THERE are times when one stops and contemplates one's own mortality. For many of us (Hello Sid and Paddy!) it is in the darkened hour of bright sunlight when the libations of the previous evening(s) cast a vicious potency of hangover revenge upon fragile metabolisms.
But of recent weeks the thought of mortality has been nagging at me: the loss of people that I either knew, knew "off and on" or knew by reputation.
Too often this celebrity obsessed world with its potions, lotions and fake - sorry alternative - medicince and ambition to reach the Andy Warhol defintion of fame there is narry a care for consequence or dignity.
Too often we see the platitudes proferred by a media that has more people reading about X-Factor or some other reality shit that actually watches the crap.
Too often we see news dominated by what passes for entertainment.
That is why when one experiences loss - either of those close at hand or of those who you admired at a distance - it is sometimes difficult to quantify that loss on your own personal emotional radar.
Today I learned that someone who I both admired as a professional and a person had passed away. This came too hot on the heels of the loss of Sweet Savage's Trev and that came a few weeks after the mighty Dio left us.
Thus, I ponder my own mortality. And that is just a shit way of thinking. And drinking cheap lager and Jager ain't in psychology 101 classes as fit and proper ways to handle this type of stuff.
But a moment's contemplation is fit and proper.
For me that is looking to where one seeks solace.
Solace can be found in the music we all love; the sheer unadulterated pleasure of hard rock, no matter how dumbass it can be. Or in the complex world of heavy metal that now has almost as many genres as it has bands.
For when one stops picking fluff off one's belly button (navel gazing that is!) it is through friends and music that most readers of this blog can truly rely on.
Whether it is raising a glass to one who has died, with BLS melancholy to the max in the background, or having the amps cranked to 11 with pure furious metal, it is the right and proper way to say goodbye.
Viking funerals are now generally frowned upon, and you can't get hold of a longboat for love, money or mead once you admit it is to be either burned or buried (think Sutton Hoo).
Persian Pillars of Death are a wee bit awkward as the average rambler around the Mournes tend to call the police when they discover a body, even if it is placed there ceremoniously.
But, amidst all this there is the reality. What those have passed away leave us is a legacy . That legacy may be of friendship; that legacy may be he music; that legacy may be just a Tweet or status update; and that legacy may be that sheer undefinable presence some people have.
Such contemplation is morose - but as fans of some of the darker expressions of musical and lyrical emotion this type of contemplation always lurks close to the surface.
Somehow hard rock and metal performs a cathartic role for us fans. Sometimes the sheer fact that that there are bands (local, national and international) who capture the mood that we know was never for us, means we find succour from them.
Writing this has been my own personal catharsis, aided and abetted by cheap beer and the rapidly dwindling bottle of Jager.
I understood the concept of death at a realitively young age through the reality of the Troubles and several family deaths; but the night that it hit home really hard empathatically was when driving down Dunbar Link, with the then girlfriend. The news came on Radio One that Phil Lynott has passed away. They played Phil's tribute to Elvis, that he penned when Presley died (and if you are a Lizzy fan you shouldn't need me to ID that one!).
The then girl was annoyed, to say the least, when a planned drive was abandoned.
But it highlighted to me that there are some people who 'get it' and some people who 'get shit' instead.
So tonight I say raise a glass to absent friends, those we knew closely, those who passed away years ago but live on in memories, those that we wish we had had the time to say a wee word to....
And, remember before it all gets a wee bit heavy: you've got the music, and in the words of the mighty Zakk, "No-one gets out alive". We just need to rock out in the meantime.
If any of the issues I have written about here has affected you or you suspect a friend is 'down' then just ask for help, or just talk. A single word to a friend can be enough to make them think again.
Live, long, prosper and rock on!