Tag Archives: Freemasons

My father’s funeral. My fear of falling.

My father in 1976 on the beach at Clacton

My father in 1976 on the beach at Clacton

In the last few weeks, I have posted occasional extracts from my 2001 diary – the time leading up to my father’s death. These final extracts lead up to his funeral thirteen years ago yesterday.


Saturday 30th June 2001 – Clacton

In the late afternoon, my mother’s ex-boyfriend Doug phoned from Canada. He was very upset. My mother was too upset to talk to him. He told me that, this morning, he and his wife had looked out their window and seen a moose bigger than a horse with two small twin baby mooses.

Sunday 1st July

The curate taking my father’s funeral has a website which I looked up today. On it, he says his interests are old red telephone kiosks and cardboard.

Monday 2nd July

I had an interview at BBC Wales in Cardiff for the staff job of Head of Brand Communication. Someone I know was there for the job before me and they showed him into the wrong interview. It caused conversational confusion.

Tuesday 3rd July

The so-far very efficient Clacton Social Services woman is coming round to chat next Monday (i.e. the first weekday after the funeral), so I can be certain my mother is getting all she can in financial terms, in terms of people help and with any physical objects around the house.

At the moment, a neighbour cleans the house once a week; another neighbour washes clothes; another irons; my aunt (my father’s sister) opens and closes the greenhouse as required; my aunt comes round every morning at 1030; my mother gets Meals on Wheels every lunchtime when I am not there; and there are two Dial-a-Ride/Volunteer Bureau numbers she can phone if she wants transport (with her wheelchair on board). Today, when I was away, five people came round to see her separately.

When I mentioned to the Social Services woman that I wanted her to come round to chat with us because I felt it better for my mother to stay in her own home rather than even contemplate a Residential Home, the Social Services lady said something like: “Oh, no, a residential home would be totally unsuitable for her”. This reassured me.

My mother’s problem is increasing immobility but, if needs be, a Social Services person could be got to help her into and out of bed at home. She can go to the toilet and have a bath by herself though, of course, that will change.

(I was hit by a truck ten years ago and my spine never fully recovered.)

Getting a box out of the bottom of my mother’s wardrobe this afternoon, I twisted awkwardly and buggered my back which now gives me occasional stabbing agony when I move. I will sleep on the floor tonight and hopefully three days on the floor will cure the symptoms as usual.

Wednesday 4th July

I got an e-mail from Amsterdam telling me that someone I worked with there has had a nervous breakdown. “As far as I can gather,” the e-mail said, “it all got a little too much, although you didn’t hear that from me!” The person who has had the nervous breakdown was nicknamed ‘the goldfish’ because of his inability to remember what he was supposed to do.

Thursday 5th July

My spine was mending well but, getting up out of a chair this afternoon, there was an extreme double shooting pain in my left hip and at the base of the spine. This time it’s a lot of agony.

My mother’s cousin and her husband arrived from Edinburgh for my father’s funeral tomorrow. My mother’s cousin’s blood is thinning. About three weeks ago, she was in hospital and was given six pints of blood. Her husband has prostate cancer. Ironically, both seemed very healthy – particularly her husband, who is in quite a bad way.

Friday 6th July

As the black limo drove off from my mother’s house, following the hearse bearing my father’s coffin, my mother looked out of the window, crying as I put my arm round her shoulders.

As we drew up at the crematorium off a roundabout in Weeley, we could see a group of about 12 dark-clothed old men wearing black berets and war medals. Two carried large flags, standards from the Clacton and Walton Ganges Association. The men were mostly from the Ganges Association, with a few from the George Cross Island Association – men who fought in Malta during the Second World War. My father was also a member of the Royal Navy Association.

In all, there were about 40 people at the service taken by the baby-faced curate whose interests are old telephone kiosks and cardboard. He kept the main mentions of my father relatively short but then launched into a standard, longer spiel about Jesus. Not offensively long, though. At the end of the service, the two Naval flags were dipped.

Afterwards, in the Black Boy pub (whose sign outside shows a white man), one of my father’s friends was keenly trying to persuade me that I wanted to join the Freemasons. I did not want to. He said he would propose me. My only real experience of the Freemasons was about ten years ago, when lasso cabaret act Rex Roper invited me to a Freemasons’ ‘ladies night’ in some legal dining room off the Strand. It was full of barristers, actors from The Bill and what I suspect were criminals.

Saturday 7th July

My spine is still very painful when I move – getting in and out of cars is very painful. I was (eventually) able to put my socks on yesterday morning for the funeral, but I was not near getting them on this morning and spent the day in my shoes but without socks. Agony when I move. Pulling the brake fully up in my car is painful and moving the clutch with my left foot can be slightly painful.

In the evening, my mother and I went for dinner in a local pub restaurant with my aunt, her daughter, her daughter’s husband and their Down’s Syndrome daughter plus Norma and Joe (Norma is an obscure relation). My cousin’s Down’s Syndrome daughter showed us her engagement ring. Aged 26, she has got engaged to Jason, a Down’s Syndrome boy of 29. She is getting more easily tired than a few years ago, sleeps in an oxygen mask at night and her blood is, in some way, becoming thicker.

Norma told a story about how there was a rope footbridge near where they lived in Scotland when she was younger and how they enjoyed swinging it when people walked across and seeing them cling on in fear.

I had forgotten it was her.

It was walking across that bridge when it was swung that terrified me into fear of falling and imbalance as a child. Afterwards, I was scared to climb up the short ladder on children’s slides in case I fell off. For years I thought I was frightened of heights until (when I used a cable car in Switzerland) I realised I was frightened of overbalancing or being blown over edges by wind.

Inside a secure ‘room’ like an aeroplane or a cable car, I have no problem. But now I cannot walk across Hungerford footbridge in London because it appears to have no supports. I get frightened less than halfway across, feel as if the liquid in my ears is swirling around, want to throw myself down and cling to the flat surface for protection and have to turn back.

Something that happened fleetingly for just a few seconds, years ago, has had effects that have lasted a lifetime.

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The Prime Minister, sex, sleaze, prostitutes and Boris Johnson

A friend of mine – an Englishman in Italy – used to work for a large international conglomerate and, in the 1990s, once had to take a briefcase stuffed with cash to Rome Airport and hand it over to a civil servant. Everyone accepted that was how the wheels were greased. That was how the Italian state worked.

I also used to know someone involved with an Italian TV show which had to employ a girlfriend of now-deceased Prime Minister Bettino Craxi on their series. In fact, that underestimates her role: she actually arranged orgies for Prime Minister Craxi. My chum thought, “Ooh, now there’s a big secret I know about!” But then he discovered everyone knew about the supposed ‘scandal’ and it was almost routinely printed in Italian newspapers and magazines; everyone just accepted it. That was how the Italian state worked.

So I am a tad surprised as well as being in moral confusion about the current Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s problems.

He is immensely entertaining, which is always a bonus in my eyes. A bit like London’s current mayor Boris Johnson but with dyed hair. My heart takes flight when I hear any news item about either Boris or Silvio. I just know it’s going to be knockabout laugh-a-minute stuff.

But now Silvio is accused of having sex with an under-aged prostitute. This is not good. He faces a court case and a potential 15 years in prison. This is definitely not good.

The age of consent in Italy is generally 14, though 13-year-olds can legally have sex with partners who are less than three years older. This seems much too low to me but, if that is the law in Italy, then that is what good Italians Catholics have decided is morally acceptable. As I understand it, the girl involved in the Berlusconi case was 17 when the alleged sex took place and, while prostitution is legal in Italy – just as it is in the UK – it is illegal in Italy for a man to have sex with a prostitute under 18.

So the girl involved was three years over the general age of consent but one year under the legal age for sexual consent as a prostitute. This seems a very complicated moral quagmire within Italy, though I can see why sex with a prostitute under 18 is proscribed.

However, both Silvio and the girl totally deny sex took place. If they both deny it, then quite how evidence can be presented that it did take place I don’t know. There was a payment of £6,000 but apparently well after the alleged sex allegedly happened and Silvio and the girl both claim the payment was connected to something totally different. He also got her released from police custody in a separate incident, but that is more abuse of power than directly relevant the sex charges. It’s all a bit murky but sounds too circumstantial for a prosecution.

They could be lying through their teeth, of course, though I’m not sure why a young prostitute would not admit sex took place if she is going to become rich on selling the whole story to the media.

There is also the question in my mind of why on earth Silvio Berlsconi would have to pay for sex with a girl. Call me cynical, but the man is a billionaire, he owns a string of high-profile populist TV stations so he can get anyone he wants onto TV and he is the most powerful politician in the country! Any one of those three facts, in my experience, would mean lithe young nymphettes would be throwing themselves at him for free every day! The casting couch stretches beyond the movie business.

Heavens! Nymphettes throw themselves at impoverished comedians in dodgy basement clubs on a nightly basis let alone powerful billionaires who can get them on several national television series.

BBC News reported that Silvio Berlusconi reckons he has been in court over 2,500 times during various cases over the years. He has been accused of tax fraud, corruption, infidelity, Mafia involvement, you name it. I’m surprised he hasn’t been accused of illegally importing birds’ eggs. At least once he was accused of paying bribes on behalf of his companies at a time when no large company in Italy could operate without paying bribes. It struck me as a purely politically-motivated prosecution. That was/is how the Italian state worked/works.

Last year he was accused of being a member of an alleged secret organisation allegedly called P3 – a revival, it was said, of the infamous Masonic lodge P2 – Propaganda Due which existed from 1946 to at least 1981 and of which Silvio really was a member.

I have no idea if he is guilty or innocent of the current charges. He is certainly not an innocent man in general. And Italy – run by P2 and the Mafia from the end of the Second World War to perhaps the mid-70s – is most certainly not an innocent country.

P2 comprised prominent politicians, industrialists, bankers, journalists and military leaders, the heads of all three Italian intelligence services and even the pretender to the Italian throne. In 1977, P2 took over the influential Corriere della Sera newspaper; it was rumoured to be involved in the 1982 killing of ‘God’s banker’ Roberto Calvi, who was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London, and it even had rumoured links to the 1980 bombing of Bologna railway station and the 1978 killing of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the heavily-infiltrated Red Brigades (allegedly because he had started to talk about NATO’s secret Gladio network).

It feels to me that Silvio is being stitched-up at the moment. He may very well be a reprehensible, ageing sleazeball, but this is a case where every fact seems to swirl in very muddied waters indeed.

It is not as if Silvio Berlusconi was running a prostitution racket, is it…

Is it?

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