I remember, one time, the Dead Dad killed a duck.

We were on our way home from a night out, at the cinema or theatre. It had been a pleasant family evening out. A duck was in the road, and didn’t disperse as quickly as it needed to.

The Dead Dad stopped the car. We didn’t really know what was going on. But, looking out the side window, I saw a duck bleakly looking up as the Dead Dad alternately twisted its neck and punched it in the head.

I still don’t really understand why or how he did it.

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Day of the Dead Dad

On 17 June, we celebrate Father’s Day in the UK.

Three days beforehand, the Church of the Dead Dad celebrates the anniversary of the Dead Dad’s death.

In honour of both these special days, I’m announcing a Day of the Dead Dad spectacular right here on this blog.

What does it mean? Well, I’m welcoming guest posts about your dead Dad. I’m welcoming links to your posts about your dead Dad. I’m welcoming links to your favourite posts about somebody else’s dead Dad. I’ll even welcome guest posts or links to posts about your live Dad if they’re really sickly.

I started writing this blog as homage to my father after he died last year. I didn’t know it at the time but I missed and grieved him terribly and writing about death and him in a carefree, irreverent style helped me a lot. I commend writing-as-therapy to you too.

If you’d like to contribute something here, tell me about your amazing writing elsewhere or you just want to call me names, you can e-mail me at

A dream

I dreamed about the Dead Dad last night. My elder daughter and I were helping out at an outdoor military history exhibition. Then I saw him, and went to get my daughter to go see him.

He was in his military ‘dress’ uniform, which was odd. While he was in the army for a short period after the war, due to conscription, it wasn’t exactly the most vital part of his life, even though he himself did describe it as the moment in which he realised he could be successful at something.

My daughter walked up to him, only to find out it was someone else. Then we saw the real him in the distance, so we ran up to him… just as I woke up.

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.

Going underground

Today, we held a service for the Dead Dad at the church in the village where He lived for over 40 years. He was cremated quite some time ago, but He’s had a nice green box to rest in while we waited for an appropriate moment to hold the service.

And that moment was today. We took His ashes down to the church, where Stephen the vicar was waiting for us. Mother carried Him a fair bit of the way, but he was heavy so I carried him the rest and held him during the service. Stephen had dug a little hole, just big enough for the box.

And then Stephen read the following, from Psalm 139:

1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

We then said a couple of prayers, again led by Stephen.

Now, it turned out that I was the only man in our party. So Stephen asked me to put Him in the hole, which I did – box and all. And then he asked me to cover up the hole with earth. I was in a suit and ill-prepared for this sort of gardening, but I did a reasonable job. There was a worm on top. And my sister placed a pot of hyacinths on it. We’re still waiting for the stone to be engraved, so that was that.

Later that day, while we were eating sandwiches back at the house, we learned that his granddaughter is expecting her first baby. And so the circle of life continues.

Text of Psalm 139 is copyright THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Dead horses and red meat

People are outraged that five horses have died at the Cheltenham Festival. Yet, not so long ago, people were trashing claims that eating red meat increases an individual’s chance of death.

The moment you claim that it’s daft to suggest that eating red meat increases your chance of death, you must simultaneously agree that it’s daft to suggest that racing at Cheltenham increases a racehorse’s chance of death. This isn’t to downplay the sad story of how racehorses are treated, but to demonstrate that people are incredibly comfortable holding inconsistent views.

(Of course, this is just another scope issue).

We’re all going to die!

Oh, how tweeps have been having fun today with the “news” that certain types of food will increase your chance of death. They point out that a living individual’s chance of death is 100% and therefore cannot be increased any further. The Dead Dad is unliving proof that this is the case.

But what the joyless wags are overlooking is the implied scope within the claims. When I open the fridge and proclaim “There’s no beer!” it’s understood that I refer only to the inside of my fridge and not to the world at large. Similarly, claims about rates of death need to be understood in a narrower scope than “forever”.  Otherwise the entire branch of actuarial science may as well give up.

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Happy birthday, Dad

Today would be the Dead Dad’s birthday, you know, if he hadn’t died last year.

He had always said he was terrified of living his last days with either mental or physical disabilities. So it’s probably a good thing that, in the last few years his memory got so bad he wasn’t really aware of where, or occasionally even who  he was. He had Parkinson’s, in a non-shaking manifestation, which sapped his strength and left him unable to get around the house comfortably. Given his love of walking, this was a cruel blow.

But he always remembered his family, even in the last few days. So, for that we are eternally grateful.

If you have left lost a loved one, take some time on their birthday to remember them, warts and all. Through their passing, you may be able to comprehend better the glorious mystery of God’s love.

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