Chris could not wait. As soon as the sky began to lighten, he rushed towards the bedroom into which Graham and Judith had returned. His knocking, so insistent, awoke more than those he had intended to awake. A very tired looking Judith peaked through the gap between door and frame. She had been asleep for no more than four hours.
“Christopher, what is it?”
Chris detected a vague note of annoyance. Judith, he was sure, had a side to her that would very rarely tolerate irrational behaviour from any body. Although he was certainly forever in her good books, he saw a spark if impatience flash past her eyes.
“Judith, is Graham awake?”
“No, he’s still sleeping,” a self piteous groan crept from the bed that told otherwise. “He had a lot to drink last night and now he is suffering. Could you come back later perhaps? When he is better.”
Chris stood and thought for a time before he answered.
“No, I can’t. It’s really important.”
“It’s not about you and Lucy is it?”
“Me and Lucy? No. Why would it be about me and Lucy? It’s about something I saw last night, something on the edge of the lawns.”
“What did you see?” demanded a voice from within the room. “Come in immediately and tell me.”
If drunkenness had sat upon him when first knocked from sleep, it had now been shrugged off. Judith opened the door and allowed the boy to enter. Sitting up in a huge bed, Graham Hunter looked every inch of a man to the manor born. Clothed in complimentary silk pyjamas, bleary eyes and self-standing hair, he was the epitome of an eccentric aristocrat.
“What did you see, Chris?”
Chris took a intake of breath before starting. He told them about the library and how he and Lucy had gone there to talk. At this point he noted the exchange of almost imperceptible looks between the two adults yet continued without bothering to explain. When he reached the point about the figure standing partly hidden by the tree-line, there was a change of mood.
“What type of figure,” asked Judith, “male or female?”
“I think it was male. From where I stood, I think it was pretty well made and tall. I watched it for some time without it noticing me. We had no lights on in the library. Well, we did, but only a little torch and that was placed on the floor. I don’t think it could have been seen from outside. Anyway, I watched this thing and it just stood there watching the castle. I looked away for less than a second to tell Lucy about it, but when she looked, it had gone, completely disappeared. I watched from window of my room for most of the night just to see if it would return. It never did.”
“It might have been a trick of the light, or an animal,” was Judith’s addition.
“Yes, I thought about that. So, I went outside as soon as it got light. I went to the place I thought I had seen the figure and do you know what? I found some footprints.”
“What type of footprints?” asked Graham.
“Human ones. I followed them for a while and they led all the way out of the grounds. There was a sharp frost last night which meant the surface of the snow turned to think ice. When I walked on it, my weight barely caused a crack, but these footprints were massive, almost twice as big as mine and they must have carried some weight because they sunk deep into the lower layers of snow. I could have carried on following them but I didn’t think it would be the best thing to do. So I came back.”
“Well there’s nobody big enough to fill shoes like that in our group,” mused Graham weighing up the possible solutions.
“It wasn’t wearing shoes. The footprints were of bare feet.”
“So,” Judith submitted, “we have a big footed naked guy prowling around the grounds when everyone has gone to sleep. Did anyone bother to lock the front door?”
Chris smiled ruefully, “I’m afraid not. It was open when I went out this morning.”
Graham was already climbing out of bed; the luxury of a hangover would have to wait.
“But you locked the door on your way back in?”
“I locked every door I could find.”
“That’s my boy. We need to get everybody together as soon as we can. Don’t panic anyone. Just make sure we can have a meeting. I don’t want somebody to wander off outside on their own. Can you and Chris do that for me Judith?”
“Certainly, but it would be best to shower first. I would not wish to be seen by anyone looking like this. Not even a ten foot tall naked guy.”
The Daimler had been a great idea, its drive was as sure as its ultimate destination. Liam had taken it in a moment of outrageous inspiration. A hearse to cart away his dead self.
After the attempted assassination, with the thrill of the fight still surging through his veins, Liam had an epiphany. This was what he had been born to do. His entire history had brought him to this point where his skills, his gifts and his passion would make him into a person who would be feared and respected in equal measures. In reality, fear and respect were the same concepts for Liam, but this new thing, this power thing, this mantle of responsibility was weighing his spirits down. Liam Flowers, not yet sixteen yet looking as if approaching thirty, had stopped enjoying life. Life was, after all, concerned with triumph, conquest, in fact the whole gamut that followed the infliction of pain upon other human beings. This was what he had been born for.
His ankle itched with the flute-shaped birthmark. It was an itch that he now intended to scratch. He wished to scratch it so much that he would draw blood. Some time during his education, his interest had been roused by a topic that was touched upon in religious education. Penitents, blokes who inflicted pain upon themselves in their worship of their god, blood streaming ceaselessly from open wounds, life fluids that leapt the metaphorical chasm between ideas and actions, penitents he admired. They cropped up in many religions and were mainly left alone, curios in a society that had forgotten the true meaning of anything. Liam Flowers, a prophet for this new age, would bury any vestige of his old self. He would go into the wilderness in the same way that Jesus had. Forty days and forty nights, that’s all that he could take. Liam could double that, quadruple it even. Liam was, after all, the chosen one.
As he drove through the city streets, mainly deserted, often littered with the detritus of the madhouse, he felt no regret for what he was doing. The Leatherman, the one that had been the most loyal, was sleeping (if that was what leathers did when they were not walking) in the casket. A grand affair, hewn from the hardest and oldest wood, it provided him with a rather belated bed. This way they could travel as far away from the city as their desires could take them. Although Liam had no definite destination, he wished to find those wastes, now frozen, into which a soul could lose itself and from where it might then find that which could usurp it. After all, why should a soul remain unchanged when everything else around it was able to alter so much?
He was heading north, following an internal star, making his way into the open country where the Resistors had fled. This was also the land into which Hope had disappeared. Hope the schemer, Hope the plotter, Hope who had failed in his attempt to remove him. During his conversations with his would be assassin, Liam had discovered that ‘the children of Hope’ were as numerous as the armies of rats that had swept the world clean. Indeed, many of the rats were his children. They were the result of centuries of experimentation. In other times they would have called it magic, but the ‘good Doctor’ had developed it into a science. And Hope wanted it all.
Some day, they would meet again.
The hearse ran smoothly, its engine not even a hum, the outside noise a mere whisper.
So quiet that it would not disturb the living let alone the dead.
Say what you want as long as it’s rightwing and racist.
We are in a different world to the one that I left approaching three years ago. If I had fallen into a deep sleep, as I did, and awoken, as I did to this new place, I would have sworn that I had been transported to a parallel universe, an inversion of what I had previously thought of as normal.
Normal is a behaviour that can be predicted by having had contact or observed other behaviour that has occurred in similar situations. It is normal for me to wake up in the morning, turn to my wife and greet her. It is normal for me then to make, or she to make, a cup of tea for us to share over our then normal routine of reading articles from the news and then discussing them.
I am aware that this normality is not shared by others and I accept that that too is normal. The world is made up of folks who use different strokes and that is normal. People are normally real quite normal which means that they are not supernormal, paranormal, or abnormal. Okay, so some people are all of the above and more. And that’s normal (ish).
So, you see that I am quite inclusive in the normal sense of the word and inclusive of what normality should entail. My years have allowed me to accept a variety of deviations from my understanding of normal. Normal being that picture of behaviour that is untroubling, unperturbing, unthreatening, and under-floor-heating (unusual for many who were not about at the time of ancient Rome).
And now he gets to the point.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dogs and cats, the point that I am getting to is this:
When did the world stop being so bloody normal?
There is a conspiracy of silence guarding the exits. I was wishing for an uncomfortable pause, a pregnant passing of moments of time; something that alerted me to the possibility that other people were worried by this.
“After puzzling comments about 19th Century abolitionist Frederick Douglass and marveling that no one knew Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, President Donald Trump has just unloaded another historical non sequitur. In the latest strange aside, Trump said that Andrew Jackson, the populist rabble-rousing President with whom he has begun to claim political kinship, had strong thoughts about the Civil War — even though he died 16 years before the conflict broke out.
There comes a point when somebody takes out a soap box, or position at the head of others, in order to begin a blabber about what they have just read in their version of brilliant insight (usually provided by a newspaper prior to it being used to wrap up fish and chips). They state the unnacceptable as if it is a demystification of all that we have been blinded into believing. They may even throw in some dubious facts or statistics in order to bolster their case. The facts are the facts and are indisputable.
Let’s take slavery.
It’s now come to light that most people subjected to slavery actually prefer it as a form of existence that is free from responsibility. Indeed, slaves had the best of deals because they didn’t have to find work and make horrible choices such as, “What to do on a free afternoon.” The slave owners shouldered the responsibility of providing accommodation and inventing suitable punishments that would deter pesky dissenters (runaways). If it hadn’t been for the ‘do gooding’ rabble rousers everything would have been just fine and all those decent citizens would not have had to die in the carnage that was the Civil War.
As President Trump pointed out, it was a shame that Andrew Jackson had not chosen to die a little later as he would have avoided such a situation. Such a prescient president (Trump not Jackson).
And that leads us to some of the ingredients for a successful “rabble rousing”:
Don’t rely on the facts if you don’t agree with them.
Reshape history in any way that you wish, to suit your agenda.
Speak to the lowest common denominator in your audience (the guy at the back with extra lardage and drippling from the mouth).
Don’t avoid hate-filled speeches. Indeed, embrace them as they tend to excite the massess (especially fat drooler at the back).
Speak with conviction as these days you are not likely to be convicted for anything that may encourage violence.
Demonise your ‘snowflake’ targets and mock their ‘neo-liberalist’ views.
Point people towards the lessons of history (there would now be no middle-eastern problems if Hitler had been left to get on with it). Indeed, there would be no race problems if trendy lefties had not been allowed to portray other races, that were not WASP, as being vaguely human.
Read widely, within the narrow confines of your skewed views and quote often. Point out that Shakespeare was a racist and anti-semite as this will get under the skin of the so-called intellectual elite.
Do not suffer a reasoned, rational or fair response.
Take anything from holy scripture that will serve your cause and ignore all else. Rewrite The Bible. Edit out The New Testament.
Do as John Lennon would have suggested, “Make War Not Love”
When Laura woke, she was aware that it had not been a natural break in her sleep, but that something had disturbed her. She listened for clues.
They had finally stopped for the night, their ever expanding troop squashed into a tiny cottage which would have been, she was sure of this, a hunting lodge for a much grander estate. The basics for a Spartan life were there and, although there were only two single beds, they were able to push them together for the mother and her children. For the rest of them, bed rolls and sleeping bags provided for the sleeping arrangements.
The lodge had obviously been in regular use as there had been a fire in the grate. All the tinder was expertly built on top of a bed of old newspapers ensuring that only a match had to be put to it to encourage the fire to catch. This was done in no time at all and soon, by adding a number of hearty logs that were piled at the side of the fireplace. Laura noticed how Michael’s eyes were drawn to the flames as they licked an curled their way upwards. He was in a place she did not know, place he had been visiting more and more.
When she sat upright, reminders of the hard floor beneath her mat muscled into her. The mixture of the freezing cold and the aches of the journey was a cocktail that would always be remembered. She strained to listen beyond the silence and then she heard it. A low, almost inaudible growl.
Laura had positioned herself on the floor of the living room where Michael and their newly found companion were also sleeping. Neither of the others were awake. The growl, almost indistinguishable from the natural sounds of sleep, was coming from the kitchen. She looked around and discovered that neither of the animals were in the room with them. Easing out of her sleeping bag, still fully clothed, she tiptoed across to the doorway and peered inside. Both Arthur and Sam were crouching by the outside door, their noses pushed towards the cold draft that was sneaking its way between the gaps. Coming from them was the sound that she originally believed to be a growl, but now she knew it to be something altogether different. It sounded to her like the noise Buddhist monks made when they were entering some profound meditative state. She inched forward.
Although she made as little noise as she could, the ears of the animals did that radar thing, turning around to indicate that they had picked up the sound of something moving. Even Arthur’s ragged excuse for an ear moved. Nevertheless, none of them shifted from their stances, maintaining a vigil that was trance like.
Now lowering to their level, Laura reached out two comforting hands that stroked the statuesque creatures. The rigidity in the bodies alarmed her. The she heard another sound. The steady crunch of feet on frozen snow.
Unable to see from her position, she started towards her feet again. A small window was off to her left, her intention to simply peer into the night to see what was the cause of that which had woken her. It could be foxes or dear but she felt not. In order not to signal her presence, she lifted the curtain only a fraction of an inch, just enough to allow one eye to view. What she saw caused a rush of dread to well up and almost push her towards panic.
Outside in the dead of night, moved wave upon wave of things that would once have been human beings. However, she knew, knew instantly, that those moving forms had long since left behind any real semblance to the rest of their previous kin. The moon gave an unflattering light that revealed the faces of the dead. They were moving as if drawn or directed, none communicating, no signs of interest in any other thing but their progress towards some predetermined destination. Wherever they were headed, Laura did not want to go. She almost jumped form her own skin when a hand rested upon her shoulder.
“What is it,” he mouthed more than uttered.
She moved away and let him view. For a long time, he did not move and Laura wondered what he was thinking about. After another thirty minutes, the procession had gone and they felt they could talk.
“What were those things?” she asked him without needing an answer.
“They were the same as the one that tried to kill us back at out house.”
His mother knew this to be true. So long ago.
“Where are they going?”
“My guess is that they have found some survivors. It must be a large group of them otherwise they wouldn’t send so many.”
“But how can so many of those dead things know?”
Michel looked sympathetically at his mother. No matter how much she had gone through, no matter how screamingly mad the world had become, she still clung to a sense of normality.
“It’s The Piper. Him or his followers. They can do these things.”
Laura nodded in acceptance.
“We are going to have to find them. We’re going to have to find those survivors and warn them.”
“I know where they are going,” a voice from behind spoke.
They turned to see the mother standing in the dark. She had sleep still upon her, her eyes straining against the fact of being forced into some level of wakefulness. Her voice was heavy with that now familiar limbo language, the borderland where the subconscious and conscious worlds met, a place where The Piper roamed freely.
“He came to me and showed me the house where they are all gathered. He showed me a boy named Christopher who, he said, owed him a debt. There is also a teacher who would lead them to sanctuary, but The Piper has made plans for them all.”
Her voice tailed off, a whisper drifting in the cold night. Then, as if being prompted, she resumed, her words seemingly coming from a place somewhere other than within her frame. She moved forward, revealing eyes that were without irises or pupils, totally white, inverted, seeing another world.
“He says that you are invited, mother and son, Laura and Michael, to watch as this Christopher pays his dues. If he dies, then maybe the rest of you can live.”
The voice was now changed into something that was not of the mother. Its tone was deeper and mocking.
“You think that you can run from me? You think that you can beat me? I have travelled eons to reach this place and no resistor will stand in my way,” the words shot out in the direction of Michael.
“You have tasted the fruit haven’t you? It tastes sweet doesn’t it? You have the mark upon your soul which makes you more like me than those who would claim you. Have you spoken of the thrill it gives you to take life? Does this thing that calls itself your mother understand? When the time is right, we could…”
“You could do nothing with my son. You, who hides away in a frightened woman’s broken mind, you who steal children, you who kill through the innocence and ignorance of others. I have seen you and you shall not have anything to do with any of my sons.”
The two mothers faced each other across the kitchen table. The white eyes now fixed on Laura, narrowing with hatred.
“One by one, I shall have all of your sons as I had your husband. One by one, you shall watch them bleed.”
“Over my dead body,” Laura spat.
“That is my intention.”
From inside the bedroom, a frightened child cried out.
“Mum, mummy. Where are you? The bad man is here.”
It was enough to break the hold upon the woman. Her eyes returned, the rage fell away from her and confusion settled.
“Where am I?”
She turned at the sound and left the kitchen to rush to her child.
Laura moved to embrace Michael but found him unyielding to her touch.
“Michael, don’t listen to his words. He is a deceiver. You are not like them.”
She ran her hands across his upper back attempting to massage out the knots of his tension. He responded by putting his arms around her, providing some sign that he had returned. In his mind, he remember the taste of the fruit The Piper had spoken of, bitter and yet so incredibly alluring.
On the living room floor, the inert body of Dawkins did not betray any signs of being awake. Only the vaguest of smiles danced upon his lips.
It’s becoming evident that the right to be ‘ultra-right’ has become embedded in our everyday culture and conversations.
The pendulum has swung the other way.
Being a Fascist is now fashionable; it marks you out as a thinker, a person who takes on the Neo-Liberal Totalitarianism which only scantily clads itself in democratic attire. It also marks you out as a ‘unique’ who is able to see through the bullshit that the Loony Lefties throw at you. On top of this, you become the purveyor of home-spun wisdom, a creator of common sense, and a destroyer of snowflake sensibilities.
It’s becoming right-on to become ultra right.
And so say all of them.
So, we have been thrown out of the paradise of post World War optimism and having to knock together a workable doctrine for our future preservation and well-being. And many have returned to the old blue-prints, re-fashioning dated ideologies whilst updating age-old atrocities of intolerance. All this while the rest of us sit back and watch, unable to change the channel, incapable of escaping our direst memories of the re-run of the re-run of the re-run. We squirm through every leaden line of dialogue and wince at the inevitability of the script.
It all ends in much more than tears.
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; andtherefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Could it be just me or is crying in front of a stranger, a strange female, something that most middle-aged men would find acceptable? I did everything that I could do to keep a stiff upper lip. I braced myself. I took deep breaths.
“If you want to cry, it is all part of the process.”
I was part of a process now. I was in the process of working through a personal trauma that had brought me to a crashing standstill and…now I was being asked to cry as some type of cleansing therapy. The problem was that I thought that crying would be just a little distraction. It would be like having leaches placed on an exposed stretch of skin with the intention of them sucking out the corruption. Tears would not do it. I hadn’t even cried at my father’s funeral or at any time since he’d died.
One of my favourite films is Field of Dreams. This, as most of you will know, is a male weepy. There has never been a time when I have watched it that I have been able to control the seepage of emotion.
“Dad, do you want to play catch?”
I can feel the artesian well now, but there is no music, no camera angles and no conclusion to our shared journey. You see, the film was a process in itself. As was my father’s death. The question is, why has the death of my dad come back to haunt me after over five years?
A huge lump of granite lay in my stomach. I was being asked to regurgitate the past. That block of forever granite was there, sentinel, obstructive. My dad was listening to what I was about to say. I heard him sitting in the corner, a shuffle of shoes and a cursory clearing of the throat. It is alright, I wanted to tell him, it is alright, I’m not going to break down. But the tide of emotion was returning from the morning I saw him cold and grey in the sterility of the hospital’s chapel of rest.
“You go, Matthew,” my mother had said. “I can’t look at him.”
She had sat all day and through the night. She had talked and silently sobbed as he waded into the shallows. She held his right hand, closer in this moment than in many a year they had shared before. She was holding his hand when the nurse arrived to check. It wasn’t alright. My mum, trapped in hope, had not noticed the changes on the monitor. She held his hand and squeezed as if to rub some more time into him. His chest rose and fell, rose and fell, and he was, for all intents alive. The nurse moved off quickly and returned with the doctor. By this point, my mother would have been becoming aware. But her husband was breathing. Watch the rising and falling of his chest. He always slept deeply.
“Mrs Evans, I’m sorry but your husband is dead.”
What did they know? He is still breathing. Look at his chest. Look at his chest.
“That’s the respirator, Mrs Evans. It is the respirator that is doing that.”
No, it wasn’t. He was still alive. He was sleeping. Come on Brian, wake up.
I have never seen her so empty as I saw her that morning. I was the dutiful son taking the lead. When I saw him in the chapel of rest, I understood that his passing had left a vacuum in all our lives.
“Dad,” I murmured. “Dad, what are you doing scaring us all like this?”
He didn’t answer. His face was sunken and pale. Death had been with him for some ten hours.
I wanted to be Jesus. Come forth Brian. The stubborn bugger wouldn’t move; he was in a mood with me.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered so that my mum wouldn’t hear me.
I wasn’t really sorry about what I was apologising for but I was sorry that he managed to die before we had properly worked it through. You see, we had argued some months prior to this and had only recently, grudgingly shrugged of the disagreement. And disagreement it certainly was. As our arguments went, this was top by a long score. Every single family factor was brought to the table and every last piece was served in ballistic fashion.
Charlotte had started sitting forward in her chair as I spoke. She was avidly listening but her stance had changed from counsellor to interested participant. She had become the audience and would occasionally stop me to ask for explanation of events and back-stories. Back-stories, I had in abundance.
My dad was born the second youngest of a family of twelve. He had ten brothers and one older sister. By the time he was ten, his father had left the family in search of work. He never returned so it fell upon his mother to bring up the sons. The daughter had married and moved into her own home. At the age of twelve, my dad had to go around to his elder sister’s house with a note. The note informed her that their mother had died suddenly. Norah, the sister, was obliged to take the other siblings under her wing. I gather that she did so with a stoic quality that was common of that age. The war had just ended so there were a lot of people in similar circumstances. War had taken many fathers in the field of
combat whilst enemy bombings had taken a significant number of those who remained at home. A brave new world was at hand and the ones who faced it did so with uncertainty and trepidation. Nevertheless, the worst was over.
I have stories that he told me about his childhood but there aren’t many. I know that a bomb once landed in their back garden after a raid. They discovered it the next morning and put ashes over the offending intruder until the right authority came to deal with it. Ashes? Odd choice.
So, the years that followed were growing up years. He was a bit of a dare-devil and a tearaway. He played rugby to a decent standard. He told me of a brief relationship he had with a married woman and about the ensuing fight he had with her husband. In fact, he had two fights: one with the husband and the husband’s mate in which my dad was beaten up and one when he hunted down his cowardly assailant some months later and gave him a return beating. I was proud of that part of him. After the war, he went to technical college even though he had passed his 11 plus. He was bright, gregarious and sharp as a knife.
“You sound as if you’re proud of your father.”
“I suppose it does. But…” I had to stop and think. “But actually, I often think that I never knew him.”
I’ve noticed with myself in the last couple of years that I have drawn further within the older I get. My wife has noticed it as well. She has told me that I never talk about anything.
“Why do you think that is?”
“What’s the point? It doesn’t solve anything. Nobody notices. It’s like the stuff that people say after a sudden death, “Make the most of every second because you never know when it’s your turn”. The thing is, that it is always going to come around, your time. Somebody has just died since I’ve written that and you’ve read this . Seize the day! What I want to know is how we are supposed to seize it. What are we supposed to be seizing?”
“Do you think they may mean that we should do what we really feel that we should do?”
Charlotte was coaxing out more explanation.
“I think it’s just something that people say as a comforter. When somebody has died, we have a desire that it must make sense. We aren’t just born to die. We are supposed to be creatures that have a higher purpose. It’s supposed to have meaning. What if it was all just nonsense? What if every single thing that we do, every series of events that snake around us, everybody we have ever loved or even hated for that matter, are just accidents of chance. If that is the case, then we are all lost without even knowing it.”
“What do you think?”
She asked me this question, probably aware that I didn’t have an answer. My mind was tumbling with newly sprouted hypotheses but there was nothing firm about it. Mental masturbation is what it was, creating questions and running down pathways, not to reach a climax of understanding but just to play around with the thoughts. The truth of it was that I liked this after-accident evaluation. Part of me was dead and the rest was floating above the scene trying to make sense of it. Nevertheless, just the act of trying to make sense made sense.
To Be Is To Do.
To Do Is To Be.
Do Be Do Be Do.
Cognito ergo sum.
“I think that I don’t know. I think that I will have to think about it some more; and then some. I think that I should sometimes stop thinking and just do, be do be do. My dad never had a problem with discarding deep thinking. He once criticised me for thinking too much about the past. He told me to, “Just get on with today.” I told him that I found that impossible and that I found the past interesting. He said something about dead people and nonsense. I just nodded and turned away. I wonder if he would have ever imagined that I would be thinking about him now all these years after he died?”
Don’t think. Don’t prevaricate. Act.
Act 1 Scene 1
A middle-aged man in a room with a woman. They are sitting facing each other. He has his right leg crossed over the other and is pushed back into his chair. She is sitting slightly forward. She holds a notepad and a pen but she doesn’t write. The man is talking. The woman is listening. Her eyes watch him whilst he looks beyond her into some vague setting.
“Where are you now?” She asks.
I’m back in school. I’ve just played football for the school team and I scored the winning goals.”
“Why do you look so unhappy?”
“My dad never came to see me. I played football lots and scored lots of goals. I was a decent player. Not once, not ever, did my dad come to see me play. How does a father do that to his child? What was he thinking? The thing is that I learnt from him. I learnt how not to be a father. My wife taught me how to be a proper one, a dad and a husband.”
“How does that make you feel?”
“I suppose that it should make me feel angry. I should be full to the brim with resentment. All those years of playing and not once was he there to see me. That was the norm for working class men. Too busy at the club with their mates playing at being lads who never grew up. Never, never. And, do you know what? I do feel something about that which is not anger at him, but guilt for my own self. It was me who was the cause of him not being there. I was a let-down and there was nothing I could do to change his mind. He didn’t come to see me because he wasn’t proud of me so I spent the rest of my life trying to make him proud. That was after I had got over the fact that I once thought that I hated him.”