The Long Goodbye – Part 2

Never make promises you can’t keep and inevitable outcomes

Often during my teenage years I would sit with my mother and ponder life, the universe and one or two other “trivial” matters. Often the conversation would turn to growing old and to the pros and cons of nursing homes and more weighty matters such as the right to die. I can’t have been much more than 14 when my mum gave me a very serious and determined look and made me promise not to ever put her in a nursing home.  At 14 what do you say? You understand why someone would make such a demand and as you are the child you will inevitably one day be faced with the demise of a parent. From the day we are born we know that if nature runs its course a child will outlive its parent and will one day in effect be “orphaned”. However, at such a young age in your early teens, the incapacity or god forbid the death of a parent seems so far away.  Mum would often speculate on how she could best end her life if she was faced with a terminal illness. She would try and think of ways where she could get help (from me or others) without the assister getting into trouble.  Whereas she would want to end her life under certain circumstances, she would definitely not want to get a loved one into trouble. “Well”, she’d say, “if its winter I can always go to sleep outside!” With temperatures regularly plummeting below -30°C it was clear what she had in mind. Anyway, she didn’t get ill, in fact, considering her lifestyle she was always unashamedly well. Rarely even a sniffle. Not that anything as trivial as a cough or a cold on the rare occasion they did happen would make any difference. Nor having a hip replaced. “Work is the best medicine”. Idle hands and all that.  Even as I got into my 20s and 30s and I’d had a day off work due to a severe cold or man flu would I ever own up to that? No way! She’d have been horrified!

—   So, promises made and decades would pass until one day something happened to test my mettle…..

The Long Goodbye – Part 1

Up in smoke

The miracle that is you, is down to your mum.  She carries you through thin, then thick, for nine and a bit months and then has to go through hard labour and literally bring you into this world. Sorry Dads, you do run a close second, but your input at this stage has so far been very brief indeed!  My mum was the best mum in the world. Perfect? YES! Flawed? Sure. Low self-esteem, insecure and increasingly agoraphobic. Smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish (sometimes). I used to tease her that I never made it to 6’ tall due to her smoking. She would close her eyes, shake her head and cringe. But I can see her now. As soon as I came home in the afternoon from school, and later college, I would sit down for my main hot (re-heated) meal of the day. (The rest of the family ate theirs at lunchtime). As soon as I was tucking in she would sit down across the kitchen table with a Marlboro permanently on the go throughout the meal, catching up with my day. I guess growing up in a smoker’s home you just get used to the smell; impervious to the dangers of the air you are breathing in day after night after day. The thought of putting your own children in that kind of chemical warzone today seems impossible to most of us, but back then it was quite normal. Even more so in the 50s where in photos she looks impossibly glamorous, all dressed up for a night on the town with a cigarette held aloft. Hers was a generation where “nearly everyone” smoked and it was almost inevitable that I would also eventually take up the habit as had my sister before me. A habit that in my case would take 30 years to break…..  Anyway, back to my mum. We were very close and even when I left home at 19 we would be in very regular contact. I first went to live in France for 6 months. Mum was so worried about this that after not sleeping for what must have been 4 weeks, my dad ended up driving her the 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) to Rheims just to make sure all was well, which of course it was. Two days later they set out on the 2,000 kilometre return journey….

You are not the boss of me!

For those who know me, it is no secret what my position is on matters of life and death. I embrace science and within reason the extraordinary lengths we can now go to, to save someone’s life. At the same time I am equally unequivocal about the right to die, the right to die with dignity and the right for someone who chooses to assist someone else to die not to be prosecuted.

Following the coverage on the BBC yesterday, and in particular Tanni Grey-Thompson’s contribution, I got rather cross and started writing a long and rambling thing about what I thought about the debate itself. It didn’t lead anywhere as I felt too emotional in the moment. So I left it. On reflection, all I wanted to say at the end of the day was this:

In a 5 Live radio segment about end of life measures and the right to suicide assisters not to be prosecuted, both the presenter and another panellist tried to engage Tanni Grey-Thompson in an opinion about what safeguards should/could be in place and would they make any difference in her opinion about assisted suicide? In true politician style she waffled on until she finally had to say, no, no safeguards could ever make a difference and in principal she opposes assisted suicide. Nothing wrong with that of course, she is entitled to her opinion. But why had she inserted herself into yesterday’s debate? Why is the media not choosing people on the opposite sides of the assisted suicide argument who are actually willing to have the DEBATE? I disagree with T G-Ts opinion, but I have no doubt that she would have a contribution to make in terms of what the safeguards should be WERE the laws of this land to be relaxed. Surely saying NO NO NO doesn’t help anyone, not least those she purports to defend and support. More and more people travel abroad to take control of the end, and the ending of, their life. Sadly, this more often than not is much sooner than it would otherwise have been if they were able to gain the same control back home.  They have to be well enough to travel to somewhere like Switzerland.  T G-T and fellow naysayers are in fact robbing people and their families of the most precious thing of all: Time. Quality time.

Fortunately I am not in a position where this matter is of pressing urgency, but I know that one day I could be a person hoping to afford a one way ticket to the Alps or to have a friend or a loved one willing to risk jail to help me in my hour of need.

Isn’t it time that the peers and parliamentarians who govern this country actually follow the wishes of their electors? If they did, assisted suicide would have been legalised years ago. Even a majority of those who regard themselves as religious, support assisted suicide, including nearly half of all Catholics. Why is this not reflected in parliament or in parliamentary action? Who made you the boss of me? Who are you to deny me CHOICE, DIGNITY, RESPECT?

Let us have the DEBATE and some action. Please.

 

The Next One…

The euphoria of my first blog entry is wearing off and now it’s all about the follow-up. Surely it can only be downhill from here on? Next instalment? I have already had an email with expectations of a daily update.  Well, that’s not going to happen but there will be one VERY soon. THAT I can promise….  For now, “The Next One” serves just as much as a way for me to work out how this blog thing works when you publish changes.  Yes, you are my guinea pigs. Tough….

Is the moon made of cheese??

Being told you are “surplus to requirements” when you have worked somewhere for over 17 years is never nice and never easy. Even when you suspect it is coming and maybe even a tiny part of you wish for it to be so, just so the wait is over if nothing else. You are going about your business and suddenly somebody asks you to “pop down” to your own office without any further explanation. You duly oblige, you descend the stairs (Green Mile anyone?) and enter said room. Empty. You sit down in your own chair, at your own, very tidy, desk (well, we were expecting important visitors after all).  Next, the door opens and a Senior VP from German HQ walks in, followed by a very nice HR person from a sister company. Doomed. Fight or flight?  Ruuuunnnnnnnn!  No, can’t, they are blocking the door.  Ok then, there’s only one way to settle this: FIIIIIIIIIGHT!!!!!!  Maybe not, is that going to help me? Perhaps not. There’s only one way to handle this then: SMILE!  Well, grimace more like. And nod a lot.  Strangely I recall it now as if it was a poor tannoy announcement with a really bad echo, hearing words I have had to use myself to others before me “As you know… know… know… the market is very difficult… difficult…difficult…“  “I am very sorry…  sorry… sorry…, that it has come to this… this… this…”  Eventually the tannoy announcement stops and my visitors leave, leaving me with a letter which does confirm that I have been duly tapped on the shoulder. Silence. In fact, stunned silence. You hear the expression, but for the first time I felt I actually knew what it meant AND felt like.

Soon, you start to move, and speak, and, oh yeah, breath again! You seek out your fellow shoulder tapped colleagues for some jovial (brave) banter and “how was it for you”. The most difficult part was not being able to tell your colleagues that weren’t in on the act. 3 more weeks would pass before that could happen and was probably the hardest part of all, after losing your job that is.  Then again, I didn’t even tell my nearest and dearest for 24 hours. The dust in my brain had to settle and I needed to process it all.

Anyway, is the moon made of cheese?

In my experience, yes I think it is, then again I could be wrong. So why the moon? Well, now that I am no longer working for the same outfit I was with for 17 years I made the following approximate calculation:

I commuted a total of

3825 times to and from work. That’s at least 11475 hours of travel. Continually that’s 478 days or 1 year and 4 months!

Distance wise it was 344000 miles or 14 times round the world, OR if you go to the moon (!): The moon is 238,000 miles away. So I have made it to the moon and nearly halfway back. Currently stuck somewhere between the moon and the International Space Station. So, can someone please offer me a job so I can get back to earth?

Is the moon made of cheese? I honestly don’t know. The 17 years went by with rocket speed and I didn’t get a chance to look….

Moon

You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy…

This title serves a dual purpose. Country, literally, and countryside. For my fellow urbanites, countryside is where the green stuff grows, animals live and as if by magic things you can eat and drink appear in your local Megatron supermarket or local “top-up shop”

Many find it fascinating and interesting to learn that I was born and raised in Norway. Especially as I am not 6’3’’ and definitely not blond! I guess I look more “European” if there is such a type. Mid country, mountain village boy in a society where the nation carries a joint burden in proving that Norway/Norwegians are the best AT EVERYTHING or is the raison d’etre for someone or something.  There’s a new American president?  Ah well, the great great great great grandmother originally emigrated from a small fishing village in Vestlandet and settled in Minnesota, of course the President was destined to become the President, practically Norwegian!!!  I kid you not: Presidents or soap stars, Oscar winners or literary or scientific geniuses, journalists WILL find a connection to the Motherland. And why not? You need something to put in the newspaper, no? Especially in a country where practically everybody reads a paper and per capita hardly beaten by any other country in the world for readership.  So, where was I, oh yes, mountain village idiot of sorts.  Idiot I guess because I didn’t fit in, didn’t feel I fit in and ultimately DIDN’T want to fit in (That was the Idiot part I guess!!) The determination to get out was immense and by the age of 12ish just knew that country life was not going to be for me. I was getting out of the countryside and if for a while before settling in somewhere suitably urban like Oslo, I could live abroad, even better!

The need to leave was very strange in a way, as I had a future of sorts mapped out for me, if I’d wanted it. I was brought up in a family business and learnt very early on that work, and hard work, is the key to most things. This part I didn’t mind at all. Well not too much. From the age of 10-12 I was stocking shelves in the garage or filling petrol and cleaning car windscreens out on the forecourt. As I got older (12-13) I moved on to cleaning holiday chalets and flipping burgers, serving customers, stock control,receipting and rotation and put-away. I remember with great joy the first computerised tills where I got to be trained by the supplier on how to program up to 999 products with a unique code (alas no barcodes or scanners yet). A carton of milk, 211 <ENTER>; 2 kroner or whatever would PING! up on the calculator looking display. It was magic, the excitement palpable!  Now all that was left was to teach and train a bunch of grown-ups how to use the darn thing. A vacant office became “Training Central” with a variety of goods and a stream of people coming in over days and weeks for their chance to “play shop” before we installed the new wonders in the shop and ready to “Go Live”. Of course in those days I didn’t know what “Go Live” really was and how scary THAT could be. These were fun and exciting times. An age later now in an IT career “Go Live” suddenly meant something a bit more serious where a bad one could be career ending NOT something automatically exciting and new and career enhancing.

Anyway I digress. So why the need and urge to move on at such an early age instead of remaining at the heart of a (sometimes) booming family business? Well, with my father still alive and he would probably sue me; let’s just say family life was complicated, my father was, and is, complicated and rather than stepping into a ready made job and career I needed to achieve something off my own back. More on that another time.

So what’s the point of the headline do I hear you say?

Well, the other day I was out walking trying to shed those final one or two excessive pounds when I approach (at speed and NOT really paying attention), a skip with a couple of sandbags lying on the pavement next to it, THIS country boy exclaims to himself: “OMG! There’s a dead cow on the road!”

cowskip

You can take the boy out of the country, but his gut reaction 30 years later is STILL that there COULD be dead cows in the street……