My honour and my privilege

Part one of part two.

Part two was meant to be about the present, which is tricky to write about because once you’ve written about it, the bloody thing is in the past. Philosophical questions about what constitutes “the now” aside this piece is three stories of the relative present between two fixed dates. The 15th of January to the 10th of March. That is the day before dad died to the day we spread dad’s ashes. 

The day before dad died we as a family are all at St Gemma’s – Mimi is my dad’s nurse for today and she is taking care of him. Dad is asleep now and has been more or less since he arrived at St Gemma’s and they asked him what he wanted and he said “to be asleep and not be throwing up blood” That one wish was their command. Before Mimi gave him the drugs he’d need to sleep, and that would stop him throwing up, she said to my dad “this will make you very drowsy and you might not be able to wake up” he understood what that meant and gave her a nod. I said, or tried to say “I love you” the words didn’t come out, my vocal chords crushed by sorrow as if it was a hand curled around my throat and so we just looked at each other. I open the journaling app, the January 9th entry is titled “The next few months?” Ha. Ha. Ha.

Anyway, this is where the story gets funny. Bear with me. Honestly, it’s not that funny, but it brings a smile to my face when I think of it. Dad sleeps, there are no machines that go ping, no blood pressure monitor to alarm, the motorised syringes  pushing the drugs into his body are in boxes, hidden beneath his bed sheets. Mimi is checking they are working properly and is very gently and very discreetly making sure that dad’s pyjamas are comfortable. He looks like he is just napping in bed. Comfortable.  A marked contrast to the last two months in hospital where dignity and privacy are at odds with expedient drug administration and “get you home care”. Mimi looks at the one pillow he has and starts to gather some more from the shelf next to the bed, but I stop her – he hates more than one pillow. “Mhmm” she says and smiles, from that point on no one else who comes into his room needs to be told this – Mimi has passed that request on, the extra pillows stay untouched. Dad’s needs, whatever they might be are paramount and the staff are there to meet them. Later, I am in the corridor looking at a coffee vending machine confused and tired, me not the coffee machine. It needs a pound coin, I do not have a pound coin, a nurse passing by doesn’t ask me who I am, she doesn’t ask what I want, she looks at my face and I think she can tell, just by looking and puts some sort of staff token key into the machine and says “that’ll work now” – the invisible, quiet and thoughtful care here doesn’t just extend to the patient.

I go back to the room, Dad’s brother and sister are there too. Mimi is still there when a consultant arrives with a nurse in a very shiny white tabard. They ask if they can sit, and I notice that Mimi has closed the door. I know what’s coming here, I’ve been preparing for this moment for a while now, we all already know so thankfully it is not a shock. The Doctor sits next to me, and the nurse sits next to my aunt, the doctor asks who we all are, there is some small talk about how far my aunty Linda has travelled to be here and about dogs, not in a weird beating about the bush way, but in a reassuring, I’d like to know you a bit way. Then she turns to the star attraction and says, “I know you know this, but we just want to make sure you are ready” she took a beat “prepared”. I said we were “prepared, but not ready” and to my shame instantly thought, that would make a good line for the blog post I write about this later. She continued, “we’ve had some tests back and, well, there’s not much point telling you much about them unless you want to know, they are all bad”. 

We knew he was going to die soon. The doctor couldn’t tell us when. It’s odd that when conversations about cancer happen the question you want the answer to goes unanswered. “what we really want to know is the timeline, to be honest?” I asked one doctor at St James “yes, that’s an interesting question” he replied. But here at St Gemma’s they know your loved one is either going home for a bit or, well, not.  

The consultant said that for the next few days it would be best if the people who wanted to be with him when he died stayed close. There was some more talk and a few questions back and forth. There were some tears.  All in all, it was a very intense and heart-breaking conversation. No “heroic measures” he didn’t want that – that was the very last thing he wanted, he wanted to die peacefully in his sleep with no trauma or drama or as little as is possible in that situation. He didn’t want me to be upset. He was worried about me. In his death he wanted me to feel ok.

I’m not sure how long that conversation lasted, it was probably about 15 minutes. The Doctor asked if we wanted a drink and we all said, “a cup of tea” You can insert your own cultural significance of the British and tea in a trauma section here. I’m getting to the funny bit, I promise. The doctor goes off to get us some tea. 

You know you are in an end-of-life situation when A) the doctor goes to not only make the tea and B) when she comes back with it the tea is in a pot with mugs and little biscuits in packets and not in a cardboard cup with a logo on the side. The shiny white tabard nurse remained with us and made some small talk, Mimi had gone without any of us noticing. 

The room is returning from impromptu meeting space to hospital room, and we stand around the tea deciding on biscuits. My aunt, conscious of how incredibly young white tabard nurse is, says to her “I’m sorry you had to sit through that very emotional event, how long have you been working here?” The young woman says “I’m in training” my aunt says “Oh! My! Even more harrowing for you how terrible!” The nurse looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights at this point and I feel dreadfully sorry for her because who really knows what to say or do here? Especially when you are young and in training? 

This is one of those situations where there are no right answers just things that happen and our reactions to them and we’ll work out later what it means. I decide to try and break the silence with a nice easy one “how long have you been training?” I say with as a cheery a tone as I can muster and a smile. She replies, “it’s my first day”. Involuntarily, I smile. Sympathy not sarcasm you understand, what a first fucking day. 

And that is the sort of payoff you can’t write because no one would believe it was true. Trainee nurse in shiny white tabard, I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name, but if by any billions to one shot you ever read this, I hope you know we remember you and how you handled an impossible situation so brilliantly on your first day. 

Later that day at about five thirty Mimi popped her head into the room, she said “I’m just going home now.” And I replied “thank you for everything” Mimi said “it’s been my honour and my privilege to look after your dad”  I knew then he would die that night, it was the second “my” that convinced me. No one could say for sure, that’s obvious, but Mimi who had clearly seen all of this many, many times before knew it was likely and she wanted to let me know as much without saying it. I’ll be forever grateful to this more or less stranger who I hardly knew but saw working with such deep, deep compassion for my dad and us. 

In the most difficult of circumstances with so many complex and saddening memories that are very dark over a very short and sad few days, Mimi was a bright white point of light – a happy thought filled with love and compassion. I smile when I think of her because when I see her I see my dad at rest, no more pain, no ‘coffee grind’ puke, just him, quietly asleep and comfortable, covers pulled up to his neck, and his sole, ratty uncomfortable looking pillow.

Part two of part two. 

When someone dies, clearly the first question many people ask is “what do I do now?” For some that is an existential question and for others it is a deeply practical one. I know this because when my dad passed away the nurse gave me a pack of paper that was basically a load of “here’s what you do now” information. One of those things was the need to register the death at the registry office. There’s lots to do after death, I found it weirdly very helpful – I need to do all this stuff with legal that and bank account this. It allowed me to distract myself while still being involved sort of thing. I’m sure some people find it brutally difficult, but I enjoyed it. Enjoyed is the wrong word there, but I’m not sure there is a word to adequately convey both enjoying and not enjoying something all at the same time. Maybe the Germans have a word for it?

To book an appointment to register a death you need to contact the registry office. In Leeds this requires that you fill in a webform, a webform that looks like it was designed in 2004. Sadly, it was down when I tried to log on so I was forced to call, after a while on hold being told that the registry office in Leeds does not tolerate rude or aggressive behaviour, a very helpful person answered and asked me what the issue was – I told her and she said not to worry that she could book an appointment for me. Evidently, she was opening the same webform I was attempting to use because she went quiet and told me the form was down and she could only ask me to wait until later. In my head I said “well, he’s dead so I have plenty of time” but of course I didn’t say that because that would be rude, aggressive even.  It was 9am and my gut instinct is that the systems manager didn’t get in until 9:30 because when I tried again 30 minutes later the error was gone. Someone had reset the AWS instance. 

The form came back to life (IRONIC WINKING AT THE READER) and I got an appointment and more warnings about being respectful toward the staff – rude and aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated! Make sure you are on time as missed appointments hurt all our feelings and so on.  I have always found both these statements very questionable metrics – where is rude and aggressive behaviour tolerated anyway? Also, maybe it’s not us maybe it’s your appointment system that demands people are free between 9-3 Monday to Friday in handy half hour slots – especially where they’ve just had a baby arrive or loved one depart. 

Here I am, then, sat in the registry office wating my turn – it’s open plan, which is, if you ask me, an odd choice given the task at hand. I sit in the “looked nice in the corporate furniture brochure” seat and it is as uncomfortable as it is ugly, but no doubt very hard wearing. A family come in looking very sad and using words that I am now becoming all too familiar with; “probate”, for example. Then a young couple arrive with a toddler and I play peek-a-boo with him for a short while. What a feeling it is to bring a smile to the face of a toddler – like, the best feeling on Earth. The poor bastard has no idea how his life is about to be flipped upside down by the very quiet new-born brother strapped to his mother’s chest. 

My appointment in late in the day, and the office is thinning out. The toddler and baby leave, the family in grief leave, everyone else leaves – my appointment time flies by, just the 45 minutes, but enough to make someone rude and possibly even aggressive I think to myself. Eventually and with a fulsome apology my person arrives to take me to a semi-open desk in the semi-open plan office – again the stickers on the desk remind me of how vitally important it is to make my appointment on time and how being aggressive is not nice. The process of getting a death certificate is swift in the grand scheme of things. The lady processing the form for me explains that there are some odd questions, but they are all legitimate and needed. I didn’t think there were any odd ones to be honest. The last bit is pretty important, it’s about proofing the document and you can tell that the staff are used to being told that everything is correct before then, when the document is printed, being told “oh, actually that’s not their real name” because she verifies everything with me four or five times and asks me if I’ve ever proofread anything before. I smile because I have proofread millions of words and all I can think of now is how many howlers I’ve missed, but no mind, the data here is correct and she clicks “Done” on the screen. The certificates pop out and she has to sign them in ink, because WHO THE FUCK KNOWS? She shuffles the newly signed certificates into a folder. The folder I learn later has lots more “what to do now” information in it. It’s been very perfunctory and professional really, the questions were easy to answer her demeanour was personable but not too personal. There was small talk about what he’d done for a living and how he’d been a Bookmaker and I had made books, “funny” I say, “yes, funny” she says. She added some more information sheets and printed a receipt and went to get some more leaflets about what to do now and came back to put them in my new ‘your person is dead folder’ a keepsake. Sort of. 

She squares it all off and I realise I’m locked in just watching her hands on the folder, she puts her glasses on the pack of papers. I look up. She looks me in the eye and says “finally, I just want to say how very sorry I am for your loss” Up to this point it’s all been very matter of fact, but this was so personal, so warm that it really brought me into the moment. The death was official, one for the books and she knew the exact time to switch modes. It only lasted a few moments, but I’m learning that it is in the small moments, when you’re off-guard, when a total stranger does something small and thoughtful that the grief will ambush you and squeeze those emotions you’ve been holding on to so hard you can’t swallow or speak. 

Part three of part two.

An ex-colleague of mine got in touch to say he’d read part one and he used a phrase I’d not heard before, but it was one that resonated so sharply with my experience: “Sympathy Fatigue”. Who knew that at some point you’d be thinking to yourself PLEASE STOP BEING NICE TO ME – it’s such a selfish feeling that brings shame and guilt with it – you can’t say to someone “please can you just stop caring about my needs”. It seems almost unkind to them, by not meeting their need to be nice with niceness you feel bad, but you start not wanting them to be nice at all WHICH IS MAD, but that, I guess, is the weird reality of life. People are nice and that’s what you want, but also in the fog of grief you don’t want them to be nice, but they are, and really that’s hard to process because every niceness is a reminder an echo.

The final part of the present is a simple story of how I brought my dad back to life for a few seconds. Again, bear with me. We spread dads’ ashes at about midday at the base of a European ash tree, I said what he’d asked me to “he did everything he wanted to and lived a happy life” and I added, ”you can’t really ask for more than that”. You can of course, you can demand more life, but cancer isn’t listening.

After, the day was spent with coffee and cake and family and a lazy afternoon in a cottage I’d rented. We were booked into a local pub/restaurant just down the road for an evening meal together too. A small affair really, just the 9 of us, but in this place, we were the biggest table of the night. A young woman served us, and we had a lovely time over food and chat for a few hours. Something my dad used to love. 

When dad went out to a restaurant He ALWAYS paid. Not in a Tony Soprano “I’m the family boss” sort of thing, more in a “I enjoy this, and I want to pay” sort of way. He’d occasionally settle the bill before anyone knew. Like, he wasn’t a millionaire, but he wasn’t poor either and I’m talking Pizza Express sort of thing and not The Savoy, but still it was his thing. Something he liked to do, just because. Small. Invisible. Kind. To the outside observer it might look selfish; the bill arrives and we’d just give the bill to dad, or the waiter would say “who’s paying” and we’d all gesture at him, but only because we knew he’d want to pay with zero fuss – no “oh go on then”. No, “it’s my turn”. He didn’t like fuss.

Something else he did was tip well, not mad like, but generously. If the server was young, they got a larger cash tip – it didn’t matter if they’d been shit, in fact, if they’d been awful, but tried, they often got an even larger tip. One time, in a Pizza Express as it happens, the young man serving us was so nervous that we’d both assumed it was his first service on his first ever day – he was shaking. He brought us the wrong food and then knocked over a drink on the table as he was serving us the right food. It was, for him I’m sure, mortifying. We both reassured the young lad that it was fine. Because, let’s be honest, it totally was. 

The bill probably came to £40 – Dad always paid in cash, always had cash, and like some 1970s gangster it was folded up in value order. I saw him put £60 maybe £80 in on the plate and we left. As dad passed the young lad he said “thank you so much” not theatrically or sarcastically, just normally. Like, I know, it’s not huge money, but it’s enough to make a small difference and dad didn’t need even to see a reaction, it wasn’t performative, he liked to, of course, he liked to see the smile, but it wasn’t essential, it was just a good thing to do if you had the means. I asked him once why he did it and he just shrugged, “they might buy something nice with it for their old dad” he said.

Our family meal over, I ask for the bill, I notice that service isn’t included. It was the sort of place where you go to the till to pay and the young woman who’d looked after us was there, I paid the bill, with my card, I’m not a 1970s gangster after all. I dropped a healthy cash tip on the receipt holder thing and said to her “thank you so much” Her eyes were, for a moment on the cash tip, she looked up at me and said “are you sure??” And I said, yes and thanked her again. Her face lit up, eyes glossy and smile beaming. For that brief second my dad was back in the room with me enjoying the moment and I thought of him and that made me happy. After we got back to our cottage my uncle said, he’d noticed that service wasn’t included and so he’d given the woman who served us some cash as we left…My dad would have loved that. 

To Mimi, white tabard nurse, coffee machine nurse, registry office lady, waitress at The Gamekeepers Inn. You’ve no idea how much your acts of service and kindness in ways large and small, visible and invisible made a difference to our individual and collective – small and very large moments of grief. Thank you.

Dad had lung cancer, bone cancer, liver cancer and some other stuff, he died in January 2024 and we scattered his ashes in March 2024.


Elizabeth Brennan – 11th March 1924 – 29th June 2023

Elizabeth Brennan, born Elizabeth Maher on the Eleventh of March 1924
To Bill and Johanna Maher in Ballydool – Kilkenny was the 6th of 11 children – 3 boys and 8 girls. She was the last of them.

She and her husband Jimmy met under the clock outside the jewellers in Kilkenny, they were married in 1947 and began a life there raising 4 children, before leaving it all behind and moving to Blantyre Scotland in 1961 and then on to Leeds in 1969 where she lived for over half her 99 years.

But of course, she was much more than just than just that bare biographical data.

A side effect of living to 99 is that she lived many lives, daughter, sister, wife, mother, grand mother – great grand mother, she went by different names too – Ma, Mammy, Grandma B, Grannie, Betty – Mrs Brennan.

Those roles and names all have their own history and meaning as individual to her as they are to the people who used them, and I will try to do justice to all of them by telling just a few small elements of those stories that we thought illustrated her life.

For example, she learned to drive in a way that seems taken directly from a comic novel or BBC comedy drama about life in old Ireland. – Mick Mullins the butcher gave her lessons in his van. It seems that was all she needed, though a close scrape with a bus and a direct hit on the wall of St Joseph’s church in Blantyre seem to imply that maybe she wasn’t always paying 100% attention to the road at all times.

A particularly memorable car journey for her and the children was a trip to the Wicklow Mountains. The purpose of which was to retrieve a potion to clear up Davy’s baby eczema, what today might be called a homeopathic remedy from a healer… and though the trip itself left scars of its own that still run deep to this day the eczema did clear up.

However, it turns out that on the way to obtain the healing cream of unclear origin a holy well was plundered for water and it may well have been the blessed contents from its depths that helped the infant Davy’s skin back to full health – it may even have been a passing nun who promised to pray for the baby.

She was always encouraging her children to live their true selves and in the case of Denis that included putting on bets at the local bookies for him when he was not only underage but also literally at school – though he recalls to much chagrin the Tanner bet she failed to place that naturally, came in.

Another memory less tangible but nonetheless shared across generations, she always looked cool, effortlessly cool – no matter what she was up to she glided and never looked particularly flustered.

I’ve been thinking a lot about some pithy tale I might tell, a personal story that skirts the line of melancholy and amusing and when I was a child we would play cards she would often look at my hopeless attempts to shuffle the deck and say “you’d get shot for less in Chicago” I never really questioned how she knew this or how much time she’d spent playing cards with gangsters in Chicago but it seemed to me at least like she could well have.

The abiding memories don’t really have sound though -they’re not funny moments, they are core memories – more foundational than a quip or funny line – mine include; baking in the kitchen at Harlech Road, the yellow bowl with the roll top on the small table with blue legs perched on a red chair and licking the beaters after. Being wrapped in a towel sat in front of the fire on the green footstool watching TV before bed. Going to mass in the chapel at the LGI or Catholic Cathedral in Leeds and just sitting quietly – together.

The well worm aphorism goes that your family should give you roots and wings and I think that is her legacy, her gift to me. I have never once thought to myself ‘I have nowhere to go’ and that, I have come to realise is an incredible privilege it has been a super-power for me – no matter where I have been in the world, no matter what situation I might find myself in, at all times day or night from my point A I had a permanent unchanging point B.

And at that point B would be a sandwich and a cup of tea, or at minimum a snack of some description.

I was asked recently if I could describe the physical sensation that occurred in my body when I thought of my childhood and specifically Grandma B and the word that kept coming back to me was ‘calm’ no drama, no outrageous highs or lows just a steady sense of calm and the idea that everything will be ok tomorrow and that someone should put the kettle on. And did I want a sandwich? some crisps? there might be a kitkat in the cupboard or a bit of cake, a bit of old cake but cake nonetheless.

Seems small I guess – there’s no grand story arch here that takes in the great and the good the rich and the famous. It’s just a tale of small things. Relatable reliable things. Quiet, unconditional. But of course, that’s not small, it’s elemental and runs to the core of what type of person she was and life she led the and impact she had – she wasn’t in the background of our lives she was the background of our lives.

I’m told that It’s a cliche to end with a quote, so I want to end with two. As we are in this holy place it seemed appropriate to use something from the bible. It is something a priest said to me when I was in primary school, and that for more years than I care to admit, I thought he’d made it up, there are a few translations but the one I think of, the one that gets me through darker times and I think for me epitomises the spirit of Ma, Mammy Grandma B, Granny, Betty, Mrs Brennan is the last two lines of Psalm 30

Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

And the second quote is from a similarly worthy source, The Hollywood actor slash superstar Keanu Reeves. Who on a US talk show was asked: What happens to us when we die, Keanu Reeves?

And he paused for a second and answered

The ones who love us
will miss us.

Thank you.

Stories I tell my therapist

  • Session 15
  • Cost: £50
  • Cost to date: £750
  • Value: Priceless
  • You want your kids to be happy. Happy good humans that’s it really. There’s other stuff of course, of course, but really that’s as much as I’m asking for. Not to say that this is easy it’s not. It’s really, really relentless hard work, and often the reward is no reward. It can turn even the most pure person into the Grinch who stole childhood.

    But occasionally they’ll do something that is so edifying and so fantastic that you’re moved. The best ones are the small ones, the unrequested please or thank you or maybe an act of kindness toward another person. You might think they’re few and far between, it can be easy to think they’re the one-offs and they might be, but it’s nicer to think that the ones you see are what’s really what and that they happen all the time.

    Last month there was a bad car crash on the main route to school, thankfully not a bad one in terms of people and no one was seriously injured, but it happened at a key junction. The vehicles involved came to rest in, what I’m told was, an unfortunate arrangement and were sufficiently jammed together that it wasn’t going to be a short job to uncomplicate them and open the road.

    The outcome was that the school buses could not make it to school and therefore were unable to pick up their precious precious cargo and deposit those delightful cherubs where they might. So, my child and her friend decided they’d set off walking. It’s not a huge distance, but it’s not inconsiderable either, 6 miles according to The Google. I set off in the car to get as close to the road closure as I could manage and save their teenage legs from the trauma of being used.

    Weirdly, the roads were not chock-a-bloc with traffic as I had expected, but I decided I’d go the secret back way, which was, of course choc-a-bloc. The road between Halifax and Burnley is a busy one and has a lot of tiny rat runs, if you can face the cobbles and steep inclines.

    Thanks to the wonders of modern technology I was able to track Child 1 as she and her friend made it quite the distance really and I came out of a tiny and ‘not suitable for road vehicles’ but clearly suitable for vehicles as there were many, side road.

    I stopped, taxi in a movie doing a chase style, and parked sensibly and invisibly by engaging my hazard warning lights. Far from it being Child 1 and school friend, it was Child 1 and school friends. “Hey, my dad will take you home,” child 1 said to the group, and in they piled. Now, I’m going to say it was child 1 and three friends because that is how many seats I have in my car. The boot can take 2 people if they lay down, but never with the car moving or in fact ever, officer.

    Making it back to Halifax was trickier as the main road was chock-a-bloc this time and there was no route back on the rat run I had used as though it is/isn’t suitable for motor vehicles it’s definitely only suitable one way. So, we went via Lud Foot. Anyone from the general area will know that means stupidly steep hills on cobbles. In addition, I was behind a newly qualified driver. The green L plate was visible to me, but not to the absolute prick in the pick-up truck behind me who loved his horn as much as his toxic masculinity.

    It was a traumatic return, the NQD wanting more space than was available and giving way far too much, combined with pick-up man on a mission made it tricky to maintain my composure. It would have been made worse if I’d had two school kids in the boot illegally as well as the four up front so it’s handy that I didn’t. They all chatted about a teacher they disliked, bonding over how little that teacher knew and how the children themselves could teach the subject better – I bit my lip.

    After much go and wait and maneuvering we started to make progress, but the going was slow. We eventually made it back to Halifax and I was directed to ‘generally my house’ by a very polite teen in the front. They all piled out saying a variety of thank yous and I think one of them called me a lifesaver, but I’m too modest to say.

    Cargo of well-organised teenage bones and flesh deposited somewhere near their homes Niamh jumped into the front seat and I sprung on this chance to bond over a chat and asked “Who were they?” “No idea” she replied as she put her headphones on turned the music to 11 and stared out of the window.

    “And how did that make you feel?” Asked the therapist.
    “Amazing” I said.

    Gothic Fiction short by Niamh Brennan

    Last night I had the dream again. I was back there. That place that haunts my memory. It’s always the same.

    The derelict castle, isolated and gloomy, towers over me. Crows surround the turrets and constantly call out in their ancient language. Uncontrolled plants from the untended garden below crawled up the walls and through the holes in the crumbling brick.

    The tops of the castle seem charred like the remains of a fire that was put out as quickly as it started. There was a constant mist lingering in the air as if it were a ghost, spying on the castle, threatening to suffocate those who dared enter.

    The windows had no glass and looked like gloomy holes that lead to an endless abyss of darkness and pain. After staring for a while, I take a step forwards and that is where the dream ends every single time. I wake up in a pool of my own sweat terrified by what I have seen although I did not see enough to scare me.

    I See the castle in my mind every day. Trying to understand its meaning. Why it has come into my head. What does this place have to do with me? I have so many questions that cannot be answered for you only truly understand the fear of this dream if you live it. Like I do so often

    War Horse, a short review nine years in the making

    Apropos of nothing in particular. Just before Roy Scheider, playing the green, but somehow simultaneously edgy Chief Brody in Jaws, says his most famous line in, well, just about any movie “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” he says “I can go slow ahead, come on down and chum some of this shit”

    The only thing I knew about this movie before I watched it was that it existed. Now at least I know that it is quite the most ridiculous film ever made. I like an implausible plot twist at the best of times, but the entire film is an implausible twist plot. Awful.

    Parasite – The contrarian I didn’t like it review.

    I guess the easy thing would be to go along with the swathes of glowing reviews from experts and take note of the huge array of awards that this movie has won and seems to continue to win. Wait. For. It. … Just a little more…


    I really didn’t like this movie. I did want to. I just didn’t. I was searching for a way to describe how I felt, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It looks lovely, but that, for me is about it. The story is stupid, the characters ugly. It’s a good thirty minutes too long and, well, boring. The best way I could think of to describe how I felt watching Parasite was thus:

    Imagine you are sitting in front of a washing machine that has a lovely white cotton towel in it, the really fluffy one you just bought that totes gets you and then you half notice what looks like a flash of red. A rush of adrenaline, but then it abates because it was just a figment of your imagination. You turn to look away, but WOAH just as you glance back, there in the window is a big dark blue sock and it is clinging to the glass taunting you.

    THEN BAM. The red sock appears and pushes the blue sock off its perch. You reach of the off button, but know that despite your need for this disaster to be over the off button on a washing machine is more an indication of future intent than a strict instruction and this horror show is going to continue for some time and you’ll just have to deal with it.

    You sit, horror-struck in front of the washing machine unable to move, you watch as red follows blue follows white and then it all starts to blend into one indescribable shade of grey. A really crap grey that ruins everything. It ruins the blue sock, it ruins the red sock and worst of all it ruins is the white towel – everything looks awful and all you can do is sit.

    THEN BAM, the washing machine inexplicably lurches forwards and falls on you trapping you until help arrives – it never does. As you sit there, trapped, you try to work out why this happened and how on earth the washing machine could have fallen on you, but this story has no need for logic or sense it’s just a collection of things thrown together. Not unlike Parasite.

    I didn’t like it.

    A decade is a long time in digital, bricks and mortar…

    To help stretch my current blogging interest in the longevity of digital, specifically publishing, but in reality anything, to its limit… I was invited by Amazon Photos this morning to remember where I was exactly a decade ago today.

    Infinite Loop

    I mean, it’s not there anymore either.

    A passing thought about the changing nature of human memory when paired with digital devices entered my brain for a second, but the complexity of how that might manifest itself meant that my brain deleted it almost immediately.

    But, as Phil Collins might say, seriously… What if digital, with its impression of permanence begins to affect the actual permanence of physical memory. You start to rely on Amazon photos to remind you where you were a decade ago, even sub-consciously, and then your actual memory starts to discard memory it would have normally kept. The digital memory turns up and woo great. Amazon fails to remind you and poof, memory gone. I guess that’s not really all that different to a physical photography, but with so much more of our day to day being digital and the increased reliance on that digital content store are we putting more of our memory at risk? A bit like the humans in the movie WALL-E but not a physical deterioration a mental one too.

    I bet there’s some proper academic research along these lines too, but I’m far too busy and important to search that out so this unsourced stream of consciousness attached to a weak sauce excuse to remind myself I once went to Apple HQ will have to do.

    Digital Decomposition

    In my last post I mentioned that digital just disappears and that got me thinking about how I might be able to keep some of the digital things that I’d done. It’s weird that even at the first step of my own digital footprint, the stuff that I alone control the assets for, some of it is already gone.

    I started to sift through the digital-only stuff I had created over the years and one of the first I came to was a presentation I gave at a ‘future of digital magazines’ event, website gone, ironically, at UAL: London College of Communications.

    Basically, I have the slides for the Petchu-Kutcha and you can see them in that incredibly very annoying animated gif (hard G) that is cycling below. What’s gone though are my notes and though I memorise all my presentations before I give them, inevitably, the detail disappears from my memory and, sans notes, I’m afraid I couldn’t be 100% sure of what I said for, let’s say, the slide with ‘Distraction’.

    I do know what I said for the Guttenberg slide as that got a nice laugh and I’m an absolute sucker for the pleasure of making a large group of people chuckle. I was saying that Guttenberg made the press to make money, not to please God or the church which is basically the same notion behind the Police Academy franchise.

    However, other than a few emails back and forth between myself and the other contributors about subject choice and this keynote, that’s all that’s left. I think it may have been recorded, but I don’t think it ever made the light of day.

    I do wonder if there’s any use in even attempting to understand what a realistically safe public digital archive with longevity might actually look like. Can anything that isn’t a huge, globally uniform, globally funded site work? And for what and who curates and who pays for that?

    I do like the word disenthrall though. Still.