04 August, 2014

On the Death of my Father

 Since April, following the death of my farther after a short illness, I have been unable to write further articles, in part because I have been unable to decide whether it was appropriate to note his passing in my blog.
He was an engineer and academic, a successful and respected member of a community I have not been allowed to join; I would not want to sully his name, or associate him with the ideas that have brought me rejection and failure.
The foregoing only serves to illustrate the problems I have with tone, and why I have struggled for months to find appropriate words and emotions.
If a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
My Dad was an engineer and a craftsman, who could fix the car and the washing machine; he also contributed to development of the modern jet engine.  He created our house from four abandoned cottages, and growing up on a partial building site with a workshop I learnt to understand woods, metals, stone, and their tools, as over the years saw a building stripped down and rebuilt. While none of this dictated that I should end up trying reverse engineering ancient structures from their foundations, it did teach me patience; archaeology, like engineering, is a largely a long term and non-repetitive working pattern.  Engineers seeks real solutions that work, but above all, he taught me he taught me to question everything I did, and ask could it be done be done better?

I grew up believing that in all those virtues and abilities that make you a good and useful human being were embodied in my father, but, sadly, were lacking in myself.  To say that much of my life has in some sense involved seeking my father’s approval for my work, is perhaps to touch on a more universal truth.  But what do I know?  I have had only one such relationship and now it’s over.  I do feel that I never achieved anything that he could be proud of, that I let the side down, although clearly this reflects my perception of myself, not his view of son.
At the core of my issues with our relationship was my dyslexia, which was not something that really existed in 1960’s, children that did not respond to teaching were lazy or cheeky, both offences that required punishment. I had ended up at a prep school, and did not respond well to being disciplined and beaten for various transgressions. My relationship with my father was via weekly reports detailing every sordid detail my education and errant behaviour; he became just another disapproving authority figure that I would meet during holidays.
As result, he was always very pleased at the slightest sign of achievement in my life, and at some point in my education, spelling stopped being the only criteria by which my value as a human being was judged, and I emerged with a second class degree.
For all of my life my father was always there to rescue me and my family from whatever disaster had befallen us, usually as a result of my poor decision making.  He stood by me and made it possible for me to bring up my four children as a single parent, while running my own business. However, my attempt to follow his successful transition from practitioner to teacher at his old University was a decision that in many ways finally ruined both our lives. He had to watch while any prospect of a career, security, personal happiness for his son and family were wiped, and he could do nothing to protect us.
Next . . .
In the context of my relationship with my father, my rejected research that became this blog, can be seen as my attempt to demonstrate that there could be a relationship between the rational world of engineering and the study of archaeology. I had felt that approval for my work,  would  in some way redress the balance, repay my father’s support and faith.
He often helped by proof reading my work for the blog, and always tried to take an interest, by the end I think he had come to accept that there was nothing wrong with it, and he knew others though so too, it was just that they had to meet and discuss my work in secret; worthlessness is catching.
He was a deeply Christian and a good man in every way that matters, he would want me to forgive and move on.  Four years ago, for his birthday, I gave him my most significant piece of work “Interlace Theory” – it was all I had; it still is.


tim said...

Hi Geoff

Lovely piece of writing, so sorry to hear about your fathers passing.

Old expectations of ourselves can represent a terrible burden as we are often are harshest critics so be kind to yourself and see the success you are having raised 4 children and remaining a good person.

take care


Geoff Carter said...

Thanks Tim.

Maju said...

My condolences, Geoff.

Geoff Carter said...

Thank you Maju; hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly.

Maju said...

"Service"? Blogs are not "services" unless you are being paid for writing and maintaining them, what in most cases is false (or absolutely peanuts). They are hobbies or single-handedly run journo charities. The good thing: you are your own boss (Google allowing), so if you need a vacation or whatever other kind of hiatus, you are totally free to concede it to yourself.

Take your time...

Unknown said...

I'm sorry to hear this. I hope you're doing ok.

Odin's Raven said...

I'm saddened to hear of your loss. Please accept my condolences.

Don't be too disheartened.You are undoubtedly a clever, ingenious and persevering man, as is shown by your research. Don't let the opinions of academics bother you so much. They don't like originality and independence of mind or spirit. You don't have to be right on everything - they aren't although they hate to admit it.

You may be pioneering a new development in archaeology, and a new way of publicising it, so you won't get much credit in your lifetime.

Perhaps you may be more useful outside academia and big organisations. Your practicality and knowledge of how things were made in the pre-industrial past may be helpful in the not very distant future, if people like the Archdruid are correct, and it becomes necessary to preserve or revive such skills.

The Archdruid Report
Green Wizards

In any case, I wish you well, and look forward to reading more of your blog.

Geoff Carter said...

Hi Alun, thanks, it's a unique life experience so its difficult to judge!

Mutu - figure of speech - but you are right - even voices crying in the wilderness need a break.

OR - Thanks, my concern is teaching archaeologists how to think, reading reports is all very well but somebody has to write them. But you are right this is for posterity, so I better get on with it while we still have some.

Whether an Archdruid should have greater insight than Archbishop is not something I hold an opinion on.

dustbubble said...

So sorry for your loss, Geoff.
There's nothing constructive I can say in these circumstances.

I wouldn't worry about posterity, the stuff you've done here already stands on it own. I think the message is slowly getting through even to thickos like me.

As for the spelling and such, an old digging mate of mine is brutally dyslexic, but is still hacking away in the trade. Like he says, "Spelling? We've got machines to do that now".
Reckons computers saved his life, so to speak. I'd rather read someone who's got something to say than any amount of post-processual grammatically perfect .. gibberish.

Which is why I'm here.
Anyway, where would the mystic wing of archaeology be, without "machines to do that for them"?
Seeing as how those selfsame machines can also do all the Very Hard Sums that they all find so challenging.
Painfully drawing imaginary pottery and bronze typologies and tables with rotring pens, and inking in distribution maps with a magic marker.

I agree, don't feel you have to keep on cranking stuff out just to amuse the peasantry. It'll need time for even a portion of the stuff you've already produced to sink in. Don't fret, you're right; well righter than wot passes for a reasonable analysis of, for instance, late neolithic society than currently passes muster, as far as I can see.

"my concern is teaching archaeologists how to think"
Good luck with that mate. I know loads who are absurdly proud of never reading stuff after they graduated.
Take your time, pal, and get some rest. Give the rest of us a chance to catch up, eh?

Geoff Carter said...

Thanks very muchDB, you make many good points.
I did archaeology partly because there is need for practical and spacial skills - and less emphasis on 'spelling' - I could never have been a school teacher.
Part of the problem is having 'readers' rather than 'writers' of reports, who teach students to become archaeologists; many courses in archaeology will teach you only what you need to know to be able teach archaeology [at that University] and round and round we go.

I am driven; I have a lot of methodological research still to publish, quite apart from its application; I have truly wasted years of my life if I don't get it out there somehow. I miss being part of a team and being able contribute to communal effort, and frankly, having people to help me.
Archaeology routinely shapes its data to fit its models rather than the other way round - someones got to tell them - it's dumbing down our knowledge economy and they are not going to admit it, after all, they get paid for it .
My father was a restraining influence, who always advised caution; but at knew building is a technology, it is engineering. You can't have a Neolithic and all that follows without it; its study should not be the preserve of prehistoric cosmologists or some other cockamame tautological embodiment of magical thinking and faith based pedagogy.

As locally, it's a #tag overmydeadbody, and they are like younger and cleverer that what I am, I have to big up my own work and plug directly into the youf.

Thank the Gods for spell checker.

Ornithophobe said...

That was a lovely tribute to your Dad, and I'm very sorry for your loss. I'd been wondering why no updates for so long, but it's perfectly understandable to need to pull back when you're grieving. Nobody's paying you to share all this research with us. That you do the work at all, is something I'm grateful for, no matter how long it takes to get the words out.

Geoff Carter said...

Thank you for your kind words, and it is comforting to know that aspects of this work are appreciated.

oldeuropeanculture said...

Geoff, I am very sorry for your loss. There isn't very much anyone can say to make this better. I love your work and I hope you continue your research.


Geoff Carter said...

Dear Goran, Thank you so much for your kind words and support; I will keep going as long as I can.

Mike Gander said...

Geoff, hi and, first, may I say 'thank you for the only piece of your work (on Hadrian's Wall) that I have read so far. I suspected something of what you characterise as rejection from academe when I was not directed to your post by the educators of the MOOC from Newcastle University but, fortunately, a fellow Moocist included a link in her comment on one of the items in this the first week of the course and now I have had the benefit of your work I am a convert and looking forward to exploring your blog as well as bringing your insights to the rest of the MOOC. So, thank you again. And, if I may say anything personal, I take your return to posting as a good sign of your journey of recovering from your loss; your father's inheritance is you, your belief in seeking after truth and in a steadiness of purpose which, from what you have revealed of his life he not only appreciated but, were he able to see you now, would encourage. With all best wishes and the hope we may meet some day, Mike Gander

Geoff Carter said...

Hi Mike
Thank you for taking the time to comment, and your kind and thoughtful sentiments.
It is remarkable how political the "Knowledge Economy" is; it is quite small, and yet lucrative for a small number of people - who tend to know each other and this tends towards cliques.
Also, as I have to publish on the internet; it does not count; only information produced by academics in peer reviewed journals can be trusted.
As an archaeologist I have a very different perspective on the subjects from those who teach it.
I am flattered that MOOC participants are taking an interest, albeit unofficially; if ever you want any assistance, or meet up on the Wall, don't hesitate to ask.