Archive for the 'personal, friends and family' Category

Proud to be British; voted ‘Remain’

There’s been lots of weird nationalist stuff circulating around the media about “Proud to be British. Vote Leave”, as if wanting to remain in Europe is somehow unpatriotic.

So I’ll clearly say: I’m proud to be British, and thus sent in my postal vote to Remain. I don’t want the economic turmoil that an exit would cause, especially as we’re teetering on the edge of another recession. I’d probably be OK, but I fear for the livelihoods of friends of mine.

Sure, the stockbrokers and millionaires and directors who are leading the exit campaign tell you that it’s all about sovereignty and “controlling our borders” (whatever either of those mean). But really, they want to abolish the workers protection that we get from EU. They’d like us to leave European Court of Human Rights (which was the only way the ordinary families in Liverpool got any justice for Hillsborough).

Sure, the Brexit leaders tell you that “not paying the EU levy would free up resources to put into the NHS”, but many of them have had years in Parliament, quietly demolishing the NHS instead of protecting it.

They want to leave the EU so they can be more aggressively right-wing, make workers’ lives harder instead of better, and use the economic problems that would inevitably ensue as an excuse to implement even more ideologically-driven “austerity”.

I don’t want that; I love my country. So I voted ‘Remain’.

When my Dad came out

Today would have been my dad’s birthday, so it’s as appropriate a time as any to publish this blog post about how and when he came out to my brother and me as a gay man. I wasn’t going to write a blog post about it, to be honest – it’s personal. But my mum recently showed me an article about a support group for kids whose parents came out (to my incredulity) so I figured that writing this might prove useful to somebody. (I’ve also talked to my mum and brother to make sure it’s OK to publish this, as it’s their story too.)

My parents separated when I was about 18 – between completing my A-levels and going up to university. Dad moved to London (where he’d been working Monday – Friday for a while) and it was amicable; they didn’t divorce until years later, when mum wanted to remarry.

My brother and I strongly suspected that Dad was gay; when we’d visit him, we’d always meet up with his bachelor friend who lived nearby. We weren’t fazed by it; we both had gay friends (the 80s was a time when UK society was changing for the better; my generation was much more tolerant than our antecedents).

One day, my brother and I were having a beer with our mum, and one of us asked her directly if Dad was gay. (This sounds weirder than it was; my parents had always encouraged us to speak openly with them.) She fobbed us off with “you’d better ask him” but phoned him up later and suggested that he tell us, so he soon invited himself up to Birmingham for one of his royal visits.

We could see he was nervous, and he said “I have something to tell you, and I hope it’ll be OK and you won’t decide you never want to speak to me again. I’m gay”. My brother and I said, “yeah, we know, and it makes no difference. Another pint?” and that was that.

I don’t know whether he really thought we might disown him; I used to wear eyeliner and black nail polish and was in an acting group with a very out, very camp friend. But his background probably meant that he expected disapproval; he grew up in a very traditional Northern coal-mining town (and was the first Lawson never to go down the Pit) and was an adult before the repeal of the law which made male homosexuality an imprisonable offence.

But nothing changed, and everything was fine. When I lived in London, I’d go out with my dad and his husband to the gay-friendly bars. The two of them were at the top table, with my mum and stepdad, at family weddings; my mum was at his funeral.

The hardest bit was when I drafted the eulogy to read at the funeral. I knew he hadn’t told many of his friends at the amateur theatre club he was in, or at the hospice where he was a volunteer grief counsellor (because he believed it was, fundamentally, a private matter) so I didn’t want to posthumously “out” him at his own funeral. But, equally, there were lots of gay friends attending, and I didn’t want to pretend that part of his life didn’t happen or make them think that I was in any way ashamed of it. My brother and I discussed it, and I simply said “After he and my mum amicably separated, he moved to London with his new partner, David …” and continued.

I think everybody guessed when his coffin slipped away to the sound of Abba’s “Dancing Queen”, though.

Happy birthday, Dad.

Folk Off! inaugural gig

After my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis in 1999 ate my fingers, I couldn’t play guitar any more, which pissed me off more than anything else about MS. But the songs kept coming to me, so about 4 years ago I taught myself to play (badly) again so I could write. Encouraged by a friend (thanks, Clara) and my daughter, I decided to do a gig, and last night was the night.

My old bassist from my punk band was meant to play second guitar, but he decided to break his arm and legs in a motorbike accident, so La Daughter taught herself to play guitar and learned my songs for her first ever gig, which makes me enormously proud. About five minutes after coming off stage, she was talking about out next gig, so Folk Off! are available for weddings and bamitzvahs.

Here are some abruptly-edited videos of the four original songs, written across 25 years and never gigged before. Trigger Warning: some guitar mistakes, from both of the players. (More tracks)

Gentle My Love

Gentle my love, gentle my love;
tonight we’ll admit no tomorrow.

Gentle my love, gentle my love;
predict or recall no more sorrow.

Gentle my love, gentle my love;
like the sound of the rain as it washes and cleans.

Gentle my love, gentle my love;
like the murmur of sea that claims everything;

But if we were to ride on the surge of a wave
We would never sink or drown.

Gentle my love, gentle my love;
Don’t hope for, or fear, all that follows.

Gentle my love, gentle my love;
tonight there will be no tomorrow.

Words / music © Bruce Lawson, all rights reserved

(Old demo.)

Kitty Fisher’s Locket

If Kitty Fisher gives you pictures Make sure that you frame them.
“Here’s one I drew, that man’s you; It’s of heaven when it’s raining.
There’s saint Peter in a mac, he’s got two wings on his back. Do you like it?”

If Kitty Fisher, seeking pleasure talks of making love with you.
Softly kiss her, speak in whispers, watch how she moves under you.
Hold her while she weeps when you both come.
Let the silence in to soothe her.

If Kitty Fisher gives you treasure keep it in your pocket.
Memories in filigree That’s Kitty Fisher’s locket.
“That’s me and my mother when I was a little girl.
Do you think I was pretty?

That’s me in a forest, another time, a different place.
Do you like me?”

Words / music © Bruce Lawson, all rights reserved

(old demo with female vocals, Original while-writing demo.)

Calling for the moon to come

When I told you I love you;
we were under the crescent moon.
You smiled; she was smiling above you,
I was scared to be ridiculous or tell you too soon.

Now I have to go; so do you –
It ’s still hard, though we both knew this would be so.
I ache for you; I know you’ll be fine
if I call the moon to watch on you & shine

I’m calling the moon;
I’m calling for the moon to come.
to lighten your load,
and brighten the road for you.

I’m calling the moon;
I’m calling for the moon to come;
where are you going?
where did you come to me from?

I’m calling the moon
I’m calling for the moon to come;
now I leave you here in the sun,
I’m calling the moon

I hope that she’ll guide you
You say that you must walk this path alone.
One day I hope I’ll walk beside you
but there are things that I must do now, and I have to be gone.

I’m calling the moon;
I’m calling for the moon to come.
to lighten your load,
and brighten the road in front of you

I’m calling the moon
I’m calling for the moon to come
at the end of your day,
to comfort you; illuminate your way.

I’m calling the moon
I’m calling for the moon to come
where are you going
where will you come to me from?

Words / music © Bruce Lawson, all rights reserved

(Unfinished demo)

Cinderella, not quite

Here we sit at the edge of the world
and there’s darkness behind us.

Here we wait at the turn of the date
for the new day to find us.

I was watching you, you were listening to
all of the words that were spoken.

You said “a joining of ways for a couple of days
deceives me my heart isn’t broken.

“Maybe I’ll give you love tomorrow;
I’ve got no love to give you today.
All of my love has been begged, stolen or borrowed.”

When you’re dressed up in your rags tonight
you’re Cinderella – not quite.

You were watching the valley below –
not hard to find, no glass slippers for you.

Choosing the language to make our “hello”;
not hard to find in your dust-covered shoes.

I was watching you, you were listening to
all of the words that were said.

You said “Now our paths cross, nothing is lost
if we both forget the lives we have led…

“Maybe I’ll give you love tomorrow;
I’ve got no love to give you today.
All of my love has been begged, stolen or borrowed.”

When you’re dressed up in your rags tonight
you’re Cinderella – not quite.

Words / music © Bruce Lawson, all rights reserved

I’ve got a new job!

TL;DR, I’m moving from Developer Relations to become Opera’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer. Or maybe Deputy Technology Officer, because “Deputy Chief” is almost oxymoronic. Anyway, call me “Bruce”; it’s more polite than what you usually call me.

Co-father of CSS Håkon Wium Lie continues to be CTO, and I’ll be working with him, the Communications Team, the product teams, and my lovely colleagues in devrel, to continue connecting the unconnected across the world.

In some ways, this is simply an evolution of what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. In a more profound way it’s a return to basics.

My first real exposure to the Web came about working in Thailand in 1999, when I was convalescing after my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Because M.S. is very rare in Asia, I could find no English language information to tell me how quickly or painfully I would die.

But I’d read about this new-fangled Web thing, and there was an Internet Café near my apartment, so I typed in “Multiple Sclerosis” into Alta Vista and found something extraordinary: a community of people around the world supporting each other through their shared diagnosis on something called a “website” – and I could participate, too, from a café in Pratunam, Bangkok. All strangers, across the globe, coming together around a common theme and helping each other.

I knew immediately that I’d stumbled upon something amazing, something revolutionary, an undreamed of way to communicate. As an English Literature graduate and ex-programmer, I was fascinated, by both the communicative potential and also the tech that drove it. By 2002, I was Brand Manager for a UK book company publishing on books for web professionals, and our first, flagship book was on Web Accessibility.

From accessibility, I began to advocate the general concept of open web standards on my blog and with various employers, so that everyone could access the web. Then, after being invited to join Opera in 2008, I started advocating HTML5, so people could connect to an open web that could compete with the proprietary silos of Flash and iOS. After that, I began beating the drum for Media Queries and Responsive Design so that the people in developing nations (like I was in ’99), using affordable hand-held devices, could connect and enjoy the full web. Then I proposed the <picture> element (more accurately: a very naive precursor to it) so that people with limited funds for bandwidth could connect economically, too. Then I agitated, inside Opera and outside, for Progressive Web Apps, so people could have a great experience on the open web, not those pesky walled gardens.

The common thread is people and getting them connected to each other. This matters to me because that happened to me, 17 years ago (spoiler: and I didn’t die).

A third of a billion people use Opera’s products to get them online, fast and affordably. I want to be part of making that half a billion, then a billion, then more; not by stealing customers from competitors, but by opening up the web to people and places that currently have no access. That’s a lot of people; there’s a lot to be done. It’s a big job. I’m a n00b and I’m gonna fuck up from time-to-time.

Bring it on.

(Yikes.)

Seashell in a box (Moments 6)

Number 6 in a series of poems I’ve been writing for 30 years. Amsterdam, October 2015.

Locked in this box
I have a seashell
that whispers to me
of white foaming surf and starfish,
of sirens and islands,
of sails and whales
and a voyage to see
a ballet of almond trees.

When there is no melody to be heard,
when this silence crushes,
I listen to my seashell —
it reminds me how to sing.

And I can smell oysters and dead fish;
And I can hear the wind groaning in the rigging;
And I can touch seaweed slime and driftwood;
And I can taste salt spray on my lips.

Then I hide it in this box, away, again.

The Girl In The Room

The last vanity song for a while, I promise — and this one’s definitely not punk. In my defence, it started life as fucked-folk, like “Femme Fatale” by the Velvet Underground. But as the lyrics firmed up, I started thinking about a serenade (“a musical greeting performed for a lover… an evening piece, one to be performed on a quiet and pleasant evening”) as that’s what the lyrics are about, albeit with a bittersweetness not reflected in the arrangement.

It was written in Cambodia and Barcelona. I wrote an alternate third verse which I don’t remember, and I don’t have the handwritten draft any more. If I do remember, I’ll record it in fucked-folk style.

Footage of the girl is from “Weg zum Nachbarn” by Lutz Mommartz, 1968.

The girl in the room
talks at dusk of musk and sandalwood
Of warm winter mornings
and cool summer nights.
Telling tales without tomorrows
of her yesterdays and ancient times;
of a castle in the birch trees
in the calmness of twilight.

The girl in the room
is thunder-lightning: fiercely beautiful;
weighed down with words, then musical,
with her faces in her moon.
She asks if you could love her
and before you can recover
she needs to be somewhere or other.
Through the trees, the breeze sings tunes.

The girl in the room
talks at sunset in her box of text,
of monsoon rain and games and sex
and the ruins where bluebells bloom.
Lost in feelings like a forest,
there are no certain maps to happiness;
She spills wine on her Chinese dress,
and the breeze brings you tunes.

Words and music © Bruce Lawson, 2015

Commuter train Madonna and child

[From my notebook, earlier this year, on the 15.45 train from London to Birmingham.]

On a packed, hot train
I scrounged space to rest my notepad
To write notes from my London meeting.
Phones chirruped;
Laptops clacked.

And opposite me,
Oblivious in bliss in silence
A woman and her baby
Smiled together
Their gaze unbroken throughout
Enraptured in their wonder and love.

Feel my mighty influence!

The Birmingham Mail has published a totally scientific list of Midlands Twitter users who “have the ability to influence the UK more than most in the region”.

Apparently, I’m a respectable number 101 which means I’m more influential than

  • Black Sabbath (#191)
  • a Personal Beauty Shopper at Selfridges (#188)
  • Sutton Park Donkey Sanctuary (#164)
  • Birmingham city council (#120)
  • James Morris, Conservative MP for Halesowen & Rowley Regis (#115) – ha!
  • Solihull police (#112)

I was pipped to the number 100 post by Drayton Manor theme park. Now we know why they were so damn anxious to build their Thomas The Tank attraction, Thomas Land.

I’m now crowd-funding “William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch Land” to be built in my back garden, and am recruiting mugwumps. I must beat Drayton bloody Manor.

Some lines about daisies

In many songs and poems
I find I mention daisies.
Blake and Wordsworth and the great English poets
wrote about roses and daffodils,
but you don’t hear much about daisies.
So here goes:

“O wond’rous daisy! How lovely thou art!”

No, that won’t do. Rhetorical bombast
before making it simply a symbol of some portentous theme.
A small flower shouldn’t carry such heaviness.

The name means “day’s eye”;
it opens its petals for the sun, and closes them at night.
I think the daisy is a watcher;
it contemplates, quietly, the day that it sees.
It is a witness.

It looks fragile.
But the daisy is strong.
Its Latin name is Bellis perennis
“Pretty”, “everlasting”.

You can trample a daisy,
but only for a short while.
It’ll grow back,
and open its eye
for the sunshine again.

Written after I edited You tread lightly on the world from its 3 a.m. scrawl, and realised I’ve used daisies in at least 4 poems and 2 songs.

You tread lightly on the world

I woke at 3 a.m. one night last week, and scrambled for my bedside pad in which I jot down song/poem ideas. Rather than do my usual trick of making tiny tweaks then reverting them back and forth for a decade, I’m posting it now. It may get carved up for a song, or may not.

You tread lightly on the world.
You like to. You scorn roots.
One foot in front of the other,
you go now:
tread from ocean to ocean
in Brownian motion,
seeing-not-being,
a ghost in the sunshine.
You photograph children;
You want none — you tread lightly.

You tread lightly on the world.
When the grass you stand on
springs up;
when the gecko you startle
comes back;
when your hollow in the bed
smooths away;
when your footprint in the sand
fills with sea;
when the daisies you flatten
take root again;
who will remember you?

I will.

tread-lightly

(Anna said the last line is superfluous, because the act of writing shows the subject is remembered. I think Anna’s too subtle.)