MP3 life prediction

The rules: play your MP3s on random play and answer the questions below with the song titles.

What does next year have in store for me?
“Heal Me” – Freak Kitchen

What’s my love life like?
“Turn out the light” – The Music

What do I say when life gets hard?
“Prison Song” – System Of A Down

What song will I dance to at my wedding?
“Dream On (Dave Clarke Acoustic Version)” – Depeche Mode

What do you want as a career?
“Would?” – Alice In Chains

Famous last words?
“Once in a Lifetime” — Thunder

Your favourite saying?
“A New Day Yesterday” — Jethro Tull

Favourite place?
“The Heretic Anthem” — Slipknot

What do you think of your parents?
“Have you ever?” — Incubus

Where would you go on a first date?
“A Legacy” — Marillion

Describe yourself.
“30/30-150” — StoneSour

What is the thing I like doing most?
“Animal” — Pearl Jam

What is my state of mind like at the moment?
“Bicycle Race” — Queen

How will I die?
“Minstrel in the Gallery” — Jethro Tull

Nine years ago …

Keith Saunders' grave stoneIt was nine years ago yesterday that my Dad, Keith John Saunders, died of kidney failure. He died peacefully at home, with my Mum, brother and I by his side. I can’t believe that it was really nine years ago, and yet when I look back at all that has happened since it is very possible.

Board games

The evening before he died — he died at 23:50 — was like the calm before the storm. Because Dad was so desperately ill, terminal you could say, a couple of nurses came in to attend to Dad and give Mum some rest. Too little, too late? None-the-less it was welcome relief and I remember sitting in the living room with Mum, Jenni, Eddie and Benjamin and feeling supported. It felt like this was serious, serious enough to have professional medical help.

That evening Eddie and I got out our old board games. I really don’t know what compelled us to do this, but we did and it was fun. I remember that we played Zaxxon — The Board Game, first class proof that computer games should never be turned into board games. The excitement of waggling a joystick and jabbing at the fire button while manoeuvering a spaceship over various on-screen obstacles is kind of lost by the clumsiness of rolling a couple of dice and manually raising the height of the plastic spaceship stand.

We also played Mike Reid’s Pop Quiz (name four bands with a colour in the title) and Family Fortunes (name something you might cross the road to avoid), and goodness knows what else. Maybe we were revisiting something of our youth, when Dad was well. Maybe we were simply occupying our minds with something … anything!

Like I said, it was like the calm before the storm. Maybe that’s one reason why this evening stands out in my mind so vividly. The nurses left and we returned to our duties, attending to Dad, supporting Mum.


Then Dad died at 23:50, with Mum, Eddie and I sitting by his bedside, holding his hands. He breathed in. He breathed out. There was silence as we held our breaths. Silence apart from the tick-tick-tick of his wrist watch. And when the sound of breathing began again there was noticably one fewer hush of breath.

Before we did anything else, Eddie and I drove up to see my sister Jenni, who’d gone home about an hour earlier with Benjamin who was only about three years old at the time, and broke the news to them. When we returned to the house Mum had called the doctor in to verify that Dad had died and to sign the death certificate, which we’d need to register the death the following morning.

Then a nurse arrived to help us wash and clean Dad’s body; Mum had done this hundreds of times in her job as a nurse, but there was something both odd and special about it this time. I remember removing Dad’s watch and thinking how wrong it was that it hadn’t stopped at 23:50 too. “Stop all the clocks” indeed.

Nine years on

And here we are nine years on: I’m married, I’m ordained and back in St Andrews; Eddie’s married and has his own son, and Benjamin is about to move to high school this year. Yesterday evening I took the bike out on the backroads of the East Neuk of Fife and remembered Dad. Not just my usual pot of memories — the ones I return to quickly and easily, but I allowed myself to delve a bit deeper and remembered winter afternoons with Dad popping into the house between Securicor runs (a weekend job he had), or making us pie, beans and mash while Mum slept after a Friday nightshift at the hospital, or looping a thread over the unfinished beams in the new dining room so that our Lego rockets could really take off.

I don’t know what to make of this life sometimes or what to do with these memories. But I do know that on the whole I loved my Dad and that he loved me, and that I miss him. And that sometimes nine years feels like a long time.

Five things…

Close-up of five pebbles stacked one on another on a sandy beach.

I’ve been tagged twice in the last couple of weeks by other bloggers (Mother Ruth and Mike) to share with you five things you might not know about me.

Here are a few of my ‘firsts’:

  1. First album: The first album I ever bought was Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam and the Ants. I remember buying it in 1980 in an independent record shop in Edinburgh somewhere on my way back from a tea party for former missionaries in Western India (which is what my Mum was in the late 60s).

    I now have this album on CD thanks to a couple of friends from Inverness that I bumped into in Edinburgh a few years back, Heather and David Ogg.

  2. Favourite childhood dog: As a child I loved Standard Poodles. I don’t remember why, maybe because they were so big and I was so small. Now whenever I hear the word “poodle” I immediately think of The Flumps! Even though that was Pootle. I really have no emotional attachment to poodles now. Or dogs, generally.

  3. First rock hero: My first hero of rock music was, I’m a little ashamed to say … Gary Glitter (real name ‘Paul Gadd’). I most definitely wanted to be in his gang. I was five years old and here was a man dressed entirely in bacofoil, with an Elvis-style haircut, wearing platform shoes singing to loud, distorted guitar music. What wasn’t there to like? I have never owned any recordings of his, however.

  4. First girlfriend / first kiss: My first girlfriend was called Rosanne. I met her on a Borders Scripture Union outing and chatted with her on the minibus for the whole journey there and back. She was from Galashiels. That was all I knew: her name and where she was from. So the next morning I phoned her up. Actually, I phoned her granny first as there were two “Grants” living in Gala in the phone book and I guessed wrongly!
    My first kiss wasn’t until about a year later (following another Borders Scripture Union event) with my second girlfriend — and the first girl I ever truly fell in love with — called Margaret-Jane.

  5. Fiancées: My first fiancée was called Pauline, and things didn’t work out. My second fiancée was called Jane Neilson whom I was delighted to marry on Sunday 25 July 1999 at the Church of St Thomas, Edinburgh. When we married she took my name, so she’s now called Gareth Neilson! (Boom! boom!)

I’m now supposed to tag others. How about you, you, you, you and … you!

A cutting question

Close-up of a scalpel knife

My first worrying question of 2007: what have I done with my scalpel?

It usually sits in my pen mug on my desk, as I use it for craft-style cutting and trimming of paper, plastic, card, etc. I remember using it while Jane and I were making Christmas presents a couple of weeks ago … but now it’s gone! Hmmm…

It’s a Swann-Morton, no. 3 handle with a no. 10 blade fitted. It answers to the name of “Scalpel”. Answers on a blog comment to the usual address…