I’m a fan of Oliver James. Such an admission is unlikely to make me popular with working mothers but I’ve never been one to let an unsavoury truth affect my opinions. I consider James to fall into the category of a decent researcher and if his conclusions are difficult to swallow then his conclusions are difficult to swallow; his methodology to my eyes is sound. James is the author of a favourite book title of mine. A book, I hasten to add, I am yet to read. The title summarises the relationship many of us have with our parents beautifully: They fuck you up
The reason I’m thinking about parents screwing you up is possibly guessable. Derek Bird’s massacre of Cumbrian citizens has shaken the country. It seems that in as much as there was a reason* for Bird’s behaviour, it was linked to his father’s will. And in a knock on effect, his youngest son has pulled out of his GCSE’s. My first reaction to the exam dodger was negative but then, Graeme (28) and Jamie (16) have been horribly insensitive.
Their statement read as follows:
We are utterly devastated about the death of our father Derrick Bird. To us he was the nicest man you could ever meet. He was a loving dad and recently became a grandfather. We do not know why our dad committed these horrific crimes. We are both mortified by these sad events. We would ask to be allowed to mourn the loss of our father. We would also like to send our condolences to all the other families and people involved in this tragic incident.
It ought to have been shorter:
We do not know why our dad committed these horrific crimes. We are both mortified by these sad events. We would also like to send our condolences to all the other families and people involved in this tragic incident.
Anything more than the shorter is not only irrelevant but actually insulting. A request to mourn their father suggests their father is in some way equal to the other people that lost their life that day. Sorry boys but everything changed. What you are mourning is not your father but a person you believed to be your father. Your father was a soulless killer that boasted prior to his death that he would go out in a blaze of glory. If you are to survive this then you need to recognise that fact.
I’m sure I’m coming across as harsh but it is just bad manners. Good people died that day; loved and loving family members that no doubt had their share of disappointments and feeling the world was against them but got on with things rather than go on a killing spree. I’m far from perfectly mannered but I try to have some standards and I’d never be so arrogant as to assume anyone gave a toss about me mourning a twisted cunt** like Derek Bird.
It strikes me as a reflection on society. In Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd an early conversation between Oak and Bathsheba touches on the notion of individual significance.
"I believe you saved my life, Miss - I don't know your name. I know your aunt's, but not yours."
"I would just as soon not tell it - rather not. There is no reason either why I should, as you probably will never have much to do with me."
"Still, I should like to know."
"You can inquire at my aunt's - she will tell you."
"My name is Gabriel Oak."
"And mine isn't. You seem fond of yours in speaking it so decisively, Gabriel Oak."
Bathsheba is an interesting character and I wouldn’t want to leap to the conclusion that Hardy’s portrayal of her is sociologically defendable as female attitudes of the day but it nonetheless reflects an idea of one’s station in life being clearly marked. In 1874 one did not presume that all and sundry were keen to know your views. That was something to be earned.
Arguably the young Mr's Bird have earned an audience through notoriety by association with the Cumbrian killer but an audience by association is not a true audience. What we want to hear is sorry and while Grame and Jamie are in no way responsible for the sins of their father, it might have been nice if they'd displayed some 19th century decorum and considered their personal feelings to be kept private and the appropriate public response to be a simple, "we are so very sorry for the losses at the hand of our father."
* I think it’s important to be absolutely clear that I believe Derek Bird to be a pathetic excuse for a human being and anything positive that he may have done has been obliterated by his final actions. The kind of son, father, grandparent he was prior to last week is made utterly irrelevant by his demonstration that he was an individual without value and the tiny positive from the situation is that he removed himself from the world.
** I apologise. I vowed never to use that degree of language in this blog but I’ve stared at my blinking cursor for too long. It is the right word to use for him.