Columnists

Nuala McCann: It takes courage to live on and lose those you love, one by one

The comedian Barry Cryer, who died last month, used to joke that in his latter years, he felt so old 'he couldn't even buy a green banana'.

THE late Barry Cryer had been feeling his age before he 'passed' 10 days ago.

He once joked that at this late stage in his life, he felt so old, he couldn't even buy a green banana.

He told a joke about the boss who said to his secretary: "Where's my pencil?"

"Behind your ear," came the reply.

"I'm too busy, which ear?" the boss asked.

Cryer has passed. Meat Loaf - "Would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red rose in his mouth?" - has passed... oh Mr Meat.

George Michael is long gone and Michael Jackson and my beloved Alan Rickman and closer to home, fellow columnist Anita Robinson, so warm, witty and wise, will be sorely missed.

And I'm turning into my dad.

I see him back in our old living room at home, sitting reading this very paper with one leg crossed at a precarious angle and a cup of hot tea balanced rather precariously on one knee.

He would live to regret this many times over as, indeed, have I - the dance of the scorched crotch is the Egyptian sand dance with bells on.

Dad always scanned the family notices and would often call out to my mother: "Do you know who has died?"

As children - immune to this dying thing - we would invariably roll our eyes.

Now, here am I, flicking to the obits, calculating people's ages and deciding that anyone under 90 is way too young to be departing this planet.

At a recent funeral, a close friend turned to me and whispered: "It feels like we're the next ones with our heads up over the trenches."

So true. So hard to take in. What courage it takes to live on and lose those you love, one by one.

Last week, I came upon a recent tweet about the words people use to speak about dying.

Someone was commenting on the trend for saying someone had 'passed' as opposed to just plain died.

On a virtuous day, I might pass on the trifle; on a good day, I might pass my driving test.

But 'passing' as a euphemism for dying is not to everyone's liking.

Someone on the same Twitter thread told the story about young medical interns being trained on how to talk to the relative of someone who has just died.

The teacher stressed the importance of getting the message across by using the word 'dead' at least three times in the conversation.

A student volunteered to role play the situation.

"I'm very sorry, but your father is dead, dead, dead," said the young intern.

No sugar coating there.

Language is always evolving.

At times, I'm a dinosaur... complaining at how the use of the past historic has fallen out of fashion.

Someone recently congratulated me on my use of the semicolon.

Grammar was hammered into our DNA back in the 1960s and even now, when I'm texting and I text 'u', I can feel a teacher's finger poke me in the ribs in utter disgust.

Were it not for our son, we would be lost on current lingo.

Take 'sick', which means wonderful, not vomit, nowadays.

If you walk into a room and somebody comes up to you smiling and says: "Hey, that's some sick drip" - they (note the use of the gender fluid pronoun) are not insulting you, they are telling you that your outfit looks fantastic.

Then there's 'leng'...

I had to Google an article called, 'The top five slang words for conversing with young people,' in Esquire to find out about leng and peng.

Peng is fit... and if you don't understand 'fit' then it's time to stop buying green bananas.

Peng a leng is fit with bells on. There's also hench and par. Really, don't go there.

When I discovered that the article updating me on these new words dated from 2010, it felt like time to drag myself back to the cave and scrawl stick drawings on the wall whilst parsing sentences and chanting "bellum, bellum, bellum".

The world is forever changing.

Over the past few years, it has altered dramatically. All you can do is cling on and hope for better days.

My favourite tweet in recent days featured a photograph of an advertising board in a bookshop.

The bookkeepers said they had had to re-shuffle their books in the pandemic world.

Travel now resided in the fantasy section, sci-fi was in current affairs. And epidemiology? Why, that lives in self-help of course.

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