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  • Dougie

Reality Writes -- Brief 3 -- Send a birthday wish

It is not within me this evening to respond precisely to today’s brief, to follow the instruction exactly or take inspiration from the challenger’s fictive alternative proposals. I am tired. It has been a long day at work, a long week, a long month, a long fifteen months; productive or otherwise is not for me to say. Let’s hope so.

Thinking about who I might write a birthday wish to or for a few names sprang to mind: my brother Joe who will be 59 in 12 days, Martin Currie who would have been seventy-six in January of this year and who I miss so very much, Nelson Mandela (how self-serving is that?), a woman called Moira who showed me that the next thing you have to do is never as scary as you fear it might be (which does not mean it isn't scary).

My mum, dad and big brother (I think). Could be me but I'm still the twinkle in the eyes of my parents probably. 1956 I think.

But it’s to my father that I want to write, to wish him a happy forty-fifth birthday (which he never saw, of course, and we never celebrated because he died forty-five years ago – give or take eight weeks – on the 28th November 1974.

My father -- Jim Herd -- was 44. I was 17 and there is not a day goes by – not one day in forty-five years – when I have not thought of him and missed him; not wished that he, he and my mother, he and me, he and our family, his friends, acquaintances and the world through which he moved could have walked more and longer with him in that world.

And that may be enough to write today.

My father’s death – even all these years later and after all the shit I’ve put myself through (all of it unnecessary, all of it avoidable, all my own fault) – remains the defining moment of my life.

Have I made it that, I wonder? Turned that death, his death, into my unique, self-

pitying self-indulgence? Maybe. My defence (if one is necessary) is simple. I was no more than a boy.

I will, I know, return to write about my father and how I miss him. But not tonight. I am exhausted.

So. Happy forty-fifth birthday dad.

Meanwhile, on YouTube the extended version of Peter Gabriel’s ‘In your eyes’ from the Secret World tour in the early 90s plays. Paula chants. Papa Wemba chants. Peter Gabriel bounces up and down. He articulates that which this old man does not know how to express adequately.

The past is, indeed, a foreign country.

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