Wednesday, 21 August 2013


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.....

He replied:

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

 the emails from yesterday and today's picture of Ellie (plus a little extra one from right now) lots of love!  Alex

I'd like to say thanks to my old chum Neil Marr who I met as a near child reporter and and have come to know over half a century as the online beggeter of every good quality. Certainly the only publisher I have ever met who would write to his former partner, who let him down badly, in defence of his cherished authors: 

"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.

"To avoid swift and serious legal action, matters must be put to rights IMMEDIATELY......."
Thanks, too, to Dewi Smith, my radio producer and friend of friends who discovered me, nurtured me and put up with my Rabelaisian ways, making with me a series of programmes including "Radio Brynsiencyn" which had so many loyal listeners.  It was certainly the only programme from Radio Wales to have a fan club with its own ties and jerseys in both Oxford and Yale Universities.
We created this little bit of rollicking heaven and the people who took part gave their roles a vivid life of their own. Especially Rose Roberts who became a frightening Attila the Hoover.
Everyone thinks I am taking death lightly. I am glad this isn't TV. As well as the star of the show, Rose was our housekeeper on Anglesey. She nursed my mother on her death bed and treated my wife and me like unruly kids. I have known RSMs who were lambs in comparison. She became a radio star of comet size. She in turn introduced us to Goronwy, an old sweetheart, who joined Radio Brynsiencyn as the man who, we claimed, powered the radio station by bicycle pedalling.  We called him Goronwy Generator
Rose and Goronwy used to go off of together on trips to theatres in the West End. Rose had a voice twice as famous as Bryn Terfel. Think I am kidding? Once in the queue at the Palladium she gave it full throttle. From far up the queue came: "Bluddy hell, it's Rose Attila the Hoover.  Where's Goronwy Generator?"

A couple of years ago the Welsh Language Radio station Radio Cymru asked her to recall her memories of Welsh island life. She was so good she was picked up by Welsh TV and, at 85,went on to become the star of a TV comedy show.  At nearly 88, she is still a regular weekly guest. 

I have just taken a call from her.She still calls me Mr Skidmore.

"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.

The only woman I have been in love with longer is my wife Celia who has allowed herself in to be known to radio millions round the world as the Head Ferret. She is the summing up of all the qualities after which loyalty was named. I love her utterly, irrevocably, passionately and have done from the moment we met 44 years ago on a bridge over a Welsh mountain river.  She is clever, glamorous and stylish. She wrote award- winning books about the cats, whom she resembles, and she walks like Winnie the Pooh - it's the merry bounce that does it.  For nearly half a century she has been my best friend.  And with not even a single conviction of casual waywardness by either party.
My kids? I cannot think what I love mostly about them. The eldest, Gay Heather, was named after a racehorse which cost me a packet at the Grand National. She has forgiven me for giving her a forename that no longer means the qualities of happy laughter and debonair manner it was intended to convey and has a heart big enough to make a race course.

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."
Happily they all married spouses of whom I approve. And even better,bred well. 

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.
Mostly I love them all because they are all so lovable - and the women are superb cooks. Since I declared Wakes Season the girls have arrived with fabulous frozen dishes of homemade food and have produced banquets for our delight. Particularly brave in Lynn's case as she herself is following a strict diet and is confined to a disgusting menu.
Begone dull care?  I am having such a magic life it would be too ungracious not to enjoy it in such company down to the last heavenly Malt. 

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?