Monday 30 May 2011

The voice of hope from Israel's finest!

Despite what it has become fashionable to think, not all Israelis harbour imperialist expansionist ideals. The voice of sanity is finally emanating from the Middle East, spoken by a group of 21 prominent Israeli writers, scientists, diplomats and politicians.

In an open letter the group, which includes my good friend and teacher, the writer Iris Leal, vow to support the establishment of a Palestinian state:

Here is their open letter:
Palestinian leaders have made clear their intention to ask the United Nations General Assembly to recognise the independence of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
This declaration is both a challenge and an opportunity for all sides. It is a decisive moment.
The failure of the international community and primarily of the United States to renew peace negotiations reflects an undeniable and disconcerting reality – peace has been taken captive by the "Peace Process". The ongoing construction of settlements in the West Bank East-Jerusalem, and Israel’s refusal to freeze construction in the interest of negotiations indicate that the current leadership of Israel uses the peace process as a distraction manoeuvre rather than a means to conflict resolution.
In the face of endless procrastination and mutual distrust, a declaration of Palestinian independence is not only legitimate, but also a positive and constructive step for the benefit of the two nations.
As Israelis, we avow that if and when the Palestinian people declares independence in a sovereign state to exist side by side with Israel in peace and security we shall support such declaration. We will recognise a Palestinian state based on 1967 line, with necessary land swaps by a 1:1 ratio and with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.  The Gaza strip should also be recognised as part of the Palestinian state as long as its leadership acknowledges Israel’s right to existence.
We call upon countries of the world to openly support the Palestinian declaration, based on the aforementioned principles.
Such a support may provide a framework for proper negotiations between the two sovereign states.

1    Lea Aini, author
2    Prof. Arie Arnon,
3    Prof. Bernard Avishai
4    Nir Baram, author
5    Ilan Baruch, former ambassador to South Africa
6    Michael Ben Yair, former Attorney General of Israel
7    Avraham Burg, former Speaker of the Knesset and former Chairman of the    Jewish Agency
8    Prof. Sidra Dekoven-Ezrahi
9    Prof. Yitzhak Galnoor, former Civil Service Commissioner of Israel
10    Prof. Moshe Halbertal, co-author of the IDF ethical code
11     Prof. Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize laureate
12     Dr. Menachem Klein
13     Iris Leal, author
14     Dr. Alon Liel, former Director General of the Foreign Ministry
15     Prof. Avishai Margalit, Israel Prize laureate
16     Ronit Matalon, author
17     Prof. Yair Oron
18     Prof. David Shulman
19     Prof. Shulamit Volkov
20     Prof. Menachem Yaari, Israel Prize laureate, former President of the Israel Arts and Science Academy
21     Prof. Yirmiyahu Yovel, Israel Prize laureate

With Fatah and Hamas talking to each other once again, Barack Obama drawing the 1967 lines back into the sand and this enterprising collective now declaring their intent, momentum appears to be gaining apace.

Anyone who cares at least a little about the Middle East immediately feels a sinking sensation in the stomach at the merest mention of peace talks and two state solutions. Yet until there exists peace between two states living side by side, we cannot afford to give up hope.


Monday 23 May 2011

President Obama is coming to see me today!

It’s brilliant! Pure fantastic! The President of the United States of America is coming to my house today, to visit me. Yes, you read that right! That’s himself, the actual President of the actual United actual States, coming to visit your very own colyoomist in my very own house.

Any moment, he’ll be here. Should’ve been here a few hours ago, like, but he’s a busy man,
so I’ll let him off. Sure, ye’ll have that in small towns and built-up areas.

Can’t wait to meet him. Barack Obama, coming to see me. Sounds amazing, unbelievable almost, but it says so right here in the newspaper. ‘The President will be visiting his eighth cousin, in the village where his Great Great Great Grandfather used to live, until he left to live in America.'

Uncanny! Yes we can!

Barack Obama cartoon

That’s me, isn’t it! Just to be on the safe side, I unleashed the full might of this colyoom’s entire research department onto the case, because it’d be terribly embarrassing to be wrong about something as huge as this, and not one of my dedicated team of professionals has failed me.

They have proved beyond doubt that I have an eighth cousin directly descended from the Kenyan half of  President Obama’s family, and incredibly, as if that wasn’t enough, I also am an eighth cousin completely related to President Obama’s Hawaiian half of the family as well. Add in the Irish half, my English half and my Jewish half, and you’re gradually seeing where I’m coming from.

So many halves must make more than a whole, so it’s beyond question. We’re related, Barack and me, in so many ways. I can’t wait to meet him. It’ll be like we’ve known each other all of our lives. Bound to be, if you think about it, because so many of our ancestors shared the same lives, altogether.

I’m the eighth cousin living in Ireland that me long lost cousin Barack is coming to visit, and as if to prove it, my research team didn’t stop there. They have also failed to uncover anything to disprove the fact that one of my Great Great Great Grandfathers left Ireland to go to America.

Way beyond pure coincidence, you have to agree. Chance is a notion we left behind long ago in this process. What we are using here is genealogy and heredity and good old-fashioned state-of-the-art pure cold science  - that’s what’s at work here. So it’s definitely me he’s coming to see. Stands to reason.

If that’s not proof enough for you, ye miserable damp begrudging puddle of doubters, it says right here in the paper that President Obama is going to visit his ancestral home. They’re even calling it ‘The Homecoming’. The newspaper states very clearly that Obama’s ancestral home is a little house where his ancestral family don’t actually live any more. It’s not his family that live there now, d’y’see, and the house itself is not exactly the same house as the one which both his and my Great Great Great Grandfather left from, to move to America, because it’s had a bit of work done to it, d’ya’know

All that historical and up-to-the-minute detail right there in the paper, and all it’s saying to me is:  

‘This is your house, Charlie Adley!’

Can’t wait. What an honour. He’ll be here any moment.
Must be me.
Nobody else has eighth cousins, do they?

Thursday 19 May 2011

After 3 Obits, a birthday, because life is for the living!

The last three posts in this colyoom have been about loss, and much as it’s important to celebrate the lives of those who have gone, we’d be missing the point entirely if we forgot to enjoy life as we live it. A few days ago I made it to my 51st, and was very appreciative of how the wonderful people in my life insisted we celebrate.

The fiesta started a few days earlier in Madrid, when my great friend bought me a massage as a present. With distant New Age mood sounds of elephants trumpeting and jungly creatures hooting, a petite masseuse found each of the golf balls that had been illegally occupying my shoulders, kneading those knotted lumps of angry tension into healthy loose fibrous musc-yools filled with smooth flowing bloodules (technical terminology, you understand.)

Doubtless I should have immediately gone to rest and drunk bucketloads of water, but there was whisky to be downed and a city to explore. “Happy Birthday!” said my mate, and when I pointed out that it wasn’t actually for a few days yet, he sensitively and thoughtfully retorted “Bollocks! It’s already started!”

On the day itself, back in Galway, I picked up redoubtable Dalooney and headed off to visit the Guru in his new rural eyrie, high up on the hills of Tonabrocky. We lads, friends for many a year, sat and drank tea, talking shite about dreadful things we’d done ages ago and last week, whilst eating fresh strawberries, enjoying as fine a morning as anybody into the second half of their century might desire.

The Guru said he wanted to take me out to lunch, but I had already stuffed my face with a full Irish breakfast at Lohans pub first thing that morning (I’d decided that I was worth it!), so it was off back down we went, to sea level, to sup a pint of Bay Ale in the Oslo in Salthill.

By the time I got home, the Snapper had been mighty busy, running an Olympic record tour of local supermarkets and delis. On the kitchen table were a pile of big balloons, pressies and cards, which I tore open like a six year-old. Books and chocolate and messages from overseas, by snail mail, e-card, donkey train and turtle dove.

Lovely! Off to shower my ageing boddaay before Dalooney and the Body joined the Guru at our gaff, whereupon we started to drink much English beer (no, not warm beer, just not chilled beer. What is it with the way the world mocks our bitter? Does anyone complain that most red wine is served unchilled? Does anyone say ‘Ooh yuk, warm wine?’) and Irish whiskey, a bottle of which was produced by the Body himself (as a gift, I hasten to add, not through his bladder!)

We four blokes than sat around the table and were presented with a roast chicken feast, followed by berries, lemon tart and finally, a home-baked birthday cake, all the work of my lovely wife. Raising our glasses to toast her, the mad shouting and exuberant drunken revelry that exploded from our mouths somehow formed into a rousing, very customised version of the Marseillaise.

Well, it was similar to the French national anthem in every way except none of us actually formed words, throwing grunty laughing noises into a mix of pure exuberance, to thank herself for her sterling and loving efforts.

And then a few minutes later, spont-an-naneously like, just for the craic like, we raised our glasses and toasted her again, producing another nonsensical chorus of “Aaaaalonzzz lay zer doo baarr doo berrr be dooo dan na na shoooobeeer doo be daaerrrr!”, accompanied by hearty table thumping and a healthy dollop of pure silliness.

We watched no TV, played no games, just talked and ate and drank and I looked around the room and couldn’t have been happier. Admittedly there were rather more testicles than wombs around the room, but sure, ye’ll have that. There were family phone calls, balloons on the walls and a room filled with the beating of excellent human hearts, good souls with one combined intent - to celebrate life and get on with the living of it!

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Ethel never sat on the fence!

(A quick aside to say how much I love working with my computer. In the old days, finding the piece below would have meant hours sifting through hundreds of columns and features. Instead, just by typing the letters ‘kingf’ of the word ‘kingfisher’ into the drop-down spotlight gizmo on the top of my Mac’s screen, I’m immediately given access to Diary of a Blow-in #8, a column I wrote for the Irish Examiner during the years I lived  in stunning north Co. Mayo, near the splendid village of Killala.)

In the midst of life we are in death, and I’m loath to apologise for all the obituaries appearing in this colyoom recently, because believe me, I’d rather not be writing them. However, on the same day that Merlin died, an old friend of mine passed away in Castlebar hospital.

Ethel was loved by many, and universally revered, respected and admired. Her fierce wit and long-lodged opinions presented a very firm fence, which you were either her side of or the other. For reasons I’ll never fully understand, yet always appreciate, she took to me when I lived in Killala, and we formed a cross-generational friendship that I suspect gave us both much pleasure.

Ethel’s sister in Cork sent her copies of my Diary of a Blow-In columns, which Ethel read and then tested me on.

“How have you seen the Brent Geese yet? I didn’t think that they’d be around yet, but you said in the paper that you’d seen them. When did you see them? I see the beach from the field every day when I visit my cows, and I have not yet seen them.”

Throughout the entire area her prowess as a cook was unquestioned. Ethel’s cakes and jams were legendary, as was her love for the man she ironically referred to as ‘His Lordship’.

I remember my inevitably unexpected visits to her house so clearly: met with fussing and great hospitality, the living room toasty warm, huge pots boiling on the range, her late husband Jack sat in his chair by the stove, with Ethel up on the blanketed and cushioned shelf she called her ‘nest’; all was well with the world.

Then Ethel would put a glass filled with whiskey and a mountain of thickly-sliced fruit cake in front of me. I knew that neither drink-driving laws nor my desire to fit into my clothes would prove useful as excuses for not eating and drinking the lot. Ethel did not have to behave like Father Ted’s Mrs. Doyle, with all that “You will you will you will!” blather.

Ethel was not one to blather. Not a chance. Ethel just put the drink and food in front of you and told you to eat and drink it, and you did. She was one who must be obeyed.

Possibly it was my confidence in her presence that attracted her, or maybe merely that I wrote about the rural world that she loved, but I was happy to have her as a friend. My thoughts and love now go to her close family and all the people of Ross.

I didn’t know Ethel well, but I liked well what I knew, and also knew that I was honoured to be on the right side of her fence.

Here’s the kingfisher piece, wherein I first meet Ethel, which appeared in the Irish Examiner, May, 2001.

Diary of a Blow-In #8

I have now enjoyed half of the journey through a year's seasons up here in north Mayo, and it really feels like my place now. As if to prove it, I have a garden that's grown out of control.
The September sunshine was kind to my nasturtiums, which have spread over every spare spot of earth, climbing up the back hedge, and tumbling over the raised stone bed, cutting long straight orange blades across the green grass.

The end of my first summer brings a small but pleasing harvest. The wee herb garden I built has proved a major success, and now I cut and dry the copious growth of rosemary, oregano, mint, chives and thyme, before they whither in the early frosts. Flowers from my home-grown lavender are snipped and stored in a jar that smells somewhere between dizzy and divine.

It took me only an hour to spot the arrival of the ram in the field opposite my house, but I'll bet it didn't take the ewes that long! He has a white face, and a brown fleece - well, it's beige really, but that sounds so terribly urban, dwarling! - and the only other white-faced sheep in there is the aptly-named Bianca.

Romeo Ram systematically walks the white-fenced edge of the field, like a rampant lad in a nightclub easing his way along the red carpet, hugging the brass rail. Sheep are more direct than humans, so Romeo simply tries to stick his schnozz up each ewe's rear end. The gals cop on to this ruse pretty quickly, moving away before Romeo even gets close to a genital whiff.

But all of a sudden he strikes lucky. A big old ewe raises herself to her feet, slowly and deliberately walking backwards onto Romeo's nose. There she lingers for a while, before wiggling her Sunday Dinners off to a bucket of feed.

I recognise this behaviour as the ovine equivalent of Isabella Rosellini singing Blue Velvet. This is sheep-talk for Lauren Bacall telling Steve he knows how to whistle.  Just more honest. And more effective.

My plan was always to arrive in the area with a mild plop, rather than a loud bang, and it is paying off. I have seen what happens when others elsewhere have tried to make a quick and big impression on new neighbours. It was always my wish that the locals would come to me, rather than the other way around, and gradually it is happening.

Landlords in pubs are starting to call me by name, and the other day, I was visited by a charming mother and daughter-in-law team. Much to my delight, they came bearing jars of home-made gooseberry and blackcurrant jam, and rather less welcome, they also brought a dead kingfisher, which the elder of the two emptied from a plastic bag onto my outstretched hand.

She told me that she had read of my birdie adventures in this column, and was eager to show me a beautiful bird that we had living in our local environment. I agreed that indeed, when alive, the tiny kingfisher is a glorious sight, but pointed out that it does lose a certain charm after it's been wrapped in a plastic bag, a good few days after a cat killed it. I had to ask:

“Please tell me you’re leaving the jam and taking the bird away?”

I enjoyed their short but pleasant visit, which culminated in my accepting their kind invitation to a party. Unbeknownst to me, the celebration turns out to be a Silver Wedding Anniversary, and the warm friendly house is packed to the gunwales with crowds of friends and relations. There is an enormous effort made to make me feel welcome, which I do as soon as I enter, but I become nervous when I am introduced to a silenced kitchen of revellers thus:

 “This is Charlie - he's a writer, and he'll be putting all this down in the paper!”

From that moment on, I feel conscious of my every movement, and end up drinking far too much beer, and boring the bejazus out of a family visiting from Yorkshire.

As the party develops, a great banquet reveals itself. There is a large table laden with massive congratulatory cakes, cooked chickens, salads and burgers, while out in the yard, there are two barbecues grilling fresh mackerel and salmon. Everywhere I am greeted by smiling, kindly faces, and although still very much an outsider, I taste for the first time the 'joie de vivre' enjoyed by my local community.

It was an honour to be invited to such a special occasion, and an absolute pleasure to feel included.

The October sky brings rainbows back to the west of Ireland, along with an incandescent tangerine glow to the early evening sky that brings a glow to my heart. The air carries the sodden smell of decay, softened by the sweet scent of turf smoke, while the low sun shines brighter, the wind blowing ever colder.

As the nights close in on these burned-out ends of smoky days, there is no better place to be than warm and cosy in the Irish countryside.

In memory of Merlin, a very special dog.

Merlin the dog died yesterday, so here’s an excerpt from a colyoom I wrote back in 2003. Thanks Merlin - happy wanderings!

Did I dream the dog in the darkness?

The storm blows at its full force around four in the morning, when a thumping gust wobbles the walls of the house. I open my eyes, and feel my arms and legs pinned inside a sleeping bag. Seconds drag by, like sweat-on-the-brow-inducing hours, as I lie in the darkness, struggling to remember where the hell I am.

Thoughts race around my brain like shelled peas in a bucket. Where did this particular slice of mayhem begin? ‘Twas a manly handshake after a meeting in Salthill a few days ago that let loose a couple of empty days. Grabbing my chance to take a break, I flee south out of town before the morning rush hour. The rising sun sears blood red lines through the black clouds that hang over the half-built rooftops of Oranmore.

By the time I reach the ferry at Kilimer, the same sun shines supreme in a sky bursting blue.
Breathing in the breeze on deck, my chest puffs up with excitement. Off to the Dingle Peninsular, to visit Yoda Casanova. with whom I enjoy a great friendship, a mutual admiration, 43,844,782 cups of tea and the odd wee pint.

Aha! So that’s where I am.

I’m on top of Yoda’s mattress-less bed, wrapped up in a sleeping bag inside another sleeping bag in an effort to keep warm. Too many sessions and not enough kip, and now too awake to go back to sleep.
I switch on the light, swinging my mummified torso off the bed.

Cold air hits my bare knees as the 2 sleeping bags slide down, and I head for the darkness of the hallway. My body is demanding water in exchange for all those whiskies I gave it earlier. The kitchen is downstairs, but for some sadistic reason, my brain decides to deny my body coordination, conspiring with gravity to send me tumbling down the steep stairs. Screaming pained Homer Simpson-isms into the darkness, my body bounces ¡Doh! off the walls, crashes ¡Fuurrrrkeeegooooo! onto the stairs, slams into banisters ¡Oowwmoofffhh! and falls head-first downwards into the void


On arrival at the bottom, I lift my bruised and bewildered living corpse off the floor. Through the window in the front door I see the world outside flung into chaos by a raging Atlantic storm.
Usually I love a good gale, but suddenly I’m now gripped from head to toe by a cold sharp spear of fear.

Inside this room, I can hear thumping.
Weird rhythmic thumping, coming out of the pitch darkness, from the other side of the room.
Thump thump thump.

Thump thump thump.
Yoda is asleep in his truck outside.

Thump thump thump.
I’m alone in the house, so what the bloody hell is that noise?

Thump thump thump.
Always fond of the simple and lazy route, I ask the universe to make the bad thumping go away, and rather amazingly it does. Trouble is, (from the makers of ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’) there comes, from the same place, the sound of low-down dribbly slavering breathing.

My mouth goes dry with terror, my hand scrabbling around, sliding blindly over the walls, looking in vain for a light switch. Taking in a deep breath, I race in the direction of the kitchen. Managing to limit the number of collisions with unseen low-lying furniture to only three actual skin-gashing bleeders, I flip on the kitchen light.

At once, all is peace and joy.

The phantom thumper and breather is none other than Merlin, Jenny and Andy’s dog, from down the way. A beautiful big black dog with a heart of gold and a mean way with a muzzly nuzzle of the knees, Merlin is as smart as his namesake. Not only had escaped the storm by opening the front door, he somehow managed to close the door behind him, against the full force of the wind.

Evidently Merlin is well used to seeing eedjit humans falling downstairs in the middle of the night. He walks over, licks my hand and wags his tail (thump thump thump), and I climb back up the stairs into my cotton cocoon, to sleep better for the knowledge that I’m not alone in the house after all.

The next day Andy explained, “He’s not stupid! He knew it was in his best interests to keep the cold wind out, so he closed the door behind him, even though the wind was against him! God knows how, mind!”

Sunday 15 May 2011

Great lies of the Modern World #243: 'PEEL HERE'

It’s a plastic carton of bacon.
It’s a waxy paper packet of cheese.
It’s a  supermarket sandwich.
It’s a tray of sliced ham.

Your first instinct as a man is to pick it up and pull it apart. To huff and puff and tear the pack asunder, grunting with hairy-chested satisfaction that you have killed it and now, ug, throwing your head back and laughing wildly, you may feast well upon it.

But then you remember that you are not a mere grunty ape any more; that you have progressed, evolved from the primal life of the jungle floor. You now know how to use tools, so you grab a small sharp knife from the drawer, and you’re just about to stick it into the plastic when you see two words:

‘Peel Here.’

However sophisticated and well-groomed your all-new must-wash metrosexual male image might look, at that moment you are so still resisting the powerful urge to shred the pack into smithereens.

But you don’t, ‘cos it’s not what’s expected of you. You’re meant to be in control of your urges, aware of socially-acceptable behaviour and hopefully able to read.

So you look at those two words:

‘Peel here.’

All of a sudden the binary door of your super-efficient logical male brain crashes open, and a shaft of dazzling light fills your cerebral cortex. Heavenly falsetto angels sing an ethereal chorus of joyful choral anthems.

Look! They’ve gone to the trouble of specifically adapting their packaging design and decided it’s worthwhile to make major modifications to their factory machinery, just to make a little bendy toggly bit on the corner of the pack.

Just so you can open it easily.

Would they really go to all that trouble if it wasn’t going to work?
No, silly, of course they wouldn’t.

But then you’re suddenly shocked by an unexpected broadside barrage of negative thinking, a salvo of cautionary thoughts, fired from the experiential caverns of your brainbox.

No, it won’t work.
It never works.
Never did. never will.
Tear it.
Use the knife.
It never works. You know it never works. Cut it. Cut it.

But you want to believe. You so want to believe that if they can grow babies in glass tubes and sell 31 flavours of ice cream in one single shop, that they really might have finally come up with a simple, easy and efficient way of opening their product.
A way that, by design, might even leave the package resealable.
A way that might not later require the use of cling film, aluminium foil, super-glue and bandages to restore the packet to a safe level of hygienic storage, ready for the fridge.

So you put the knife down. You pick up the packet and taking a deep breath, try to meter your manly muscly power so as not to break off the triangular tabby ‘Peel Here’ thing.

Holding your breath you gently pull, but nothing happens.
You pull harder. You bend the tabby triangle back and forth a few times, just in case there’s an in-built line of weakness that you haven’t activated yet. You pull it again, harder, now breathing wildly, teeth gritted, pulling harder and stronger and tighter and

Nothing gives. It doesn’t want to peel. It shows no sign of peeling.
It’s a lie. Another dirty down dastardly lie. They’ve had you again, the little bleeders.

Your next choice of action depends wholly on the level of intellectual engagement available within your present hissing and grunting testicular frenzy. You either grab one side of the packet with each of your hands and pull the living fucking daylights out of it, until, inevitably, the ham, cheese or bacon falls onto the kitchen floor. Or, if you’re hanging off a branch slightly higher up the behavioural tree, you grab the knife you put down earlier and stab it into the packet, sliding a simple easy cut into the thin covering, wondering why on earth you didn’t just do that in the first place.

At this stage it is important to remember that your objective is to eat. You really must resist all temptations to stab the packet again and again and again, out of pure bloody-minded fury. If you find yourself unable to stop hacking the packet to shreds with the blade of your knife, it’s time to take yourself off to bed for a wee nap, and then seek psychiatric help in the morning.

If you live on the happy side of psychotic, then just make a nice cuppa tea and enjoy your sandwich.

You know you’ll never believe their filthy ‘Peel Here’ lie again.
Or will you?

Who knows, by the time you’ve bought the next packet, they might have perfected it....

Sunday 8 May 2011

Win lose or draw, Dad's spirit will be with me today!

Three years ago today my Dad died, and these anniversaries or jahrzeit serve their purpose. After a decade-long decline, he slipped away a mere two weeks before my marraige to the Snapper, in a traumatic period of time emotionally exacerbated by a trip back to California.

Yes, there's a point to these days, but that doesn't make them easy to get through. Thankfully, the fates have conspired to set up a title decider between Chelsea and Manchester United this afternoon, something that he and I would have loved to watch together. So I won't be miserably dragging myself through a difficult day - no, Dad would have hated that.  Instead I’ll be raising a glass of whiskey to the most excellent John Adley at 4 o'clock today, and missing him like crazy. Come on you Blues - but win lose or draw today, I couldn't have wished for a better father!

This obituary which I wrote at the time says it well enough.

My Dad died.
I have seen many people lose parents, siblings, friends and even children, and the most tragic losses are the ones in which there lingers something unfinished. As the minutes ooze from the time of death, that lingering becomes malingering, and pain follows close behind.

Dad made it easy for me, because he had been so unwell for so long, I had time to tell him everything I wanted to say.

And oy, he put up a fight! Year after year, Dad grumped and exploded his way through procedures, operations, scrapings and inflations. Towards the end he lost his joie de vivre, but never his sense of humour, although my mother, his rock, his redeemer, and a great force of nature, mentioned how she sometimes missed the sound of laughter.

Watching somebody you love head slowly lethewards erases from your mind the image of the person they once were. When I think now of my father, all my mind offers is a weak old man in much discomfort, fed up with life, yet absolutely unwilling to die.

Naturally, I do not have to scrape much dust from my memories to see Dad as a younger man, and as I do, my heart races a little faster and a smile comes to my tear-sodden eyes.

So I am very happy to have told him what I thought of him, before he went.

A few months ago, he was sitting in his armchair next to my mum on the sofa. I had to be tactful, because despite the Jewish spirit, my parents' home and behaviour is quintessentially Olde Englishe, like the marmalade. Hence to avoid melodrama, I had to tread carefully when trying to explain to my father that he had always been my inspiration.

To that Octogenarian these words came as a surprise; one which I had anticipated, and thought might fire his spirit and confidence a tad.

I told him, in front of Mum, that he had been my inspiration throughout my life, in two different ways.
At a most vital level, I appreciated how hard he had worked, how many decades he had climbed into his car at 7.40 am, and driven off through the dirthy sludge of London's constipated commute, all the way to Soho, where he worked all his life for Pearl and Dean.

At weekends he ran a small chain of three record shops, until one of his managers did the dirty, and sent the business down the pan.

From my privileged and relatively cushy life, I am in awe of how hard Dad worked, so that we might enjoy the upbringing we had. His was the last generation that would ever enjoy the 'job for life' culture, but even so, I embarrass myself when I think of how few hours I have to spend earning money each week.

Somehow, back in the early 1960's he earned enough money to take all five of us on holidays to Europe every other year, with trips to Devon and Somerset in the intervening summers.

"Thanks Dad!" I told him. "I didn't appreciate it when I was a kid, but I do appreciate it now."

My mum spluttered out that she thought that was very nice, and my Dad did something with his mouth that showed he was grateful.

But then I looked over, into his eyes, and I sent them a twinkle.

"There's another way you inspired me, Dad. Your mountains, mate! Remember all your books from the 1930's and 1950's about the conquests of Kachenjunga, K2 and Everest? They all had the same kind of tan cloth covers, and were packed with photos and maps and tales of these great mountaineers, walking around the Annapurna Circuit and reaching for the skies.

Well, it took a while for me to realise it, but all my travelling; the way I've lived my life; it's down to you. Didn't cop on when I was a teenager, because all that hitching just felt so good, and looked to me a million miles from the life you lived, and the one you wanted for me. But when I went off for my first roundy-worldy jaunt in 1984, you whispered

'Say hello to the mountains for me!'
and it all made sense.

Yes, in that instant I understood why I was who I was. I knew that your spirit of adventure was kindled in me; that the boy who read those books gave birth to another who could go and see them.
And the greatest thing about a sprit of adventure is that it helps you live your life less dominated by fear.

So thanks Dad! You worked your arse off so that I might have a good childhood, and you also lifted my eyes, my horizons and my understanding of ambition, so that when I felt happy in my life, I might know that I was a success."

What I didn't say to him then, but do now, was that unfortunately, I don't think you ever enjoyed the same self-confidence that you helped build in me.

You were a possessor of great charm and unquestioning generosity. You taught me how to appreciate fine wines, how to carry myself in any situation, and always assured me that while fine things were alright, you could never beat the pleasure and honesty of a pie and a pint.

Wherever I have been in the world, we always had time for the Chelsea. Remember that time when you were almost unconscious in hospital, and the Special One came on the TV in your hospital room?

"Mou mou mou rinho!" you spluttered, as you entered consciousness.

But my favourite of all time, was a year ago last Spring, when we were all standing round your bed in Intensive Care. We'd nearly lost you in the ambulance, and had been discussing how to cancel your big 80th birthday party.

Unaware of where you were, or how close you had come to death, your first words as you opened your eyes:

'Who's ordering the wine for the party?"

You couldn't understand why we all fell about laughing. Your spirit was so strong it will live forever amongst us.
I love you Dad. I love you very much.
God knows, I'll miss you.