Final Words

Haunted HouseI signed my will at the weekend. They still call it a Last Will and Testament, conjuring up images of grieving relatives weeping at your bedside as you sigh your final breath and let go of this mortal coil to meet your maker.

But as I signed the document, my first thought was not of my grieving family but of a movie called the Cat and the Canary, starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. I saw that movie on TV when I was a small boy and, although it is a comedy, it scared the living daylights out of me.

In the movie, the will is read at midnight and the entire estate goes to the beautiful, young Paulette Goddard. But there’s a catch for the heiress: because of a concern about a streak of insanity in the family’s blood, she must stay sane for thirty days or lose the fortune to another family member.

Everyone has to stay the night in the spooky mansion, haunted by many spirits. It’s an open invitation for greedy relatives to drive her, overnight, into a state of total insanity.

I doubt there will be such drama when my will is read, even if there is a streak of insanity in my family’s blood. But signing your will does make you think about death. We’re all going to die, but thankfully, most of us don’t know when the end will be. So maybe we should start living as if this is our last day.

Well, if I was living each day as if it were my last, I can tell you that it would be one heck of a lot different from what it is. For a start, I would be eating a bacon, egg and cheese roll for breakfast. With a beer. And not organic muesli with skimmed milk.

And another thing, I would be spending all my money on a beach holiday with my friends and loved ones, partying till I drop. And not getting on the New York subway at 7 am to spend twelve hours in the grasping clutches of corporate America.

What’s more, I would get a sleeve tattoo and always speak my mind, whether people liked what I said or not. So no. Living each day like it is your last does not work at all. Unless you’ve inherited someone’s fortune.

Maybe living like we know that life won’t last forever is a better way to think about it. Just stop worrying about all the meaningless trivia and enjoy it while we still can. Before we’re all declared insane for eating organic muesli and getting on the subway at 7 am.

But I do like the thought of my will being read at midnight in a haunted mansion.

To Live Forever

FireworksThe joy of sharing is never greater than when we are sharing joy itself. But the irony is that even in a crowd, we can find joy in such a personal way that we feel alone with it.

I was three rows back from the stage in the Royal Albert Hall when the man in the huge black gown opened his mouth and began to sing. And in that precise moment, ten thousand doves were released from his lips and each one landed on the shoulders of strangers and whispered in our ears that now we could hear the sounds that come from the very lips of God.

“Nessun dorma.  Nessun dorma.”

None Shall Sleep Tonight.

I did not sleep that night. I could only remember weeping openly in my seat as Pavarotti’s explosive tenor reached the final sustained note of the spectacular aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot.

“Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle! Tramontate, stelle! All’alba vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!”

Vanish O Night! Fall away Stars! Fall away Stars! At sunrise, I shall win! I shall win! I shall win!

I looked around to see if any other grown man was crying like a baby. But the woman beside me was not weeping. I did not know her but despite that fact, she removed her underwear and threw it onto the stage, along with a long-stem red rose.

“I love you! I love you! Tu sei una stella… la mia stella! I love you Luciano!” she screamed. I knew how she felt.

And then it seemed that every woman was removing her under garments and throwing them onto the stage. I hesitated for a moment. No, I would keep my shorts in place.

I had dinner with Pavarotti after the concert. He sat silently with a bandana around his face, fearful of the germs that might reach him from the trembling mortal who was sitting in front of him, nervously picking at his prawn cocktail. Sadly, Pavarotti did not stay beyond the appetizer. How could he? God had only loaned him to us for a moment so that we would know what it means to, “Have a soul.”

Some said that Pavarotti died. The Italian Air Force flew over his grave. The Vienna State Opera and the Salzburg Festival Hall flew black flags in mourning that day.

They were all wrong. He is not dead. Pavarotti lives inside a million souls. I just close my eyes and listen and his voice is there.

I cannot recreate for you the emotion of that night in the Royal Albert Hall. But I can share with you the joy that I still feel inside.

Vincerò!  Vincerò! At sunrise, I shall win! I shall win!

It is quiet now. But the joy of that sound will live inside my soul forever.

The Boy Who Lived With Ghosts

FrontCover 2Chapter 1

I live in a haunted family, in a haunted house, on a haunted street. One day I will live in a place where there are no ghosts but right now they’re everywhere. Some people don’t believe in ghosts but that’s alright. Those people have orange nightlights glowing in their bedrooms after dark, reflecting little moons and stars on the ceiling, and cups of hot chocolate to make them sleepy before their blankets are tucked in cozily around them by their mums. I don’t think my mum believes in ghosts. If she did, she would not turn out all the lights when she puts me to bed at night.

I am almost five years old and I was born in our front bedroom with my twin sister Emily. It was on the Twelfth Night. That’s the night when the Three Wise Men visited the baby Jesus with their gifts. It was also my sister Margueretta’s fourth birthday. So we are three gifts for the baby Jesus. If I am a gift, I would like to be a lamb. Animals don’t go to Heaven but I am sure there is a lamb up there. I think there is also a donkey.

Margueretta hates me because I was born on her birthday and now she has to share it with me and Emily, so she locks me in the cellar in the dark. And there’s something scary down there in the corner that goes drip, drip, drip. If I die down there I will go to sit at God’s feet because Dad says God suffers all the little children to come unto him. And Jesus loves dead children the most because they will never grow up to become sinners.

God wears brown sandals and no socks but Jesus doesn’t wear anything on his feet and he washes God’s feet for him because there is a lot of sand in Heaven and it gets between God’s toes. Dad says Heaven is a warm place and you are never hungry in Heaven because you can have as much bread and jam as you want to eat. So you shouldn’t cry if a little boy dies, having been killed by his big sister who locks him in the cellar in the dark.

Nana says we will all go back to God one day so long as we are not sinners. Because if we are sinners, we will go to live with the Devil and we will scream and burn as we catch fire in a lake for all Eternity, which is a very long time. And Nana knows what a long time means because she is very old, which is also why she has hair that comes down to her knees. She ties it in braids on top of her head but I mustn’t see my Nana’s hair when it is down or that will mean I have been in her bedroom and a little boy should never go into his Nana’s bedroom or she will hit him on the back of his head with her hairbrush.

A True Story of Childhood Haunting – Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle

I Have Decided to be Someone Else

RenewalI love it when people say you should just be yourself. Personally, I think that limits your options.

I don’t know about you, but my “self” was developed a long time ago and I’m not sure if that person is who I want to be today. For instance, from my childhood, I inherited my deepest fears, my hopes and dreams; from my youth, I found first love, ambition, ridicule and disappointment; and from adulthood I discovered reality, deception and betrayal. All of these experiences, and more, have created who I am—anxious, conformist and unfulfilled.

I have therefore decided to be someone else.

But there is a catch: I want to break up with myself but I’m not sure if I have the courage to move on. It’s ironic how our deepest fears live with us forever but life kills our hopes and dreams.

The person I have given the most advice to in my life is myself. Clearly, it is now time that I start listening. So I am going to take it a step at a time. Firstly, I’m going to visualize the person I want to be. I admit that being two inches taller may be unachievable at this stage in my life but most other things are up for grabs. I am going to imagine every detail of what it would be like to be my ideal self. Then I am going to do something different every single day that takes me to where I want to be.

That’s it.

So if you don’t recognize me soon or think that I have really changed, then I’m on my way. And if you take my advice and do the same thing, then we can all be strangers together in our new world.

There may be no time like the present; but there can be no more exciting place to live in than a better future.

The Boy Who Lived With Ghosts

The Boy Who Lived with Ghosts:  A True Story of Childhood Haunting87487370

The Boy Who Lived with Ghosts will be released in paperback on July 1st 2013 and a short while later in e-book format.

This is a funny but tragic tale of poverty, abuse, addiction, insanity and death.  It is the true story of a small boy haunted by many ghosts, told uniquely through his eyes.  The boy is relentlessly resourceful, living in a decaying house with a grandfather who thinks he is a train, an alcoholic father who has gone to see a man about a dog and a diminutive Scottish grandmother who has a deceptively powerful right punch.  He suffers physical abuse and the horror of being locked in the cellar by his sister while he continually tries to come to terms with the ghost of a man who hanged himself in the toilet.

His mother slowly slips into her own world of delusion and depression and the boy knows that he must find the cause of his mother’s madness before it is too late.  But the sound of a screaming girl in the attic convinces him that his house is haunted and confirms his belief that the spirit of the man who hanged himself in the toilet is intent on killing the family.

The boy grows through the story into an adolescent who is ready to take on the world and survive.  The ghosts, however, will be with him forever.

This is my story. I hope you will find time to read it, to share it and to be helped by the belief that we can all find humor and survival, even in the face of tragedy.

Till then,

John Mitchell

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