Week 82

11th July, 2010

I’m not well. I wouldn’t normally broadcast that but it is remarkable in being my first illness since finishing work 16 months ago. It may be related to the stress of the past few weeks moving house but I have a deep chest infection. I am not sleeping well and, consequently, neither is Pauline. To add to this, my back, which I injured in the move, has gone into very painful spasm and hurts in every action from sitting down to standing up, from cleaning my teeth to driving the car. Most of all it hurts when I cough and, with a chest infection, it’s agony.

12th July, 2010

I hardly slept again. Therefore, nor did Pauline. I am a typical man in that I am rarely ill but, when I am, I don’t do it by halves. I am never aware of dreaming and haven’t been throughout my life. I get in bed, put my head on the pillow and I am asleep. The one exception to this is when I am ill. In my youth, I would dream of perpetually being about to fall off a very tall building. As I’ve got older, this has transmogrified to coping with intricately linked but progressively complicated computer screens that never resolve themselves. They just go round and round without apparent logic. Last night was filled with such screen dreams. The day time temperature had reached 37°C and at this time of year the night time temperature doesn’t fall much. The airconditioning was on but it can be difficult and drying if left on all night.

I got up to find Jane’s email with its throw away

PS – Mike is fine by the way for all who have not been in touch with him.

I assumed that was aimed at me and the human mine field of contradictions that is Caroline which I blundered in to in openly teasing Mike – as brothers will –

I wrote back to Jane immediately saying:

How do you know about Mike? Have you phoned him? I’ve lost his number when my PC went down. Can you give it to me?

The last time I had spoken to Mike by phone, you may recall from the Blog, was when he turned out to be in the middle of a game of Bridge. I expected him to phone me back later but he didn’t and that started my campaign to get him in contact. I was shocked, perplexed, disappointed and hurt by Caroline’s reaction but, clearly, we all have our problems.

When I got this back from Jane it touched a raw nerve which most of you will know takes some doing for a placid and mild mannered boy like me:

I called him and we chatted as I could not email him. We keep in touch by phone and speak every couple of months.

I don’t know what you would think but my immediate response was: why, when John was asking about anyone having contact with Mike did you just not say – Oh, We keep in touch by phone and speak every couple of months.

I wrote back just saying:

Thanks. I wish you’d said before.

13th July, 2010

I got this reply today.

Hi John
Not sure what you wished I’d told you? That I was in contact with Mike or his number? I thought you knew the former and had the latter. I am in regular contact with everyone with the exception of Liz. Ruth, Cathy, Cal and me all txt each other frequently and have met up annually since before Mum died – though Cal can’t always join us. I was due to see her and Les in April in Kerry but the volcano intervened. David and his Mum saw them as they had gone by car and ferry and were renting a house for the three of us near Kenmare. David and I meet Ruth and Kev fairly regularly. Bob and Jane have met with us in London around Xmas time again going back to before Mum died and have done so since. Jane and Christina have met up/ stayed in London with me a few times. Mike keeps in sporadic touch and often does not respond when I leave him messages but does eventually. He is very private and his own person and will only be in touch on his own terms.  I don’t think he’s in contact with anyone else though he may communicate from time to time with Cal.  Jane G and I have contact when we need to usually by email.

And I have been a very fond Auntie to my nieces and nephews for years – and now great nieces and nephews – only recently Jamie stayed here in London for the weekend. And you keep us all connected via the blog. So there you have the family connections from my perspective. Our siblings will all have their own version and I don’t know how much each connects with others other than when I am involved.

I wrote back that night:

What I meant, was when I got into those shenanigans with Caroline about Michael after I had written to him a number of times without reply, I wish you had told me you had phone contact with Mike every couple of months. I’d had quite a lot of phone contact with him and he had taken to texting me and phoning me. One night I phoned him to say I was going away and he said, “I can’t talk now I’m playing Bridge.” and he put the phone down. I thought he would do the normal thing and ring back when he could. He didn’t. I couldn’t email him even though I suggested he take Mum’s computer and desk. I wrote him a jokey letter looking for a response. As I understand it, Michael is a people person. His job is caring for other people. They rely on him and his arrangements. Why can’t we? I had thought that the minimum I could have expected was a contact. I got nothing.

I thought Mum’s death had hit Mike quite hard and he had no other close family member to share his feelings with. As his bullying older brother, I thought he might appreciate some discussion. When I was asking in my emails, ‘Does anyone know anything about Mike?’, you didn’t say, ‘Oh I speak to him every couple of months.’ It might have saved a row with Caroline although that was bizarre in itself. (By the way, why does she write as if she is a sixteenth century Irish bog monster? She is as English as the rest of us.) I have contact with Liz who clearly has her own issues. I have renewed my relationship with Ruth which I am pleased about because she is so, apparently, normal. I’ve had a contact from Catherine who told me it would be the only one because she ‘doesn’t do family’. I don’t hear from Bob but I do from Jane (2) which is an interesting observation in itself. I had contact with Caroline until I didn’t do or say what she wanted of me and I haven’t heard since. The thought of being an Auntie fills me with dread. I have a pathological disinterest in my brother’s and sister’s children which probably gives you an incite in to me.

As I’m writing this, two thoughts strike me:
How was it possible to get a family so wrong?
How safe a blob of rock in the middle of the Aegean feels.

Mind you, tonight it is 35C and there is no breeze. The air conditioning is on full. The cicadas are making a row outside. I see rain is forecast for London tomorrow. We would love it here. We are forecast three days of 38C. We will probably just sit in the sea. I will phone Michael tomorrow.
Love John

14th July, 2010

Today I got:

Hum.. Not a very easy conversation by email but you ask me several questions, only some of which I can answer. Mike will speak for himself – as I said he often does not return calls; when he does it to me I think it’s  about him not me and I leave him alone for a while. If you want contact with Mike you will have to make the running and develop a relationship with him. I can’t explain anyone else’s motives or behaviour in their family relationships.

You ask why I  didn’t reply to your question about Mike and suggest it might have prevented the shenanigans with Cal. There’s a complex set of answers which I can’t easily explain by email. But my relationship with Mike is personal to him and me and not something he wants me to share with others in the family – he has said so explicitly. I did not intervene in your and Cal’s exchange as I thought it was ridiculous and I had no patience to be bothered with either of you. I deal with hostile, angry people day in day out – it’s my job and I love it. I am paid a lot of money to take responsibility  for resolving problems but I don’t want those kind of relationships with my family and friends. I have found in the past that playing mediator in my personal life is not wise so I choose not to do so. I have pondered your rhetorical question – how is it possible to get a family so wrong –  many times over the past 35 years and have my own view – I guess we all played a part and continue to do so. Maybe one day we could talk about it?

Meantime enjoy your safe blob. I am off to see my staff in Cardiff tomorrow and for one of my regular meetings with the Welsh Assembly members who are keen for me to reassure them that the Westminster Govt’s proposed cuts will not affect the IPCC’s work in Wales – so the weather won’t be remotely relevant.

As with all these things, it is not the text but the subtext that one needs to read. I am tempted to spell these under-strands out as they apply to each member of the family in all their ugly fascination but I’ll hold on that for a while. Suffice it to say that here you can read the claims to centralised control through the complexity of understanding and the assertion of a higher plain of activity which makes mere mortals quite beneath one and ‘ridiculous’.

I will sleep on it – I hope.

15th July, 2010

I have awoken with my decision. For nearly forty years I have thought that there was little hope of our family maintaining a working unit. For most of my life, Mum discouraged it as well. It was only in those latter years that she tried to reverse her policy a little and by then, for me, it felt too late. However, with Mum’s death, I felt a twinge of responsibility and have used the Blog and Website to at least contact each member each week. I have done that without fail for 81 weeks. I have been aware that some are not interested, some vaguely interested, some interested (some requests to be included have been made) I have been aware that Jane felt a little threat to what she thought was an established position of authority at the hub.

Whatever camp you fall in to or out with, you will rejoice to hear that I will bother you no more. I will not send out the weekly newsletter or anything else. I will continue to maintain the website and the Blog for my own records and amusement. Feel free to drop in or not as you see fit.

16th July, 2010

It may sound pathetic but I am a man of principle. I think my position through, formulate my policy and then stick to it. I have reviewed my policy in the light of a (coughing) night’s sleep and I’m sure it is right. Onward.

A man appeared at my front door this evening. He announced that his name was Dimitris and that he was to be our tiler. He had been sought out by Stavros on our behalf. He will put 5mwall tiles in the kitchen and then 200m2  floor tiles on the patio around the house. He can start in three weeks and it will take him about a month. He should be finished for September. That will leave us five or six weeks to get all the additional electrics done before we leave. Couldn’t be better!

Today I’ve been making my first paper logs for the fire next year. Having made them, they will sit on the patio in the sun to thoroughly dry out. I was amazed how little newspaper is required for each one and how easy it was to make.


In a week or so, when thoroughly dried out, these logs will be stored in the garage for next spring. Ironically, in order to store them safely from the mice, we will keep them in Pauline’s student trunk. I love things like that. A trunk, bought in Oldham 40 years ago by a brave lady who had to borrow the money to buy it and spent the rest of the year paying it back, is now giving service on a rock in the Aegean so divorced from Oldham & Manchester as you could imagine.

17th July, 2010

The best ideas come at the last moment. It hasn’t been my best week as I think anybody who bothers to read this Blog would agree. Still under the cosh of this chest infection although with my back problem easing, I sat with the patio doors open, contemplating my courgettes. This chap (Who knows?  It could be a girl!) skittered across the scorching concrete and off under a bush. It stopped only long enough to stare at me through the mosquito screen. Beware snakes coming out of the grass!


Stavros says this is one of the good snakes – but they still bite you!

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