Had a visit from my Father over the weekend. Nothing terribly unusual about that: he occasionally rings to see if we’re in then pops around. But never without a purpose. We’re not blindingly close. We don’t have the in-each-others-pockets-best-mates-as-well-as-family relationship some other parent/child combos have. He and my mother split up when I was in my early teens, and we didn’t see much of each other for a few years afterwards, and even when the family had been together he was the figure behind my mother, the one who paid for everything and coached the soccer team and drove us on holidays… but I don’t have many memories of him being the one to take the lead, to get down on the floor with us and build Lego or learn the words of the songs we were listening to or anything of that ilk.

It’s not a criticism. Not any more. More an observation of what the 1970s gave my family. It informs my own parenting. I know my Serena Gomez from my Ninjago.

But my Dad has been in and out over the years, and privately, Luscious and I have always expressed the smallest disappointment in how much time he spends with his grandchildren. It’s as if he doesn’t remember them if they’re not right in front of him, we’d say. This Christmas, he left one of their names’ off the Christmas card altogether. Typical.

Yeah. About that.

Turns out he’d been noticing. Was feeling his mind wandering. He’d be halfway through conversations with his mates and forget what he was talking about. “Hang on, I’ve just popped out. Be back in a moment,” became a standard joke. Then became a standard saying. Then, basically, stopped being funny.

So he came round to tell me, while dropping in Easter eggs for the kids the week after the event: he’s seen a doctor.

Turns out, his brain is shrinking. Physically getting smaller. Now, 15 minutes of Google research and I’ve learned that your brain does shrink slightly as you get older. Normal brain shrinkage is the price we pay for an extended lifespan. Dad’s nearly 70, so some is to be expected. Put simply, it doesn’t, in itself, kill you.

What my father has, will. The shrinkage is likely the result of a serious head injury at some stage in his life. Dad says he can think of three he’s suffered. It’s accelerated, and uneven, and it is going to kill him. The prognosis is 8 years. 8 years of vocabulary loss, diminishing mental capacity, increasing forgetfulness and confusion. My father, for all his faults, is a charming, quick-witted, thoroughly engaging conversationalist with a massive fund of general knowledge and a genuine joy of speech. This will torture him– is torturing him already– until he no longer remembers what he once was.

We may not be the closest father-son relationship. But he’s still my Dad. For a short while.


Thank you to everyone who joined us at Stefen’s Books this last Saturday to help launch Marching Dead. A fabulous time was had, with a smattering of readings, a plethora of signings– including my first ever autograph in invisible ink (ask Carol Ryles)– and as always, when catching up with friends and colleagues, brilliant conversation. Books were sold, a simply amazing window display was sighted, and all in all I came away feeling like a special and pampered little writer boy, the better for being able to do it all in front of Lyn (who was too sick to come to the Corpse-Rat King launch) and my kids for the first time.

My thanks to Stefen Brazulaitis for hosting the event, and to everyone who came along and picked up a book or two.

So, to let you know what you missed out on if you didn’t make it it, here are some photies:

Author boy, with books. Oh, do say mine is the prettiest, teacher!

I may be slightly biased, but I say this is the most amazing window display ever.

A pile of corpses, all stacked up.

If a joke’s funny once: a pile of dead, all stacked up.

Jovial author boy.

With the family, mugging it up. Our ‘Ian Dury & the Blockheads’ moment.

With the inimitable and indomitable Stefen.

Signing with the aid of the Junior Helper Squad

I promise to owe the bearer….

Milling crowd mills.

I don’t know what they’re talking about, but I can make jokes about it all day…

Enjoying the reading. I hope.

Friends and mentors, Stephen Dedman and Dave Luckett, power-chat, while Sally Beasley looks on indulgently because she knows who really has all the power.

The photographer gets all artistic about it…

And if I thought the occasion couldn’t get any better, these little darlings arrived on my doorstep while I was at work yesterday. Admittedly, most of them will go out to awards panels and the like, but even so, it all looks damned pretty to me 🙂