Don’t You (Forget About Me)
I wrote about the funeral. Couldn’t help myself.
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In an odd turn of events, I found myself back with my parents on the day the Queen was buried. It wasn’t planned. One of my oldest friends celebrated his 40th a few days earlier, a friend I’d known since I was 5—his parents and mine were friends themselves, of course. How else could five-year-olds be friends—we met in the pub? We went to the same school, and as both of our parents were Irish, they probably overheard one another at the gates and got chatting on the short walk home.
I wasn’t sure I’d be attending until the eleventh hour, as flights had long gone beyond the price of “justifiable for a weekend.” But thanks to the wonders of Google’s “Track flights” feature (and being online at the precise moment the email alert arrived, informing me of a strange plunge in price) I managed to lock down a return flight for around the price of a single London to Manchester train ticket. My wife gave me the nudge I needed, so on Saturday morning I said goodbye to the kids, promising I’d give them a kiss in bed when I got back, whilst knowing fine well I’d never risk waking them up for something so foolish.
The only returning flight that didn’t break the bank was Monday evening at 18:25. So I was back in Manchester for the Queen’s funeral, without children. Just one grown-up, hanging out with the super-grown-ups. It was a strange day. Close to the entire country had shut down to pay their respects, with even Liverpool Airport’s Greggs closing out of respect for Her Majesty, my wish to get a becoming-legendary vegan sausage roll for the flight home denied.
If pushed to sum yesterday up in two words, I’d go for “sad Christmas.” There were multiple semiotic nods to the day, triggers that made placed my brain inside the world of December 25th—waking up in your parent’s house; the cold, wet and grey weather outside (in Manchester, until the afternoon at least); almost everyone with the day off, pottering around various family houses; the TV on in the background, expecting the Queen to make an appearance at some point later in the day. The presents were absent, but the family was present.
Both of my parents were raised Catholic in Northern Ireland. While I have a complicated relationship with religion, my relationship with the royal family is significantly more straightforward. I am the child of two migrants who came to the UK, leaving behind a country still dealing with the repercussions of the British Empire. The Queen, the figurehead of said actions, meant many folks also spent the day with an entangled web of emotions.
We’d be the last family in the world to consider ourselves royalists. I remember being around 8, and had asked to go to the local Cub Scouts meetup, primarily because my friend Martin went there. I came home and shared what we did: “we learned how to put up a tent and the morse code for SOS. And then at the end, we stood up and pledged allegiance to the Queen. Then mum picked me up.” You can imagine how that middle bit went down. Safe to say it was my first—and last—engagement under the House of Windsor.
But even the most ardent anti-monarchist would have been moved by the more profound, human emotions on display yesterday: a son, newly patriarch of his family, grieving the loss of his elder mother and last-living parent; grandchildren taking one last chance to show their respects to the most senior of their house; two men, fathers themselves, bringing their children to say goodbye to their great grandmother, children only a few years younger than they were, 25 years ago, when they said goodbye to their mother, in the same place of worship. Whilst Greggs was shut, the airport pub was open—an essential service, if ever there was one—and folks congregated for a drink or three, talking together, occasionally glancing up to wonder if they’d finally let her rest. Duty-free at last, duty-free at last.
Most of my group chats went silent for the day—a mark of respect or a vow of silence; the effect was the same. Even amongst those who disagreed with the monarchy, there was respect of the feelings of those who did. I was told of one anti-royal group chat, where one member shared that “no matter your beliefs, this is a historic day.” It didn’t go down well, but irrespective of your politics, you’d be foolish to disagree with this one. What was yesterday if not historic? The death of a monarch we’ve known our entire lives, so famous that US media were carrying back-to-back coverage whilst 3 million of their citizens were without power and running water; a woman who inspired Netflix to spend $400m telling her life story—a series that hasn’t finished yet, but damn, did they ever get themselves a finale. A ruler who presided over the Commonwealth during the period where so many countries pushed for and gained independence—so many cultures renewed, freedoms achieved, histories reclaimed. Her passing will see many other countries go out on their own—Jamaica already shared their dream for independence before William and Kate could even sit down for a Red Stripe in this wonderfully awkward moment. It’s impossible to predict what will happen to the United Kingdom over the next few decades. Recent reports indicate that the cost of living crisis is hitting the UK harder than anywhere else (just like Covid, who’d have thunk it), meaning that those struggling in the Republic of Ireland are 63% better off than their compatriots north of the border. A reunited Ireland, and an independent Scotland, are closer this morning than ever before.
I rarely get the time to sit down with my dad one-to-one these days. And we did it during the biggest funeral we’re both likely to see. We ended up talking about funerals from days gone by. It was inevitable. We talked about memories that were difficult to pin down—some seared into the mind, others strangely absent, long periods gone with only scant glimpses here and there. I shared a recollection of his silhouette at the bottom of the stairs, around 5 am on Christmas Day, as he sat on the phone, learning of his father’s death earlier that morning. And my memory of the same grandfather’s wake—the Irish tradition of friends and family keeping continuous watch over the body of the departed— where a line of mourners snaked down the garden path waiting to pay their respects—a queue, but not The Queue—and the first time I’d witnessed the existential experience of a dead body in the flesh. And at his mother’s funeral, her 53 grandchildren paying their respects one final time, lining up for their turn to stand with five other cousins, and the privilege to carry her casket from her bedroom, up the hill to the church, and finally to rest.
The brands posted through it. Others took old jokes and made them worse. Royalist or not, the last week has stirred up emotions for many. No matter where you’re from, you’ll have grown up learning to respect older members of society, especially those of your own family. For me, yesterday was less about the passing of the Queen, but more the resurrection of ghosts from funerals past.
3 things to read this week
“What the Hell Is Going on at Kanye West’s Mysterious New Private School?” by Cheyenne Roundtree in Rolling Stone. Would you send your children to Donda Academy? Ye’s new side project, has a school uniform of head-to-toe Yeezy, regular parkour classes, and requires every parent to sign a water-tight NDA. Whilst the learning curriculum may be lacking, I bet choir practice is incredible.
“A Children’s Show About Everything, Especially Music” by David Allen in The New York Times. If someone writes about Bluey, I’m going to read it. But this piece, on the musical scoring of the show, its regular use of classical staples, and an interview with the showrunner and composer, is catnip to me. “There’s a time in a child’s life when they are starting to build their own identity, and their own independence. The idea that they are going alone, but their parents’ love will always be there is such a powerful one. It needed to be something like [Gustav Holst’s] ‘Jupiter’ that is bigger than what it is.”
“There Is No Road Map for the Longest Phase of Parenthood” by Julie Halpert in The Atlantic. When we consider raising children, we’re fixated on the first 18 years. But, as parents of adults will confirm, it’s only the beginning. This piece explores some of the issues facing adults on both sides of the equation. “Legally, parents aren’t obliged to support their children once they turn 18. But the moral responsibility of helping one’s kids doesn’t just go away when they leave the nest, and many parents find themselves still enmeshed in their adult children’s lives, both emotionally and financially. Finding the right balance can be tricky.”
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Introducing The Interns
I’ve spent a while trying to figure out what to do with The New Fatherhood on Instagram. Some of you follow it, and others have arrived here because of it. I know how valuable a platform like Instagram is in connecting people to significant questions they’re asking, and the big things they’re trying to figure out. But I’m also conflicted, especially on the clear negatives of spending time on those platforms.
This resistance manifests itself in me not updating Instagram all that often. And it’s been niggling at me for a while. I considered closing it down. Then I switched my mental model to “maybe I could find someone to help me do it.” But finding the right person was a job in itself and one can that I kept kicking down the road.
Last week I hit on a solution: I’d ask my two nieces, no strangers to Instagram themselves, if they were interested in becoming TNF’s first paid interns. They’d have a simple job—taking the newsletter and extracting the parts that work for that platform—the weekly tweets, funny videos, excerpts from essays. I’d oversee and approve the posts, and in exchange, I’d pay them a decent hourly rate (sadly on a zero-hour contract, sorry girls), give them both some on-the-job experience at being a social media manager, and impart some of what I’ve learned from nearly 20 years spent working in digital marketing.
So anyway. Please welcome Niamh and Ruby to the team, they’re going to be helping out a little here. And for those folks with a badge on the way, they’ll be packing and sending them out this week.
The mum takeover edition
Previously on The New Fatherhood
Last weekend we talked about our fatherhood friendship groups:
“I’ve got a WhatsApp group that isn’t just dads, but it’s mostly dads, that focus on physical and mental self-improvement and pulling each other out of funks. We stray from this at times to go down a rabbit hole on the pros/cons of going grey, the merits (or mostly the lack thereof) of social media, and jokes. Some of the guys knew each other well at the start, most have never met, but we feel we can talk about anything which is liberating.” Jeremy
“Interesting reading these. I guess for me it's also a weird mix - I live in a town that we didn't grow up in, no parents live locally so no day to day support and we were the last in my long term friend group to have kids. Everyone is so busy with life and work that there's no discussion just a few meet ups a year, which are largely shouting stuff over noisy children! Net net, there's not much going on, and no social life with two young ones in tow. Hopefully, eldest starting school might help I guess?” Neil
”My dad is my one-man Dad crew. We chat daily on about the realities of fatherhood... as well as sport and all the old movies I’m rewatching up late with our six-week-old. Me and my old man have always been close but our relationship has really taken on a new dimension since I’ve joint the dad club.” Jack
“I'm new to my community and the only group that is explicitly organized around fatherhood seems to be for newly divorced dads. My "crew" here is mainly my brother-in-law. I know a few other dads with kids, but we don't think of ourselves as "dad friends" or as a "dad group." I'd love to organize play dates for my kids, but the moms seem to be the ones who handle that. Maybe this is something I could be more proactive about?” Joshua
Still getting used to a new King and writing “Prince Charles” on all my cheques. Send help. I wanted to make sure this one got out today, so apologies if there are more mistakes than usual. Follow The New Fatherhood on Twitter and Instagram. Send me links, comments, questions, and feedback. Or reply to this email.
Apparently, GIFs are cringe now? This week’s newsletter was too long to fit one in, but I’m still using them until you tell me to stop. Branding by Selman Design. If you’re looking for more interesting dads in your life, subscribe and join our community. One dad recently told us, “for a bunch of guys I’ve never met, I’ve come to value your opinion an awful lot, far more than some of my friends, to be honest.” 🥺