Me and Voltaire have just won the most important argument in our lives. It took him the thick end of three hundred years but my new great grand-daughter managed it in six weeks.
We all thought the answer was prettily summed up by Voltaire: "Everything is for the best in the best of of all possible worlds."
"What about death?" sneered Most of The Rest of the World. "The end of everything", "All Great Love Affairs End in Death", "The Dying of the Light". Most compelling was the insistence of Christopher Hitchens, the mind I admire most in all the world: "Religion is Rubbish, indeed a Force of Evil."
All of which is true. Then Upspoke The Tiny Presence, fittingly by Internet, more often Evil's most obvious manifestation.
Everything they say about death is true. There is no arguing IT has legs. But they can be knocked from under it with, ironically, its most often used medium, the Internet. Witness a recent exchange of emails with a grandson:
Have been trying this morning since 7 am to send you £30 quid by alternatively pay pal and various vouchers and gifts for the Bean to mark her first six weeks of life. I have had responses varying from £30 to £60 from both. As you know, I have only 12 months left to get it right. This is just to let you know I am trying.....
hey! please don't worry about doing all that, you don't need to get me anything - an email is more than enough. (hey grandad, I re-sent the emails. I hope you manage to do with them what you wanted!! you're far more tech savvy than me! wouldn't know where to start with a blog and not even on Facebook anymore so don't lose hope in your online skills) lots of love to you and granny xxx
"BeWrite Books’ unpaid authors, editors and I have now utterly lost patience with you and all confidence in your repeatedly broken promises of full royalty payments to everyone. Also some authors are having great difficulty in placing their work elsewhere because, contrary to agreement, you have allowed BeWrite Books titles to remain displayed at some retail outlets, including Google Books (in their entirety), and stray paperback copies at other sales websites.
"I just come back from bliddy Liverpool," she said. "That specialist says if I have the operation I am too old and I might bloody die. I told him to bugger off. I am having a good life and I am going to enjoy what's left. He might cut the bloody cancer out and next week I have a heart attack."
I have just had a good skreik for both of us and that is the last bliddy one. BUGGER 'EM.
Her sister Lynn Charmain, the next in line, was so named because she is. She was Campaigning Journalist of the Year in the British Press Awards and for years ran, with her husband, a hugely successful Crisis Management Consultancy for NHS Hospital Trusts. As a reporter she covered Royal Tours, flew with RAF jets and righted more social wrongs than a battalion of Don Quixotes. She is modest with it. As I typed this she came into my study to remind me: "I am a touch typist, sixty words a minute, so I could type that for you....faster."
My son, Nicholas St John, I named after the only other St Nick in the calendar who earned his nickname. And incidentally, casually, almost in his spare time, he became an award-winning writer, top TV foreign editor and senior producer of Granada TV, whose boss flew to Italy to recruit him because it was the only way he could get him.
We have all had a lovely, stormy time together. Choked with admiration of ourselves and each other. With Gay, I fought a losing battle to prevent her from becoming an artist, which is probably why she finished her career as a department head at an Art College, a sort of stormy Mrs Chips who was sent round the world recruiting.
Thanks, everyone, for the memories. Sorry you can't all be at the various wakes. As I said before, glad I will be.
THIS IS THE LONGEST ISLAND I HAVE WALKED BUT NOT THE LAST. JUST THE LAST ON THIS SUBJECT. One last writer's joke. Literally the moment I finished typing this long essay I got an error message on this infernal machine which has been behaving so perversely in recent weeks.
"There has been an error. Please type this again."
Must He always have the Last Word?