cycle of hopelessness. The level of apathy I normally feel for it would be a distinct improvement on how I feel about it right now. I probably need to leave but then why would you? Thirty days leave, flexi, at least a week off at Christmas on top of that. Where else am I getting that? In any case it's more than likely that I'd find a reason to be miserable about work whatever I was doing and wherever I was doing it. I'm the problem, not my job.

In other, unrelated news my granddad died. This is, as I imply, totally unrelated to my current desire to go and sit somewhere dark and hide from the world for a month or so. In fact it's effect on me is remarkably miniscule. I haven't seen said granddad since I was about four years old. He and my nan divorced some time around Johnny Rotten's hey-day and I don't remember him ever visiting me or Helen since. I don't know if he ever even met either of Helen's boys. This was not your average grandparent/grandchild relationship. As such this piece is devoid of amusing anecdotes of his Meldrewian behaviour (by all accounts he was as miserable as I am and then some), and completely lacking in even the most cursory levels of warm memories that most people have of their grandparents.

My biggest concern on learning of his death was for my uncle, my dad's brother Derek. In what may look like a family tradition, we haven't seen Derek for a number of years either. The last time I recall seeing him was at Helen's wedding which I believe was in 2008. Certainly the stag do was 2008. I'm one of those people Nick Hornby wrote about who can remember dates because of sports events. The 2008 European Championships were definitely on during the weekend of the stag do in Edinburgh. I remember sitting silently watching a game when the merriment had subsided and I'd had far too much to drink for the good of my mental state. Sadly for the quality of this column I can't even recount an amusing tale from that night. What happens in Edinburgh stays in Edinburgh, though I think we'll all always feel a little bit disappointed in Paul for wearing a Wigan shirt in public that day.

So Derek. After that day he just seemed to completely disengage with everyone in the family. I managed to get in touch with him via email a couple of times but even that was short-lived. There was a time, back before I had a head-bursting office job and fancied myself as quite the writer (think Mike Dicko from Brookie but without Claire Sweeney) when Derek would visit me regularly. He'd come around to my Little Australian bungalow and we'd kick around bad ideas for novels that would never be written. But most of all we'd laugh. At the people he'd meet through his interest in music, and at the scratch record he made of my nan's second husband talking about his dinner. Even now if you utter the phrase 'could have had my dinner by now' to me or Helen we might very well wet ourselves. That memory alone has slightly lifted my mood, as does that of the other classic recording Derek made which featured a woman yodelling on about Bovril.

Anyway unlike most of us Derek had some sort of relationship with his father, my estranged granddad, even though he too had not seen him in a long time. So I was a little concerned firstly about whether my dad would be able to find him to let him know, and secondly how he would take it. Like me Derek is prone to bouts of what can only be described as depression. These things have no rhyme or reason. Grief and loss aren't necessarily the source of the lowest lows for depressives, but it could be a trigger for him all the same. Worse than that though is the prospect of not being able to make contact with him and so having him not know and not have the opportunity to go to the funeral. My dad has left a message at his last known address and that's pretty much as much as can be done in the circumstances.

As for me, well it seems somehow fitting that a column which started in such melancholy fashion should end with me dithering about whether I will attend my own granddad's funeral. I probably will, just to offer a bit of moral support to my dad if nothing else. Equally, I think it would be understandable if I chose not to bother since it seems that my granddad chose not to bother with his grandchildren. Despite all that it feels kind of significant that he's gone. I used to think that one day I'd go and visit him and get his side of the story. I don't think he lived far away. I think what stopped me is the thought that he might not know who I am (I have regular acquaintances who think my name is Paul, Lee or Phil) or even the thought that he would know me and we just wouldn't have anything to say to each other. It's been nearly 40 years after all.

Rightio. Best get back to my Papa John's and my colleague-driven listlessness.....

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