Category Archives: Philosophy

Ten Orbits of the Sun – update.


Well, I didn’t progress further than the shortlist for the Mind Short Story Competition. Still, I’m very proud to have made it this far.

Anyhoo, a few folks said they would like to read my short story, so here it is. The theme for the competition was ‘Journeys’, either literal or metaphorical.

P.S. I’ll always be grateful to Mike O’Toole for his stunning front cover photography.

P.P.S. Here’s a quote from a Mind judge/organiser:

“Believe me, I was definitely rooting for 10 Orbits of the Sun to go through to the judges. Both myself and one of the shortlisters cried reading your story. It was so beautifully written and emotive.”

Ten Orbits of the Sun.

By David Milligan-Croft.

Something changes inside of you when you have a child. Obviously, things change inside of a woman, quite literally. But I’m talking about changing from a man’s point of view – philosophically.

Up until my late thirties, I never wanted kids. Why would I? They’d be a burden. I had a fabulous career, a few great friends, a fantastic salary and a nice little crash pad overlooking a languid river.

Then, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I got all broody. And I just wanted a baby. Specifically, a baby girl. I don’t know why I wanted a girl. Perhaps I found the thought of a rambunctious boy quite off-putting. Or maybe it was because I didn’t want a boy to turn out like his father.

It stands to reason that I had to find a suitable mother first, which took a little longer than I had anticipated. I met Suki on an online dating website and, as we were both pushing forty, we decided it would be prudent to start a family sooner rather than later. We had a lot in common, we both loved the arts and books, she even shared my passion for antiques. She worked at the local hospital as an ER nurse, while I worked in a large design agency working on global brand campaigns. When we got married I decided to quit the industry and open up an antique shop in a trendy part of town. Something I’d dreamed of doing since my twenties.

Anyhow, I got my wish. And I was the proud father of little Tallulah. When I said that something changes inside of you, I meant that something changes chemically as well as philosophically. Nothing else, nor anyone else, matters quite so much in the world. Every cell in your body is geared toward protecting this little being. It starts from the moment of conception. I used to sing lullabies to Suki’s tummy and recite poetry to her. I’d talk to her and tell her how much I loved her and how much I was looking forward to seeing her. It’s a love that’s hard to describe. You would do anything for your charge. Yes, even kill for them. Die for them. It’s quite primeval on one level. Yet deeply spiritual on another. I can understand why some parents conceal their children from the law if they have committed a crime.

Sure, not all parents feel this way. And I’m not trying to say that I’m unique in feeling like this. Plenty of parents are doting and plenty are neglectful.

It was three years before I had a full night’s sleep or a hot meal. I’d be bouncing Tallulah on my left knee to keep her entertained whilst trying to eat a bowl of lukewarm pasta with my right hand. Or driving her around the suburbs to get her off to sleep. Every day brought a new parenting challenge or experience. Like the time I pursed my lips and asked her to give me a ‘smacker’, so she slapped me across the face! Or the time she pulled at my cheek and asked: “Daddy, why is your skin like a raw chicken drumstick?” Charming.

Because I’d had a child later in life, other parents in the park would ask if I was her grandad. It didn’t help that I’d gone grey early in life. She found it funny at first, but as time went on I think it began to annoy her. That I wasn’t like the other dads who were all much younger than me. It used to worry me that I might not be around for her later in life – when she was at university, or if she got married, if she had children. I wondered if I had been selfish having a child so late on.

I watched my little girl flourish and blossom over the years. She was a happy kid. Loved to read. Loved to write her own stories. She’d make little 8-page books and fill them with fairy tales and drawings. She loved to ride her bike and occasionally we’d go to McEvoy’s farm and she’d ride Ruby, the chestnut brown mare. She didn’t care much for video games or TV either and would much prefer to concoct experiments out of things she’d find in the garden and around the house.

I remember one time, when we were going for a drive in the desert in my old jalopy, she’d said: “Daddy, how far is it around the sun?”

“What? The Earth’s orbit?” I’d said.

“Yes.”

“About 585 million miles, give or take a couple of hundred thousand. Depends on the time of year, I think.” I turned the volume down on the car stereo so I could hear my inquisitive daughter better.

“Why does it depend on the time of year?” she said, turning the volume back up again so she could hear the trashy pop song that was playing.

“Not a hundred percent sure. Something to do with the ellipse of the Earth’s orbit,” I tried to draw an ellipse in the dust on the dashboard. “And the tilt of the Earth’s axis.” Astronomy isn’t my strong point and I got the distinct impression that Tallulah guessed I was busking a little.

Tallulah looked out of the open passenger window from behind her sunglasses at the scorched desert dotted with parched brush and spindly shrubs.

I stole a glance at the side of her pensive face, her golden hair was tantalising her cheeks. “Why d’you ask?”

“By my next birthday, I will have travelled 5.8 billion miles around the sun. Pretty amazing, huh?”

I pursed my lips. “When you look at it like that, kiddo, it is pretty amazing.”

“And that’s not including all the miles we’ve done down here on Earth,” she said wistfully.

I didn’t know how many miles we’d clocked up on Earth, and, in the great scheme of things, it probably wouldn’t affect Tallulah’s ‘orbital total’ very much. But it was still a significant amount for mere Earth dwellers.

I don’t know why this memory of my daughter springs to the forefront of my mind. Perhaps it is because it’s to do with heavenly bodies. The very fact that she came up with this concept amazed me. She could often be very abstract in her thinking. While other kids were busy playing with Barbie dolls, Tallulah was calculating how far she’d travelled in the universe. I always imagined her growing up to be a great children’s writer one day. Or maybe even a scientist.

Tallulah didn’t make it into double figures before she was taken from me. It was that God-damned bike I’d bought for her ninth birthday. She was cycling home from school when a truck cut her up at some traffic lights. The driver said he didn’t see her coming up on the inside.

I’d always been uncomfortable with her riding to and from school. Not because she was a careless rider but because of careless drivers. However, her friends all did it, so she wanted to do it too. I guess I should have been a stronger father and forbidden it. Up until then I’d always dropped her off and picked her from school in the car. But peer pressure had reluctantly forced me to concede.

I was at the shop when it happened. I don’t know, but around the time of the accident, I recall being overwhelmed by a sense of grief. Like, somehow I’d had this telepathic connection with her, or something. Sounds ludicrous, I know. Though, I didn’t put it down to anything bad having befallen my little girl at the time. I just thought it was due to my mood swings.

I got a phone call from my distraught wife about an hour later. She had been working in the ER department when Tallulah was brought in. It was hard to make out what Suki was actually trying to tell me through her hysterical sobs. When the penny finally dropped, I felt the world disappear from beneath my feet and I was suddenly floating in a black void. I was dizzy. I felt my insides twitch and heave and I vomited over a glass cabinet containing antique duelling pistols. I think the customers must have thought I was hungover as they stared at me disdainfully and left the shop.

I closed the store and rushed to the hospital. But it was too late. The truck had already crushed the precious life out of her. Had the driver been there when I found out I imagine I would have killed him. Not that I would do that now, having had time to reflect on the incident. I know it was an accident. He didn’t mean to kill her. But he should’ve taken more care. Particularly at that time of day, being near a school and all.

I have never known grief like it.

I don’t believe in heaven and hell.

But this was hell.

The depths of Christian hell could not provide me with such torment. I went over all of the things that I might possibly have done for Tallulah not to have been at that particular spot at that particular moment in time. Not buying her the bike was top of the list. Me picking her up was a second. Taking gymnastics class on a Tuesday instead of violin on a Wednesday was another. Or letting her go to her friend Maisie’s house after school so she would have taken a different route. There were an infinite amount of possibilities. Of variables that would have put her at a different point in the universe at that moment in time. And I didn’t take any of them. It was my fault, not the truck driver’s.

As you can imagine, my wife was inconsolable too. But I had to put on a more stoic face for everyone else: the police, doctors, funeral directors, family, friends. I know people mean well by wanting to offer their condolences, but the last thing we wanted to do at that time was talk to anybody. Shout – yes. Scream – definitely. Why? Why Tallulah? What had she ever done to anybody? To me, it was further proof that there is no god. How could an all-powerful, loving deity let a beautifully perfect little girl be killed in such a horrific way? What the hell was the point of existence?

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in some form of afterlife. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Perhaps we’re reincarnated. Or, maybe we rise to a higher dimension. I once had the notion that the afterlife was an emotion rather than a place. Sort of like ecstasy or bliss. That one’s spirit melded back into the universe in a kind of eternal rapture. Most likely, there will be nothing. I don’t know. But it’s a chance I’m not prepared to take.

Of course, I haven’t discussed this with Suki. What would she say? She’d say I was being irrational. And I guess I am. No rational person decides to take their own life. She’d say I needed to see a doctor. That I was depressed. Not thinking straight. Get some pills or bereavement counselling. On the other hand, I could also see why my thinking is completely rational. It wasn’t fair on Suki, I know that. To lose a child and a husband. But what choice do I have?

You know what I miss the most about Tallulah? It’s a sound. Specifically, a word. It’s a word I’ll never hear ever again: “Daddy.” There isn’t a more perfect sound in the entire universe. Perhaps her mother would disagree.

Like I said at the beginning – having a child changes you. You’d do anything to protect them. And I have failed in that respect. Why should my parental duties end in this life? Lots of religious people believe in heaven and hell. But they don’t think twice about giving up on their dead loved ones. If their faith was so resolute why wouldn’t they follow them to paradise?

Perhaps Tallulah and I will both spend eternity in black nothingness. In which case, it won’t matter a jot to either of us. But if there is something else, I’m certainly not going to let my beloved daughter wander the afterlife all by herself.

What kind of father would I be?

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New Tanka Poem


I’ve been without t’internet for a couple of weeks due to moving house.

Whilst staring out of the living room window and pondering my new environment, this tanka poem occurred to me.

There’s something very calming and meditative about watching a murmuration of starlings. I feel lucky and blessed have witnessed one.

 

A murmuration

Of starlings swirling in and

Out of the early

Morning fog. Like avian

sceptres – were they truly here?

 

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The Gospel According to Dave.


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There’s been a lot of negativity flying about of late, what with the fat orange fella sticking his size nines in everything.

Protests, riots, building walls, burning bridges, immigration bans, failed black ops missions. There’s something new to roll your eyes at every day. It’s unsurprising then, that people all over the world are up in arms, (literally and metaphorically), by the Cheeto Chompin’ Chimp’s actions.

It’s not just affecting America. He’s threatening the stability of the entire globe.

With that in mind, I thought it about time we had a set of moral values to live by. Sort of a set of rules, or a code. Commandments, if you will. (I don’t know why anybody hasn’t thought of it before.)

So, here is The Gospel According to Dave.

There are 10 commandments with which to adhere.

First. Thou shalt not kill or hurt anyone.

This applies not just physically, but emotionally, psychologically or spiritually.

Two. Thou shalt not steal.

Actually, if you steal from someone you’re probably hurting them emotionally and psychologically, so I reckon it’s covered in the above.

New, number two. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s Merc. Or his gaff, or his 42″ plasma screen.

Come to think of it, if you’re envious about what someone else has  you’re only hurting yourself. So, scrub this one as well.

Numero dois. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s missus. (Or ‘mister’ depending on your sexual orientation.)

As above.

New, new, 2nd Commandment. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Why? ‘Cause at least one of the triumvirate is undoubtedly going to get hurt. In all likelihood, all three of you will suffer at some stage. So, again, covered in number one.

Two, (again). Thou shalt not bear false witness.

E.g. Don’t be a lying little get. It’s bad for you and it’s bad for the person you’re lying about. And you invariably get caught out in the end. Number one probably covers this. (A fib is okay. Especially if it stops someone’s feelings getting hurt.)

Secondo.  Honour thy father and thy mother.

I reckon your mam would be well upset if she thought you didn’t love her. Having said that, it doesn’t give them the right to mistreat you either. So, as long as they abide by the first commandment, you should abide by it too… no wait, I think we can shoehorn this under number one.

Deux. Thou shalt keep the sabbath holy.

I’m all up for a day off work. Tough one this, as you don’t want to hurt God’s feelings. But, what with shops open 24/7 it’s tricky for some folks. They have to work when the boss tells them or lose their job. I reckon if you take at least one day off a week we should have a bit of wiggle room here. But, at the end of the day, (or week ha ha), it’s covered in the first commandment.

Numero Due. Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.

Jesus wept. Bit petty. Then again, if it hurts His feelings, I reckon you should abide by the first commandment and you should be okay.

Zwei. Thou shalt have no other God but me.

Wooooh, get you.

That’s Hindus screwed then.

Look, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass whether you’re a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh, a Buddhist or a follower of another religion. Heck, it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in any of them. I’m sure, if you stick by the first principle every one should get along just fine.

So, just to recap, the First and only Commandment is: Thou shalt not kill or hurt anyone.

Subclause: either physically, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually.

Hang on a minute… I reckon we can shorten this a tad. I’m pretty sure that killing someone would involve hurting them a bit. Well, if not them, their family and friends, so we can delete that bit.

The Gospel According to Dave (second draft):

Thou shalt not hurt anyone*.

Or, as my mate Kev says – Don’t be a dick.

Oh, and if you’re wondering who the woman in the photo is, that’s my Auntie Mavis. She likes a drop of sherry at Christmas.

*Does not apply to Donald Trump.

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The gift of the notebook


If you’ve read my previous post you’ll be aware that I’m going through a period of ‘writer’s block’, so I’ve been dabbling with a paintbrush instead.

Another thing I’ve been doing is going through some old notebooks. I have scores (if not hundreds) strewn around the house in various boxes, on bookshelves, in bags and suitcases, cupboards and wardrobes.

I always have a notebook on the go to jot down ideas or do a little sketch in. The problem is, I hardly ever look back on them. I guess the thinking is, that if the idea didn’t present itself at the time, then it was probably a rubbish idea. For the most part, this is true. But, occasionally, a little gem pokes its head to the surface. (And, wasn’t that the point of the notebook in the first place?)

I came across a poem I wrote in 2000. I can see why I didn’t take it any further at the time, but with a bit of jiggery-pokery I think I’ve got something quite nice. (See below the photo.)

So, the moral of the story is:

  1. Always carry a notebook.
  2. Don’t leave it 16 years to revisit them.
  3. Good ideas will present themselves in the end.

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DENIAL

By David Milligan-Croft

 

I inhale your words as you exhale them.

And I place them into separate categories:

Those that I wish to retain,

And those which I do not.

 

Words such as ‘terminate’ and ‘over’,

I place into the carbon dioxide pile,

To be expelled into the universe

As quickly as possible.

 

But the words of love and affection

I send directly into my bloodstream,

To feed my heart and my brain,

Keeping my soul sane, for a few moments longer.

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Dear EU, a love letter to Europe.


Dear EU,

I am so sorry, I have some bad news. It’s not you. It’s not even me – It’s them!

And, by ‘them’, I mean the 52% who voted to leave the European Union.

I guess they’ll say I’m just a sore loser and that democracy won the day. But it’s hard to see it as democracy when their decision making was based on a litany of untruths and fear.

You see, I was one of the 48% that wanted to stay with you, because I love you. I’m a complete Europhile. I love your rich, colourful, cultural diversity. I also love the fact that we can come and go as we please. Not just for holidays, but for work or to study.

And it’s that cultural diversity that leads to understanding, respect, tolerance and unity.

The world needs fewer borders, not more.

Sure, it’s not always been plain sailing and we’ve had our ups and downs. But I think we’ve had more ups than downs over the years, don’t you think? You’ve let us keep our own currency and border controls. And you’ve made the prices of things much cheaper. And made sure workers’ rights have been protected.

You’ve been very kind and patient with us these past few months while we’ve tried to make up our minds whether or not to dump you.

The problem was, the Vote Leave campaign told so many whopping big lies about the economy and immigration that they managed to get 52% of people to believe them.

Only this morning have they reneged on one promise to spend £350 million pounds a week on the NHS! I bet the Vote Leavers feel like a right bunch of suckers right now.

I have to be honest, and say that the Vote Remain campaign didn’t cover itself in glory either.

A lot of folks over here are saying that the people who voted leave are ‘stupid’. But they’re not, are they? They were just lied to on a monumental scale. The fact is, the Vote Leave campaigners played on people’s fears. They managed to convince them that all the problems we’ve been having these past few years are the fault of the EU and immigrants rather than the financial crash of 2008 and Tory austerity measures.

Unfortunately, they’ll soon find out that they were spoon fed a pack of lies.

The other big problem is that a lot of people in England are becoming ever more racist. They don’t want you ‘foreigners’ coming to our country and nicking our jobs and sponging off our welfare system.

But you don’t do that, do you? You create £6 billion worth of wealth for the UK economy. And withdraw a paltry few hundred million in welfare by comparison.

All the clever people wanted us to stay with you. People like Stephen Hawking, Richard Branson, Lord Sugar and Posh & Becks. (Maybe we should have got someone from the Big Brother house or Geordie Shore to be a spokesperson instead.) Whereas, all the right-wing scaremongers such as Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Katie Hopkins wanted us to leave. And, because people are becoming more and more right wing, they believed in the harbingers of fear, hate, division and intolerance.

Maybe there is a way for us to stay together. Me and you, that is. Not Britain, it’s too late for that. And, the irony is, the ‘Great Britain’ Vote Leavers so desperately coveted will probably lead to it being dismantled. (Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain with you.)

Poor-little-England will have to take on the world single-handed. It’ll build a grand new fleet of galleons made from the finest spruce and oak. England shall once again, rule the waves, sail the seven seas and plunder, rape and subjugate all in its path!

Until, it sinks and drowns.

We’re not all racist, nationalistic, xenophobic, imperialistic, unrealistic, gullible Luddites, you know.

I still love EU. And I always will.

Yours,

David.

P.S. Can I please come and live with you?

 

 

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Mourning Strangers


I found an old CD the other day. It had fallen under the passenger seat of the car.

The front cover was missing. It was like one of those Now That’s What I call Music compilations, except with decent Indie music on it.

I played it and it took me right back to the 90s.

It got me thinking about how we mourn stars.

I’ve seen quite a few posts from cynics criticising people who eulogise about our recently departed idols because we never ‘knew’ them.

And they’re right.

I absolutely loved Bowie and Prince but I didn’t know them. It’s not a traditional kind of grieving that one would do for a loved one, though. It’s a grieving for all those times when your favourite singer was there for you. Through the good and the bad.

They punctuate the important times in our lives. When we were happiest, when we were broken-hearted.

We didn’t know them, but they knew us.

And that’s why we mourn them.

Tara Sparling writes about it much more eloquently than I, here.

Why this Sleeper track? Well, it was on the CD I found.

Let’s just say, it reminds me of a great big exclamation mark.

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The Diameter of the Bomb


I love France.

I’ve been there many times.

In fact, I love it so much, I’d even go as far as calling it my spiritual home.

I posted this poem a couple of years ago after the Boston bombing.

I can’t think of anything more poignant right now, other than to repost it in memory of all the people who lost their lives, not just in Paris, but also in Beirut and Egypt.

Red-White-Blue

 

The Diameter of the Bomb

by Yehuda Amichai

 

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters

And the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,

With four dead and eleven wounded.

And around these, in a larger circle

Of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered

And one graveyard. But the young woman

Who was buried in the city she came from,

At a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,

Enlarges the circle considerably,

And the solitary man mourning her death

At the distant shores of a country far across the sea

Includes the entire world in the circle.

And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans

That reaches up to the throne of God and

Beyond, making

A circle with no end and no God.

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