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Intimations of Mortality

By Mike Cunningham On July 6th, 2015 at 11:47 am

I re-made my will this week. When I say re-made, I went to a professional; a solicitor, who happily pointed out the pitfalls of home-made legal documents, laughed gently and signed me up. When a man gets to my time of life, and have seen the signs, and read the runes, you get the message that it might be the best thing to get your affairs in order. I also commenced the generation of a Lasting Power of Attorney so that , if my time comes early, my wife’s affairs are in the hands of my daughter and my sons; and not subject to the whims of the so-called civil servants who run an uncaring, cold and grasping Court of Protection.

After signing my Last Will and Testament, I thought it appropriate to meander through nine-odd years of blogging, and to select the one post which ‘rang all the bells’ for myself at least. I have written, harangued, fulminated, and wondered; but the Post which did indeed make me proudest is one regarding the most precious beings I have nurtured; namely, my family. I reproduce it here, just because!


A true panorama


Once in a while, when I view my world in a rosy light, and consider what my life and my world has given me, instead of what I have lost, I take the time to glance out my front door; and view the true glories which could not have been captured by a Constable, or a Canaletto, because those views last all too briefly.



I balance the positives and the true treasures of my own life, which can be catalogued as three strong, intelligent, successful and vibrant adult family members, along with the added bonus of three noisy grandsons; against the negatives, of which I have written previously.

I hope, when the time comes for remembrance, and for long after, my sons and daughter will speak of me kindly, remembering my awful jokes in between reminiscence  of a man, and a father, who did his best.


what comes for us all

By Mike Cunningham On May 3rd, 2015 at 8:29 pm

For reasons which are purely personal, I was forced to place my wife of some forty-seven years, ill now for many years, invalid herself and unable to move without assistance, into a ‘Care Facility’ about a week ago; and to leave her there in the possibly-tender clutches of others until I get my own medical priorities sorted and hopefully cleared up. I am now faced with appointments and schedules dictated by a faceless and careless NHS bureaucracy, running as we all know and have to accept as ‘the best in the world’ Health Service: which means that I have to be at a certain hospital at that time, and no other; I have to be at the surgery for more ‘tests’, I have to be a ‘free agent’, with the ability to travel or stay without having to arrange competent help for my wife.

So allow me to shed a bright light on how we treat the elderly memories of our lives, those people who gave unstintingly of their own lives so that we might relax on a Sunday, care free and without a worry in the sky. I have three tales to tell, three places which might explain my annoyance, my anger,
and yes, the futile hope that; by writing these few lines: I just might make a change in the way and manner with which the true discards of our ‘ever-so-caring’ society are treated.

I was working down in London some fifteen years ago, when a friend of mine asked me to do him a favour, and visit an old-aged-home, and to do an electrical upgrade tender, as he wasn’t able to leave his own project in Wales. I agreed, he sent me the documents, and I set off to a Council-run ‘home’ in Hackney, or Islington; I forget which, but that is unimportant. The scenes which greeted my eyes will never be forgotten as I walked through the doors of what, in truth, is probably waiting for us all, or at least those of us who haven’t got a small liquid trust fund tucked away in the tax-haven named Jersey. Read the rest of this entry »

For Jacqueline.

By Mike Cunningham On November 17th, 2014 at 1:22 pm

At the ripe age of 74, I honestly thought that there were no more surprises in my life, but there is, indeed; no fool like an old fool.

myjacquelineMy wife’s mother died a couple of weeks ago, and the wider family gathered for her cremation, without my presence: because my wife is ill, and she depends upon me for everything; but my eldest son and my daughter attended both the cremation service and the gathering afterwards.

One of the things produced to celebrate my mother-in-law’s life was a video compilation of photographs taken over her life-span, which was 94 years; and I received a copy. I played the whole show, and suddenly, I was taken back in time to the evening that I first met my future wife. One family photo, which I had never seen before, showed her in the midst of the photo, but she was wearing the very dress which she wore when we first met. We met in the Empire Ballroom in Leicester Square; we met, and I knew within ten seconds that this was, indeed, the girl for me. The smile on her face in the photo was the same as I remembered watching in fascination as we danced, and talked, and danced again. The video photo is unavailable at present, but I shall find it, and I shall hold it as close as the woman whose smile still reminds me why we married, all those years ago.

The ravages of illness have not been kind to my love, but, occasionally, very occasionally, I see the light in her eyes which attracted me to the woman who has borne my children and been my companion for over forty-seven years.

A card with a difference.

By Mike Cunningham On December 21st, 2013 at 4:15 pm


marco card001



As I gaze at my mantelpiece this afternoon, crowded as it is with family photos and Christmas cards  from old friends and family, my eyes are drawn, again and again, to one particular card. It is not glossy, or covered with tinsel, or even featuring holly, sleighs, reindeer or a slightly-mythical bearded figure all dressed in red, trimmed with white fur.


Instead the cover of this small card comes with the imprint of a small boy’s idea of the outline of his Grandfather’s head ( I think) and he struggled with where my ear should be, because he scribbled over the first position and settled for a new one.


I know that the spade work is done by computer graphics, along with micro-electronics, but this card says all there is to be said at this time of year. My grandson Marco Michael wrote his name beneath those of his Mummy and Daddy, and who can argue with the innocence of childhood?


To all those who read these words, and who have read my posts throughout the past year; I hope and wish that you have the peace and happiness which comes with true contentment, and that you all have a truly Happy Christmas, and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.


Mike Cunningham


Granddad’s portrait

By Mike Cunningham On June 26th, 2013 at 2:22 pm





I reckon my five year-old grandson has captured the total ‘Je ne sais quois’ of my face and features, although strangely missing out on the full beard and moustache which I have worn just about all of my life. He has caught the white hair, but somehow my eyes have been ‘greened’; perhaps because my Grandson knows of my devotion to all things ‘Green’!

Yet another viewpoint.

By Mike Cunningham On February 24th, 2013 at 5:05 pm

In late November of last year, I consulted the Oracles, scanned T’Internet and of course spoke to she of all knowledge, namely my son’s wife, regarding the suitability of a present which I was thinking of deputising Santa to deposit near the fireplace carpet usually occupied by my 2nd Grandson. As he is now approaching five years old, I was wondering if a decent telescope would be suitable for his hands and mind, and after due discussion, the arrangements were made.

I received an updated situation report when I asked my grandson this afternoon if he had managed to look at the moon through his new telescope.

I was left in no doubt as to the suitability of my small gift when this small boy’s eyes seemd to widen like saucers, as his reply came back; “Grandad, it was Gigantic!”


Not the ‘look how well we’re doing’ letter time again!

By Mike Cunningham On January 8th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

We have relatives in America. My wife’s cousin married an American serviceman, and moved to the ‘Home of the Brave’ some short while before we ourselves married. The American branch has thrived, and are now at the grandchildren stage, much as we are, but maybe a little more advanced.

My wife’s cousin is now, after such a long time, indistinguishable from a native-born resident, complete with accent, style of speech and manners, and all this is good, because she has embraced the American dream; and life has been mainly good to her and her family. But the one American trend, adopted by my family cousin, which gets trotted out, every year for as long as I remember, is the dreaded ’round-robin’ letter. Late December into early January, we here as well as wider outposts of our far-flung family get a ‘Missile’ missive telling, or rather almost gloating; about how good everything is, and has been over the last year.

We are supposed to be enchanted about XXXX, who is in some baseball team (winning, naturally), or YYYYY, who is now involved in ‘Interpretive Dancing’, whatever that is; and to rejoice in her fantastic devotion to this ‘Art’, despite the fact that last year she was utterly devoted to some other load of codswallop! Other paragraphs detail how successful family members have been, or are becoming, and how good life is, and on, and on, and indeed on!

I am daft about my grandchildren, and happily supply links to all the extended family members to the web-albums, all well populated with pix of the three ‘wunderkinder’, but that is as far as I go. My kids are all grown, fled the nest, and are making their way in the world. If they wish to tell something of their achievements., fair enough, but let’s not make a meal out of it.

How can I tell my cousin that ‘enough is indeed enough’?

Answers to anyone but me!

Fruit Shortcake?

By Mike Cunningham On December 2nd, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I sit in front of my computer, adjacent is the dining table full of the detritus of Sunday’s lunch. We had two of my grandsons come visiting, bringing with them of course my son and his wife, otherwise known as Mummy and Daddy. For a couple of hours, my world was lit up by the infectious grin and captivating smiles of those two small boys. What we ate, and what we talked about is irrelevant, as that afternoon was complete once they came through the door; one jumping, as all five-year-old dynamos do, the other safe and smiling in his Daddy’s arms.

As five-year-olds also do, he has decided that heaven, or rather dessert, consists of chocolate biscuits; not ice-cream, nor fruit and cream. But of course disaster had struck, as absent-minded Granddad had not purchased a pack of ‘Hobnobs’ specifically for the lips and tongue of one small boy. I offered ice-cream, or fruit, and as a last resort came up with ‘ordinary biscuits’.

So I am seated in front of my computer, next to me is a saucer holding two chewed remnants of shortcake biscuits, because as every five-year-old also knows, all raisins baked into biscuits are to be avoided like they were diseased. I sit here, with a silly smile all across my face, as the house has become quiet again; but it is a quiet which holds the memory of yet another perfect Sunday, when smiles, and toys, and biscuits rule above all.

An argument, and a memory

By Mike Cunningham On November 19th, 2012 at 9:59 am

As my own family will testify, I have strong views on many things, and over the years I have altered my position on very few.

As some at ATW may remember, I wrote of my brother’s death in the final days of May. He died with his friends around his bed, together with my brother who had travelled down from the North-East.

We had not spoken for over a year, as my brother and I had argued; the reasons for our arguments are not important, but he was similarly annoyed, so we just stopped answering the phone.

I still believe that my stance was correct, but wish we had not broken the way we did!

We had our laughs, as families do, but we were both as stiff-necked as they come.


By David Vance On August 4th, 2012 at 8:45 am

We live at a time when Mum and Dad, Mother and Father, Husband and Wife, are slowly but surely being erased from the vocabulary and the structure of our society. For decades now, the liberal Left have portrayed Single Parents as heroic – almost role models. And guess what? Yes, when you do that you get more of them, so many more of them…

Single-parent families are now so common that couples living with their children are the minority in some parts of the country. Data shows there are seven Parliamentary constituencies where single-parent families make up the majority of households. There are close to 2million single-parent families in the UK and we have the highest proportion of children brought up in one-parent families of any major European country.

Now then, I KNOW there can be many reasons for a single parent family. Obviously the early death of a partner can cause this. An abusive relationship can be another. However..

Jill Kirby, a social policy expert and former director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said: ‘Children need input from both parents in order to thrive. Research shows children growing up in fatherless homes are much less likely to do well at school and are at twice the risk of getting into problems with drink or drugs, or involved in crime. The UK welfare system has been partly to blame, by providing a substitute breadwinner rather than encouraging parents to stick together.

That sums it up. Daddy is more often than not absent.  The decline of marriage has accompanied this rise in one parent families. The ease of separation has also facilitated this decay. In certain communities, such as the Black community, there is a particular problem with almost 50% of babies born to single parents.

Is there a political angle to this?

“In 1996 – the year before Labour came to power with tax and benefit policies based on the doctrine that all kinds of families are equally acceptable – 38.7 per cent of babies of British-born mothers were born outside marriage. By 2006, that had gone up to 49.4 per cent, some 266,000.”

The all powerful State likes to see family breakdown since it can then step in and fill the void.  But the consequences for our society down the line are horrendous. Still, whistle while you work…