“And Granddad, what’s this medal for?”

“Well, uh, that was for the Champions League final, which we won on penalties.”

“Wow! It’s beautiful. Tell me about the game.”

The old man paused. “It was, um, a good game. Yes, a good game. Don’t you want to see any of the other medals?”

“Tell me about it, Granddad. Did you play well?”

“I told you. It was a good game.”

“But it went to penalties. So… did you score the equaliser? You did, didn’t you? You scored the equaliser in the last minute of extra time to give your team another chance?”

“Uh… it wasn’t exactly like that.”

“I know! You scored the winning penalty! You’re such a hero”

“I said… it wasn’t exactly like that!”. The old man got up and stormed out, slamming the door behind him.

The boy started to cry. His mother comforted him. “There, there. It’s a touchy subject for him. He doesn’t like to talk about that one. Although it’s in his medals case…” She paused, looking to make sure that her father in law had actually gone, then continued in a whisper, “… he didn’t really earn that one.”

“I don’t want to see Granddad any more,” sniffed the boy.

Kidbrooke revisited

Kidbrooke is a part of London that mostly ought to be avoided. My enduring memory of the place was, returning home from Eltham on the bus one night, having to stop to save an elderly black man who was being stoned by some youths while he waited for the bus. In an extraordinary piece of cooperation, all the passengers and the bus driver himself got out and chased the youths away but as they had bikes we couldn’t apprehend any of them. And, as HB reminded me recently, the bus stop in question is only a few hundred yards away from where Stephen Lawrence had been stabbed to death.

The cancer that blighted the area, the Ferrier Estate, is now undergoing a huge transformation. And of course society is becoming more tolerant, albeit at a painfully slow pace.All this is to set the scene for this afternoon, when I returned to Kidbrooke because my daughter had been invited to a party there. There wasn’t enough time to drop her off, go home and come back, so I waited around in Kidbrooke Green Park. It was a pleasant, sunny afternoon, but there weren’t many people out, just the odd dog-owner. Eventually a group of children turned up to play an informal game of football. They honestly looked like they had been hand-picked for a diversity training photo. There were at least four different ethnicities (and three girls) in the group and they had a grand old time for about half an hour.

It’s a single anecdote, I know. But it’s heartening to believe that the ghosts of the old, ugly Kidbrooke might finally be able to be put to rest.

Dead souls

One of these days, if there’s enough demand – and I know full well there never will be – I may get round to some Dead Dadcasting. But in the meantime, I have started listening to other people’s podcasts on the way into and back home from work. Today I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast about souls. And very entertaining it was too.

They covered the story of a man who had observed that he was unable to find anyone willing to sell him their soul for $50. Even if they were avowed atheists, they wouldn’t part with it. Finally, the show was able to put him in touch with someone who was prepared to sell him their soul. I know the chemical difference between the Dead Dad just before and just after he died are pretty similar. So it’s not unreasonable to propose that this is due to some intangible essence that distinguishes the living from the dead. And because we have no idea what on earth it might be, it’s clear to see why people across the generations have presumed that this must be in God’s gift.

The podcast then discussed the Mormon practice of baptising the dead. While I can see that this might provide some comfort to those still living who feel their loved ones cannot go to heaven because they were unbaptised, it has become infamous due to some high profile “unilateral” baptisms, including Anne Frank and some Holocaust victims. I can see why members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints might want to baptise posthumously and I can also see why other people get upset about it. But it could afford me with a simple way to make the Church of the Dead Dad the largest church in the history of mankind…

And the title of this post? I started studying Gogol’s book after I did Russian O-level. But I never got very far. If you did, well done.