* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

How to say goodbye

3 Febuary 2003
Jamie lets it all out

How do you write emotions on paper? Even worse, how do you put them on a screen, when each typed character comes out identical, whether you're hammering the keys in frustration or crying into your monitor? Whatever you do, it all comes out flat, like Stephen Hawking doing a dramatic reading.

I was trying to write about the last time I saw my grandfather alive, the physical and mental sensations I encountered; but for something so absolutely massive at the time, putting everything together just seems so damned trivial. All the details that went to making it what it was, all the turmoil of the days following; when it appears in black and white on a crappy monitor, you just wonder yourself why it felt like it did - and you can be sure it won't mean a thing to anyone else reading it. I know there's something to be said for understatement and for bathos as literary devices blah blah blah, but that doesn't make it worth five minutes of anyone's time.

So what can I say about it that has any real substance? No words can convey seeing his almost total decline, from the lithe, tanned Desert Rat of his war photos, standing monochrome in the sea holding a jellyfish aloft in triumph, through the playful sixty-something who'd do anything (including terrifying his wife with slow-worms on the lounge rug) to amuse his grandchildren, to this empty shell. It was always not knowing what to expect - whether you'd be recognised, or even have your presence acknowledged - that was the terrible thing, and knowing it must have been twice as heartbreaking for my mother, his daughter. Like the time he sat and stared right past us, oblivious to anything and anyone around him; and then the golden labrador walked in and had his undivided attention for the rest of our time there.

But back to that last time. For some reason I did know it was the last time I'd ever see him alive. Nothing rational told me why, he was on marginally better form than he'd been for a while - but there was just a sense of finality about the whole occasion. Maybe it was something to do with the fact that it was a Sunday, that I was home from school for those precious few hours and rather than going straight into roast dinner and firing up my old Spectrum, we headed across to the home, five minutes by bike from our house. Some people suggested he'd just given up: he'd been slowly slipping away since my grandmother died, and there was a feeling that once he'd seen me get the scholarship and my sister on her way to university, there wasn't a hell of a lot left for him to hold on for. Whatever.

There wasn't much in those goodbyes that day. I think it sunk in slowly for the rest of the afternoon, into the evening, through the night. It didn't help that the evening chapel service featured a sermon where the preacher was spouting platitudes about death not being the end, and I just thought - yes it is. It didn't matter what he believed about an afterlife, I just knew I wasn't seeing him again. I seem to remember struggling through the last couple of hymns and calling it a night.

So, the postscript. It was about the middle of that week that my housemaster caught up with me as we were leaving lunch, asking me to go to his office after the final class at 4pm. I had my suspicions, as you would, but it seemed a strange way to put it, so I took a couple of report cards I needed him to sign as well.

It was when I saw my mother there in with him that I knew for sure, but it wasn't a shock, and I remember walking round the grounds with her in brilliant sunlight for half an hour and not crying until she'd gone home. I don't know if I was doing it so she wouldn't get upset, or because I wanted to show that I was grown up and could look after myself; all I know is that after that, I managed to hold it together right up to the funeral, even when the coffin arrived and I saw all his old friends, right up to the one point where I heard my mother and sister crying loudly next to me. Then it just got embarrassing; just like it's embarrassing now, to be sat in front of a monitor with a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes. It's just not dignified. Thankfully, none of that will come across.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
13 October 2003. Jamie writes: The Persistence of Memory
22 September 2003. Jamie writes: The Email Eunuch
1 September 2003. Jamie writes: Credo
11 August 2003. Jamie writes: Brad and Jennifer and Me
21 July 2003. Jamie writes: Interruption
30 June 2003. Jamie writes: Do you remember the first time?
12 June 2003. Jamie writes: Forthcoming Attractions
19 May 2003. Jamie writes: Stupid Mistake
28 April 2003. Jamie writes: Hoping and Praying
7 April 2003. Jamie writes: Strangers on a Plane
17 March 2003. Jamie writes: Q&A
24 February 2003. Jamie writes: Altered States
3 February 2003. Jamie writes: How to say goodbye
13 January 2003. Jamie writes: In A League Of Their Own
23 December 2002. Jamie writes: What's in a name?
2 December 2002. Jamie writes: Lies, Damned Lies and Spastics
11 November 2002. Jamie writes: Memoirs of a Gaysian: A Preface
21 October 2002. Jamie writes: Love is blindness
30 September 2002. Jamie writes: Time for bed
9 September 2002. Jamie writes: Angry Exchanges Can Be Puzzling [10]
19 August 2002. Jamie writes: High Speed
29 July 2002. Jamie writes: Firkin Hell
8 July 2002. Jamie writes: Do you, er... haiku?
13 June 2002. Jamie writes: Unnatural Porn Thrillers
20 May 2002. Jamie writes: The Triumphant Return of the Septic Fiveskins
25 April 2002. Jamie writes: Meeting People is Easy
4 April 2002. Jamie writes: I Want I Want I Want
7 March 2002. Jamie writes: The Player of Games
11 February 2002. Jamie writes: Fat Man Walking
17 January 2002. Jamie writes: Passive/Aggressive
3 January 2002. Jamie writes: Love (classified)
29 November 2001. Jamie writes: A Lil' Nite Muzak
5 November 2001. Jamie writes: Natural born liar
11 October 2001. Jamie writes: All I need
17 September 2001. Jamie writes: Postcards From The Edge (of the pool)
23 August 2001. Jamie writes: Class act
30 July 2001. Jamie writes: Ritchie Neville is dead
5 July 2001. Jamie writes: A Letter from God
11 June 2001. Jamie writes: "If it's in French, it must be deep"
17 May 2001. Jamie writes: Reportage
23 April 2001. Jamie writes: Show me the Logos
29 March 2001. Jamie writes: Sobering Thoughts
8 March 2001. Jamie writes: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid
8 February 2001. Jamie writes: Spent
15 January 2001. Jamie writes: Full to the brim
21 December 2000. Jamie writes: fuck xmas
27 November 2000. Jamie writes: Eye Candy
2 November 2000. Jamie writes: World-wide-web?
9 October 2000. Jamie writes: Kids' stuff
14 September 2000. Jamie writes: Scatological Warfare
21 August 2000. Jamie writes: I can't stand up (for falling clowns)
10 July 2000. Jamie writes: The Etymology of Greatness

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