My Mum’s Eulogy

My Aunty Margot asked me to share my Eulogy. As I did for my Dad.

But, I wrote two Eulogies. The first, in the church was really my sisters’, the second, my own.

I include both.

One thing I’d like to say about my Holy Cross eulogy is that if you agree with my point about governments going to the ends of the earth to find a solution to Covid 19 (the economy virus) but don’t really care about Alzheimers (the affliction of the economic worthless) then rise up, speak up.

(I feel this may be a mission of mine now. )

Holy Cross.

What is dying?

A ship sails and I stand watching

till she fades on the horizon,

and someone at my side

says, “She is gone”.

Gone where? Gone from my sight,

that is all; she is just as

large as when I saw her…

the diminished size and total

loss of sight is in me, not in her,

and just at the moment

when someone at my side

says “she is gone”, there are others

who are watching her coming,

and other voices take up the glad shout,

“there she comes!” …and that is dying.

I hope you will forgive me for saving my personal reflections on my Mum’s life for Warriston, instead, here, I have chosen a few words from the writings of people I admire or people I know she loved to capture something of our Mum’s life.  I also have the thoughts of Jane and Emily to share with you.

I’ll start with Emily

What do I think about when I think about my mum?

Quiet strength.





But most of all love.

We never had money as everybody knows, and is plain to see in the photos from our childhood. Guileless Gormans in their hand-me-down flares and kagools, on their camping holidays in the rain.

But they were fun! And filled with love from the never-ending source that was my mother.

She spent her life supporting me, quietly, sagely.

Every hair-brained idea I came up with, be it travelling on an expedition to Indonesia at a time when things like that weren’t really the norm, or working in China with bears, she was right behind me, egging me on, when other people would have thought me daft or make me think it wasn’t possible.

Not my mum. She was behind me all the way and then by my side on many of my adventures!

I had been volunteering in China for 3 months when she came out to join me, solo. 

Only 9 months after Dad had died.

She was present for our bear rescue and I have never, before or since, seen compassion so evident on someone’s face, as she watched these beautiful, battered creatures arrive. 

Afterwards we travelled together through China, on our own against the world, armed only with a phrase book and a few snatched words I’d learned during my stay.

We treated ourselves to a fancy stay to visit the Great Wall of China, as the hotel had access to a private, unrestored section of the wall.  The trek was long and steep, through fairly thick bush, but mum, 71 with angina, would not be deterred!!

My enduring memory of her is her reaction when we reached the top. 

We were met with an eerie mist, shrouding the wall in beauty, the only two people in the whole wide world, or so it seemed to us. 

She raised both her walking poles in the air, and shouted ‘YES!’ to the heavens. Such an incredible moment, such utter beauty and her, there with me, and her quiet strength, resilience, compassion, fortitude., adventure!

But most of all love.

Night, night mum, God bless, sweet dreams.

In eight short months the world’s governments have thrown money at research into the plague we are enduring.  Covid 19 will be, if not defeated, then massively suppressed – because we made it a priority.

Dr Alois Alzheimer discovered his eponymous disease in 1906, yes 1906, but it took until 1983 for a drug to be developed, and since then, what?  Steady, modest progress, stymied by funding.  It may not be a plague, but it’s a pestilence.  It robs people of their dignity and it makes them very, very ill.  

If we can make so much progress on Covid 19 in under a year, is it too much to ask our governments to prioritise this living hell that affects so many of us?

This song is about Alzheimers, and was written by Lucy Spraggan.  It was performed quite recently by Hannah Scott. 

Jane and my Mum were there at her performance and it impacted both of them profoundly.

There she sat with her tea in the garden,
Didn’t remember why we were arguing.
The point had been lost, she forgot where it was,
So she told me the story again.

She had told me to look in the kitchen,
She said some of her things had gone missing.
They all had been stored where she kept them before.
It was only her mind that had changed.

She asked me
‘Where do you go, when your mind doesn’t work with your soul?
I have memories made.
Now I can’t put a face to a name.

Do you know who I am?
Where did I go?
And where have I been?
Do you know who I am?
All that I’ve loved and all that I’ve seen seems to go.’

I wanted to gift The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen to my Mum, I knew she’d have loved it, we shared a similiar taste in contemporary literature and this would have been a favourite, as it is to me.  

But it was too much.  The central character is suffering from Alzheimers and I decided it wasn’t fair to gift her a vision of a future that she would not welcome.  But this passage, for me, captures the essence of the novel and of the disease.

“By now it was too late to call St. Jude. He didn’t understand what had happened to him. He felt like a piece of paper that had once had coherent writing on it but had been through the wash. He felt roughened, bleached and worn out along the fold lines. He’d lost track of what he wanted, and since who a person was, was what a person wanted, you could say that he’d lost track of himself.” 

And from my hero, Nick Cave

I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Not to touch a hair on your head
To leave you as you are
And if He felt He had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms

And lastly from Jane…

Mrs Gorman, mum, grandma, Jean.

By whatever name you knew my mum…

Anyone who had the pleasure to know my mum knows of her extraordinary sense of style.

None of it was to do with money or high end price tags.  That was not what she was about.

She was the most individual of individuals .  

Her manner, elegance, flare, grace, panache, sophistication, self expression, and appearance spoke volumes to anyone who ever saw her.

Typically understated, never attention grabbing, never high fashion; however she was to me the living epitome of elegance and style.

I was mum’s right hand man when it came to new threads – we regularly shopped – most weekends – and we had a ball.  Every time. 

Her bible was the Sunday Times Style Magazine which she read every week right to the end.  She would clip out pictures and bring them when we shopped (normally we had a wee lunch first which somehow I always seemed to pay for – good skills mum) and then we would browse, feel, touch, decide.  

If I lost mum at the shops I just had to look for a stand with shiny things and there she would be – she loved a sparkle …I used to say she was a magpie.

Mum never left the house without her lippy on and her earrings in .  Her beloved Geraldine made so many beautiful pairs of earrings and did lots of repairs for mum – thank you Geraldine for helping add to the bucket loads of style.

As Yves Saint Lauren quoted “Fashions fade – style is eternal.”

Thank you mum for being the coolest, most sytlish, chic, elegant woman I will ever have the pleasure of knowing and thank you for letting me be your stylist.  I loved every single second of it.  

Good night mum, God bless, sweet dreams …..

At Warriston Crematorium I took the opportunity to take a more personal reflection on my own relationship with my mum.

Some say beauty is only skin deep. I beg to differ. 

I only have a few minutes to sum up my mum’s life, so I don’t intend to waste them telling you where she came in her home economics class, or how much she enjoyed her first job in the coal board.

The details of her life, anyone’s life, don’t really matter.  Instead, I want to try to paint a picture of her inner beauty, the bit that touched so many people’s lives, simply by caring. 

Apart from the deep love she had for her Mum, and especially her Dad, Bert, you only need to know one word to sum up her early years.


The sister she never had.  Her best pal ever.  The constant in her life. 

From their ice cream sundaes in Dunbar to double dating at the Palais, to toasting the Royal Wedding, to joining me, in singing Edelweis, as Mum slept away her last few days; she was always there.

Not only did Mum love Claire with all her heart, we do too. 

Mum’s stick thin allure predated the Shrimpton’s and the Twiggys of the 60s.  A vision astride her Vespa, almost androgynous.  

She was to marry into a very different world to her own; a solid middle class family home, where both parents, unusually for the time, worked.  That meant there was a bit of money for a single girl like my mum to visit the local dressmaker, Miss Gourlay, and run up her latest ‘idea’.

Peter, by contrast, was of rock solid working class stock.  

One of six, the Gormans ‘got’ being Catholic and answered the call.

His Hudson to her Hepburn.

My Dad’s eyes must have been out on stalks the first time she walked into the joint at some Catholic Youth Club in the wild west of the city.

My vision of this moment is pure Hollywood.  

A room turns silent, the jukebox needle bouncing and scratching across vinyl.  A turning of heads, clearing of throats as Pepsi bottles are laid down and Peter walks over to her.

“So, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

She turns her head, looks at him through half closed, coquettish eyes.

Motions to the dance floor.

He pulls her to his chest as they thrill the throng with a jive of surprising dexterity.

Cut to the end credits, rolling over images of a grand cathedral and the couple walking down the aisle to cascading Bach (the Phantom just visible in the eaves looking down approvingly.)

(Hitchcock might even have cheekily added a train scene.)

They married in 61 and delivered in 62, 65, 68 and 71.  Like clockwork.  All through the swinging sixties they brought us into being.  

And so began my mum’s second stage of life.  

The mother. 

Not just a mother to me, Jane, Sara and Emily; she welcomed into her arms with equal conviction and love; first Nik, then Jeana, then James. 

Grandchilden followed; Emma, Jack, Amy, Tom and Ria, then Denny.

Chris and Keir were embraced just as warmly, before her Great Grandchildren Woody and Bonny made their enthusiastic voices heard.  

Once again, her eyes shone with adoration.

She had class.  

And taste.

It was she who prepared the way, 20 years before me, for my love of French new wave cinema.  

She loved a subtitle.  love a subtitle.  

It was she who stood for eight hours in pouring rain to see Tutankhamen, 20 years before I did the same with my young bride, in the sweltering heat of the Cairo Museum.

It was she who bought me Gunter Grass’s Tin Drum, when everyone else was reading Adrian Mole.

It was she who argued, till blue in the face, that if she’d has some ham she’d have ham and eggs if she’d had some eggs, but Chris insisted if he had some eggs he’d have eggs and ham if he’d had some ham.

It was she who scraped up a few bob to take me to sit in the cheap seats, in fact not even the seats, for The Proms.

It was she who was my first stand-in for Jeana at The Lyceum, The Traverse, The Festival Theatre.

While my dad may have appealed to my inner Barnum and Bailey, it was my mum who stoked the Ibsen fire.

It was she who sat beside me in the Usher Hall as The Blue Nile entranced the world in one of their very rare live appearances.

It was she who sat beside me in a restaurant in La Manga, Spain, the day the infamous White Trouser ‘happening’ soiled my legacy. 

It was she who was at both of my daughter’s graduations and who taught Amy, Ria, Tom and Keir how to smoke massive stogies afterwards. Soused, all of us, in too much champagne, red wine and whisky.

It was she who read us Tolkein as our bedtime stories – she couldn’t get everything right.

At FCT, she was never the impresario, never the speech maker, but she was often the subject of their thanks:  As costume maker, as make up artist, as wine server, as author no less.  But you want to know a secret?  

As much as she loved what she had helped to create, there was a corollary too, because, for many years this veritable institution had made her a part time widow, long before she actually was.  

It was my Dad’s thing really. 

The truth is, she was happier in the audience than in the limelight.

That’s also why her renowned fundraisers may have been orchestrated by her, but it was my dad, and then me, that took to the spotlight.  She was in the counting house, counting out the money.

At her legendary January the First parties, that were like walking through the pages of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, it was my father who was upstairs providing the pomp, while my mum was downstairs delivering the circumstance in the kitchen.

Unseen, she was much happier when she was out and about, visiting those she felt were isolated and forgotten.  Endlessly trudging through stairwells and closes to visit elderly men and ladies, gifting them her time, her care, her chat.

Attending St Vincent de Paul meetings, planning the next Caravan clean up with my dad.  

Leaving a few things for a poor family.

Signing her endless direct debit forms to Animals in Asia, Osteoparotics in Oswestry and Water Diviners in Western Sudan.

It’s a real sadness for me, then, that the reason she finally agreed to give up her latchkey and move into care was that she was just felt so damned lonely.  

The parties were over. 

Maybe, we thought, she’d find them again in the communal areas of her new place.  

But no, not really.

For many though, it was the third stage of Mum’s life that caught their eyes, her age of elegance.  

Thrift shop bought, but elegance nonetheless.

Silver haired, the boyish 60’s cut was back.

It was, as Emily shared with us at Holy Cross, particularly notable for her exploration.  Her fridge door a magnetic cornucopia of memories of her travels to every continent in the world except South America (she conveniently didn’t seem to count the Arctics as continents) mostly with my Dad but sometimes with Emily, most notably to China, Liz and Bob too, for which I am extraordinarily grateful, and even alone.  

Before I conclude I have a few people I’d like to thank, firstly Jeana who did so much for my sisters and me.  

When we were all working she was there, looking after my Mum, caring for her like she was her own.  It meant so much to all of us that you could lift some of that insidious blanket of guilt that we weren’t doing enough ourselves.  And it meant so much to my Mum to see your patient, smiling face alongside the Grinch on the other sofa.

I’d like to thank Karen, Rosemary and Gus, all three, friends from different walks of life touching this horrible experience with creative beauty, giving of their time freely and unreservedly to make today so special.

And lastly I’d like to thank the many people who showed her loving professional care in her last year, the team at Northcare, the council care team and Cathy Jamieson, “Cathy Upstairs” who always had mum’s back.

I’ll end on this prayer that my friend Pauline sent me.

It seems a propos.

“The beautiful times are yours for always. 

For it is life that takes away, changes and spoils so often,

not death, which is really rather the warden – and not the thief – of our treasures.”

Details for our Mum’s funeral services.


It’s a very strange state to be.

It’s an old Catholic theological concept about the place babies go when they have only the original sin on their souls but haven’t done anything to deserve a spell in that waiting room called purgatory.

(It’s more complicated than that really.)

We’re all in Limbo right now, exacerbated by Covid and its dignity-sucking grip on our NHS, our care workers, our emergency services and our funeral industry.

It creates an extended period of contemplation and well, Limbo, where we can, on the one hand, come to terms with our grief but, on the other, pass into a suspended state of unreality.

I’ve felt for friends and family members who have passed through this in the last year: my dear Auntie Maureen who lost her husband, our Uncle Eddie; and our neighbours who suffered exactly what we are going through with a lost parent, but in another part of the country entirely.

It was awful, and now it’s our turn.

But, in a way it has been a blessing too, because it has given so many people the time to share with us, the family, their thoughts and kindnesses, and afforded us the time to read and absorb them in such a way that one or two have even made their way into the services that will see our Mum pass on from this world into her eternal happiness. (There wouldn’t have been time for that to happen in a pre-Covid world.)

We’re so grateful to you all for those little acts of thought and emotional kindness. For stopping what you were doing to really, genuinely, put down on paper, or in bits and bytes, your gracious and caring thoughts.

I guess this is all a rather dramatic way of leading to the funeral details, but I wanted to thank you all from my sisters, my family and myself.

It’s been a busy week, but we’ve settled on the following times on Saturday 30th January. (Of course, law states that only 20 can attend the mass and the committal, so I’m afraid it’s strictly invited close family only).

And please, no need for flowers.

We are not arranging anything in terms of a formal collection for charity but we know that people like to make their own personal gestures at these times. We were very grateful to the outreach support Mum received from Alzheimer’s Scotland, so you may wish to thank them too.

Father Hand will celebrate a short mass at Holy Cross at 10 am that will be broadcast on Youtube at the link below.

(Thank you to Angelo and Maciej for organising this and to Rosemary for offering to record the hymns.)

Click on the play arrow

The Committal Service will be held at Warriston Crematorium at 11 am and, like at my Dad’s funeral, we intend to walk behind the hearse from one to the other at 10.45 or so.

(Father Hand has asked that mourners do not attend the church grounds, but if you wish to pay your last respects it might be appropriate to stand alongside the route from Ferry Road to Warriston.)

The Commital service from Warriston will also be broadcast from the link below at 11am.

(We are so grateful to Gus Harrower for asking if we’d like some music played and he is recording two beautiful songs for us. We would also like to thank my friend, Karen Clarke, for her simple and elegant Order of Service design, lastly we would like to thank Yvonne, Grant and Mark at Porteous Funerals for their wonderful support.)

Click on the link and then enter the username and password
(The webcast has a 28 day playback, so you can watch it up to 28 days later.)
This is the Obitus sign on information. The service will begin broadcasting from 10.45 am and go live at 10.55 am on Saturday 30th January.

Jean Gorman (2 Aug 1936 – 16 January 2021) RIP.

Our Mum.  

She was quite the lady. 

I think that’s the word to best describe her.

A gentle soul with a heart of pure kindness.

A study in elegance.

But a tiny wicked streak that she never suppressed.  

Even the Althzheimer’s, that overtook her consciousness bit by greedy bit, sapping her of energy and her certainty didn’t devour her completely.

It spared her humour and kindness.

Our Mum passed away peacefully on Saturday.  

She went to sleep a week before that in her new home, never to reawaken.

Robbed of her last days and our goodbyes by a terrible fall that broke her hip.

I say robbed, but we said our farewells anyway. 

Even in this bleak Covid midwinter each of her four children were allowed a small time with her to say goodbye, God bless, sleep tight.

And then she was away, off to a welcome party in a place where she will be able to hear everyone and everything.  To help anyone that needs helping.  And, best of all, to sip a glass or two of wine with her beloved husband, Peter, the man she missed more than anything.  

She couldn’t be robbed of that love.  Oh no.

Her passing will be grieved by many, but, you know what, it’s not all bad.  

That wicked disease can’t grind away at her no more.

She died peacefully; loved, cherished, adored.

Her funeral is yet to be arranged but keep your eyes on here and I’ll let you know.

I’m sure it will hit your screens in some form.  

Of course, Covid will chasten the farewells of her many friends and admirers.

But please be reassured, her passing was calm, peaceful and pain free.  Something we must all rejoice in.

Me and my sisters thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your kind messages.

But she’s gone, gentle into that good night.

Lockdown Joy: A Playlist for you to enjoy and help me to build

Back in the first lockdown in Scotland in April last year I asked a whole bunch of my pals to send me the ONE SONG that filled them with joy whenever they were feeling down.

Now that we are facing the short days and dark nights of January it seems only right to share this with a wider audience and make it collaborative. (That means anyone can add songs to it, so please do.)

So, if you have Spotify you can help me build this further, or just relax and enjoy it.

It’s deliberately eclectic. No-one’s joy is universal, but there should be something in here for everyone.

Please enjoy. Please share. Please contribute.

Please Please Me.

Here’s the link…

Is Trump’s cowardly and juvenile decision to sidestep Biden’s inauguration actually something more sinister?

Trump Inauguration: Crowd Smaller Than Obama's | Time
My rowd’s bigger than your crowd.” Trump’s first big lie in 2017.

Of course we all hate a bad loser and we’ve seen the Guinness Book of World Records’ demonstration of that in the past month, and so it makes me wonder if Biden’s inauguration is a bad idea, in public that is.

We’ve already seen the seditionists atop the partly built temporary stage at the Capitol Building and I fear Trump’s message, in not showing up, is a veiled “It’s OK boys , I won’t be there, run amok.”

For three reasons I think this event should be abandoned:

  1. Because of Covid, numbers will be down anyway and Trump will gleefully compare his inauguration numbers with Biden’s (ignoring the photographs, as he did in 2017, of Obama’s).
  2. There’s a pandemic on. We don’t need crowds.
  3. See above.

Joe, you won, you know you won. Do it small, indoors, at the White House with the TV cameras. Please.

The brighter side of America.

We’ve been rightly horrified by the apex (judging from his post event conciliatory tone, I think it was the apex) of Trump’s scandalous destruction of his, the GOP’s, and now America’s, global reputation.

I, for one, hope Trump’s reign ends in some form of history defining legislation: Impeachment? 25th Amendment? Jail?

But let’s put to that side for a moment.

For, in the midst of it all, we almost overlooked Trump’s greatest failure. His high point in ineptitude.

The loss of the Presidency, the inability to recapture the House and now the unthinkable loss of the Senate.

When Trump came to power in 2017 The Senate majority for the Republicans was 52 :45 with an unfilled seat (and 2 independents).

At his mid term elections the gap closed to 51:46.

As of today it’s 50:50 with a de facto majority because the VP has the casting vote.

You have to go back to 2011 to find a blue senate.

But what makes this most extraordinary is that “Down the Ballot” in November, where House and Senate, as well as Presidential, votes are cast, the Republicans didn’t do as badly as expected.

There was what’s known as ‘split ticket voting’ where, essentially, people voted in larger numbers for a Democratic President (Biden) but in their local ‘constituency’ they reverted to their true party of choice, Republican.

Indeed, even in Georgia David Perdue, the sitting Republican senator, was a gnat’s hair away from regaining his seat when the vote was ‘down the ticket’.

He needed a clear 50% to win the post but reached only 49.73%, which triggered a run off.

In the other Georgian run off seat Raphael Warnock topped a long list of 21 candidates polling 32% against runner up, with incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler on 26%. Loeffler was expected to win the run off.

But what happened next was that Georgia went from being a Senate “down the ticket” parochial matter into a national matter that bore the names of Trump and Biden, every bit as much as Ossof, Loeffler, Warnock and Perdue.

No longer “down the ticket” the Democratic machine enticed many, many black voters to register for the first time and the result, on Tuesday night, was a further popular rebuttal of Trumpism as much as an endorsement of Biden.

As soon as Trump was the main attraction he let his party down, yet again, and now we see an historic outcome.

A black Pastor and a Jewish Man elected to the US Senate – from the Deep South of America.

It’s a remarkable outcome and it means Trump has given the Democrats the much sought Trifecta of House, Senate and Presidency. Not total power, because the senate is a difficult beast to influence. Some bills need 60% approval and that means non partizan voting, plus the left wing of the Democratic party will be empowered by this and could ‘ransom’ Biden and Harris on some issues.

But, and it’s a big but, it gives Biden total freedom with his cabinet, it means he can pass a much stronger financial bill to aid America out of the Covid crisis that Trump caused (and refused to financially aid) and it gives him unrestricted power to appoint judges.

Its a great outcome for democracy, particularly in a Southern state where a disciple of Martin Luther King now sits in the US senate and a Jewish man makes history in a state that would not be top of the expected list to have achieved this.

Let’s pause and tip our hats to democratic America. Where, in the midst of mayhem, it’s clear that insanity is not entirely the norm.

White riot – I wanna riot. White riot – a riot of my own. (America’s night of shame.)

The scenes at the Capitol building last night were shocking.

But they were at their most shocking because of what we did not see as what we did.

Four people died.

The inner sanctum of democracy was ransacked and mocked.

But, for four hours, rioters were essentially left to their own devices.

Little police presence.

No National Guard to be seen.

Compare it to this. The steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the #BlackLivesMatter protests in June last year.

Now, partly this is because Trump did not wish to break up his own seditious riot, but more insidiously it’s because white rioters are seen as less of a threat to democracy in the USA than black.

And that’s because, at its core, the USA is fundamentally racist as a democracy. There’s one democracy for Whites, another for Blacks.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me here. I am NOT repeat NOT saying that all white Americans are racists – that’s patently not the case – but they are living in a ‘democracy’ where the dice is so loaded in their favour as to make equality an often empty vessel of rhetoric rather than a fundamental reality.

In the UK we have our fair share of this too, and I applaud Steve McQueen for his outstanding dramatisation of this in his Small Axe anthology of films. The Mangrove, in particular, shows that when it comes to rioting (or in this case incitement to riot) the black voice of democracy is essentially ‘banned” and deemed a “threat to the state”.

But yesterday was the day that sealed this in perpetuity.

White people trashing the heart of American democracy whilst the police stood by?

That’s not right is it?

Can you even begin to imagine the response were this an attack to have been initiated by an organised black protest voice?

I can.

The US may celebrate the end of Jim Crow but it’s clear to me there’s two levels of tolerance in America and the colour of ones’ skin determines where the threshold sits.

So, what you gonna do about it America?


How my Dry January turned into a Dry 2020.

Dry January | Alcohol Change UK
Why stop at a month? Set your goals higher.

As alcohol consumption rose throughout 2020 and home drinking (my norm) became everyone else’s norm I am pleased to say I bucked the trend.

Here’s how.

It all started in January with my now regular detox. I’ve been a fan of Dry January for several years and in 2018 my Dry Jan ran until June before I cracked in Italy.

I had piled the pounds on in 2019 and so as my 60th birthday started to focus on my horizon I felt it was time to, once and for all, do something about it after a good effort a decade earlier.

Imagine my horror as I tipped the scales heavier than I had in 2012.

So, Dry Jan was going to be a good focusing point for the start of the diet and, of course, it’s good to have that annual break from the bevvie, isn’t it?

As expected, I successfully negotiated the month (few social distractions) and so ploughed on with the diet (and the dry bit towed along with it). February came and went without much incident and as March kicked off, well, it ALL kicked off. At that point I said to myself I’d stay dry until after the ‘lockdown’ that began on March 26th. By now I was three stone to the good.

I’d also decided to move to a veggie diet (not vegan) in January and I was feeling the benefit of that too.

And as the weight dropped my exercise increased. Mainly walking, but every day. It was having a compound effect.

Well, lockdown came and went, but we hadn’t seen off the virus, so I stuck with it. My birthday in May was negotiated with ease. The distractions of Glastonbury and PrimaveraSound in June were both dispensed with, as they were both cancelled, as was our summer holiday.

Six months in and it was feeling good. Now four and a half stone better off.

Summer turned to autumn. I was now fit and running half marathons and cycling anything up to 85 miles in a trip. The weight continued to fall, peaking at 6 and a half stone.

By now I was into the normal BMI zone and had shed 94 lbs.

I’ve put some on since then, (cheese) but no more than half a stone, so I’m in a good place in that respect.

Of course, not everyone respects your decision to go dry and that’s been a challenge. For some, it seems to be some sort of weakness; not drinking. I faced the same problem in 2018 when I went six months dry. But you just need to rise above the criticism and hold your nerve. You’ll overcome that insidious social pressure to conform. But it’s difficult and unneccessary.

The next hurdle was Christmas and New Year and that’s where I relented. I shared most of a bottle of whisky with Keir and Ria on Christmas Day and I had a smaller tipple on New Year’s Eve, but nothing else.

I enjoyed the whisky. But not THAT much. I didn’t enjoy the day after, AT ALL.

It’s now Jan 6th 2021 and I’m 1 year and 2 days into my self imposed drought.

I feel great, no hangovers, much more energy, better sleep, clearer thinking.

I’ve discovered great alcohol-free alternatives and enjoyed many social events without the need for a drink.

And so it’s Dry Jan #2. Bring it on.

I realise some people will not have had the same success in tackling the bevvie, but I’m happy to share my experience in more detail if you think I can be of any assistance/encouragement. Just get in touch.

Of course, my weight loss had very little to do with coming off the booze, although it helped initially. If you’d like a fuller report on what I’ve been up to you can read an older post I wrote here.

And if you want real professional help my daughter Amy is a hugely successful health and nutrition coach and you can get help from her here. I know many people who have benefitted from her thoughtful and bespoke training and encouragement. (Including me!)

You can do it. You just need to start.

Good luck.

Saint Frances: Movie Review.

A great way to kick of 2021 was to watch one of Mark Kermode’s top 10 of 2020 on Netflix

This lovely American Indie movie, Saint Frances, written by and starring Kelly O’Sullivan. Nope, me neither.

It’s the story of a 30 something ‘girl’ who’s pretty much failed in life so far, who simultaneously gets a new boyfriend who gets her pregnant but is happy with her undertaking a quick abortion (and go halfers on the fee), and lands a summer job as a nanny for a six year old kid who has mixed race lesbian parents.

The kid’s a brat and is running through nannies.

So you know how this all gonna pan out right?

Well, not really. What we embark on is a fairly, but not overly, emotional study in female empowerment (and actually entitlement because one of the moms is a pretty high achieving ball buster), loneliness, self-worth and social value.

The one guy in the movie isn’t cast asunder as unimportant but he plays a side role. He’s a good guy actually.

The four-way Mom, mom, nanny, kid (and a new baby which makes suppressed Mom, depressed Mom) dynamic is complicated and rarely sees the main protagonist played by O’Sullivan in a position of strength. Meanwhile her abortion has some fairly gross out complications although none that derail the narrative.

It’s actually a bit of a comedy but it’s a lot more than that. It’s certainly bittersweet, but sweet enough.

Hugely thought provoking with several powerful central performances, a strong exploration of issues that face women today (one critic said it was too woke for its own good but I disagree) and a few really good laughs along the way.

What’s not to love?

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld: Book Review.

Book review: Curtis Sittenfeld's Rodham imagines Hillary not marrying Bill  Clinton, Arts News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

“One might say that the publication of a novel takes a village” says Curtis Sittenfeld in the acknowledgements of her sixth novel, Rodham. But in the case of Rodham one could easily expand this acknowledgement way beyond a village, to a nation and perhaps more accurately; a gender.

Because this is a book that every American woman should read and feel that, whether persecuted or empowered, this novel was written for them.

And then every American man should be made to read it as punishment. As a warning that what we have taken for granted (first dibs at opportunity) might not , should not, last forever.

In a year where Black Rights have dominated the non-Covid news this is a book about women’s rights and it seems appropriate that this, and Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys were, by a long chalk, the most compelling ones I’ve read.

This novel doesn’t just ooze restrained moral authority, it takes those that flaunt sexual democracy by the bollocks and kicks shit out of them.

This is the feminist book that makes feminism real, for all.

It’s an unbelievable achievement in writing.

And yet it’s so, so damn prosaic. It’s so, so kind of uneventful.

Despite its monumental subject matter and the giddy heights to which it aspires, and attains, the fact it’s written as a kind of diary, where the author never tires of listing the most banal aspects of a setting, again and again, without ever boring the reader, makes it firstly seem real and secondly incontrovertible. Hillary Clinton would never tell us about the time her aide wiped a snotter from her nose before she went on stage for a speech unless it was real/true. Right?

In roller coaster terms it reaches the zenith but then never drops, suspending you above reality in a construct so simply but brilliantly inconceivable that it seems it must be true.

It’s difficult to explain, without telling you the story, how brilliant Sittenfeld is at taking a fantasy, making it a reality and then laughing to herself as you try to unravel the one from the other.

Time and again I found myself stopping to marvel that this was, you know, all made up.

But let’s pause in this gushorama.

Let’s start from the beginning.

The pitch is this. “Rodham. What happened after Hillary didn’t marry Bill Clinton.”

And that’s it.

Except it’s not. Sittenfeld could have gone loopy on us, could have stretched her political imagination beyond any horizons we have to adhere to in reality.

Instead she writes Hillary Rodham’s autobiography, in the first tense, including, you know, that time she had Bill bring her off on a freeway, while he was driving. That time he… (I’ll save it for you to find out the other often quite sordid, eyebrow raising details).

So far, so titillating. But, titter ye not.

This a work of absolute seriousness. The autobiography (except it’s not) of the famous wife of a famous philanderer, but the most popular, and let’s face it, most handsome philander on the planet. A philanderer she married and stood by through thick and thin.

Except, not here. Because she didn’t marry him. Not here.

Why not?

I ain’t tellin’.

One third of the novel takes us up through her girlhood up to the point of her not marrying Bill Clinton. The next two thirds follow the consequences.

Would either go on to political success?

Would they remain in contact?

Would their parting of the ways influence American politics?

Would Donald Trump rise to the heights that he did (the one spoiler I will give you is that Trump makes several cameo appearances to great humorous effect)?

Would there, in fact, even BE any consequences? After all, in this history it was simply an imagined (but real) relationship between two law students. One extremely handsome. One extremely clever.

Even though the entire novel is a fiction it is teasingly stitched together with truths. Real things that did happen but, in the words of Eric Morecambe, “just not necessarily all in the right order”.

It really is a breathtaking literary achievement with deft touches like (How Marvellous!) – a diary entry of an impressionable teen – but it’s not a diary entry, (how disappointing!) it’s the autobiography of one of the most famous women in the world. But it’s not.

Twice Sittenfeld evokes the vision of a cerulean sky. In a novel of plain speaking it is a word that stood out to me, that sent me scurrying to Google dictionary. It’s use was allowable.

It’s also prescient. She was published in early 2020, but there’s an important reference in it to Kamala Harris, Kamala was only appointed Biden’s Vice Presidential candidate in August 2020. There were 5 or 6 women in the running for that role, most notably Katherine Warren, But Sittenfeld doesn’t write her in. She writes in Harris. And Harris wasn’t even the only black woman in the running. So it’s not sleight of hand. I repeat, it’s prescience.

You’ll need some basic knowledge of American politics to get the most out of this. I have a little more than average for a non-American and that helped me, but I’m pretty sure you’ll get the point if your knowledge only stretches to the big names we all know.

I don’t know Sittenfeld. I don’t know her work. But I’ll certainly be looking out her back catalogue after this.

Absolutely 10 out of 10 and thank you Helen Howden for spotting this and lending me it to read.

A gift from above.

Amazing Grace: Film review.

Amazing Grace [Official Trailer] - In Theaters April 5, 2019 - YouTube

The thing that marks out this spectacularly honest documentary is Aretha Franklin’s melancholia.

It’s as if she’s been transported there by another being. Her God? She is so in the moment. So devoid of ego, unlike her entourage, as to make it a truly ‘religious’ experience, not just for her but for the viewer too.

The melancholia manifests itself as a lost look. Separated from the action, the film making onluy there for one reason. To sing.

And there is zero theatrics. Zero showmanship. Zero bullshit.

just an honest to goodness outpouring of singing as best as she can muster and her best will just have to be good enough. Cos that’s all she’s got.

I’ve never seen a music documentary so compellingly believable about the motivations of its maker, that motivation appears to be the love of her God and her fellow humankind.

It’s quite remarkable.