Friday, 30 January 2009


I have just read a particularly sad story on the BBC News website. A man was stabbed to death whilst travelling to the hospital to visit his baby son, born only that morning. His three-year-old daughter was with him at the time and this all took place in broad daylight is a busy public place.

Now the man's wife has suddenly to face the prospect of bringing up two small children all on her own. OK, lots of single mums do that, but let's face it, most single mums aren't suddenly deserted by their partners on the day of their child's birth.

Murder is always going to be a tragedy for the family of the victim, but for this family, it seems that it could hardly have come at a worse time. Now two kids have to grow up without their dad. I just hope for her sake that the little girl does not remember what happened.

The murderer is also a thief. He has stolen the life of his victim - obviously. He has also stolen from the family and from everyone else because the world has now been deprived of any possible goodness and joy that the victim might have given it (OK, the victim might have been pure evil, but it's not terribly likely, is it?).

Oddly enough, I doubt that the murderer is pure evil either and may even now be wishing to God he could undo what he did today (if only to avoid prison). He can't, of course, and is going to have to live with it, but at least he gets to live, which is more than can be said for his victim.

It's tempting to wish for the death penalty for murderers and, while it's a definite way of preventing re-offending, it's no deterrent to someone who, probably in the heat of an argument, lashed out with a knife with little or no thought for the consequences (this murder arose from an argument, we're told).

Anger and hostility is everywhere these days, it seems, and self-control in public is becoming rarer by the day. It's not about knife bans and gun bans and harsh sentencing – we all need to learn from an early age how to deal with situations where our personal will is frustrated and with the seemingly inevitable rage that goes with it.

Grace is a very old-fashioned word, but our society is crying out for it. We need to start being more gracious with each other, more tolerant, and dare I say, more yielding. This is something I really need to learn. When I think back over the years about the number of times I've been in arguments with people who could easily been carrying a knife...

Some things are worth insisting on, but let's face it, most of what we get annoyed on a daily basis about is pretty trivial. Not worth dying for and certainly not worth killing for.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Perceived Parental Cruelties

When I was a kid, I used to think my parents were really rotten to me.

Once, we three younger kids were sent up to bed as usual but for some reason were mucking about, running in and out of each other's bedrooms and so on. My mother, hearing the patter of not-so-tiny feet, called up to us several times to get into bed "or else". Stupidly, we ignored her and carried on.

Then she came upstairs.

The surprised and guilty looks on our faces must have been really funny because she could barely contain her laughter, so she was smiling as each one of us dashed past her to our rooms, but still gave us a good wallop. That's an image we tease her with to this day: her smiling whilst giving us a good hiding

Then there was the time when my mum threw my favourite shoes on the fire in front of me. I'd come home from school and put on these old shoes that I used to love slobbing about in. I was whining about some paid in my feet which had nothing to do with the shoes at all, but she just grabbed them off me and threw them in the fire. I'm still annoyed about that :-)

Then there was the time my Dad threw all our Lego in the bin. We used to keep it in a biscuit tin and instead of tipping it out onto the nice quiet carpet to find that all-important piece, we just used to rummage noisily in the tin for it. Thinking about it, the noise would have been terrifically irritating I suppose.

Still, if that's all I've got to complain about from my childhood, I reckon I've got off pretty lightly. Looking back at it, I reckon the parent-beings did a pretty good job in not very easy circumstances (not much money and four kids).

Friday, 9 January 2009

The Remains of the Day

It's 17:08 GMT and the office is all but deserted. It's just me and the hum of the air-conditioning. Still, not long till home-time and a weekend of chillaxation (I like that word).

As I've gotten older, I can't believe just how fast time seems to be going. When I was a kid, a week was almost forever, now it's over before you can turn round.

I used to listen to that old Mariane Faithful song, The Ballad of Lucy Jordan and think 'that could never be me' but, here I am, a good deal older than 37 and I'm pretty darn sure I won't get to ride through Paris in a sportscar with the cool wind in my hair. Things that used to be really big passions with me seem to have faded with the years. I used to be mad on learning new foreign languages, but now I look at all the Teach Yourself books on my shelf (including Zulu, for some reason) and it just doesn't stir me anymore.

I think it's time for a change, I need to let go of all those things that no longer mean anything to me or that I just know will not be useful in the future. We carry all these ideas around about what type of person we are and sometimes forget to update them. This is Sartre's bad faith of the worst possible type.

Maybe once I clear these ideas out, I'll start to see a bit more clearly.