It may not have escaped regular readers of this occasionally profane whiterings that I have been somewhat absent for some time. It’s also quite possible no one noticed, as my absence from the blog has by definition created a lack of blog. It’s sometimes hard to notice something that isn’t there. We are not as a rule looking for absence…
There have been reasons, primarily an illness in the family that on top of Covid lockdowns, work and other things has left me mentally exhausted. Times, for everyone, have been hard the last twelve months or so, and my father having a major health scare, more or less broken me for a while. The old man has been a rock in my life since forever. He taught me everything I know about being a man and a father myself, just being who he is. The sudden realisation that forever was not going to be forever, well…
Most of us out live our parents. It is the natural order of things. As a parent myself I can say I would never wish it the other way round. The thought of out living my children is one I never wish to contemplate. But that does not make the knowledge of my own parents mortality any easier to contemplate, and while I am lucky in that I have reached the start of my sixth decade without losing either of them, the last couple of months have brought home a reality I always knew but had never considered.
For now, at least, the universe has seen fit to grant a reprieve with my dads health, and this last few months has perhaps prepared me a little for the inevitability of my parents mortality, a truth which we all face in time. A truth which I suspect I am still far from ready to accept, not that any of us ever are, and hopefully will not be something I will not have to stare fulling in the face for a while.
It is perhaps in such times as these we find out truly who we are, and more importantly perhaps who our friends are. That said, true to form I kept most of this to myself, I have ever been insular and libel to withdraw, the more gregarious aspects of my nature merely a mask thrown on to preserve my inner introvert. If you never let people see the real you then they can never harm you, so never tell anyone your true name. First rule of magic and all that…
But there are those, many in of whom are part of the indie writer community, who have asked after me, reach out, and said ‘are you okay?’. The Thursday night Harvey crowd, Gillie & Andy Hatton’s, Kate, Liz, Joseph and the rest who without fail it seems have asked how I was each week and spared a little time just to be there if this normally loud opinionated Yorkshireman needed to be less the face they know and more the fragile human-being beneath the mask of self-assured pomposity. There were other as well of course, old friends and family, but the writers stand out, if only because the Thursday night crowd helped serve as an anchor to my weeks, a point I could be myself, by not being myself for a while.
I started this post, as I often do, not quite knowing where it would lead and what I was going to say. But what I do know is what inspired it. I got back to writing the long delayed third Hannibal novel last week after the news that my fathers health was not in the worst case scenario, mostly that was the drive to get back to some kind of normality. Which writing a blog post surely also is, hence I started writing this.
As ever after a protected layoff when writing a book I started by reading through what was written so far. Which as its about half written and a little over 40000 words at present took a few days with the inevitable little edits and changes as I went along. It was then, somewhere around the 25000 word mark I came across this passage, written sometime early last year before all this, Covid and my fathers health scare, happened. Despite this, it perfect summed up how I felt, so it seemed a thing worth sharing, because occasionally, even if I don’t realise it at the time, I write something with more than a slither of truth to it.
Hannibal can on occasion manage to be profound, even if neither he nor I realise it when the words are being scrawled down. There is also more than a little of old Hannibal in me, and me in old Hannibal. Though exactly where the dividing line is between where writer and character lays is a somewhat fuzzy line at best. The above excerpt from ‘A squid on the Shoulder’ blurs that line more than most, however, and certainly more than I ever expected until I came back across it last week.
To throw another quote out there, from a live album I have current playing in the car.
The times are tough now, n’ just getting tougher
The world is rough now, n’ just getting rougher.
Cover me….Bruce Springsteen ‘Cover me’
My thanks to those who have, may I be there when you need me, as you have been there, perhaps unknowingly when I have needed you.
Normal service will resume shortly…