01 May 2015

Death with dignity

St Peter’s church, on the top of the hill in Harborne, is surrounded by a cemetery. The headstones, when you take the time to read them, tell the story of the parish and the town by extension, reaching back hundreds of years. Some of them are sunken deep into the ground now, only the very tops sticking out. There, the ground has settled to betray that there was once a body under the soil, but that body is gone now. It’s five years or six years only and the body is gone, taken back, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.

The kids are now accepted, all of them, at St Peters’ school, which comprises two buildings on either side of the church and cemetery. Every morning, the kids walk to school and are surrounded by the dead and the ringing of bells, like it is 1930 or 10 or 50. The buildings are all red brick, and you can look down at the University of Birmingham if you get the right view. There is the walkway into the town centre, past the cricket greens. It is the best of the options we have now, in our little orbit of the house on Victoria Rd that is still cold and damp even into May. The kids can walk there, with Yoko, in less than ten minutes. The whole ecosystem of our life shifted, recentred, on this hill, with the dead couples going back hundreds of years. Millions of pounds of granite.

I have, however, lost hope, in a way that I haven’t ever before. I wonder, as I think about it, if this is a function of a time in life or a natural consequence of the choices I’ve made, trying to fit a lifestyle from twenty years ago into 2015. It’s simply not a life that can be lived on one income, three kids, a foreign residence, the pets, organic food, Japanese imports. Mei has finally been accepted to swimming club and the question can never be, can we afford it: we must afford it, this is the life we’ve chosen, we can’t let anyone down. Every other conversation is about money and what someone needs. Thank you, daddy. 

I get up, and run to work. I'm still gaining and losing weight. My hairline recedes some more. I hear one of the daughters screaming in her sleep. I'll be 33 soon and then 34. The government doesn't value me anymore. I've heard if you go into care with a full bank account, they can drain it. Death with dignity: best to buy those shoes you want now. Best to not gamble it away.