I was sat on the bed this morning when the nurse came in and sat down next to me. She looked at me all serious and said, “John, if you ever need to talk, you know where I am”. “I know that dear”, I said “your back and fore here all the time, I can’t fucking miss you”. She just looked at me for a moment then said, “Is there anything getting you down”. “Well, now that you mention it”, I said. I grabbed the paper and as I’m flicking through the pages she’s watching me, waiting. Then I folded the paper on the Racing page and passed it over to her. She just looked all confused. So I said to her, “I am, feeling a bit down.” And as she moved in a little closer to listen, I said to her, “I’ve placed three bets this morning and not one of the fuckers came in, I’m gutted”. She paused for a moment then got up and looked at me as if to say, “oh, fuck off”, you know. She did have a little giggle though mind. The next horse came in seven to one, I had seventy-quid back. I tell you, I need to be depressed a little more often” Prince.
Posed with the question where I will take this project next, I knew exactly where I was going with it, and it wasn’t going to be in a ride-along with death. During the last year or so I have explored my fathers world and his realm of thinking, making photographs and recording the essence that informes the man he is, and essentially the man that I have become. And, in this quest I have done so, thus far, without handing the reins to the reapers staff.
Although I stand firm in this decision and refuse to divert the course of what I believe to be a positive direction, what is also very clear is that death is undeniably a part of who he is, who we all are. Death is part of life, and to deny this it would be an injustice to both my father’s strength of character, and all those who made him who he has become. Therefore, in the wake of his battle with the big ‘C’, I believe it is only right I shine a light on his journey, or at least a glimpse of how he sees it through.
“I could see the sister coming, she had a right face on her. I waited until she got a bit closer, then I started limping slowly towards toilet while holding my Arse. There was fuck all wrong with me mind. I could see her looking, see. “What’s wrong with you?” She said. So I went, “Woo, my Arse is in agony”. “Oh, you need cream for that” she said. They haven’t got cream for this I told her see.
I could see her puzzling now, so I said, “I’ve got two huge blisters, one on each cheek”. “Well how have you managed that?” she said. “See down there” I said, pointing out the window down towards the beach, “I took a walk down there yesterday, and hired a bike. I cycled about two miles around the Mumbles then back. We’ll my arse is feeling it now, I can tell you”.
I didn’t hire one, they haven’t even got bikes for hire down there, but the Sister didn’t know that, she’s from Neath. “You what” she said, “your telling me that you walked out of the hospital, all the way down there in your condition? And you cycled down to the Mumbles? And back? After having radiotherapy and chemotherapy?” She looked stumped. “Yes” I said, “Seven pounds these boils cost me, I should have taken a cushion from here”. She didn’t know what to say.
About ten minutes later she was asking the other Sister if you could hire bikes down the road. Silly Bugger. The other Sister was laughing her head off. She knew the score.” Prince.
Death or mortality, unsavoury subjects at best have never been uncommon topics in Prince’s world. In fact, death on some level has been something of an acquaintance since as early as he began to understand life. It might even seem, at least to the suspecting superstitious kind, that my father and death have struck some sort of deal, like that made between Robert Johnson and the Devil (making Johnson one of histories greatest guitarists), or maybe, Death, despite its best efforts just cant keep up with the wit that has so often seen my father land on his feet, like a cat with nine lives.
Besides the odd fall, almost cracking his head open, or nearly severing his arteries with sharp tools, Prince has danced with death on more occasions than most could handle, only to Waltz back in and have another flit. Between burning buildings and collapsing roofs, he has almost perished in every way. Known to have had a number of machine and lorry accidents, he recently told me a story about his machine and how it once slid down a hillside with him still in it, “she was way to go and I was hanging on for dear life with a fag (cigarette) in my mouth. I ate two before she stopped”.
From car crash to machine crash, from bike falls to train wrecks. He has almost bled, burned, drowned, crashed, crushed and fallen to his death. His sister tried to kill him, his mother wanted to kill him, as does my mother too, more often than not. Just recently he survived a massive heart attack, and now like my mother before him, it’s a dance off with Cancer, much of which, it must be said as I helplessly observe, against all odds, he moves with incredible ease.
“Three times I drove back and forth to Porthyrhyd looking for him, I couldn’t find him anywhere, bastard. I was half way up the stairs to the flat after locking up the bar that night, when your father phoned me to come and get him from the Aberdam Arms. He was adamant he was starting his way home and that I was to pick him up on the way. I told him “wait there don’t move”. He was pissed as a fart, I could tell by his voice. Meirig, had already left, so he was waiting fuck all. There was no sign of him, or Meirig on the road three times down and three times back. I was tamping. I thought fuck it, I’m not looking any more, now. So I went back to the flat.
As soon as I got through the door Kathy was on the phone asking if I had found them, “No” I said, “and I’m not looking anymore. Go to bed forget, about them. They’ll turn up when they turn up”. Maybe they had gone back to someone’s house drinking you know what your father is like. But I thought, when I got my hands on him, I was going to kill him.
Six o’clock in the morning, there your father was, hammering on the door. You should have seen him. It was a disgrace. He was drenched and covered head to toe in cow shit, brambles and black thorn. I had to shower him three times, then throw him in the bath. As for his clothes, they were so dirty I put them in a black bag and threw them in the skip outside. He had thorns in his arse for about ten weeks after that.
I had passed your father and Meirig three times on my search, and had no idea they were there. Your father had tripped and passed out in a ditch, and Meirig was sleeping in a bus stop up the road, not that far from him. Your father had been lying there in that gutter next to the road for hours, in stream of cold water. If it hadn’t have been for something running across his face he could have had hyperthermia. I was so mad. He could have died.
He was bloody dying the following morning too, I can tell you. “Don’t tell anyone about this”, he said. “Oh, leave it to me” I said. The following day I told every Tom, Dick and Harry that came into that club. He was tamping. Serves him right, I thought. He was lucky to be alive, and he’s lucky I didn’t kill him on top of it” Pearl.
Referred to as everything but, death (besides taxes) is said to be the only certainty in life. It is almost just as certain, due to its unpleasantness, that we opt a string of idioms or phrases before ever having to utter its deathly name. To some it is referred to as the ‘final bow’, to others its ‘cashing in ones chips’ or ‘hoping the twig’, and if they didn’t ‘kick the bucket’, then they most definitely ‘kicked the calendar’, ‘pegged it’, ‘snuffed it’, ‘choked’, ‘croaked’, or ‘popped their clogs’.
Many out of politeness might favour the phrase that ‘one has passed on to a better place’, but with as much subtlety and charm as the Cockneys ‘brown bread’, Prince prefers to use the old welsh saying ‘Mae e’ wedi trigo’, meaning that one is now ‘dwelt’ or ‘living in’, a slight contradiction it would seem, but it has always sounded a right turn of phrase. Especially when delivered with a hardened wit, designed to repel the penetration of deathly emotions.
“I’ve been drinking this mouthwash here and its bloody disgusting, or at least that’s what I thought it was. I told the nurse about it this morning. I showed her the bottle and she laughed her head off. “You haven’t… Your not supposed to drink that, John”, she said. When I asked her why she popped her head around the door and called the other nurse. “Look at what John has been drinking”, she said. Then they were both laughing. Fuckers. Apparently, the stuff I had been gargling for the last few days was some kind of Steroid. How the fuck was I supposed to know, everything tastes the same in this place. Like shit”. Prince
Kicking and screaming, we are all born to this world, where we will live for a pending spell and eventually succumb to our inevitable demise. This is the most fundamental law of the Natural World as we know it. Many believe we are simply passing through on the way to a life eternal, and others believe we will be born again. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, “Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again”. Some however, believe in life immortal (yes, living forever), death proof like Dracula or The Highlander (except maybe less fangs and no swords).
But, in the end, whether we fall off the perch or we give up the ghost, when its time to check out and meet the maker, there is only two ways about it. We can either leave quietly, or we go out with our dancing shoes on and our fists in the air, and if we’re lucky we might get to jive another day. Prince on the other hand, well he’s a breed apart with all the ‘get out of jail free’ cards and more steps than Fred Astaire, and after demonstrating a lifetime of stunts that would leave even the likes of Evel Knievel in awe, I think its safe to assume that he has quite a few moves left before he’s pushing any daisies.
“We were driving passed this camper when your father started to wave his hand to stop the car, slow down he said, and I thought oh fuck. I knew what was going through his noggin. “Its not fucking happening”, I said, “forget about it”. He just looked at me and said, “Oh shut up, and pull over”. “There’s no other camper coming to that house”, I told him, “not on your fucking nelly”. I hate camping, see. I was glad to see the last one go, and there was no way we were getting another one.
“Fuck sake, I’m only having a look” he said, as he jumped out of the car. Then he crossed the road to investigate. There he was, head under the van, over the van, his face was in everything. My blood was boiling. I wound the window down and shouted across the road, “you can fucking forget it”. Then, before I could say another word, the handle of the door was in his hand and in he went. Once he’s got an idea in his head, that’s it see.
Then all of a sudden, I could hear him calling me. At first I thought, no bloody way. Then I could see there was something wrong, so I got out and ran over to see if he was all right. As I got closer, I could see him struggling. He was still calling. When I looked into the van, your father was paralised. “Call an ambulance, for fuck sake I’m having a stroke”, he said. I shit myself. I was shaking so much I couldn’t get my phone out of the bag. As I started to dial, I could see your fathers face was drooping. “Come on” I was shouting down the phone, as I was waiting for an answer.
Then, before I could get a word in on the phone, your father was telling me to put it down. “Put it down?” I said, “Put it fucking down? You’re having a stroke mun, we need an ambulance you twat”. “Its fine”, he said, “I’m right now”. I couldn’t believe it. One minute he’s having a stroke, the next he’s sat up smiling at me. I was gob smacked. “It must have been cramp”, he said with a bewildered look on his face. Then he just burst out laughing. I laughed too. I couldn’t help it I was so glad he was Okay. Silly fucker.” Pearl
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