Where is home?

Home is a place where I am at ease. Like most people, I enjoy company, conversation, playing cards. The pitter-patter of a card game, the things we say while focused on something else are far more interesting than things we plan to say to others. I am most at “home” when with others and absorbed in something else, as with bird watching. Things pass through my mind, and sometimes I give voice, as one day with a group down on Platte River when I repeated the words of a song … out of the blue: “Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried, in my own way, to be true to you free.”

“Where did that come from?”, I was asked. I quickly consulted my phone to find I was quoting a song by Leonard Cohen, but why?

My brother Joe was a lost and lonely man, but for a brief time he had a girlfriend, Chris. He adored her. She was troubled, but most troubling for me is this: One evening, over dinner at my folks (and for reasons unknown), the phone was handed to me and she and I were talking. She started to explain to me how she was misunderstood, and also very smart.

I cut her off. I snubbed her. I wanted no part of the conversation. I felt her sense of rejection, and let it ride. I had no empathy for her. I was a jerk. I could not be humble and allow another person’s shortcomings to be on display, and try to keep her close and to understand her better. I felt guilt that evening, mostly because I knew how much Joe needed her, and how I had not embraced his lover as my friend too. I rejected her, and in so doing, disrespected Joe.

She later committed suicide, not anyone’s fault, but her destiny. In the weeks of warm-up to that event, she promised my brother marriage, her way of letting him down easy. He was devastated, of course. At the funeral, I was my usual self, engaging and chatty and even humorous. I am defensive that way, using quips and friendly engagement as a way of keeping myself private, not saying what I think. Chris’s father said to me at one point, “Ah, a man with a sense of humor.” He needed relief, as did I. What must it be like to be the father of a suicide victim? What kind of guilt was he carrying?

When I die (in the distant, distant future!) – we are currently making arrangements so kids are not burdened with details – I want a certain song played. It can be sung, but it is so much more moving when merely played on a piano. It is from Dvořák’s Ninth symphony, second movement, called Largo or something like that. There are sung versions of an adaptation of the movement, a version called “Goin’ Home.” I do not like the song that way. I only want the piano. However, the words to that song follow, a touching Negro spiritual. I would like for people to have the printed words in front of them as the music plays:

Goin’ home, goin’ home,
I am goin’ home,
Quiet light, some still day,
I am goin’ home.

It ain’t far, Jes’ close by,
Through an open door,
Work all done, care laid by,
Goin’ t’ fear no more.

Mother’s there, ‘spectin’ me,
Father’s waitin’ too,
Lots o’ folks gathered there,
All the friends I knew.

Nothin’s lost, all is gain,
No more fret nor pain,
No more stumblin’ on the way,
No more sweat n’ strain.

Mornin’ star lights the way,
Restless dream all done,
Shadows gone, break of day,
Real life has begun.

There’s no break, there’s no end,
Just a livin’ on,
Wide awake with a smile,
Goin’ on an’ on.

Goin’ home, goin’ home,
I am goin’ home.
Here am I, all alone,
I am goin’ home.

I am goin’ home.

It is sweet, simple, and moving. Yet when singers put their efforts in, it loses its simplicity. Ergo, only piano.

What am I grieving about here, still? At Chris’s funeral, by her predetermined choice, the song she wanted played was Bird On a Wire. That’s why I know the opening lines. I feel intense guilt, not that I harmed her, though I did, but rather that I was indifferent to my brother Joe’s life and pursuits. I disrespected him. She mattered very much to him, and I snubbed her. I need his forgiveness more than hers.

Home … a concept more than a place. Perhaps it is a place where we can reconcile, me facing her, Joe at my side, merely saying that I was indifferent to her struggles, and in that manner, indifferent to Joe.

Will I meet them again? Who can know? I hope so. Can I undo the trivial punishments we inflict on one another in this life? No,  but maybe it does not matter. As the song says, “work all done, care laid by.” Perhaps we can embrace, forgive and forget.

That is my wish. Joe died in 2006, of natural causes if smoking cigarettes can be called “natural”, Chris several years before. If there is a place called “home”, I hope it is where they are now.

32 thoughts on “Where is home?

  1. Mark,

    Your raw and poignant insights resonate with and shake me at my core – in mind, body, and spirit. The humility and wisdom (and wordsmithing prowess) you present herein remind me (and should remind all POM readers and writers, including YOURSELF), why your offerings reflected in this evolving little blog known as Piece of Mindful, are most pivotal. My contributions (while I sincerely appreciate your admiration in many respects) could NEVER approach this level of inner gnosis. Thank you for sharing so deeply, and leaving your small, yet powerful footprint in this small neck of the Internet woods, and know that your ripples matter in the larger scheme of reality and life. Thank you. I am truly honored to know you – not only as my writing mentor here at POM – but now as a dear friend and life mentor.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I echo Stephers’ sentiments. In a blog that deals bluntly with so much dark stuff—the absolute worst that humanity is capable of, it seems to me—deeply humane, honest essays like this provide a needed counterbalance.

    My dad died in a house fire last month. The cause of the fire—which burned his house to the ground—will forever be officially “undetermined,” but we all know he passed out in bed while drunk with a lit cigarette. He was long retired and, over the past ten or fifteen years, became more or less an alcoholic recluse. Toward the end, he’d lost nearly all the charm, perceptiveness and self-awareness he once possessed. When I heard the news, my first coherent thought was that it was the best way it could have ended for him. I’d envisioned a future where he languished for years in a nursing home, addled by dementia and wet brain and bitterness. The inside of his house was a disaster; he lived alone and, at some point, stopped cleaning up after himself, even after suffering bouts of incontinence. The smart, vital, prideful man he used to be would not have wanted my sister and me to have to deal with that mess. Now we don’t. He, along with his horrific final years, went up in smoke, and I can focus on fonder memories I have of him.

    He stopped communicating with my sister and me a while ago. I decided a year ago to stop calling him, even on holidays or his birthday—not out of anger, but because he obviously didn’t want me to. I grieved the loss of him while he was alive. Now that he’s gone, I feel an almost mystical acceptance and forgiveness, and gratitude for the good he brought to my world (sometimes in spite of himself.)

    Restless dream all done,
    Shadows gone, break of day,
    Real life has begun.

    That’s a beautiful summary of how I think about his ending. It also serves to remind me that so many of my fears, anxieties, anger and despair (about the dark things we talk about here, and circumstances in my own life) may stem from real people and events… but those emotions themselves are just “restless dreams.” They are not real life. I think your post provides a hint of what real life is, or could be.

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    1. Mark-
      Very poignant, as noted. Thanks for painting this human picture. It reveals you positively, and brings all of us to a point of reflection re our own lives, relationships, and regrets. It also brings us back from our current obsession with tyranny, to the importance of real human interpersonal drama, which is so much more pleasing and fulfilling to contemplate and learn from.

      My mother died in October 2020, in Ohio, age 91. I did not go to the funeral. Not because of distance or bad feelings towards her. It was because I left the faith long ago (Jehovah’s Witness), and was disfellowshipped (excommunicated), and I am not welcome to set foot inside the doors of any of my 5 brothers and sisters.

      Do I regret not returning? No, my mother was dead, and I am as good as dead to my three older brothers and younger sisters, and many nieces and nephews attached…I saw mother for the final time when my young son and his mother and I passed through (2003) Ohio on our way to our new home in Oregon.

      Some years ago, not sure when, I did send mother a piece of verse, my wistful look back at farm and family:

      on the land where i was born
      was nourishment for the soul of a boy.
      streams of vastness and life to discover
      creepers and swimmers and slow-pool reflections,
      mystique of morels, flight of dragons,
      blackberry brambles, gnarls of roots.

      a land of poetry indecipherable,
      felt but not seen, unknown yet known.
      hoot of owl, scream of captured rabbit,
      milkweed mating-ground of dancing monarchs,
      bones of cow, beckoning ponds,
      skating on ice like the wind.

      how much these eyes did see there,
      what truths did this heart absorb?
      apple blossom fragrance, bleat of lamb,
      sorrow of dog and car on the road,
      love of mother, toil of father
      laughter of brothers and sisters.

      i go no more
      to the land where i was born.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. OM, I would think JWs would be anti-“vax” all the way, wouldn’t they? Not that it would help your non-relationship with your living family, but at least it would be something in common.

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        1. They used to be, a long time ago before I became flesh and blood. Now they are about as mainstream as they can be, except for their rejection of blood transfusions.

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      2. OM, poetry does not usually capture me, the message lost in my dense brain, having to be explained to me by a teacher or professor. Your words, however, are simple and elegant, the images invoked all familiar to me (except the scream of a rabbit – never experienced that). It seems we all have great sorrow and disappointment in life, in ourselves and others. I wonder if a person does not experience this kind of pain, if that person ever truly comes alive?,

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        1. Thanks Mark. Is it poetry? I know it is a flow of images, an appreciation of the beauty within each, and a coming to terms with loss.

          In my final year of high school, I took a music theory class. That was my introduction to classical music. We were each given scores, and followed along to recordings of Handel’s “Water Music”, and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony (No. 6), which became and has remained a favorite. Beautiful melodies throughout.

          Sometime later I got to know Dvorak’s “New World” symphony, with its beautiful largo, and since I’ve always had a piano on the premises, turned it into a piece that is much like the pianist’s in the video you offered. But I did not read the “comin home” lyrics. I do not want to, as the largo music transcends words (for me), and does not want to be contained by them.

          The largo reminds me of Stephen Foster’s music, like this song (Hard Times) “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57iE6ElmdCM”, and for an unexpectedly pleasurable modern remake, try Bruce himself doing it: “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nLDj-Vn3AQ”.

          “Bird on a Wire” is one of the songs on the Judy Collins album “Who knows where the time goes”, and on it she also sings “Story of Isaac”, also written by Cohen. Many folkish masterpieces were on this one album, with great accompanying music, and I spent many hours as a teenager floating to its spell. What musical or poetic pathos would make a teenage boy immerse over and over into a murder ballad (Pretty Polly)? The whole album is here: “https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLPaztBWnatcghNlG9dZjhFris_JdtJyWN”, and, if you’d like to try it, Pretty Polly is here: “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgrMmwwG8S0&list=PLPaztBWnatcghNlG9dZjhFris_JDtJyWN&index=9”.

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          1. Thanks … could not get the “whole album” link to work, but there’s enough JC there that I didn’t need it. I’d forgotten all about Judy Collins, but she did some memorable work, including a Lyle Lovett song called “Someday Soon,” which I first heard sung, I think, by Sylvia Fricker (Ian and Sylvia). I’ve had my head in classical music for so long that I’ve overlooked some excellent contemporary work. Springsteen’s version of Hard Times, which I’ve never heard before, is superb. His greatest asset is to assemble and highlight so much talent around him. He is Channel 20 on Sirius XM, and it is called the “E Street” channel, not Springsteen.

            This will date me, but since I love beautiful music for its own sake, I think I am going to grab a Carpenters’ Greatest Hits selection, as her voice has a once-in-a-lifetime quality about it. I think MM and I both decided, he after my suggesting it in 2016, and of course doing more thorough work, that Karen Carpenter’s 1983 death (age 33) was faked. Why? He thought perhaps she was using a catalogue of songs by aging songwriters of another era, and since the music of a generation was set to change to more heavy metal and hiphop, she had to go. That is good speculation, maybe something there. She’s out there somewhere, I know, currently age 71., like me.

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  3. Mark,

    Interestingly, I, too, have already chosen a song (actually a couple songs) to be played when I pass on.

    I have requested to my family that there be no funeral per se, but, rather, a small honoring that reflects my heart and my intentions when being present in this particular incarnation. As no other recording artist has touched my heart and soul more than the lyrics and rhythm of Tracy Chapman – and her expression of music reflects so intimately my inner core – I asked my daughters a few years ago to try to honor my musical request when I am physically gone. As the lyrics of the first song, “The Promise,” express, I want my family to remember that I am always residing in their heart, and can never truly be gone. The second song, “All That You Have is Your Soul,” echoes my passion for truth and justice in a world run by a predatory system that desires to steal our souls.

    The heart (the cosmic heart that beats and lives eternally, and connects all that is, not the physical one we typically conjure) is where I call “home,” and where I wish to return when it is time (yes, hopefully a long, long time from now).

    So, this is the first song, “The Promise” https://genius.com/Tracy-chapman-the-promise-lyrics, to be followed up by the second song I chose, “All That You Have is Your Soul” https://genius.com/Tracy-chapman-all-that-you-have-is-your-soul-lyrics.

    On a note related to your essay, my mom took her own life six years ago. She suffered her own private hell here on earth – much of her life tragically wasted. Sometimes we learn to make the most of life (in this world that could potentially be considered our temporary home) by observing others who did not take full advantage of its gifts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stephers, I’m listening to those Chapman songs now. Many years ago, I was friends with a professional singer with a powerhouse voice who once rolled her eyes when Chapman’s name came up, scoffing that she just hit the same few notes over and over. Listening now, I realize that within those few notes, she reveals more of herself than most singers do no matter how far up and down the scales they climb.

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  4. Thank you for the piano piece. I’ve always loved gentle piano…and not the high energy carnival-style piano.

    I downloaded it to my computer 🙂

    https://catchvideo.net/

    As far as death, I imagine the next year will see a lot of emotion as loved ones pass due to the “vaccine”. I’m trying to come to terms with it. Some people will never listen… A human being has absolutely zero chance of competing with TeeVee.

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  5. Interesting..
    All That You Have Is Your Soul.

    Yes, you and I maybe.

    Those who are asked (demanded?) to play a role at at age of 84 I believe…who once was invited into everyone’s homes as a nice loving Huxtable…who sold chocolate pudding on TeeVee…must now play the role of Mass Rapist!!

    Not everyone owns their own soul!!

    We should all be grateful. There is poverty in terms of lack of finances. And there is also spiritual impoverishment.

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  6. Not to sully this thread of thoughtful reflections with current events, but…

    Wondering what to make of the messaging everywhere that “97% of those hospitalized with covid/ delta are unvaccinated.”

    Is it just that they only test the unvaxxed for it? Or they use different cycle rates when testing the two groups? Or, is there some actual difference in serious illness (for whatever reason) between the vaxxed and unvaxxed?

    What’s the sleight of hand being performed in these alleged stats? Just pure fiction maybe…

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    1. At this point, what does it matter where they get the numbers, since it’s all fakery from start to finish, beginning with the “test” itself?

      I don’t subscribe to the NYT, but I get their “Morning Update” via email because it’s free and provides a glimpse of how the narrative is progressing. The other day, a vaxxed and fully propagandized friend forwarded one of those updates to me, which talked about how a lot of “vaccine skeptics” are being “converted.” (They actually use the word “converted.”) My friend wanted to know if I, too, had been converted. Of course, I told him no. I also told him that I think articles such as the one he’d forwarded have nothing to do with converting people like me, but with converting liberal Democrats like him. No matter how pro-vax a mainstream American might be, the illusion that “freedom” is one of America’s greatest virtues persists. If the government forced skeptics to get the jab, they would break that illusion and Good Liberals would likely turn on them. So they have to ease the liberals into the idea that the “unvaxed” don’t deserve freedom. We are crazy and we are killing people and we don’t know what’s good for us. When Good Liberals hear things like “97% of those hospitalized from Covid are unvaxed,” they can’t imagine how we could possibly persist in our insanity of resisting vaccination. The government wants it to seem like the idea of stripping us of all our rights unless and until we come to our senses is a grassroots notion—the Good Liberals themselves need to be clamoring for it. The government and the media can’t directly advocate for it. So I asked my friend if he’s been “converted” by articles like the one he forwarded, and has changed his mind about just how much “freedom” people who disagree with him about Covid deserve. All he said was “Fair point.” Lol.

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      1. Agree on the manipulative nature of it all. It’s curious though – the official story, as far as I can tell (though not much ballyhooed or trumpeted) is that the vaxxed can still infect others

        They can become infected; and they can infect others. So all the worry over the unvaxxed crumbles, under their own narrative. Except insofar as they permit the misperception (of their own narrative) to linger in the public mind.

        NakedCapitalism, with its “cutting-edge sheeple,” so to speak, groks this. They’re always “ahead of the curve,” in their way – up in arms, that the mainstream propaganda, hasn’t caught up to the more wonkish, fine-grained propaganda.

        Eventually, it usually does though… “They” are always planning ahead. They know they have pockets like NC, who are 3 months ahead, and then the 90% who are right where the current hype is. So NC is a bit of a canary in the coal mine, I guess.

        But I’m leaning towards the Corbett view right now (Ab had a link to his post) – Covid and its lockdowns are in some kind of dead frog bounce (my take, not corbett), and will continue to be used, to varying degrees. But the real s*#@# hits the fan, will be Climate Change lockdowns. Covid was/ is a trial run, plus other agendas. Maybe? And a one-two punch along with Climate, moving forward…

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  7. They are pitting the unvaccinated against the vaccinated, as in a fight.

    This “worse variant” will just not be controlled until 200% of the population receive their jabs!! 100% x 2 jabs.

    You are preventing “normalcy” by your selfishness.

    The stats are utter hogwash. This entire hoax is hogwash…all of it.

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  8. Interesting that “converted” is the latest word being employed to nudge the un-vaxed. Love the religious overtones (“unwashed” (sinner) = unvaxed). The implication seems obvious, the unvaxed are pagan heretics in the new-age religion of scientism.

    A working definition of scientism:
    Historian Richard G. Olson defines scientism as “efforts to extend scientific ideas, methods, practices, and attitudes to matters of human social and political concern.” (1) But this formulation is so broad as to render it virtually useless. Philosopher Tom Sorell offers a more precise definition: “Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.” (2) MIT physicist Ian Hutchinson offers a closely related version, but more extreme: “Science, modeled on the natural sciences, is the only source of real knowledge.” (3) The latter two definitions are far more precise and will better help us evaluate scientism’s merit.

    #2 most closely resembles my personal interpretation.

    So, apparently, true conversion means not only rejecting sin but also turning away from depending upon self-made righteousness, or rather, be dependent on computer models and simulations. In order to be truly converted, however, one must become an entirely new creature. Trans-human, of course. Please walk, single file, this way. All we want is your unconditional consent.

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    1. Steve, our manipulators certainly use scientism as a pretext, but I find it fascinating how the propaganda can easily dispose of it without the brainwashed masses blinking an eye. The same day my friend forwarded the “vaccine convert” NYT update to me, I received the next NYT update, which had to do with the fact that the FDA has not given the vaccines their final approval, having only granted provisional approval for “emergency use.” The author laments that the FDA has a lot of hoary old scientific protocols that a vaccine must pass through before it gets that final stamp of approval. He argues that the FDA should just scrap those stupid ol’ scientific standards. After all, he reasons, the FDA will still catch hell for granting emergency-use approval on the off-chance that the vaccines wind up having serious long-term side effects. In a rambling and round-about, but oh-so-reasonable sounding way, the NYT journalist concludes that the FDA should just tell its fussy little scientists to fuck off and listen to the government, the media and all the Good Liberals who have already decided that the vaccines are probably almost definitely perfectly safe. Scientism and anti-scientism, all rolled into run, with the masses too disconnected from their own intelligence to notice the contradiction.

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        1. It’s a fair question. Mostly, I just think it’s fascinating.

          When I was a teenager, I tried to be as up on the news as my father prided himself on being, but I had a purely intuitive sense that the oh-so-rational tone of the New York Times, Newsweek magazine, NPR and all my dad’s other favorite news sources simply amounted to mind-numbing patter masking total bullshit. I couldn’t make a coherent argument for this feeling, though, and I sounded even to myself like a callow know-it-all teenager who didn’t know jack shit. And I was, and I didn’t, so now I’m amazed at how accurate that stupid kid’s instincts were when it came to the news. I dunno, there’s something weirdly exhilarating about it, lol.

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          1. I hear you about the teen newshound aspect. For me, it was wanting to know as much as possible, to be “informed.” But I recall in 1982, two years ahead of schedule, reading about the Marines recent arrival in Lebanon, weeks before the “unthinkable” happened (how many truck bombs had gone off in the region in the decades prior? Hundreds?). The gubmint mouthpiece answered a question about the boys being involved in combat. It was more or less this: “Well, the Marines are receiving fire, and are returning fire, but they are not involved in combat.”

            BTW, Mark this is one of the best posts and some of the best replies ever on this site. I was so bowled over I had to step back and re-evaluate. Not bad for a guy who stepping down, Mark. 😉

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      1. I’d prefer “Good Liberals” to any suggestion of anything real. Wetiko, mass psychosis, call it whatever, our psyche/soul/spirit is in danger. That threat alone seems to me a worthy cause, deserving of the energy required to participate in life, and finding ways to protect all life, even the “infected” two-legged zombies, although I must admit it’s not my highest priority.

        The remnant will persist — as it has historically– and will need imagination and creative ideas and engagement in the evolution/elevation of human consciousness. This is especially important among the still-living souls who have not fallen for all the crapola.

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  9. On topic though… That’s a great point about pastimes like poker leading to random thoughts or comments, that are often more interesting than some more purposeful discussion. Or a gathering where “socializing” is the main activity… (along with drinking, of course!)

    So many of the people I know are fundamentally too harried and hectic in their nature to slow down and do something as “unproductive” as poker though. Now, they WILL “socialize” – hang out, shoot the breeze, drink, smoke maybe (cigars, vapes, cigarettes – depending on type) – but not in the leisured, reflective way one might hope. Such as a game of poker might bring about.

    They have access to their phones, their tablets even. They’re responding to texts, posting things to facebook while you talk to them, dipping into TikTok feeds if the frantic conversation somehow manages to lag for one millisecond.

    The one activity that might be the modern equivalent of poker, somewhat, is the bonding ritual of re-watching some beloved movie, and talking through the whole thing – like poker, you’re sort of engaged by the movie, and it’s acceptable for everyone to shut the blank up for a bit and watch a few minutes; and then come out with some random observation if one should naturally occur – no need for the constant, forced filling of silence.

    Unfortunately for ME, I’ve usually never seen the beloved cult fetish object/ film, and don’t have the same encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture that everyone else seems to. And on those rare occasions I’m somehow there anyway, I know enough to keep my most “interesting” observations about the movie to myself…

    But perhaps, if I flipped through my slim Rolodex, and sorted it into those who might play poker – perhaps I’d find a congenial group who eschew the harried, hectic, modern world… Who knows?

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    1. The slow death of card games saddens me. When you tell young people that we used to play “Life” or Monopoly for hours on end when there was “nothing” on the 5 TV channels, they react as if you are talking about waterboarding.
      For that reason, in early 2020 I picked up Mille Bornes, the classic French card game of auto racing. Played it with the family (the cat played by proxy under the Prime Directive to 1. get miles if possible, if not 2. give a flat tire or other hazard to the player in the lead. She rarely won, btw) and the occasional person who would brave lockdown to join us.
      Bring back card games, for humanity’s sake!

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      1. I used to love playing monopoly, but folk hate it when you keep winning, but nowadays, most young folk can’t even reckon up, let alone comprehend the rules.
        A recent example – I bought a new pair of trainers and the salesman, a young laddie more like, couldn’t even count £29.99. First he said I was wrong, so I had to count and point at the money out really slowly so he could follow, 10 quid, another 10 quid, a fiver, a quid, another quid, etc. The laddie wore a stupid mask too, it would be charitable to think that the wearing of same affected his brain, but I doubt this.

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