Yesterday was a very strange day. It started with the funeral of the granddad I never knew and ended some 18 hours later drunkenly attempting to shave my head with a bic. The impromptu hairdressing was not related to the funeral but can instead be attributed to my appearance on Facebook Live. All will become clear if you stay here for a few more minutes.
The funeral, then. Last week I explained on these pages how I had no relationship with my recently deceased granddad because he and my nan divorced when I was a toddler. Actually, was I ever a toddler? Strictly speaking toddlers toddle, which obviously I never did. From what I can gather it was my granddad's choice not to stay in our lives after his divorce. We saw plenty of my nan. She'd come round on a Friday night and talk for hours, starting every anecdote with the word 'evidently' while simultaneously shouting instructions at fictional people on the television. Hurry up, you fool..she'd shout at Gene Wilder as he chased after the train in Silver Streak. But then, who doesn't do that? No doubt you've spent some time before stumbling upon this column telling Ed Balls to just stop it now. Anyway my nan made the effort whereas my granddad seemed not to.
I wasn't expecting much of a turnout. To my mind a man who doesn't stay in contact with his own children and grandchildren can't be all that sociable and so probably has few friends. The list of people I knew in attendance extended to Emma, my mum and dad, Helen, my dad's brother David and his daughter Chloe. Regrettably there was no sign of my dad's other brother Derek who if you were here last week you will remember has followed his father's lead somewhat in losing touch with the family. He's rarely been sighted since Helen's wedding eight years ago and all David could tell us is that he's tried to reach out to him with cards and letters but without any response. Nobody seems to know if he still lives in St Helens or whether he even knows about my granddad's passing.
Despite all that there were a whole raft of people there who I didn't know. It turns out that my granddad had a new partner and had very strong relationships with her children and grandchildren. The lady delivering what you might call the eulogy complimented my granddad on this, suggesting that he was a wonderful and loving parent and grandparent to those in his new family. As you might imagine this came as some surprise to me. His real children and grandchildren barely got a mention either because the lady didn't know much about any of us or because his new wife wanted it that way. Hard to tell. The thing is that to them, with their experience of him as this fabulous family man, it can only look like it was our decision not to have him in our lives. Which it kind of is after you spend long enough believing that your granddad doesn't want to know you. I barely remember him so I never felt like I was missing out and so had no desire to track him down and chat over tea and biscuits. But I know that my apathy towards him was not the original reason for his absence. He made that choice originally and the rest of us just seemed to end up agreeing with him as a consequence.
So there weren't the usual emotions on display that you might expect to see at a funeral. Instead there was a strange atmosphere. I remember looking straight ahead at his coffin and wondering how it was possible to know so little about a man without whom I wouldn't be here. Quite apart from his other fanily I never knew he spent time in Australia after serving in the forces. I never knew he was a Saints fan. Liverpool FC were a poor second we were told although the playing of You'll Never Walk Alone at the end of the service seems to conflict with that. Either way we had a passion for Saints in common, which might have been interesting had we had a normal relationship. The other thing I seem to have in common with him is a distaste for religion. The funeral was held at Thornton Crematorium rather than at a church and talk of God was kept to a minimum. That's how mine will be when I go. No priests, just stupid anecdotes (maybe starting with the word 'evidently', maybe not) and some music of my choosing. Not You'll Never Walk Alone. Something by Joss Stone. Anyway these things are as much as I want to have in common with a man who was not, from my perspective at least, a wonderful, loving parent and grandparent. I don't want children but if we ever did have them I would hate to think that I would disassociate myself from them and from their children. It's just odd.....
Even more odd perhaps than trying to shave your own head at 3.00 in the morning after drinking enough Budweiser to make Wayne Rooney crash a wedding. This is exactly what I tried to do after a night out in town last night. Paul, Lee and I were in Ice Bar where it is customary to get up on the karaoke and sing a song. It's pretty much all there is to do in Ice Bar when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it. So I did, even though my recent bout of ecoli has greatly affected my ability to con the world into thinking I can sing. That's what it was apparently, ecoli. Not the sort you hear about on the news but a little bug in the water. I've had two courses of leeches and I feel much better but my throat is still a little gunky. So my rendition of Oasis' Stand By Me (not Ben E King's song which I know disappoints you all greatly) was not one of my best efforts. Being drunk however I failed to take this into account and so allowed it to be filmed in Facebook Live. That's basically Zuckerberg's dubious gift of a the facility to make videos on your phone via the social media monster that is Facebook.
The sound of my voice, sub-par though it was, wasn't my problem when I took a look at the video. My hair was. Or lack of it. From the point where it was filmed you can only really see the back of me. To my horror, and don't ask me how I didn't know this, I had a band of quite thick hair at the back of my head but a blinding bald spot that made me look like Willie Fucking Thorne. I knew I was bald but I had hoped that having it shaved regularly at the barbers had gone some way to reducing the contrast between the hairy part of my head and the bald part. 'Evidently' not.
Overwhelmed by this I went straight home and began shaving the whole lot with the cheap razors with which I regularly butcher my face. I had to. Fuelled by my alcoholism I just couldn't stand being out in public at that point. However having never attempted this kind of self-grooming before to do so for the first time under the influence was a quite Trumpian bad idea. It was a bloodbath, according to Emma when she saw the red stains on the pillow this morning. And not only did I hack myself to pieces but I did the kind of job you might expect under the curcumstances. It's relatively even but it'll need another touch-up before I see the light of day again. That's going to be fun. Fortunately I have no real need to leave the house until Monday morning, but I do worry about the fact that I'll have to do it this way all the time now since the trips to the barbers 'evidently' aren't enough to stop me looking like an 80's snooker player.
Maybe I'll get better at it with a bit of practice.