Friday, 15 September 2017

Other Way

When you’re walking the plank you don’t expect to meet anyone coming the other way.

The End Might Be Nigh

There’s a large chalk cross upon an incline (or decline, depending on which way you’re heading) of a Chiltern hill. It’s called Whiteleaf Cross.
The pinnacle offers a panoramic view of the hills sweeping off to the left, and the vale of Aylesbury to the right. You can see for miles. In fact, in common with the Great Wall of China, you can see the moon from there.
Last autumn I sought photographs of the sunset from that very spot. I studied the weather forecasts and calculations of the sun’s related times and positions. The idea was to snap Nada, my Dalmatian, running across the horizon as the sun’s dying embers turned the sky orange.
I made a number of preliminary visits to get the lay of the land. Just as well really, I hadn’t accounted for the other folk who’d be there for their own sunsets.
Nada and I had to overcome our shyness. Neither of us struggled TOO much on that count. Some people were interested and wanted sneak previews in the back of the camera. The rest ignored us and hoped we’d go away. We didn’t.
During a number of our reconnaissance missions, Nada and I ran into a gentleman with a five-o’clock-the-next-day-shadow and a ball-obsessed collie. Clouds obscured the sun on one occasion. “Oh well,” I said with rusty optimism, “they’ll be other sunsets.”
“Yes,” said the gentleman thoughtfully, “but not many.”
To this day, as I descend the Whiteleaf Hill, I wonder if his words were prophetic and that the end is nigh. It seems there have been many sunsets since then though. Nearly a year’s worth.

Written and conceived by M J Race

Copyright © 2017 M J Race

All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Monday, 2 May 2016


Wanting Dad back is as futile as wanting to climb a ladder to photograph the earth. It isn’t going to happen, is it? What am I going to lean it up against?

When I moved back home I had no idea how I’d struggle to keep up with a couple of septuagenarians. Why didn’t they go to bed earlier like normal old people? Why did my socks disappear and then suddenly turn back up again a few months later? And why didn’t I foresee conversations with Dad about what to do straight after his imminent death?

Being a minister, he dealt with the sick and the dying on a regular basis, and with experience came knowledge. Even as he weakened throughout last year’s bleak midsummer he was thoughtful and practical. Unnervingly so at times. “You’ll need to get several Death Certificates,” he imparted his wisdom to me, “they won’t take copies, you know”

Uncomfortable though it was, we made a few finishing touches to a life that once was.

At the Office of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, my siblings and I used the information we’d gleaned, falling over ourselves to outbid one another for more and more Death Certificates. We eventually came away with ten. And when the body that Dad had lugged around with him for 78 years was finally laid to rest, we were prepared for anything . . .

Most of our returning correspondence from the bigger wheels of finance and government said something to the effect of, “Thank you for sending us the death certificate which we are now returning to you with our letter.”

Needless to say we still have ten even now. Just goes to show, the more you learn the less you know.

Trying to sell Death Certificates, even with Correction Fluid, is as futile as wanting to climb a ladder to photograph the earth. It isn’t going to happen, is it? What am I going to lean it up against?

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Do You Believe in the Aftermath?

Januarys are always a bit slow. A couple of scribbles on his calendar reminded him when to put the brown bin out, and of a visit to the dentist on the fourteenth. And in February the brown bin routinely moved to and fro.

Dad’s diagnosis was unforeseen. Oh, he had been feeling unwell beforehand. But he’d been ‘a bit groggy’ for at least thirty or forty years, and at seventy-eight it was always going to be ‘just one of those things’, wasn’t it?
Neither mum nor I were ever the most sympathetic of folk, but eventually even we realized that this was something that couldn’t be put paid to with TCP, paracetamol or impatient tuts.

In March the calendar was dark with ink. Busy, busy, busy. The year was well and truly underway. Birthdays, dinners, and family visits right through to August.

After several weeks of ‘procedures,’ tests, and scans the nurse explained, “Some people with terminal cancer might decide to go on a cruise . . . Don’t you do that!”
Dad had been an ordained minister for many years. He had visited the sick and anointed the dying, conducted their funerals and interred their ashes, knew their families and worked with their undertakers. And his firm faith prevented any fear of death for him. Death wasn’t the problem here, it was the dying. It’s not as easy as it looks.
The following short weeks seemed so agonizingly long at the time. They were the very best and the very worst times that I’d ever spent with Dad. Intense and emotional beyond words.
Less than two months after his diagnosis Dad went on to the afterlife while the rest of us went on to the aftermath.

There was a reminder to himself to record the Proms in September, and a hospital appointment on the first of October. After that, nothing.