1. And so on to my father. The last i saw him, in 2010, the house was full of junk – entire rooms packed with cardboard boxes, the hallway and stairs lined with newspapers (hundreds) he wouldn’t throw away because, in his words, Egh well I have PAID GOOD MONEY for the thing, egh? I must read them, egh! At one point he had a huge cardboard box full of empty and meticulously-scrubbed glass (jam, honey, etc.) jars, which he planned to ship to India, when he thought to return to his vile ancestral lands. He had eleven radios in his room, three the same model. He had six second-hand cars, all shit.

The house is now largely uncluttered. i was able to sit on a sofa and he treated me to one of his Dreadful Monologues. i took the precaution of breaking out a pipe and smoking at him, a useful screen i found. As is his wont, he was belligerent and full of querulous rage and grandiose self-pity. He burnt out when he was 67, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, was like a zombie for years afterwards, i was sure he would die at any moment, then after i left in 2004 (actually, he kicked me out of the house for eating one of his ready-made meals) he apparently found a “cure” (B12 injections, i think) and spent thousands on herbal remedies and whatnot. i am generally sceptical of such things but he is physically only slightly worse than in 2004, and mentally sharper than i remember. i would say, after Apocalypse Now, that his mind is clear but his soul is mad. He has no friends, never had any, and i am the only family he has any contact with (and i have only seen him twice in the last decade).

It transpires that he met some nurses from his home state in India, who cleared his house and removed all the junk, presumably keeping anything valuable and binning the rest. They were nice to him and brought their small children to entertain him, he made a will giving them 2/3 of whatever paltry sum he will leave (he has virtually no money saved, but there is still the house), then they wanted power of attorney and he apparently realised all was not well and flipped over from his nice side to his horrible side, kicking them out and cursing them, Lear-style (he also kicked my sister out of the house on Christmas Day, about 25 years ago).

All this took a good hour or two of enraged monologue, while i sat and smoked and thought, God, how horrible. Every minute or two he bellowed, Egh? Are you with me? DO YOU UNDERSTAND? Egh? and i had to shout, Yes!

He wanted me to become executor of his will, and to receive his worldly goods, but i refused the former and said i’d be as happy to get nothing. Any disagreement with my father is ill-advised, as he is more or less incapable of accepting that another human being might have an independent existence or will, so i said i can’t be executor because i’m too busy, and that he can leave me the house if he wants but i really don’t care, because i find money largely insignificant. Actually, i would prefer to get nothing because anything i bought, even if i just used it to pay off my debts, would in a sense be a homage to him, come courtesy of his life. i managed to persuade him to give some to my sister’s children, suggested he leave them everything but he wasn’t having it – however, he’s so emotionally volatile that i have some hope he will decide on this. It’s also possible he will just will everything to the postman or a random taxi driver or a dog or stone.

2. i slept in my old bedroom, having bad dreams and a bad feeling about the whole thing. Although i respect my father as a physician, it’s somewhat like respecting a mathematician as mathematician – it has little bearing on the broader character, and for all his medical experise one could say he hath ever but slenderly known himself. i found several brand new expensive cashmere jumpers in my old wardrobe, too big for either him or me, and a (again, brand new) cashmere coat i guess would have cost several hundred pounds, again too large for him or me. It seems that the Indians cleared out dozens of identical cashmere garments that would fit them, leaving only these. It’s rather depressing to think that my father wasted his considerable salary on things like this, leaving him now nothing except his pension. Even before the Indians removed his things, he wore the same clothes every day, and had no use for the things he bought – buying them was the point, not to derive any pleasure from their craftsmanship or quality. His approach to the world has always been one of attempted dominance, with no interest in, or understanding of, either people or things – so he buys things because in doing so they become his, not because he has any use for them. i can’t really understand how it was possible for him to be a good doctor, except that, perhaps, it was another expression of domination. His drama of the Will has a Lear-like theatricality, which i mislike.

3. In many ways, i realise how little people can integrate to another culture. My father was born in 1931 (six months after Thomas Bernhard) in south India, and has never moved beyond what seems a Stone Age culture to me. He can’t use the Present Perfect or PP Progressive; he regards women as slaves and whores; he is distrustful to the point of paranoia, but also highly gullible, with virtually no understanding of people, except as medical cases. He is convinced that people are bad and just want his largely non-existent money (one of his mantras is “eghh well NO ONE DOES NOTHING FOR FREE!!!”), yet easily adopts a grotesque, clownish bonhomie, grinning hideously, if people seem friendly. It doesn’t surprise me that he never had a single friend and that i’m the only family he has any contact with.

He has a constant emotional intensity, much like that of my old Kassel boss, Morgana (though she had intellect and softness), which makes it impossible to be in the same room unless you agree with him. Emotional force is the fuel for magic so i often felt a kind of impingement upon my sanity in his presence, as if a raw and untutored magic was splashing about from his cauldron of rage. In the past i simply endured it, and avoided him as much as possible. This time i found myself smoking a screen of tobacco (Dunhill 965) and occasionally popping to my room for a new pipe and some impromptu runework and beseeching of the gods.

4. Over time – i spent 8 days in his house – i found myself deflecting his will, though it was always difficult and left me feeling troubled and anxious that, perhaps, my life in Germany was just an illusion. It’s not that my father is evil or even particularly bad, more that he has an unfortunate combination of autism and emotional force, and anger was always his way of coping with what he perceived as opposition. i’d be as happy to never meet him again, in this or any other life, but also recognise that i’ve had similar fathers in other lives (and similarly passive mothers), and so presumably choose to be born into such circumstances, because it matches my fundamental view of existence. It’s also true that rather than crushing me, such fathers have merely driven me to make my own life elsewhere, and to resist domination, so i perceive him with some distance, akin to an end of level boss who has been defeated.

As Nietzsche said, if you do not have a good father you should acquire one. i’ve picked up various role models, some younger than me, and my true father now is the gallows god. Curiously, this made it easier to talk to my merely biological father, and proved indeed necessary.

5. This trip was a reliving of situations i thought i had long departed. i had wanted to meet Bonehead, my fascist friend from school; and a friend from Durham; but Bonehead was in Boston to visit his brother, and the Durhamite at a conference in the South, so i had nothing to buffer me from the Horror – i saw my mother, and Shrekh, an old schoolfriend – but both are remnants of my old life.

My father kept trying to drag me back into the life i had 20 years ago, even attempting to persuade me to abandon my life in Germany to live with him and nurse him for the rest of his life. i would rather commit suicide, but i have become Dr Tact and so simply said i couldn’t, because i had invested too much time and money in my German life. It wasn’t simply that i dislike the ugliness & violence of my father’s mind, as that being in that house was like being dragged back into the considerable hell of my youth. He occasionally treated me like i was a small child again, with the mix of contempt and rage i remember well from my hideous youth. i noted that he didn’t treat outsiders so; i think it is, in its way, as bad for him as for me, for us to be in the same place – it brings out the worst in him, i.e. the way he was for most of his life – though these attacks were intermittent and fairly easily deflected.

With tobacco, whisky, and god, i could meet and repel these attacks, here’s one that i remember, he gave Shrekh some unsolicited medical advice and medication:

Father: Egh well eggghhh you JUST TAKE these pills, eghh!!!

Shrekh: Okay, I’ll give them a go.

Father: Egggghhh well LISTEN, you TAKE and you are ONE MILLION PERCENT better!!! Egh? Are you with me? Egh?

Me: How long would it take to have an effect?

Father [suddenly bristling with suspicion and fury]: Egh well DON’T YOU LISTEN, egh? I SAID, egh? Well YOU PEOPLE JUST DO NOT LISTEN, EGH??? EGHH? I said HOW LONG, egh? Egh?

Me: I wasn’t really listening to be honest.

My absence of either fear or aggression seemed to calm him, so all his attempts to draw me back into the twenty-year-gone nexus of contempt and misery quickly fizzled out. It was nonetheless mildly gruelling.

Family are a special case, as one doesn’t so easily have the option to just avoid them. i tend to think one should try to find some form of communication, something worthwhile in the inevitable relationship. With my sister, i found nothing at all and so haven’t had any contact with her since 2008 or 9. With my father, we can have conversations but i found they only worked in the evening, when i was full of pie and had a glass or two of Glenturret, and a pipe of Dunhill 965. It would be an exaggeration to say i treasure these conversations but i enjoyed them – for example he assured me that “eghh well the English people are SO UGLY because the English women HAD SEX with egh the AFRICAN SLAVES so English are all part-African, egh, they are NOT EUROPEAN!!!” – i found this highly amusing and it was almost worth losing a week’s work just to hear it.

His monologues about various supplements and pills were also diverting, as he has a very Indian tendency to hyperbole; so he instructed me to only drink matcha green tea, assuring me that, “Egh well YOU JUST TAKE and you will feel TEN MILLION TIMES better than with the normal green tea, egh?” i found i like making matcha, and bought a bamboo whisk when i got back to Munich (he had an electronic whisk), but i haven’t noticed any significant difference to normal green tea – the taste is different, that’s all. All in all, these pep talks reminded me most humorously of Jesse Ventura’s chopper scene in Predator (from 2.00 to 2.20)

If (God forbid) i’m reborn after this life, it would be interesting to briefly meet my father again in another guise. In the meantime, i noted the Indians had overlooked virtually the only thing i remembered with interest – a pipe stand from my father’s pipe-smoking days. Since he hasn’t smoked pipes in over 30 years, i asked if i could have it, and took it back to Germany with me, along with an ashtray my mother gifted me:

pipe stand and ashtray

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