This is going to be a strange post. But then it’s a strange time, and my head is full of conflicting ideas and emotions and memories. So expect a jumble of words that may not entirely make sense and may not be in exactly the right order….

Last Monday, I found myself in Elstree, the home of Big Brother. On assignment as our roving reporter to meet with 89 potential housemates for the new series. It was brilliantly twisted of the Endemol staff - giving interviews with the possible housemates, but throwing in 75 red herrings to make it almost impossible for the red tops to do any dirt digging.

If anything, it was good for a laugh, I got to see the back of my head (what bald spot?) on Big Brother’s Little Brother for about 2 seconds and had some fun chatter on the train back to London with a couple of online journalists about the series.

But back in Elstree Studios, I got broadsided by my own memory for a few minutes that made me forget about the weird fella dressed as a monk standing in front of me. For whatever reason, the date popped right into my head. 7th June. Bam! I completely forgot I was in a warehouse structure along with 30 members of the national press and almost 90 wannabes.

For a split second, my head was one year in the past. It was Chib’s birthday. It was a Sunday. We’d called in to the hospital with the kids to say hello, but the occassion of his birthday and the fact it was the weekend meant that the little room in the Cancer Center was full to bursting. I was perched on a bin opposite him and at one point we caught each others eyes. He had this sheepish look on his face, and I knew what it meant. I’d come back later.

Lisa and I left and spent the rest of the day in the sun with the kids. Once they were all settled back at home, I headed back into Belfast to reprise my visit. When I got there, the room was emptied and the stifling heat of the afternoon had evaporated. I know he was glad to see me at that point, but the conversation was stilted. I think we were both thinking the same thing. No doubt about it, this was his last birthday. And we sat there in silence, me with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

So there I was - exactly one year on - doing something totally unrelated. What’s the relevance? Well, after a year of traumas and triumphs, the memory of that night is fresh and painful. Thinking about it, and some of the things that have happened since never fails to make my head spin. Some horrible things have happened in the wake of Chib’s death, and some wonderful things too. All of them are things we’d have talked about, and I feel the loss of him as a confidant more keenly than anything.

Sure, I’d have told him about the Big Brother interviews, and he’d have responded by grumpily reminding me that it was all shite. Hey, I’m just happy to be at the coal face of pop culture from time to time.

Last Monday, I visibly shook my head to banish the memories so I could concentrate on the wannabe at hand. Startled one of the journalists to the right of me. There’s something about the fact of the anniversary though, a mounting pressure, the feeling that some other large event is around the corner.

Or maybe this first anniversary of his death will be one of those milestone moments. Maybe it’ll be easier to deal with everything once the first year without him has passed. I don’t know. I’m in uncharted waters with this one. I just know that life has gone on, we’ve moved on and life’s extremely different to what it was 12 months ago.

That’s not to moan, though. Lisa and I eventually picked ourselves up after one devastating loss, and had to deal with the prospect of another one less than four months later. We’ve worked our asses off and rebuilt Unreality, and we’re seeing real rewards now. We’re still getting the balance right working from home, but we’re getting to watch the kids growing up. The older they get, the more knowing they become, and it appears that I’m on the receiving end of the same sarcasm that I may have passed to them. But in a funny way.

Hell, this is one weird, messed up, bittersweet rambling post. Message over.

Gerard McGarry Written by:

Liberal, humanist type. Optimist. Lover of life. Tryer of new things.