Finally

I have been somewhat distracted for the last six months. Finding it hard to focus. Book promotions, working on current books, my own writing, it has been difficult to get the impetus to deal with it.

On Friday, 24th July, my father’s ashes were interred. If you’ve been around a while you’ll know he died of a pulmonary embolism, pretty much instantly and painlessly, on February 14th. Nearly six damn months ago. The ineptitude of the NHS Wales coroner meant his funeral was not until March 10th. This did mean he had a very well attended funeral and cremation, there were over a hundred people at it. A week later there would have been four.

Then lockdown happened and his ashes languished in the undertaker’s place until they could be interred. Meanwhile, the stonemasons completed his headstone and in a further act of ineptitude, installed it over a grave he wasn’t in. So it had to be moved. I can imagine his rage at all this. He hated waiting and he hated to be late and here he was, at the end, late for his own funeral. Because of the ineptitude of others.

One thing he would have been very proud of was his casket. Made by my son, his grandson, who learned a lot of his woodworking skills from my father. He also learned what has become a sort of unofficial motto in this branch of the family at least – ‘There is perfect, and there is wrong’. And so my son has agonised about some tiny imperfections in the wood but the casket he made turned out far superior to any of the readymades available from the undertaker – and that came from the undertaker themselves.

I know my father would have had no criticism of the casket. The coroner, the stonemason, all the rest of it, well he would have had some interesting phrases to launch at them all.

It has been difficult. I tried to rationalise his death as I rationalise most things in life. He was 82, he’d had multiple strokes, his mind was fully intact but his body was failing and that, understandably, made him frustrated. He knew what he wanted to do but his body could no longer do it. I don’t know which is worse – losing your mind in a fully functional body or having all your faculties in a body that’s collapsing. It’s still difficult to accept either way. Your parents are there from the moment you are born and you think they’re immortal, but they’re not. Everyone finds that out the hard way.

It has been difficult though, knowing he languished in storage when he should have been laid to rest. This should have been all over in March. If the coroner wasn’t an utterly useless arse it would all have been over by the end of February. If it had been, I could have been there.

I could not attend the interrment. I would have risked the application of two weeks of quarantine on my return from Wales to Scotland. I would have risked having to stop at the border, get out of my car and batter the racist SNP bastards with a King Dick spanner on the way back. I really would not have been in the mood to deal with their petty childish shit. I suppose quarantine in prison is much the same anyway.

Only four family members could attend. I know Bozza and the Pretend Conservatives say six but that includes the undertaker and the priest. Family gets four. My father has two brothers and three sisters surviving him, only one brother was able to be there along with his wife, my mother and my brother. If I had been there I would have had to force one of them out. I am glad my uncle was there though, he and my father were very close. It’s horrible the rest could not attend. I’d have given up my spot to any of them if I had one.

At least we have some kind of closure at last. My father’s journey has finally ended. He spent far too long in the waiting room but he’s now reached the final destination.

I can hear him now – ‘Bloody British Rail would have been quicker’.

Final days

The coroner has at last (March 6th) signed the forms that release my father to the undertaker. My father died instantly of a pulmonary embolism on February 14th, the death certificate finally became available to my mother on March 4th and the undertaker had still heard nothing. After, I suspect, several angry phone calls, the coroner remembered to do his job and signed the release forms.

So, there is no real prospect of an open casket funeral because the undertaker has not been able to embalm him. My mother wanted to say one last goodbye, but thanks to the utter ineptitude of the South Wales coroner, that is unlikely to be possible. The entire family is now at the point where if this coroner shows his face he’s really not likely to get to keep it. Don’t show up to apologise, Coroner. No apology can or will be accepted. Just fuck off.

This is not an exceptional case. More and more are coming forward from the area covered by this coroner’s office. The local MP will be getting letters, as will whoever is medically in charge of that shitshow.

I wonder if he would dare do this to a Muslim family? Islam requires the time between death and internment to be no more than three days. This coroner thinks nothing of taking three weeks or more to sign a damn form. If they jihaded him, they’d have the full support of me and my entire family. Heck, we’d give them alibis.

I have been uncommunicative for a while because of this. We cannot move on until it is over. My mother could not arrange bank accounts, insurances, property, pensions, council tax, anything at all without the death certificate so we have all been in limbo until the coroner finally managed to shift his arse. Fortunately my brother has been on hand to help our mother and CStM and I will be there in a couple of days for the funeral.

And don’t blame this on ‘Tory cuts’. This is NHS Wales. It’s Labour controlled. God help you all in Wales if (when) coronavirus hits. It has an incubation period of at least two weeks and it’ll be three weeks before you know if someone died of it. NHS Wales will go under with cases in a month, all because the coroner just does not care.

The remainers and the climate cult have dropped their masks now, gleefully delighting in hte deaths of ‘old Brexiteers’ and ‘old Climate Heretics’ and not realising that coronavirus does not care how you vote, nor does it care for your religion. I actually don’t know how my father voted on Brexit, nor his opinions on climate change. We didn’t discuss politics. I don’t know how any of my family voted on anything, nor how they feel about climate change, for that matter. In my family, family is first. We do not split over trivia.

I think they will listen to me over the new coronavirus, since I’m the only one with a doctorate in microbiology. So I will be advising on this one. It’s not ‘flu. That ‘it’s only flu’ mindset is what makes those required to self-quarantine think ‘It’s been three days, I’m fine, I’ll go to that concert/business meeting/football match’ and spread it all around. Its principal danger is not even in its death rate, which is amateurish compared to the likes of Ebola. Its danger is in its asymptomatic spread which will lead to a total collapse of the health service. They don’t only deal with coronavirus, you know, and when hospitals are full of people on respirators, what about all the other illnesses?

As for me, I only have one gathering to attend. My father’s funeral. It will be big, there are a lot of us on all three sides of the family (long story, another time maybe) from all over the country. Infection rates are not yet at dangerous levels as far as anyone knows (although ‘confirmed cases’ are only the ones so far showing symptoms and the real current cases could well be ten times that) so I’ll risk it.

Confirmed cases are doubling every two days in the UK. Don’t imagine this one is just going to disappear. This is not the necrotising fasciitis scare that killed about eight people and caused mass panic, this one will run and run.

We’re not flying to Wales. I had already decided to drive because that gives more flexibility over coming back. If we have to stay a few more days, no problem. Just as well really since the operator of flights from Aberdeen to Cardiff was Flybe, and they’ve now gone bust. I’d have been driving anyway and with no chance of ticket refunds.

Still, the eleventh Underdog Anthology will go ahead. Submissions will close on March 31st although publication isn’t likely to be until mid to late April and you might not get an email response until mid March at the earliest. That’s not your fault, it’s the fault of an idiot in a coroner’s job.

This one will be dedicated to my father. He loved to read these books.

Limbo

I don’t have the next chapter of Panoptica ready for this week. I’ll have to catch up later.

Why? Because the coroner has not yet managed to get off his arse and contact the doctor, so there is no death certificate for my father. It’s been almost a week.

Nothing can happen without that certificate. The funeral director cannot set a date for the funeral, already it’s going back into March. Pensions cannot be cancelled. My mother has cancelled his seat on a flight she’d booked but cannot get a refund without that certificate.

There is money set aside for the funeral. That cannot be released without that certificate.

The South Wales coroner is beginning to look like a figment of the imagination. Even the doctors can’t find him.

This is not an unusual occurrence. This coroner has delayed funerals for a month in many cases. We’ve heard so many tales now.

How the hell can a coroner justify leaving families in limbo like this? My father did not die in any suspicious circumstance. He was 82 and disabled. He collapsed in front of many witnesses. There is nothing to investigate here, no need for this delay. As in so many other cases.

We are in limbo. No idea when my father’s funeral will be. The funeral director has, I hear, been excellent as far as they can be, but can set nothing in motion without that certificate. The same for all the others, pensions, flights, banks etc. Only the coroner is holding everything back.

I hope I never meet this coroner. It could end up with me spending time in jail.

After what he has put my mother through, especially, I feel it could be worth it.

In Memoriam

On Friday night, a little before midnight, my father died. It was sudden and unexpected – even though he was 82 and had suffered several strokes, his mind was still sharp and he could still get around, although with some difficulty.

My parents had been out for a meal at a pub and he collapsed and died on the way out. I’m going to Wales in the next few days and will likely be out of touch for a while.

My father was filled with stories. Not the fiction I turn out, these were all real life tales of working in the mines, in factories after the mines closed, and pranks from the days before health and safety took all the fun out of it.

I’m sure I’ve told of the time a young singer named Tom Jones did a set at the Ynysddu Progressive Working Men’s Club. This is indeed the same Tom Jones, when he was just starting out.

They paid him off halfway through. All the shouty singing and hip-thrusting didn’t go down well with a room full of flat-capped miners. He was told he’d never play the Ynysddu Prog Club again. And he never has.

When I was very small we lived in a council house in the Penllwyn Estate. My father once gave a coworker a pack of seeds for his new garden. Our garden was full of dockleaves… those were the seeds.

As a teenager I had a very realistic silicon human hand. It was remarkably realistic. My father, then working in the nearby Johnson and Johnson factory, producing J-cloths, took the hand to work one day. He dropped it on the emerging sheet of cloth so it would pop through the rollers to where another coworker was inspecting for flaws. The guy had to go for a long sit down…

One of his best tales was from his days in the mines. He worked at the coal face. Lunch breaks were underground, they took packed lunches with them. One of the other men always had corned beef sandwiches and always complained that it was the same every day. His wife made his lunch for him.

The others told him to be firm, stand up for himself, and tell his wife he wanted something different. Sure enough, at lunch break next day, his sandwiches did not contain corned beef.

They contained fruit salad. He might not have been too diplomatic when asking for a change.

It’s going to be hard to come to terms with a world that no longer has him in it. He was such a gigantic character, there will always be a gaping hole where he once stood. All the things he made are still here though, and he made a lot of things. Including me and my brother.

He lived long enough to see three great-granddaughters. His mind was intact to the end and his wit remained sharp, and he died without going through a long slow decline in a bed. If I could choose, that’s how I’d go too. With a good meal and a beer inside me.

RIP Dad.

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Update: Thank you for all the kind messages. They are appreciated. Prayers are appreciated too even though I don’t believe. It’s the thought that counts.

I like to think that he left one last important message. Get stuff done. Don’t piss about because you never know how much time you have left.

I think he got everything done he wanted done, and I hope that when it’s my time, someone else can say the same about me. So. Back to work.

I currently don’t know when we’ll go to Wales. Can’t book anything until we have a date for the funeral. Hopefully the storms will have become bored with the UK soon and travel will be easier.

Thanks to everyone.

Another remote goodbye

Several well known bloggers have died since I started on this blogging lark. I always intended to meet up with some of them but rarely made it happen – partly because I live somewhere remote now and have rarely had the funds to take spontaneous trips. However, I will have to make more of an effort before it’s my turn to meet the Reaper.

Frank and Bucko had the good fortune to meet Nisakiman recently. Nisakiman has now passed away, with his daughters at his bedside and, it seems, peacefully.

I’ve never been much good at condolences or eulogies so I’ll just raise a glass to Nisakiman’s memory this evening.

Rest in peace, Kevin.

 

Redirecting…

No blog from me tonight. I have spent a few hours this evening on an insurance company’s telephone timewasting service and have given up without actually getting through to a real person. An Email full of rage and cancellation is in preparation.

It wasn’t a totally bad day. I had a meeting about science work in which we formulated a clear Plan for a project, and dined on venison steaks and chips and all the trimmings. At a very acceptable price too. The local pub here does excellent food, stocks BrewDog’s Nanny State alcohol free beer (I was driving) and has a real coal fire in the bar. I might become a regular, especially once the weather improves to the point where I can walk there.

Tonight, no ramble from me. I redirect you to a long and interesting post by Anna Raccoon.

It sort of puts the annoying things in life into perspective…

The day a hedgehog stared me down

Just over a year ago I met CynaraeStMary on Twitter. She had commented on the blog before then but I was still in a whisky abyss at the time, self medicating for a slow demise. That has changed, I’m getting better.

Igor the hedgehog unfortunately isn’t. He passed away last night due to a really vicious gut infection that ripped his insides apart in about a day. The only saving grace was that at the end, he was in vet care and probably so drugged up he didn’t feel a thing.

That wouldn’t be unusual for someone who came to be seen as the original punk rockstar hamster.

I remember CynaraeStMary first telling me about her pet hedgehog and being surprised that I considered this unusual. I didn’t mention that I considered it a bit more than unusual and bordering on Crazy Small Mammal Lady. I still haven’t. It turns out that having a pet hedgehog is actually less unusual than having Boris the undercouch spider as a pet. Who knew?

My first meeting with Igor was when CynaraeStMary had him cuddled on her chest. I was a little way away, trying to get a good photo (of the hedgehog, you filthy minded swines) without using flash. Didn’t get a good one.

At one point he turned his face towards me and gave me a look that said ‘What in the name of Satan’s fart gas is that thing?’

I stared back. I blinked first. He won that one. It’ll be the last, so he won them all.

He had a hotline to Putin, we thought, and was bent on world domination from his underground lair. He seemed the type to be doing that.

He had rock parties in his cage at night, evidenced by the way he had always trashed it in the morning and was flat out in a spaced-out sleep.

If you had to get up in the night, he’d look at you as if to say ‘What are you doing? It’s my time. I don’t go wandering around the place when you’re awake. Fuck off back to sleep’.

A wonderful grump, a hell of a character and the source of many smiles as well as a few ‘I’ll strangle you, you little bastard’ moments.

I’ll miss him even though he didn’t like me. He didn’t like anyone. Well, one. He liked CynaraeStMary, but nobody else on the planet.

RIP Igor. The Romulus Crowe of hedgehogs.

Fixing a life

I’ll pin this to the top if I can work out how to do it. New posts will appear below.

The blog is likely to be a little intermittent for a few months. I have a messy life and I have to deal with matters I should have dealt with a long time ago, instead of ignoring them and just getting drunk.

It also means I’ll be pretty lax answering comments but I know you lot are capable of chatting amongst yourselves anyway. You don’t need me supervising you.

I have to deal with these things myself. They’re not all my fault but I’ve let them drag on far too long. I’ll tell the story, starting sometime around August or September. It’s a long and not too happy story and it’s not over yet but I think it will finally have a happy ending.

I’m not closing the blog or abandoning it, in fact I’ll be expanding blogs. I have just woken Dume and will soon wake Crowe. I’m going to need those past incarnations soon. They were stages on the way here and I have to find the way back.

You think my stories are on the dark side? Wait until you read my life! I’d make it into a novel but…

…it’s just too damn weird.