My family and other mammals



“Thanks for all the fish.”

Some of the most amazing things can happen right in front of your eyes, only if you realise they’re happening. If you’re not paying attention, they can just happen and be gone, without you realising that they were practically up your nose. It was 44 years before I finally smelled the coffee.

As a recent convert to vegetarianism, and having read a lot on the subject, I am of a mindset where I see other mammals as simply non-human animals. I had to conclude that the animals I was eating were autonomous, self-determining beings with a conscience. My personal conscience would not allow me to eat another being, any more than I would want to eat one of my family.

I’ve been sober now for two years and the thing I wonder most about life now, is why I tried to block it out for so long, when life can be a wonderful thing. Sure, my depression is sometimes debilitating but that provides a contrast and makes me appreciate the nice things, family and friends among them.

Yesterday was a chance to spend a few hours with my parents at my place. Nowadays, we discuss family first, then we meander off into sometimes fascinating territory. Yesterday we discussed politics and history, among other things. Just occasionally, the old man drifted off, like dads do. The mother ship carried on talking, like mums do. I just floated along on the moments: Happy, sad; Proud and grateful.

In a few weeks, I’m looking forward to some very special family time, when myself and my kids are staying at my parents’ for a week: As recently as even a year ago, this would not have happened because I was still in recovery. We have a few things planned, including a trip to London. The kids have already expressed a preference to visit Tate Modern, my favourite place in the universe which I currently know of. Mum’s interested too. Wherever we end up, I’ll be a kind of sandwich filling: the middle of three generations. I’ve also promised my mum that we will resurrect an old tradition if I’m successful at my upcoming PIP tribunal (I won the last time I took on the Department for Work and Pensions): I will take her to see a West End show. She’s always wanted to see Les Miserables on the West End stage and I don’t mind seeing it a third time.

My parents gave me a gift: My DNA; An IQ of 147, a thirst for knowledge and an ability to translate it all into words. They’re proud of what I’ve become: They tell their friends that their son is a writer; They gave me the very typewriter (A Windows 10 laptop) which allows me to convey all of this. Three years ago, I was drunk; I had been for a long time. Then something strange happened: I eventually realised, at the age of 44 and with the benefit of sobriety, what life is all about. I can’t explain it; But I can convey it. I’ll always be an alcoholic but I know that I’ll never lapse, because of what I’ve seen.

I’ve witnessed many things, including quite a few of my own making: I write stories now and people love them. If I was still drinking, I wouldn’t be able to do that. Right now I’m in a literary hot tub of my invention, aboard a very small intergalactic craft, with a group of manatees, discussing the benefits of them being the most spherical animals on earth (What a wonderful thing to be). I’m writing a companion story for Cyrus Song. It’s called Cyrus Choir:

“…I dined alone that evening. I tried to place the enormity of that day into some sort of context. But even though I’m a writer, there were insufficient words to explain it, no matter how numerous and intertwined I made them. Less is more in literature. I’d listened to animals talking. My life: String theory in a Pot Noodle.

Given what I was contemplating and what I was eating – because the two were separate – it occurred to me to check the ingredients of my dinner; I’m a vegetarian, after all. A quick scan of the pot and a spoonerism reassured me: Not poodle…”

I’ve been asked where the title for Cyrus Song came from, because the words aren’t repeated in the story. As always, I have a reason and although I like to make readers think, this one was a bit tenuous. Cyrus Song was inspired by a number of things and a few people: A girl I know; a fight with a fruit fly zooming around my screen; and a song: Keep Talking, by Pink Floyd, AKA Cyrus Song and featuring the voice of Professor Stephen Hawking:

“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination: We learned to talk.”

The rest is a work in progress. Life’s what you make it and although I wouldn’t recommend the route I took, I’m glad it deposited me here.

All we have to do is make sure we keep talking.

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