Like father, like son

You're probably wondering what's going on here, or rather what's not going on here. I haven't managed to post in weeks. In fact I haven't even touched a guitar in weeks.

Instead, I've been teaching myself how to hand-code e-commerce web sites from the ground up, using dark magic spells and incantations from ancient grimoires like 'PHP and MySQL Web Development'.

Ah, the power of nested if(){if(){}} statements, the arcane beauty of the function(); and the mystery of this-> or that=>. I can even wield a LEFT JOIN, if I'm very careful and use both hands.

But how on earth does a fifty year old one time theology student and guitar player who failed maths at school turn into a computer programmer, when computers were barely thought of when I was being educated?

I blame my father.

My father, in his fifties, bought a Commodore PET for work, and successfully programmed it to handle the accounts. He followed it up with an Amstrad for home, and then stubbornly, a little PC just when his children were beginning to evanglise for the Macintosh. He too, was a theology student, although he took it all a little too seriously and became a Church of Scotland minister. Unlike me, he studied maths at University, but computers were even less thought of then.

And it was thinking about this that made me realise how much I'm becoming like my father. Well, except for me not being dea– hmmm, let me rephrase that...

And it was thinking about this that made me realise how much I seem to be like my father was when he was in his fifties.

Like him, I seem to be losing the ability to focus on anything except the primary task, which for him was work and for me - work. If you were unlucky enough to engage me in conversation for more than five minutes, you'd find yourself sinking under a deluge of wittering about programming and a ranting about clients who just don't seem to take enough interest in programming! And if you were daft enough to raise your own subject for discussion, you'd see the same feigned interest in my eyes that I used to see in his. To be fair, his feigned interest masked an obvious (and guilty) attempt to convince himself that other people had valid interests too.

Like him, I find sleep less and less important, although he took to rising at five and bible reading and prayer, whilst I work until then, fueled by cigarettes and alcohol.

But it's in the tiny little things that I find the comparisons get a little spooky. He had a little habitual cough, as I seem to, although he never smoked in his life. He had to nurse his stomach, and carried a tin of antacid tablets everywhere. I seem to be sensitive to wheat and gluten and consume a steady supply of Rennies and Zantac.

He drove his car absent-mindedly, as if driving was an opportunity to think about more important things. Yup - that's me. He was painfully apologetic to my mum when it finally dawned on him that he hadn't taken in a word of some previous request - I too suffer the same awful guilt when I come back from the supermarket with a bottle of wine and some tobacco in preparation for a late night working, when I was sent out to get bread and milk for the kids' breakfast.

Maybe it's something to do with the male failure to think about more than one thing at time, but I always felt that he was focused rather than confused or uninterested. It was just that, as far as I could see, he was usually focused on something else.

Was it a Scottish Calvinist work ethic that drove him? Like most ministers, work for him was not something that stopped at five o'clock. And although now it's web sites which keep me up till the wee small hours, in the past, there were any number of projects which consumed my interest; from making furniture to tailoring to guitar building to song-writing to recording...

On the night that he died, we took him to a nearby hospice where they doped him up with morphine so that he would get a decent night's sleep, and so that we could too. As we prepared to leave and enquired about when we could come back in the morning to visit, he was struggling to get out of the cot in which we'd lain him, to the astonishment of the nurses who had just delivered what they considered to be knock-out drops. He hadn't spoken for days, but I still had that sense that he wasn't ready to go yet, that he had some unfinished work, that he might not even be sure what it was, but that it was something that needed his attention.

I have a feeling that one day I'll be following in his footsteps.

Dear God I just hope it's not some bloody incompetent businessman's bloody inane e-commerce bloody web site that drags me from my death bed.

Update: of course, a few of my more discerning clients actually visit this site. Let me be the first to congratulate you on your taste and perception. I'm sure you will be aware that I'm not referring in any way to your own excellent range of products and superlative site.

Oh, and by the way, sorry kids. Your turn will come.