Coming to terms with it

md01-095_m_1_grandeNot a happy go lucky blog entry – you may want to move along if you’re already in a down mood.

It’s funny how we forget what we were like, or what we enjoyed, or what we did.  Is that just me?  My memory of my life is quite bad, I don’t think about the past much (other than a few specific things), but memories are sometimes triggered by other people having conversations about stuff.  I moved away from home when I was 18 (went to Uni) and never really went back.  That meant my conversations from the age of 18 onwards were about new stuff.  I wonder if this is what people mean by the phrase discovering yourself?

Because I mostly listened to people and spoke about how I felt about stuff, rather than the events of my childhood, I never reinforced those memories I guess.  Over time, still not talking about them (not for any dire reason, just because I was always private) means they didn’t get refreshed or used, and unused memories fade.  Or mine did.  Now, because they’re hazy I just don’t talk about them because I don’t really have good recollections of them.  So, I was going to start this blog with, I was never one for big family gatherings, and then I realised I wasn’t actually sure if that was true.  Maybe I was when I was young but I grew out of them, or maybe I was always too old for my boots, too sarcastic and cynical for my shorts?  Who knows.  For the benefit of brevity, let’s assume I was never one for big family gatherings.  I didn’t dislike my wider family as much as just disliking the process of being in a large family group.

I used to go to my grandparent’s (on my mam’s side) house for dinner (which is the midday meal where I’m from), during school dinner break when I was in my teens.  It was right next to the school and my mam worked school dinners in the same school, so you know, it made sense.  Kitty and George, I knew things weren’t perfect but as families do, everyone pretended it was fine for the kids.  I loved my granddad’s yorkshire puddings, and his bacon sandwiches made with white bread a foot thick.  Kitty didn’t do much cooking, but she let us tear up the place so we didn’t mind.  They had a scary shed full of tools and stuff I didn’t understand, a garden which had a chain-link fence which overlooked the school sports field, rocks in the garden painted with white gloss paint, and one year the snow drifts were so high in their back garden, we hid in them.

I’m not sure if I didn’t know my dad’s parents at all or if they just lived too far away to be part of our lives.  My dad died when I was 4, and my mam didn’t talk about it.  We moved back to Newcastle after he died, because we no longer had to follow his army postings, and we made new lives near to my mam’s parents, and her 3 sisters.  I never asked about my dad’s parents.  I never used the word dad much, I remember once a cousin of mine calling me a bastard, in the way kids do, and I was a bit upset by that for a few days before learning what it really meant, and that it didn’t apply at all.  I’m not sure I missed him, although I know my sister did, and it became apparent that despite never talking about him, my mam missed him more than pretty much anything in the world except her two kids.  I was really too young to remember much, or I blocked it out of my memory, one or the other.  If you can’t remember someone, it’s hard to miss them.

My granddad died before my grandmother.  I visited him when he was in hospital, really unwell with pneumonia, and we spoke briefly about cricket which he loved a great deal.  My enjoyment of cricket, my limited knowledge of the game comes from his love of it.  I felt bad that I’d only visited him once, and that he was really ill, and probably unaware of me.  What can you do.  I was in my late teens.  My grandmother leant on all the daughters then, as you would.  I can’t even remember if I went to the funeral.  How shit is that?  I’m not even entirely sure if I was at university or at home.  Is it because I’m callous, or because I block this stuff out?  Because I have a bad memory or because I choose not to remember?

Not long after moving to Nottingham with Greté we got news that my grandmother had died.  I travelled back to Newcastle for the funeral.  I remember that.  I remember trying to be strong for my mam, because she’d lost her mam.  I probably failed.  I wouldn’t say I was openly close to anyone in my family, immediate or extended.  Emotionally stunted?  Just too cynical?  I’m not sure.

My sister had kids, and although she complained about it, my mam loved looking after them, loved having young kids around again.  It gave her a new lease of life.  Then they got a little older and to that age where they did stuff that my mam found hard work, like making a mess, running around putting their knees at risk, jumping off stools.  She’d moved closer to my sister, and my sister basically looked out for her.  I spoke to them, and saw them once a year, maybe twice, but that was it.

Then my mam had a stroke, and a fall, and although she was well enough to go home, she never really recovered.  She lost her confidence, would get lost walking short distances.  She was miserable.  She hated life.  She’d lost the man she loved in 1975 and never replaced him, her kids had grown up and moved out, and her grand-kids were growing up, and now she was stuck in her flat, no one to talk to.  She had another catastrophic, fatal stroke in December 2012.  I was sad, but I knew that was no longer unhappy, no longer trapped.  My sister organised the funeral, I attended, tried to say some words.  Saw my best friend from my youth, made promises to stay in touch, never did.  Saw the whole family, cousins and aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.  Then went back to my life.  I saw my sister, her husband and her kids more often after that.  I made more of an effort.  Not a massive increase in effort, but I think we both knew we needed to keep in touch more.

Then, in September last year (2015), my sister died.  She’d had a long illness, undiagnosed, then a diagnosis, surgery and then in a very short time, a more negative diagnosis and what was ultimately a very short period of very intense illness before she passed away.  Highly aggressive, pretty much untreatable, cancer.  She knew what was happening, the night before she passed away she had her husband bring the kids into hospital so she could talk to them.  Even in that last moment her thoughts were with her kids, making sure they knew what was going on, what they had to do.

That was it.  All my immediate family (as I use the phrase) gone.  Plenty of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters-in-law, and of course, my amazing wife; but my family unit gone.

What does it mean?  I’m 45 this year, and I guess it’s not an unusual position to be in, but I’m still coming to terms with it.  Is there a message?  Life is short, buy the shoes?  I saw that today, and I think it’s true, although it’s never easy.  But is that the message?  Talk to your family more, live in the now, enjoy them now, but reminisce,  Talk about the past, laugh about it, because if you don’t exercise those memories they’ll just fade.  Don’t live in the past, you can’t change it, but bathe in it every now and again, remember how it felt.  Is that trite?  Probably.

Greté got me some socks and boxer shorts for Christmas (among many other wonderful gifts).  She was a bit apologetic about those, but I reminded her I’d run out of other people who were going to buy them for me, so it was her job now.

Confessions of a Raid Leader – Death!

You can read part one of this series, and the general background here.  But in summary, I played EverQuest, I ended up being a co-leader of a most excellent raid alliance, and these posts are about remembering some of the madness that entailed.

EverQuest was brutal about death, right from the outset.  You lost XP, you had to go and find your corpse to get your gear back, and that meant getting to it, without any existing gear.  Eventually you could get resurrected, and over time they added ways to summon your corpse to you, but they never got rid of the XP penalty.  In groups, you could expect to die a couple of times per night if you were doing tough content, in raids, depending on your role, you could expect to die 10 or more times.  Over the course of an evening, that’s a reasonable amount of lost XP even if you are getting 96% resurrections.  But that was the job, if you were a tank, puller, healer or crowd controller you were going to die more than anyone else.  Of course, everyone else was going to die as well ….

The tanks on our raids had their own channel, and death was a common topic.  Our tanks were fearless in the face of death and gave it the respect it deserved.


[Sat May 05 21:03:27 2007] You tell tnftank:7, 'i'll take dref too for ramp in case I die?'
[Sat Jun 02 23:20:38 2007] You tell tnftank:7, 'i usually go to shit when i die'
[Sat Jun 02 23:47:38 2007] You tell tnftank:7, 'but at least let me die first'
[Sat Jun 30 21:02:43 2007] You tell tnftank:7, 'no furious, expect me to die ;)'
[Sat Feb 10 21:51:02 2007] Zorblag tells tnftank:6, 'This last fight is mean.  Aaddx will likely die.'
[Sat Mar 17 22:43:06 2007] Zerblag tells tnftank:6, 'But expect to die.'
[Sat May 05 21:52:55 2007] Tinyface tells tnftank:7, 'hehe i cant wait to give mine a shot but ill probably die :)'
[Sat Sep 22 22:20:39 2007] Zerblag tells tnftank:7, 'About to die.'
[Sat Oct 06 20:03:08 2007] Nevarna tells tnftank:7, 'I'll die anyway so it's all good'
[Sat Jan 26 19:57:51 2008] Glutious tells tnftank:7, 'a good day to die '


[Sat Mar 22 21:57:11 2008] You tell tnftank:7, 'if tinyface dies, just laugh at him and then step on his corpse to take over tanking'
[Sat Apr 28 21:31:23 2007] You tell tnftank:7, 'If Cheichn is still afk he's about to die'


[Sat Oct 13 19:41:04 2007] Sidyenai tells tnftank:7, 'ok, nev, you go to mirror and look yourself into your eyes and say: i wil not die this raid, i will not die this raid .. 20 times .. :D'
[Sat Jul 19 20:31:51 2008] Zerblag tells tnftank:7, 'AE ramp on Nightshade.  Don't die to it or you get laughed at.'
[Sat Mar 15 21:22:17 2008] Tinyface tells tnftank:7, 'Dont fall off the walkway, you will pop to the middle and die a horrible death'
[Sat Aug 04 21:39:58 2007] Zerblag tells tnftank:7, 'It'll be faster just to die Aaddx.'

Overly Confident

[Sat May 19 21:08:49 2007] Tinyface tells tnftank:7, 'hehe i NEVER die :)'
[Sat Apr 07 23:30:50 2007] Drefaen tells tnftank:6, 'whee, day off, Aaddx nevr dies'

Draefen was Always Ready

[Sat Jan 20 21:32:22 2007] Drefaen tells tnftank:7, 'sure, I haven't died yet, I'm starting to get worried'
[Sat Jan 20 22:50:14 2007] Drefaen tells tnftank:7, 'I haven't died yet, feels odd'
[Sat Jan 27 23:18:06 2007] Drefaen tells tnftank:7, 'should I be in NW corner? or only when Brich dies? I mean if Brich dies'
[Sun Jan 28 00:17:58 2007] Drefaen tells tnftank:7, 'I suspect I'll die here, I've only fell over once so far'
[Sat Feb 03 20:16:09 2007] Drefaen tells tnftank:6, 'I recon I shouldn't get one, I always die 8)'

And of course as co-leader of the raids, it was up to me to remind our most excellent raid force of the critical strategy regarding the stuff we were killing. This mainly revolved around not dying.

Basic Survival

[Sat Sep 22 22:15:31 2007] You tell your raid, 'the important thing - just don't die'
[Sat Sep 29 21:27:48 2007] You tell your raid, 'DO NOT DIE NOW NOT THIS CLOSE'
[Sat Oct 13 20:58:40 2007] You tell your raid, 'then we kill stuff, and don't die'
[Sat Oct 13 20:59:22 2007] You tell your raid, 'ok south - don't die this time :p'
[Sat Aug 09 22:12:05 2008] You tell your raid, 'DO NOT DIE'
[Sat Aug 09 22:39:01 2008] You tell your raid, '1. don't die'
[Sat Aug 09 22:39:10 2008] You tell your raid, '2. friends don't let friends die either'
[Sat Feb 05 21:32:24 2005] You tell your raid, 'nice - don't die while we do loot'
[Sat May 07 23:14:51 2005] You tell your raid, 'we WILL NOT DIE HERE TODAY'

As you can see, I really liked this ‘not dying’ as a strategy …

[Sat Sep 22 21:24:46 2007] You tell your raid, 'so everyone tanks, no one dies'
[Sat Jan 06 20:35:03 2007] You tell your raid, 'oh and don't die'
[Sat Sep 08 19:29:38 2007] You tell your raid, 'ok same deal - only this time we don't die'
[Sat Sep 08 23:24:46 2007] You tell your raid, 'Do NOT die'
[Sat May 28 20:26:22 2005] You tell your raid, 'follow Aaddx we're charging the arena - don't die'
[Sat Jun 11 20:22:10 2005] You tell your raid, 'don't die :p'
[Sat Nov 26 23:09:25 2005] You tell your raid, 'stay focussed don't die'
[Sat Dec 03 20:53:53 2005] You tell your raid, 'don't die'
[Sun Jan 29 00:42:41 2006] You tell your raid, 'oh key thing - don't die'
[Sat Feb 11 22:35:48 2006] You tell your raid, 'NO ONE dies'

It worked for our raid team, so I stuck to it, who would have thought ‘not dying’ was the most powerful weapon a raid team could have?

[Sat Mar 04 22:21:51 2006] You tell your raid, 'don't die'
[Sat Mar 04 23:10:20 2006] You tell your raid, 'and don't die'
[Sat Apr 01 21:28:47 2006] You tell your raid, 'don't die, it's a long fight'
[Sat Oct 21 22:24:20 2006] You tell your raid, 'groups 1-3 will kill it and they won't die'
[Sat Dec 09 20:59:23 2006] You tell your raid, 'stay focussed, don't die, and we can do this'
[Sat Dec 16 23:23:37 2006] You tell your raid, 'don't die that's silly'
[Sat Feb 17 22:52:24 2007] You tell your raid, 'here we go, no one dies'
[Sat Mar 10 22:50:19 2007] You tell your raid, 'we must not die'
[Sat Mar 24 19:57:47 2007] You tell your raid, 'do not let my 3rd favourite SK die'
[Sat Apr 07 23:19:28 2007] You tell your raid, 'DO NOT DIE HERE I WILL BE UPSET'
[Sat Jun 16 20:17:40 2007] You tell your raid, 'oh AE Rampage - don't die'
[Sat Jul 21 20:58:07 2007] You tell your raid, 'All you have to do now is NOT DIE'
[Sat Jul 28 22:47:13 2007] You tell your raid, '20 mobs at a time - don't die'
[Sat Jan 05 20:17:45 2008] You tell your raid, 'off-tank, don't die'
[Sat Jan 05 21:52:17 2008] You tell your raid, 'pull him - don't die'
[Tue Dec 11 20:25:29 2007] You tell your raid, 'no one die, everyone win, easy victory'
[Sat Dec 15 21:20:11 2007] You tell your raid, 'Hold on then - refuse to die'

Positive Thinking

[Sat Mar 08 22:14:40 2008] You tell your raid, 'try not to die, but it's an UGLY raid'
[Sat Jul 02 21:40:50 2005] You tell your raid, 'we have *not* tried this before, so we will probably all die horribly'
[Sat Sep 08 18:46:19 2007] You tell your raid, 'Ok - Oly gets to die later - thanks Oly'
[Thu Sep 07 23:30:54 2006] You tell your raid, 'tank order is - all tanks form a queue and die for your country - followed by weaponshield rangers'
[Sat Apr 21 21:59:12 2007] You tell your raid, 'we have to trigger these two mobs, normally we make Aonia die, but today it's Moone's turn, I need to talk her through it so it'll take a moment longer than normal'
[Wed Aug 22 22:26:26 2007] You tell your raid, 'that's the voice of a man who expects to die again'
[Sat Dec 15 22:39:49 2007] You tell your raid, 'each week someone thinks that, and they die'

Travel Tips

[Sat Oct 29 23:28:14 2005] You tell your raid, 'we're going to kill a Dragon - don't die on the way'
[Sat Feb 25 20:23:25 2006] You tell your raid, 'please don't die in BoT it makes me sad - get invis'
[Sat Nov 04 21:47:22 2006] You tell your raid, 'and die, at Noit's feet, to provide him something to stand on'

Complex Strategy

[Sat Dec 08 22:54:51 2007] You tell your raid, 'we assist Nlaokx, we mezz the snake pops, and we refuse to die'
[Sat Jul 29 20:29:12 2006] You tell your raid, 'Fake Rallos - AE Rampage - fight at max range, do not die'
[Sat Jul 29 20:29:23 2006] You tell your raid, 'Real Rallos - AE Rampage, adds, shit, etc. do not die'
[Sat Dec 03 20:43:20 2005] You tell your raid, 'on the next named - no swarm pets, no hammer pets, no sword pets, and don't die'
[Sat Dec 03 20:49:54 2005] You tell your raid, 'Named inc with adds - do not break mezz - do not die'
[Sat Jan 14 22:15:38 2006] You tell your raid, 'ok we're going left - follow - tank 3 mezz rest - assist aaddx easy - don't die'
[Sat Feb 10 20:53:53 2007] You tell your raid, 'next mob is archetype again - we do it the same only this time, we don't die'
[Sat Feb 10 22:34:01 2007] You tell your raid, 'biggest train of undead wins - go get some - don't die, don't bring anything that might be ugly'
[Sat Mar 31 21:02:17 2007] You tell your raid, 'aggro on the snake will bounce like hell - just kill her and don't die'
[Sat Apr 14 22:54:14 2007] You tell your raid, 'there'll be a load of mobs outside the instance - just zone in - don't die :p'
[Sat Jun 16 20:15:21 2007] You tell your raid, 'i can't remember what his AE's are, what cures them, how bad they are, or anything else :) so let's pretend they don't exist, try not to die'
[Sun Sep 02 00:11:03 2007] You tell your raid, 'everyone will be in south except 7 and 8, you will burn south, you won't die'
[Sat Jun 28 20:52:29 2008] You tell your raid, 'your job is to aggro your mob and bring it into the cubby and then not die'
[Sat Jun 28 23:36:41 2008] You tell your raid, 'going to do this the same way, but not die as much'
[Sat Jul 05 22:38:17 2008] You tell your raid, 'stay on your feet - too close to die now'

Positive Encouragement

[Sat Jul 19 22:41:25 2008] You tell your raid, 'you're not allowed to die until you have no mana, no endurance and then no hitpoints'
[Sat Jul 19 20:24:12 2008] You tell your raid, 'if tanks get out of range for heals, just let them die, /tell [tankname] laugh you were out of range'
[Sat Feb 09 20:49:05 2008] You tell your raid, 'don't die, it'll be embarassing'
[Sun Oct 28 00:04:54 2007] You tell your raid, 'if you die it's your own fault :p'
[Sat Jul 29 21:23:29 2006] You tell your raid, 'if you die because you're not invis i'm gonna be really unhappy - 2 people last time'
[Sat Nov 27 23:26:24 2004] You tell your raid, '500pp to let him die'
[Sat Jul 30 23:22:28 2005] You tell your raid, 'anyone in plate who dies including clerics gets laughed at ok'
[Sat Aug 06 13:03:39 2005] You tell your raid, 'if you die, we laugh at you'
[Sun Feb 12 00:28:37 2006] You tell your raid, 'Hail the PP - if you died we laugh at you'
[Sat May 20 23:10:43 2006] You tell your raid, 'don't die to enrage or I'll kill you right after we rez you'
[Sat Feb 03 20:07:46 2007] You tell your raid, 'if you die, it will trigger a chain reaction of death and we will wipe'
[Sat Apr 14 20:59:02 2007] You tell your raid, 'every mob in here ENRAGES - based on our new policy - anyone who dies to ENRAGE buys me something nice in the bazaar for 10kpp+'
[Sat Jul 28 20:23:30 2007] You tell your raid, 'if you die to ENRAGE today, you get to clean my toilet with your toothbrush tomorrow'
[Sat Aug 04 20:23:53 2007] You tell your raid, 'ok follow please - anyone who dies does the dishes'
[Sat Aug 11 20:08:58 2007] You tell your raid, 'don't die in WoS, or we point and laugh'
[Sat Mar 08 21:56:00 2008] You tell your raid, 'if you can't cancel magic, don't bother, you're probably just gonna have to die ;)'
[Sat Mar 22 21:22:40 2008] You tell your raid, 'aug mobs inc soon, don't die to them, it's embarassing :p'
[Fri May 26 20:35:54 2006] You tell your raid, 'Jae died, we can laugh later'
[Sat Jan 07 23:42:20 2006] You tell your raid, 'which tank didn't die?'

Exasperated Encouragement

[Sat Mar 10 21:52:58 2007] You tell your raid, 'WHY DO YOU DIE TO ENRAGE?'