Some things never change

This is a story about Barry and William.

Barry and William had been together for quite a few years and then split up after moving abroad. Barry found a new guy and moved in with him.

But Barry never forgot William and, after some time, they got back together again. They decided to give it a go again and had rented a flat and had almost got it completely furnished to move into. The flat was looking great and it seemed as if, this time, it was going to be perfect. They had decided to go to an event in London. Barry bought plane tickets and booked the hotel and so on. They were going to leave on Monday.

*The thing is, I know something Barry doesn’t know! I am watching this, as if from the ceiling.*

So, it’s the weekend and Barry discovers, the night before the flight that William has decided to go back to the UK to live.

*This is the thing I already knew*

“But, you always knew I wanted to go back,” William said.
“Yes, I knew that you wanted to but why do all this – get this flat, furnish it, pretend that everything was OK when, obviously, nothing is as it seems?” complained Barry.
“Because I didn’t want to hurt you,” exclaimed William.

“So, when do you intend to go?” asked Barry.
“My flight is tomorrow morning.”
“What the fuck? But our flight to London is tomorrow afternoon. Why didn’t you tell me?” Barry is angry. William starts crying.
“You let me book everything and in the meantime you’ve made other plans and I’ve just wasted all this fucking money and all this ….. this pretence of being together is just that ….. pretence!”

And, of course, worse than that, William is just walking away, leaving him with all the shit to clear up which will be difficult, a pain in the arse and expensive. Barry wonders what he’s done to deserve this. This is not the first time William has left him to pick up the pieces but this time it’s going to be so difficult.

Barry’s life has just gone down the pan. Cut to the other flat with the other guy. They are in the flat they had together.

“… and now we might lose this flat,” Barry is continuing his conversation, “and we’ll have nowhere to live.”
“But I’ve already given notice on this flat,” says the guy.
And looking around, Barry can see that the flat is empty and everything is already too late.

And he is filled with a sense of panic as he, once again, has to start from nothing. The panic rises. His heart is thumping.

I wake up.
That was about the third nightmare last night. Of course, the people weren’t the people as I have named and, in any case, the situation would/could/shall never happen (again).

But, just for a moment, it seemed real enough.

Nina Forever – a fucked up fairy tale

So, as you may know, I’m just a little keen on Kickstarter.

The latest thing to be released, that I helped to fund, is Nina Forever.

I helped to fund about 1 second of the film. Doesn’t sound much, does it? But it’s something and the resulting film, going by the trailer, looks really excellent.

It’s just been showing at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

One hopes it will be released and available very soon and I, for one, am very excited about getting to see it, I hope, very soon.

Very, very, VERY excited :-)

And, here is the trailer. I hope you like it.

The weekend in which I don’t, exactly, get a cold.

I’ve woken up with a bit of a sore throat and a little blocked. It could be the start of a cold. But it isn’t.

Instead, it’s because yesterday I was cold for most of the day.

After all, there are wonderful things to say about F being back home.

On the other hand ……..

Saturday was the moving of furniture. That is, the moving of the “new” cocktail cabinet from the place we both thought it would look good (but, in reality, didn’t) to the place in the entrance hall where the bread prover stood. The bread prover was moved to the kitchen, giving us extra space to put things.

Obviously, moving everything out of the bread prover, then moving the bread prover, then the cocktail cabinet, then putting things away takes time. A lot of time. Especially when it’s F who’s putting things away.

And then, just when I thought it was nearly over, F had other ideas. Whilst we were moving things around, he decided to “do the kitchen”. This means taking everything out, cleaning the cupboards and putting everything back except, this time, in a way that he wanted. I’m sure I won’t be able to find things but that’s OK.

So, that was Saturday.

Sunday, on the other hand was a) the first day of spring and b) a lot colder because it was raining first thing and cloudy and damp all day. But Sunday was the day for a “general clean”. And, general clean he did. But, while he’s cleaning all the windows have to be open, everything has to be aired. And, it’s cold. And, damp.

And, so I was cold, all day.

The flat is truly spick and span and gleaming like you wouldn’t believe. Which is lovely and I really do appreciate the work he has done.

But, this morning, I have this sore throat and blocked nose and feel a little bit shitty.

Next weekend he will probably be away and there’s a silent little cheer in my head although, quite obviously, I will miss him like hell. Still, I will be able to relax and keep the flat warmer.

Confusing “being” with “one way of living”

There are some things that, still, in this day and age, cannot be changed.

For example, I could change my sex, my hair colour, even have replacement limbs should I be careless enough to lose one. There is talk about being able to replace heads, soon.

But, until that day comes, I guess, there is no way that you can change your sexual orientation.

In spite of the fact that there are people who believe you can, you really can’t.

So, when I came across this article the other day, my first thought was to dismiss the guy as either a) a nutter, b) a religious nutter or, c) stupid.

I was quite prepared to be angry. In fact, before I even read it, I was angry. It’s similar to the occasions when I read how people can be “cured” of being the way they are. In fact, I’ve read it twice now. The first time I was angry and couldn’t take it all in and then I realised that, in fact, the title didn’t tell the truth.

And, so, I was able to read it again. And, this time, I had an understanding of what he was talking about.

The clues came in simple sentences, such as “[Being gay] has outlived its usefulness” and “I have experienced all aspects of the life“.

You see, being gay is not something that can outlive its usefulness. It is just “being”. The only way of not “being” is to be no longer alive. And, as I get older, I realise that it is quite impossible to experience all aspects of any “life” since you can never be someone else other than who you are and someone else’s experiences are, most definitely, different than yours and, therefore, you can never experience them. It is only right at the second that you die that you can say that you have experienced all aspects of your life – but, still, that’s not quite the same, is it?

And, then, in the very next paragraph, came the mistake the guy had made. “I came to this community” was the problem. Being gay … or straight, or transgender, or white, or brown, or black, or a woman, or a man, or short-sighted, or intelligent, etc. is not a community. They are states of “being”.

So, in fact, I realised, he wasn’t talking about “being gay” but, rather, being surrounded by gay people in, what is known as, the “gay community”.

He goes on to say that he’s been “open” for 7 years and it’s been painful and miserable which he masked with “with alcohol, drugs, sex and parties”. Yes, so we’ve all been through painful and miserable times – that’s not exclusive to being gay, you know? People I know are still going through painful and miserable times – but they aren’t gay. They’ve also tried to mask it through alcohol and drugs and, very occasionally, sex but found that it doesn’t really work. In general this is called “growing up” and “becoming an adult with the wisdom that comes with it”. This has absolutely nothing to do with being gay, even if, on the surface, it may seem so.

Further, I agree that love is sacrifice and so does my partner. So there’s two of us that agree with you on that. Once again, the idea that it’s only gay men that are not “willing to sacrifice” is utter tosh. These days, with our desire for instant gratification (whether you be gay or straight or anything in between), most people seem to have a problem with “sacrifice”.

But, in the same paragraph, he confuses “love” with the “community”. I’m sorry, but making you “gay” does not mean that I can identify with you. The “gay” tag doesn’t mean that I have anything in common with you – apart from the “gayness” – and just like if I was a woman, I wouldn’t like all the other women in the world. In fact, I would only really like (and make any sacrifice) for a very tiny number. So it is with the “gay community”.

I find I don’t actually like a lot of gay men very much. But, once again, that has nothing to do with their “gayness” but all to do with their character, their morals, their interests and their ambitions. In the same way, I don’t actually like that many straight men or women – and, again, that has nothing to do with their being straight.

As with all “communities” (or groups of friends, colleagues, etc.), you grow out of them as you grow up. It’s unlikely that your best friends, when you were five, are still your best friends when you’re 25!

I’ve never really been a part of the “gay community” or, as we used to call it, possibly before you were born, “on the scene”. I have been on a couple of Gay Pride marches through London – but long after there was any real need to have these marches (to my shame). I have great admiration for those activists within the gay community who have helped to make it easier for gay people to live completely openly. They deserve our praise and support. Sadly, I wasn’t with them in their struggle for, unfortunately, I didn’t (and still don’t) identify with them.

I am, in the end, an individual. I have blue eyes and am of average height. I have brown hair that’s going grey. I work in the engineering industry (not particularly by choice). I am, apparently, reasonably attractive. I have the right number of friends (for me). Oh, yes, and I do happen to be gay. But my gayness does not, in any way, define me as a person. It remains with me every day just as my need to sleep. It won’t go away and nor do I want it to. I like being gay. I like the fact that I find men attractive. It makes me feel luckier than straight men. I like the fact that I have a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend or wife. I like the gay friends I have and some of the gay people that I know (but who I wouldn’t call friends). I like my straight friends too but the fact that they aren’t gay certainly doesn’t make them second-class friends. My best friend is straight – and my best friends have always been straight – sometimes male and sometimes female. They become my best friends because we have similar characters and not because of our sexual orientation.

For me, the author is very confused. He’s confusing the gay community with life. He’s assuming that, to be happy, he has to be part of the community of like-sexually-oriented people rather than a group of like-minded people. He needs to get out more (and by this I don’t mean going to gay clubs and bars) and find some friends that are loyal, have the same moral values as he does, etc., etc. He will have to look outside the gay community and he will be surprised. There are all sorts of very nice people in this world. A lot may be very superficial – but then, he’s used to that. These nice people exist. I can assure him. Some of them could turn out to be gay but, given the percentage of gay people within a population, most of them will probably NOT be gay. Don’t be afraid. They won’t bite.

And, for fuck’s sake, don’t push your gayness on to these friends that you might find – they’re about as interested in your being gay as you are in them being straight.

It doesn’t define you, it’s just a small part of who you are. And you will always “be” gay because it’s not as simple as changing your style of clothes.

A night at the opera – Aida.

The last two posts were about Friday.

It was a rather “full” day in terms of emotions.

But, I had J staying and, on Sunday, as her birthday/Christmas present we had tickets for the opera. She had told me, on her last visit, that, as a teenager, she had got a scholarship for singing at the Royal School of Music in London but that her parents thought it would be waste of time and, instead, had forced her to go to secretarial college. She had wanted to sing opera.

I had bought three tickets. It was going to be her, me and, of course, F. But the gods did not smile on us and, very unfortunately, F couldn’t be there. I decided to offer the spare ticket to FfC, who has been going through a rather rough time of it, as of late.

This was at La Scala, Milan. I’d been once before, having bought V to the ballet. We’d had seats in one of the boxes. He had the seat in the front and I right behind. But, should you be getting tickets, don’t ever get a box unless you’re right at the front. From the second row, you only get (in my case) a view of half the stage. For a concert or, even, I suppose, an opera, it’s not so bad. But, for a ballet, it’s truly disastrous.

Anyway, to be safe, this time I had bought tickets in the stalls, just about half way back from the stage.

F had said that you didn’t need to dress up. But, that didn’t stop some people. Next time I’ll know – dress up as much as you like! We were smart but you could have gone all the way.

We arrived about 4.30 and met up with FfC. We went in and I bought two programmes – one for J and one for FfC.

Just after we sat down, it started.

And then, just as you start enjoying the singing and the spectacle, someone coughs. And then again. They’ve got that awful, irritating cough. The one that won’t stop. I half expect the singers on stage to stop and wait for the person to finish coughing. The coughing stops. And then starts again. Obviously, this person has a problem. Every few seconds, the cough comes. I try to ignore it and I may have been able to but for one important thing. The coughing is from the person next to me. And the person next to me is FfC!

I feel two things. The first is that I feel so sorry for her. She’s been looking forward to this and it’s a really nice treat when she’s going through such shit – to be ruined by coughing. Of course, once you start, knowing that you shouldn’t, you cannot stop! And she can’t. I offer her a gum. She drinks some cough medicine. But it is being persistent. She just can’t shake it off. The other thing I think is that I’ve paid €300 for her ticket and, although she feels terrible, I don’t want her to leave!

Eventually, she decides she will have to leave the auditorium. She is told she “won’t be let back in” – but I can’t believe that!

Meanwhile, the opera continues.

It is glorious. It is spectacular. A translation of the songs, in English, is available from a little screen attached the the back of the seat in front of you. The set was minimalist but, to me, just perfect. I didn’t know the opera work but I had read a synopsis and it was a typical “tragedy”, of course.

FfC didn’t come back in.

At the interval, I went out for a cigarette, leaving J in her seat.

FfC texted me. She was in the lobby and, obviously, she could come back in for the second half. She offered to buy me a drink. She said she had had a cup of tea and felt much better and would give it a try. She had been watching it on a monitor. Apparently, at every performance they get 4 to 6 people who have to step out for one reason or another (but often for persistent coughing).

Although there was the occasional cough from her, she survived the second half. J loved it all which, after all, was the reason we were there. If I were rich enough, I would love to go more often. Ah, well, you can dream.

The finale was spectacular! Both in terms of the set and the singing. This was not some amateur affair (nor amateur prices, of course) and, anyway, we were at La Scala!

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant called La Torree di Pisa – not cheap but stunningly good lamb (my dish), so worth every penny of its expensiveness!

All told, a lovely evening and I would do it all again tomorrow!

p.s. also a nice change from the Friday, of course.
p.p.s. J got me to sign her programme the next day. I wrote a little message and then she started crying. You may remember Venice, last time. She does cry at the simplest things :-D Bless her.

Horror and frighteners, part II

What is true?

I no longer know.

So, I arrive back from the funeral, tired, sitting with J whilst she makes me mugs of tea, chatting. Everything is OK but, you know, the funeral and F and all. I’ve left him there and I feel a bit guilty but I know it had to be done.

And then I get a text. It’s about 4.30. It would seem innocuous but ………

“….Can you recommend any hotels around Milan where we can stay when we come over in April?”

And I realise that to write down the horror and shock that I felt is nigh impossible. I don’t know if I can impart to you how I feel (felt), since I know that something is very, very wrong.

The person (not the person who sent the message) implied in the message still, when he contacts me or when I hear things about him, creates some kind of pit in my stomach. This pit whirls and twists and it seems as if my innards are being sucked in and twisted around. I can be nervous. I can be angry. I can be worried (for both myself and him and, sometimes, everyone around). As I read the text I am all of these things. This is continuation of recent events, for sure.

I text back to ask what has happened. Apparently, he’s been “acting strange and desperate for the last couple of months” and today he rang and “something’s not right and I don’t feel comfortable staying there.”

Even with me, he’s been acting strange. But, then, when I saw him last Sunday to do the final “collection”, he seemed fine and happy – although, as usual, there were some strange things. The place had been a tip. I convinced myself that it was because he was “moving” but even then I knew that not to be true. The electricity had been cut off. He explained that it had been done by mistake – but, still, it was weird. And then there were the things that he was trying to sell to me that he could have taken to the new place – they didn’t take up any room. But, I know I don’t know the truth – just what he wants me to know. But I thought it was all done and dusted after Monday. It seems not.

I call her. I want to find out what’s going on, even if there’s a part of me that really doesn’t want to know or get involved. But, of course, I can’t NOT get involved. I imagine terrible things. I imagine him committing suicide; being homeless; being in prison.

There have, it seems, been a number of calls over the last couple of months begging for money. £500 first. Then £2000. Nobody has that kind of money to give him. I explain the selling of stuff and the amount he’s had from me over the last couple of weeks. Now the suddenness makes so much more sense. Plus the offer of things that didn’t make sense, for moving into a smaller place wouldn’t necessitate the selling of small things that were his “pride and joy”.

She knows drugs could be involved. When she was there last time, she found the paraphernalia for drugs and every evening different people would come round and he would lock himself (and them) away in his bedroom and she may not see him again. Sometimes, they would order take-away pizza, sometimes not.

I told her what he had told me. I told her he had shown me pictures of the new flat. She replied that he was a liar. Which I knew. But, still ……

He had phoned her mum, in tears, requesting money and telling her that “they” were going to kill him.

Before, he had phoned his mum, crying and saying that he didn’t “want to die here.”

We speculate a bit on what could have happened. Maybe people were chasing him, threatening him? Maybe, he really WAS in danger. Probably he owed people money. That was certainly normal. I tried to reconcile the phone calls he had made with the person I saw, very briefly, only 4 days before when he came to collect the last of the money. I gave it to him and said that I couldn’t stop as I was having a lesson. This was true. Even the previous Sunday, he seemed happy and normal (for him) and we had chatted for a couple of hours.

But this changes everything. How difficult it must have been to keep up the pretence of everything being OK whilst, in reality, it wasn’t? Unless, of course, this too is a lie. And we both agree that we will never know the truth.

I have several thoughts whilst we’re talking. 1. Damn, I should have taken more stuff. 2. This might mean all sorts of trouble for me. 3. I hope he’s OK. 4. I was at his place a couple of times over the last couple of weeks – what if the people chasing him (if, in fact, there are people chasing him) trace me?

There is a fear in me that I haven’t had for a long time. For about 6 years, to be precise. Although there were some moments after that.

I tell her how much money he’s had from me. It doesn’t make sense. Effectively, I gave him enough. Perhaps, by then, no amount was enough? Still, it’s enough to get back to the UK, for certain. So why the last call begging for money so he can get home?

I feel a bit guilty too. I could have “bought” more. I was very careful to let him think that I was using all the money I had. I’ve been burnt too many times in the past. But I could have given him more. But another part of me is glad that I didn’t and is slightly miffed that I gave him any at all! Effectively, I’ve bought my stuff back and bought him a ticket – if that’s what he’s doing.

After we finish talking, I get a text. He said he was going to miss his flight and now they can’t get hold of him.

I imagine him lying in a pool of blood somewhere down a backstreet in Milan. Would I ever know? Would the police come knocking at my door? Would some drug dealers or a “Mafia” come knocking at my door? Would HE come knocking at my door?

I really don’t know what would be worse! But I don’t want him to come to any harm. I definitely would feel terrible if he were killed or seriously injured. I would always feel I could have done more.

But, then again, I really don’t want to be involved. This world he now inhabits is not my world.

I am so fearful of all the things above and I am starting to panic a bit. Where will this lead?

I decide that if he did come knocking, I’d take him to the airport and put him on a flight back to the UK. He shouldn’t be my problem any more.

I suggest that perhaps they can’t get hold of him because he’s already in the air?

Later, I get a text to say that he caught a flight to Bristol. Later still, that his sister collected him from the airport and they got back to Birmingham about 4 a.m.

I want to text him to ask if there’s anything I can do here. But I don’t want to do that. I can’t do that. I can’t get mixed up in any crap that he has created in the last 6 years. For this, all this, whatever it is, is all down to him. This was not “our” life. This is the life he has made for himself after I said that our life together was finished and done. He is no longer the person I knew. I don’t mix with people like this. I don’t know their world nor understand their life.

At about 4 a.m. (about the time that he had arrived in Birmingham, as I learnt later), I wake up and start worrying about what happened to him here. I start worrying if the “people” will find him there? I think about the fact that I could have done more. I think about him running around the streets of Milan, running from people who have no good intent toward him.

I am also annoyed with him that he wasn’t even a tiny bit truthful with me, even these last two weeks. I am annoyed with him that he has fucked it all up in such a short time. Did he learn nothing from all our time together? It seems, no.

I wish F were here for then I wouldn’t worry, nor be angry, nor negative. F takes away all these things just by being here.

But I know all this will fade and, probably soon but, at this moment, at this time, I am in the middle of some horror film, some thriller where the outcome will be bad for all those involved.

Anyway, as I write this, he is back there. Of course, if any of this is true, he won’t ever be able to come back here. He may even have to look over his shoulder there for a long time, if not, for ever!

I know I haven’t explained this very well. We’re a few days later and the abject horror has subsided as I get on with my (very ordinary) life. The fear lessens as the hours and days move further from that text. I’m kind of glad that F wasn’t here. I probably won’t tell him. Maybe. I don’t know. For sure, that part of my life has an almost closed door now, which is undoubtedly for the best. He’s no longer “just round the corner” and I don’t have to be concerned that I can be dragged into something in the future. Probably, when we next meet (for that time will come), I will get some strange and totally false story. But, you know, I don’t actually care. After all, from 6 years ago, it’s like we’ve been on roads that are going in opposite directions.

He will always have a place in my heart for he is a lovely guy – as long as you don’t scratch at the surface. And that’s almost what I saw the last time I was with him. This nice, friendly, happy guy, making a life for himself. Even if the truth, the underbelly, was not like this at all.

I’m sad that he couldn’t tell me. And relieved that I didn’t know. For what would I have done if I had known anyway?

Waxworks, horror and frighteners, part I

It doesn’t break for breaking implies noise, suddenness, unexpectedness.

This fades in (or fades out). This steals upon you. One minute it isn’t there and the next it is but it seems like you missed “the moment”, like the moment happened whilst you weren’t looking. I realised this when I could see the mist hanging low over the fields as if the earth was still in bed and hadn’t yet rolled back the covers. But it was time to wake up. Although, of course, I’d already been awake for some time.

In fact, I’d been awake since 2 a.m. Sort of. I guess I must have dozed a bit. The clocks did their thing at every quarter hour. I remember most of them. Then came 4 and I was worried that I would oversleep and miss the alarm set for 4.30. I nearly got up but thought that some rest was better than none, even if sleep was not possible.

The alarm went off and the dogs were there, waiting to be walked. For them, it doesn’t matter what the time is. Middle of the night, middle of the day, it’s all the same. The alarm means a walk. Except if F is here. But he’s not and they seem to know that and seem to understand that the alarm is different when he’s not here. I don’t have so much time. I get up and take them out. It is dark, of course.

I get back, make coffee (I will need coffee) and get ready. I leave. It’s a little after 5.30 and I know I’m a little bit later than I wanted to be. The navigator says I’ll be there about 10 to 8 but I’m hoping I’ll make up a little time. There is little traffic. I make it to the motorway.

And, it’s as I’m driving that I realise that dawn doesn’t break at all but just slowly, imperceptibly, comes into being. It’s not summer but it’s not so cold. Cold enough for a coat though, which I have forgotten. Well, I can’t go back as I have no time. Anyway, I think, I’ll be in the car or the church or somewhere for most of the time so it’ll be OK.

So, I’ve started in the dark and now it’s light without any fanfare, without any sudden break, just quietly daylight and sun and clear blue skies. I smoke too much. I am tired but awake. I drive. I wonder, at one point, if I shouldn’t have gone down the day before. This is crazy. But I couldn’t go down the day before. I have the dogs and J is here. I am already leaving her alone for the day. But this has to be done, even if F had said that I don’t need to come. I did need to go. I’d thought about it sometime between 2, when I first woke, and the alarm gong off. I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for permitting me to join the family. And a big thank you for giving me F. And, for that, I would have left at any time to travel down.

I arrive a few minutes earlier than the navigator had said. There was hardly any traffic to speak of and the journey was one of the easiest ever. I text him that I have arrived and he texts me to come up. I go up. I give him a quick hug and then his mum comes out and I give her a hug. It’s all subdued, of course. His mum makes me a quick coffee, for which I am grateful.

I follow him to pick up his sister, brother-in-law and niece. The BiL and niece get in my car and we drive to the hospital and find somewhere to park.

We go in to the small chapel-like place. We enter the room on the left. I don’t really know what to expect but I immediately feel like I’m on the set of some horror movie. The waxwork-like figures have what, at first glance, seems like cobwebs all over them. It’s as if they’ve been there for years and nobody has cleaned them. In fact it’s a white netting but the effect is quite surreal and I’ve never seen it before so it’s all so strange. The first woman, I note, had a huge, pointy nose. Well, she still has that but the thing I’m looking at is the wrong colour like the creator of the model didn’t have the right colours to make a human colour or the dyes were so old that they had faded. There are two coffins with these waxwork figures in them with the cobweb-like netting draped over them. Then we go past to another room. And there is PaC. Except, of course, it’s not him but, rather, a model of him. A likeness of him without really being like him. He too has this netting over him. I realise it’s probably to keep flies off, for if it was summer it would already be so hot. But this is not summer and it is cold. There’ll be no flies.

We stand around. People touch his forehead and then kiss their lips with their fingers. Except his sister who strokes his forehead and cries nearly all the time.

I don’t do this – neither cry nor touch the waxwork. I’m not sure that I could do that for anyone. I almost seem outside myself. I worry, sometimes, that I have no real feelings.

Worse still, we are in the mountains and it is damp. Although it’s light and bright, the sun doesn’t get over the mountains and into this part of the valley until a little later. My hands are cold. My feet are cold. I go for cigarettes. People wander in and out. Hearses arrive. There are at least five waxworks here. It seems most are going today. F suggests we go for a coffee with his brother. It is welcome.

Back at the chapel, F’s sister sometimes seems as if she’s gong to jump into the coffin. I’ve heard of it. F shows me that he’s put a cigar in one pocket, a pack of playing cards in another and, down the side of the coffin, a Toto DVD. It’s his way of making this lighter for him and everyone else. I smile. He is so sweet. Eventually, they close the coffin (although everyone except the sister are outside by now, in the sun which has breached the mountain top) and load the hearse.

We drive to the church. The same one for the Aunt. This is not like the UK, at 5 miles an hour but, more or less, at normal speed. We park up and arrive at the church as they wheel the coffin in. F, bless him, comes to find me and we go in. I’ve learnt that he (the deceased) was a well-respected tailor here. I didn’t know. We go and sit in a pew. We are on the front row again. The big fat priest is there as before. As is the uncle priest who has flown in from Sicily last night and the cousin nun.

The big fat priest does his stuff. The church is freezing and everyone wears coats except me and F’s brother. I regret forgetting my coat.

At one point during the service, we all sit down and F remains standing. I lightly touch his arm and, after a few seconds, he jerks a little as if just waking up, turns to me and sits down. He was lost in his own thoughts. I understand. I want to give him a big hug but can’t. At another point, as we’re standing, I look at him and, suddenly, I see him as an old man, slightly stooped, bearing the weight of life. Again, I want to hug him to tell him it’s OK. I realise that, in some years he will look like this – an old man. But then, so will I. And still I love him. But, for a moment, when he seems so old, I’m frightened both for him and for me. It won’t be the last time today that I feel like this but for different reasons.

The service drones on. Again I am struck by the absurdity of this religion thing (sorry, Gail). As if the suffering of this guy years ago, should it be true, has even the slightest effect on us, now, at this time. But the priest drones on about some point in the story. I am grateful I don’t understand so I don’t get too angry. I do wonder how it is possible for all these people to believe in this fairy story. Especially the priest who always looks so bored by it all. Who drones on in a way that says he’s so bored. Who says this is nothing and just a story. Who says everything as if he is an unbeliever.

The service ends, and everyone files outside. I move away, into the sun. People come over to me to say “hello”. I know quite a few people there now. There are kisses and “how are you”s. As I’m with these people, different people, like a changing of the guard, I watch F being greeted and consoled by people I know and people I don’t know. His mum too. I watch and feel part of it and not part of it. I’m grateful that people seem bothered to come and greet me. All this, in Italian, of course, which limits me as to what I say; as to what I am able to say.

At one point, E, his cousin – the one whose mother died in September, the sister of PaC, the sister of the priest uncle, the aunt of the cousin nun, the aunt of F – says to me that soon, we should come, at a different time, a better time, to eat. She smiles as she says it. My reputation as someone with a “good appetite” is written in stone.

The uncle/cousin/second-cousin? doctor tells a funny story about PaC, in Italian, to the group I’m with at the moment. I don’t really understand. He can speak English but prefers to repeat it slowly in Italian. I do get it. It’s about the fact that they ran (PaC and F’s mother) a laundry and PaC said that he could clean any mark. Any mark that is, except one. But, the doctors tells, I said to him but what? You always said you could clean any mark! Ah, yes, PaC replies, except the marks (scars?) of the heart. People laugh politely. I smile. Is it true, this story? And, anyway, does it matter? After all, the truth of the story is not the point.

F comes to me from time to time. I am there, for him. For his mum. For PaC, though not for him since that is too late.

People drift away. We go to the cemetery with the flowers. The body will be cremated in some place over 2 hours away. The ashes will be interred in the tomb with the aunt. It’s why they haven’t finished off the tomb yet.

There are too many flowers so some are distributed amongst other graves of relatives.

F tells people that I am going to go soon. He’s going to get a coffee with me and then I will go. That’s OK for me. I don’t want to go round to his sister’s where they will cook and talk and I will feel guilty leaving. But I must leave soon. I am tired and I have to drive back and J is waiting at home for me and so are the dogs.

We leave, being almost the last to leave. We go to our usual café in the Marina. We have sandwiches and coffee and cake. On the way, I ask him if he spoke to PaC when he arrived down, before he died. Apparently he wasn’t awake. But at least F was there.

We eat. He thanks me for coming. I think he appreciates it but I didn’t really do it for him. Or, not only for him. I got to say thank you, even if it was to a cobweb-covered waxwork.

He drives me back to my car and I leave whilst he goes up to his sister’s where the family are waiting.

I drive back. Now it hits me how tired I am but I arrive back in good time. I park the car. I get home and J makes me cups of tea. Several. I am exhausted but I can’t really rest.

Whilst we’re sitting, relaxing, my niece texts me. She wants me to find a hotel. She’s coming over to stay in April and she’s staying with V. Or so I thought. And then, that was the other thing that was frightening. But that is an entirely different reason and an entirely different post ………..

Dear Blackberry people

It’s coming up to two years now since I craved for and got the new Blackberry Q10.

I was so happy. My old Blackberry had become a little beaten and, actually, started to break up but I’d had it for over 4 years and it had been through the mill a bit.

But now you had a shiny new black object, still with the keyboard (because I’m old-fashioned like that) so it seemed perfect.

I was so happy with it. OK, so I couldn’t play Ruzzle with F (us Blackberry users were charged for it whereas he got it free) but it had the keyboard AND a touch screen, was brilliant at the emails stuff and now had almost all I wanted in terms of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Then, just as the guarantee ran out at the end of the first year, the keyboard started playing up. Keys were sticking. I would press an “i” and on the screen would come “oooOOiooo”. This was a little annoying. It got worse. I googled it and learnt, to my horror that this was a common problem. As mine was just out of warranty, I was fucked …… for another couple of years, to be precise, as I have it on contract!

I looked at videos on how to replace the keyboard but could see that the problem would continue. So I found how to partially clean under the keyboard and I get by. In fact, I’m almost used to it now.

Every so often you gave me software updates which gave me new features and things. It was OK. I realised that, given that the keyboard was crap and you were in the shit as a company, my next phone would, probably, be something else, like a Samsung or whatever is popular in another 18 months time.

Still, you had a chance that I would consider another Blackberry.

That is, until a few days ago.

A few days ago, you gave me another software update. Obligingly I updated and, suddenly, some things started to go horribly wrong. My main problem was that my appointments in my calendar, although still there, stopped giving me reminders. Before, you would set an “reminder” and, up to 2 weeks before, you would get a sound (as you set) to inform you and you could then edit and change this at will. I rely on those reminders.

With my busy schedule, this was, probably, the most used thing for my phone, after the email.

But now, after the software update, although everything “appeared” to be the same, there was no sound or flashing screen with the reminder. Oh, yes, when you “opened” the phone, there was the reminder with the chance to modify – but if you didn’t look at the phone, I would never know.

I googled the problem and found that it was a “known” problem in that a lot of other people had found the same and it wasn’t that I needed to change any settings – it just didn’t work as it should any more.

But, not one to sit back, I had a look around and found that I could now set multiple alarms. Well, that would be good, except that you can only set alarms up to 24 hours in advance!

So, now, I have to keep checking my calendar entries, setting up alarms for that particular day.

I’ve looked but am unable to find anything from Blackberry that says “sorry” or, “we’re going to fix it real soon”. Or, preferably both!

So thank you, Blackberry, for ensuring that a once loyal customer will be looking for an alternative for the next phone. Fucking useless piece of shit.

Update May 2015: The last update partially fixed the problem. Now, however, the long “sound” I have for texts cuts short. Your update to fix the reminders came far too late and with no apology for the considerable inconvenience. Congratulations on royally pissing me off.