Oh come all ye…

Come let us rejoice…

When Laura woke, she was aware that it had not been a natural break in her sleep, but that something had disturbed her. She listened for clues.

They had finally stopped for the night, their ever expanding troop squashed into a tiny cottage which would have been, she was sure of this, a hunting lodge for a much grander estate. The basics for a Spartan life were there and, although there were only two single beds, they were able to push them together for the mother and her children. For the rest of them, bed rolls and sleeping bags provided for the sleeping arrangements. 

The lodge had obviously been in regular use as there had been a fire in the grate. All the tinder was expertly built on top of a bed of old newspapers ensuring that only a match had to be put to it to encourage the fire to catch. This was done in no time at all and soon, by adding a number of hearty logs that were piled at the side of the fireplace. Laura noticed how Michael’s eyes were drawn to the flames as they licked an curled their way upwards. He was in a place she did not know, place he had been visiting more and more.

When she sat upright, reminders of the hard floor beneath her mat muscled into her. The mixture of the freezing cold and the aches of the journey was a cocktail that would always be remembered. She strained to listen beyond the silence and then she heard it. A low, almost inaudible growl.

Laura had positioned herself on the floor of the living room where Michael and their newly found companion were also sleeping. Neither of the others were awake. The growl, almost indistinguishable from the natural sounds of sleep, was coming from the kitchen. She looked around and discovered that neither of the animals were in the room with them. Easing out of her sleeping bag, still fully clothed, she tiptoed across to the doorway and peered inside. Both Arthur and Sam were crouching by the outside door, their noses pushed towards the cold draft that was sneaking its way between the gaps. Coming from them was the sound that she originally believed to be a growl, but now she knew it to be something altogether different. It sounded to her like the noise Buddhist monks made when they were entering some profound meditative state. She inched forward.

Although she made as little noise as she could, the ears of the animals did that radar thing, turning around to indicate that they had picked up the sound of something moving. Even Arthur’s ragged excuse for an ear moved. Nevertheless, none of them shifted from their stances, maintaining a vigil that was trance like.

Now lowering to their level, Laura reached out two comforting hands that stroked the statuesque creatures. The rigidity in the bodies alarmed her. The she heard another sound. The steady crunch of feet on frozen snow.

Unable to see from her position, she started towards her feet again. A small window was off to her left, her intention to simply peer into the night to see what was the cause of that which had woken her. It could be foxes or dear but she felt not. In order not to signal her presence, she lifted the curtain only a fraction of an inch, just enough to allow one eye to view. What she saw caused a rush of dread to well up and almost push her towards panic.

Outside in the dead of night, moved wave upon wave of things that would once have been human beings. However, she knew, knew instantly, that those moving forms had long since left behind any real semblance to the rest of their previous kin. The moon gave an unflattering light that revealed the faces of the dead. They were moving as if drawn or directed, none communicating, no signs of interest in any other thing but their progress towards some predetermined destination. Wherever they were headed, Laura did not want to go. She almost jumped form her own skin when a hand rested upon her shoulder.

“What is it,” he mouthed more than uttered.

She moved away and let him view. For a long time, he did not move and Laura wondered what he was thinking about. After another thirty minutes, the procession had gone and they felt they could talk.

“What were those things?” she asked him without needing an answer.

“They were the same as the one that tried to kill us back at out house.”

His mother knew this to be true. So long ago.

“Where are they going?”

“My guess is that they have found some survivors. It must be a large group of them otherwise they wouldn’t send so many.”

“But how can so many of those dead things know?”

Michel looked sympathetically at his mother. No matter how much she had gone through, no matter how screamingly mad the world had become, she still clung to a sense of normality.

“It’s The Piper. Him or his followers. They can do these things.”

Laura nodded in acceptance.

“We are going to have to find them. We’re going to have to find those survivors and warn them.”

“But how?” 

“I know where they are going,” a voice from behind spoke.

They turned to see the mother standing in the dark. She had sleep still upon her, her eyes straining against the fact of being forced into some level of wakefulness. Her voice was heavy with that now familiar limbo language, the borderland where the subconscious and conscious worlds met, a place where The Piper roamed freely.

“He came to me and showed me the house where they are all gathered. He showed me a boy named Christopher who, he said, owed him a debt. There is also a teacher who would lead them to sanctuary, but The Piper has made plans for them all.”

Her voice tailed off, a whisper drifting in the cold night. Then, as if being prompted, she resumed, her words seemingly coming from a place somewhere other than within her frame. She moved forward, revealing eyes that were without irises or pupils, totally white, inverted, seeing another world.

“He says that you are invited, mother and son, Laura and Michael, to watch as this Christopher pays his dues. If he dies, then maybe the rest of you can live.”

The voice was now changed into something that was not of the mother. Its tone was deeper and mocking.

“You think that you can run from me? You think that you can beat me? I have travelled eons to reach this place and no resistor will stand in my way,” the words shot out in the direction of Michael.

“You have tasted the fruit haven’t you? It tastes sweet doesn’t it? You have the mark upon your soul which makes you more like me than those who would claim you. Have you spoken of the thrill it gives you to take life? Does this thing that calls itself your mother understand? When the time is right, we could…”

“You could do nothing with my son. You, who hides away in a frightened woman’s broken mind, you who steal children, you who kill through the innocence and ignorance of others. I have seen you and you shall not have anything to do with any of my sons.”

The two mothers faced each other across the kitchen table. The white eyes now fixed on Laura, narrowing with hatred.

“One by one, I shall have all of your sons as I had your husband. One by one, you shall watch them bleed.”

“Over my dead body,” Laura spat.

“That is my intention.”

From inside the bedroom, a frightened child cried out.

“Mum, mummy. Where are you? The bad man is here.”

It was enough to break the hold upon the woman. Her eyes returned, the rage fell away from her and confusion settled.

“Where am I?”

“Mummy.”

She turned at the sound and left the kitchen to rush to her child.

Laura moved to embrace Michael but found him unyielding to her touch.

“Michael, don’t listen to his words. He is a deceiver. You are not like them.”

She ran her hands across his upper back attempting to massage out the knots of his tension. He responded by putting his arms around her, providing some sign that he had returned. In his mind, he remember the taste of the fruit The Piper had spoken of, bitter and yet so incredibly alluring.

On the living room floor, the inert body of Dawkins did not betray any signs of being awake. Only the vaguest of smiles danced upon his lips.     

Fascist Proofing For Beginners

“Are you a communist?”
“No I am an anti-fascist”
“For a long time?”
“Since I have understood fascism.” 
― Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

It’s becoming evident that the right to be ‘ultra-right’ has become embedded in our everyday culture and conversations.

The pendulum has swung the other way.

Being a Fascist is now fashionable; it marks you out as a thinker, a person who takes on the Neo-Liberal Totalitarianism which only scantily clads itself in democratic attire. It also marks you out as a ‘unique’ who is able to see through the bullshit that the Loony Lefties throw at you. On top of this, you become the purveyor of home-spun wisdom, a creator of common sense, and a destroyer of snowflake sensibilities.

It’s becoming right-on to become ultra right.

And so say all of them. 

So, we have been thrown out of the paradise of post World War optimism and having to knock together a workable doctrine for our future preservation and well-being. And many have returned to the old blue-prints, re-fashioning dated ideologies whilst updating age-old atrocities of intolerance. All this while the rest of us sit back and watch, unable to change the channel, incapable of escaping our direst memories of the re-run of the re-run of the re-run. We squirm through every leaden line of dialogue and wince at the inevitability of the script.

It all ends in much more than tears.

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; andtherefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

                                                                                                        John Donne

Deck The Trees…

In The Dark Mid-Winter

Meanwhile, Graham had limited himself to just a few glasses of the highland nectar. The effect upon him was quite profound after weeks of abstinence and he found the situation most agreeable. What could be better than a winter break, in a beautiful castle with friends? Planning to sight see all on his own, he was quietly pleased when a number of others joined him in his stroll around the place. His historical knowledge removing everyone from the reality that lay beyond the walls.

Judith was at her best organising others. That first evening when the combined efforts of herself and Mr. Dale had resulted in a room allocation that would have not looked out of place in a military mobilisation, she set about further managing arrangements for the evening meal. Not venturing into the kitchen personally, the memories of her incarceration still vivid, she sought out the best cooks, peelers, kitchen porters and washer-upperers. Tinned food was in abundance and so, to their surprise was a vast stock of game that hung invitingly in a cold store. Not just a meal but a feast and Judith wrote a menu to boot.

When eventually the dinner was served, the clocks that were still working stated that it was nearing two in the morning, nobody seemed to mind. Time had been put on hold and, for the family of friends, it was the moment to celebrate some type of deliverance. Wine had been discovered, beer was drunk and laughter was heard to echo around the halls in a way that it had never done so before. Graham would have given a speech but had to abandon it when his worlds refused to emerge unadulterated by a certain Speyside that had taken his fancy. With unknown forces closing in around them, the members of the group had not felt as secure as this since well before that terrible day.

At some point, a guitar was produced and, to the amazement of Graham, Judith took hold of it and played one of the most haunting renditions of  Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind. When she stroked the final chord, a roar of applause rocked the room. Those who had been singing smiled through their tears and the younger ones just laughed at the way the old ones did not seem to care that they were embarrassing themselves.

“Where did that come from?” enquired Graham in an instant of lucidity.

“The guitar or the song?”

“You.”

“Oh, I was a child of the sixties, flower power and all that. I was a hippy for a while, still am deep down.”

“Must have been one of the most organised of your brethren.”

“Hippies can be organised. Look at Woodstock and Glastonbury. Look at all of us here.”

Graham did so and realised her point. “Hippies one and all,” he proclaimed to himself before falling into a contented miasma once more. 

At some indistinct point in the very early hours, most people went to bed. There would be some extremely thick heads in the morning.

Chris and Lucy had wandered off to find the quiet that was needed for what they could not keep holding in. Keeping a torch held between them, they made the progress through corridors that yawned open at their approach. Regardless of all they had seen, there still remained a nostalgic menace about the adventure.

“Do you think it is haunted?” Lucy asked through a childlike smile.    

“What? Headless horseman and all that? Yes, I hope so.”

“So do I.” She pulled closer to him, pulling on his left arm and squeezing it for reassurance.

“I think I’d welcome a proper ghost, it would make things seem right again.”

Lucy agreed yet didn’t say anything.

Chris found what he’d been looking for, the library. The sheer volume of books leant another comfort from a bygone time. Bookcases reached to the ceiling, leather bound volumes a testament to mankind’s worth. Lucy was smiling broadly now.

“I love libraries and this, well this is just magnificent.”

Chris, who had never been as bookish as his elder brother, was surprised to be thinking the same thing. It wasn’t just the books, or the supreme environment, it was statement, the certainty that the room afforded them. He felt Lucy strain a little and felt her impulse to search the tomes, but he needed to talk and there were a couple of inviting Chesterfields waiting near the huge window. If Chris had ever known anything of romance, he could not have picked a better place. His decision, however had been informed by a nagging doubt that remained like a tiny alarm bell going off deep in the cellar of his mind. From here, he could see the extent of the snowy grounds. They sat facing each other. Lucy spoke first.

“D…Chris…”

“You always do that. Ever since we met, you’ve been calling me David. Who’s David? An ex boyfriend or something?”

Lucy was relieved that the darkness hid her rising blushes.

“David is from the Bible. He was the one who fought Goliath. It’s just that, when I saw you, when I was hiding in the Head’s office, you made me think of him.”

“Well, that’s probably a relief.”

“I’ve never had a boyfriend before.”

“And I’ve never had a girlfriend.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. It was always sport first. Nothing else.”

“Chris,” Lucy had returned to her formal voice, “are we going to be, well, attached?”

“If you want to put it that way, yes.”

Lucy lifted herself from her chair and walked over to her new hope. She sat down gently on his lap and raised both hands to either side of his face.

“You promise me that you will be true.”

“I will. I do.”

“Then let’s honour this with a kiss.” She moved her head forward with the grace of a swan, meeting his lips whilst running her fingers though his hair. Chris had never thought that a kiss could be so enveloping. He closed his eyes and imagined myriad possibilities for their futures. 

The first kiss, an exercise in time-travel, lasted for a duration that could not be defined. When they finally parted, the need for air being greater than their desires for each other, Chris opened his eyes. What he wanted to do was behold Lucy, her face a radiance in the cold moon of the night. What he glimpsed from the corner of his eye was a movement hugging the line of trees across the vast lawns, a movement that was vague and yet distinct. Lucy immediately noticed the change that had occurred.

“What is it?”

Now Chris had turned all of his attention to the view from the window and Lucy did so as well.

“What is it? What do you see?”

“I don’t know. Look over there by that line of trees.”

The torch had been placed on the floor so that the light it emitted would not be apparent from without. Whatever had moved, was now still.

“It might be nothing. It could have been an animal. Probably nothing…look there! Did you see that?”

Lucy did think that she may have seen something so she sharpened her perception, adjusting her eyes to the night. The moon was now almost full and was sitting in an empty sky. Already, with the lack of cloud cover, the recently fallen snow was taking on a sheen that spoke of near artic conditions. They watched for a long time, but nothing re-emerged from behind any of the foliage.

“Whatever it is, it will freeze to death if it stays out there for long.”

Chris just nodded.

“Come on, let’s go so our room.”

That night, they kept to their promise even though nobody would have known if they had not. Struggling with what he thought he may have seen, Michael got out of his bed not long after he had heard the noises that suggested Lucy had fallen into sleep. He stood by the window and kept vigil until morning arrived.

Nothing was stirring, not even a Rat.

Merry Christmas from The Piper

Those creatures that could hibernate had already done so. The snow lay upon the earth and suspended much that was life. In the bleak midwinter, only those things that needed to move, moved. Without man, without his never ending battle to control nature, without snow ploughs of gritting machines, the world was thrown back to an age that was pre-industrial. An observer, unknowing of the causes of this white wonderland, would have marvelled at the beauty of it all. In the days leading up to Christmas, very little was stirring but the rats and the first of The Leathermen.  

The dead father, as Michael called him, had done his job well. His works of art had been well preserved. Away from the damp, devoid of heat and free from pests that would chew, burrow and lay eggs, the works of art had hardened in the freeze. Perfectly preserved (a few major cuts and bruises not withstanding) they were as near to excellence as one could imagine. Not even the celestial majesty of the Sistine Chapel could have created a thing as miraculous as this. For these creations were now a part of the living world once again and had the power to move one emotionally and physically.

These new additions were welcomed to the ranks of the distantly deceased, that forgotten brigade of hermits who had perished unknown, unwanted and unmissed. Of these James Harrison had assumed a mastery that was only matched by the positions enjoyed by Flowers and Hope in the respective worlds. The days were at hand when the dead would walk the earth, the world of creation would choke upon its implausibility and the forgotten ones would rule.

Those followers of Flowers who had not entered the forest in pursuit of the traitor and the girl had massed. Their numbers were greater than had been estimated. There eyes were added to by the rats who would scour the land for the remaining Resistors and a large group of them had been found. They were close by in an old castle escaping the worst of the snow. Already, scouts had been sent to reconnoitre the place and it appeared that the Resistors had failed to mount any guards or sentries. There was plenty of time to gather and plan. Once the snow had abated, they would move themselves into position, encircle and ensnare. The end was nigh and so was the beginning.

Living With Lots Of Women

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Raisin and Sultan?

No, I am not a sultan. I am neither a sultan nor a raisin, although some extended time in the sun could change that. 

I have a wife, three daughters, and a female cat. They all treat me as some acceptably odd character who shares their lives. I am no longer at the centre of existence and no longer at the centre of my own small act.

Philip Larkin Knew all about it:

“Something is pushing them

To the side of their own lives.”

Afternoons

You reach that moment when you have dispensed with thinking about life as one great adventure. The French talk about egotism as revolving around one’s own belly button. It’s like a living birth when everything in the universe is centred on the sole issue of that sole issue, you.

Once out in the open, it takes decades to accept that the world no longer revolves around you. You are not the sun, you are not even a sun, you are a speck in the universe, a galactic smote of dust that travels the great distances without anyone taking any notice.

But, I live amongst women. And they care for me. Even the cat, Lucy, nuzzles me when I am a little down. 

My ladies don’t give me false support. My ladies don’t allow me to wallow. My ladies keep me planted on the ground. They keep me…

I may be on the sidelines now. I may be but an observer of things that are happening around me, but which I do not participate in. I like it. I like the feet-up approach. I like being relaxed. I like not having to act. My ladies accept me for what I am.

So, in this part of my life, I am prepared to relax and to leave the running to others. I will watch, observe, appreciate. And occasionally, I will cheer.

From Field of Dreams

I will not be in the centre of it from now on, but I will be somewhere, enjoying the moments…

With my lovely girls (and wonderful wife).

Unsaid…

“It’s okay to cry.”

I was back in the office of my counsellor.

Could it be just me or is crying in front of a stranger, a strange female, something that most middle-aged men would find acceptable? I did everything that I could do to keep a stiff upper lip. I braced myself. I took deep breaths.

“If you want to cry, it is all part of the process.”

I was part of a process now. I was in the process of working through a personal trauma that had brought me to a crashing standstill and…now I was being asked to cry as some type of cleansing therapy. The problem was that I thought that crying would be just a little distraction. It would be like having leaches placed on an exposed stretch of skin with the intention of them sucking out the corruption. Tears would not do it. I hadn’t even cried at my father’s funeral or at any time since he’d died.

One of my favourite films is Field of Dreams. This, as most of you will know, is a male weepy. There has never been a time when I have watched it that I have been able to control the seepage of emotion.

“Dad, do you want to play catch?”

I can feel the artesian well now, but there is no music, no camera angles and no conclusion to our shared journey. You see, the film was a process in itself. As was my father’s death. The question is, why has the death of my dad come back to haunt me after over five years?

A huge lump of granite lay in my stomach. I was being asked to regurgitate the past. That block of forever granite was there, sentinel, obstructive. My dad was listening to what I was about to say. I heard him sitting in the corner, a shuffle of shoes and a cursory clearing of the throat. It is alright, I wanted to tell him, it is alright, I’m not going to break down. But the tide of emotion was returning from the morning I saw him cold and grey in the sterility of the hospital’s chapel of rest.

“You go, Matthew,” my mother had said. “I can’t look at him.”

She had sat all day and through the night. She had talked and silently sobbed as he waded into the shallows. She held his right hand, closer in this moment than in many a year they had shared before. She was holding his hand when the nurse arrived to check. It wasn’t alright. My mum, trapped in hope, had not noticed the changes on the monitor. She held his hand and squeezed as if to rub some more time into him. His chest rose and fell, rose and fell, and he was, for all intents alive. The nurse moved off quickly and returned with the doctor. By this point, my mother would have been becoming aware. But her husband was breathing. Watch the rising and falling of his chest. He always slept deeply.

“Mrs Evans, I’m sorry but your husband is dead.”

What did they know? He is still breathing. Look at his chest. Look at his chest.

“That’s the respirator, Mrs Evans. It is the respirator that is doing that.”

No, it wasn’t. He was still alive. He was sleeping. Come on Brian, wake up.

I have never seen her so empty as I saw her that morning. I was the dutiful son taking the lead. When I saw him in the chapel of rest, I understood that his passing had left a vacuum in all our lives.

“Dad,” I murmured. “Dad, what are you doing scaring us all like this?”

He didn’t answer. His face was sunken and pale. Death had been with him for some ten hours.

I wanted to be Jesus. Come forth Brian. The stubborn bugger wouldn’t move; he was in a mood with me.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered so that my mum wouldn’t hear me.

I wasn’t really sorry about what I was apologising for but I was sorry that he managed to die before we had properly worked it through. You see, we had argued some months prior to this and had only recently, grudgingly shrugged of the disagreement. And disagreement it certainly was. As our arguments went, this was top by a long score. Every single family factor was brought to the table and every last piece was served in ballistic fashion.

Charlotte had started sitting forward in her chair as I spoke. She was avidly listening but her stance had changed from counsellor to interested participant. She had become the audience and would occasionally stop me to ask for explanation of events and back-stories. Back-stories, I had in abundance.

My dad was born the second youngest of a family of twelve. He had ten brothers and one older sister. By the time he was ten, his father had left the family in search of work. He never returned so it fell upon his mother to bring up the sons. The daughter had married and moved into her own home. At the age of twelve, my dad had to go around to his elder sister’s house with a note. The note informed her that their mother had died suddenly. Norah, the sister, was obliged to take the other siblings under her wing. I gather that she did so with a stoic quality that was common of that age. The war had just ended so there were a lot of people in similar circumstances. War had taken many fathers in the field of

combat whilst enemy bombings had taken a significant number of those who remained at home. A brave new world was at hand and the ones who faced it did so with uncertainty and trepidation. Nevertheless, the worst was over.

I have stories that he told me about his childhood but there aren’t many. I know that a bomb once landed in their back garden after a raid. They discovered it the next morning and put ashes over the offending intruder until the right authority came to deal with it. Ashes? Odd choice.

So, the years that followed were growing up years. He was a bit of a dare-devil and a tearaway. He played rugby to a decent standard. He told me of a brief relationship he had with a married woman and about the ensuing fight he had with her husband. In fact, he had two fights: one with the husband and the husband’s mate in which my dad was beaten up and one when he hunted down his cowardly assailant some months later and gave him a return beating. I was proud of that part of him. After the war, he went to technical college even though he had passed his 11 plus. He was bright, gregarious and sharp as a knife.

“You sound as if you’re proud of your father.”

“I suppose it does. But…” I had to stop and think. “But actually, I often think that I never knew him.”

I’ve noticed with myself in the last couple of years that I have drawn further within the older I get. My wife has noticed it as well. She has told me that I never talk about anything.

“Why do you think that is?”

“What’s the point? It doesn’t solve anything. Nobody notices. It’s like the stuff that people say after a sudden death, “Make the most of every second because you never know when it’s your turn”. The thing is, that it is always going to come around, your time. Somebody has just died since I’ve written that and you’ve read this . Seize the day! What I want to know is how we are supposed to seize it. What are we supposed to be seizing?”

“Do you think they may mean that we should do what we really feel that we should do?”

Charlotte was coaxing out more explanation.

“I think it’s just something that people say as a comforter. When somebody has died, we have a desire that it must make sense. We aren’t just born to die. We are supposed to be creatures that have a higher purpose. It’s supposed to have meaning. What if it was all just nonsense? What if every single thing that we do, every series of events that snake around us, everybody we have ever loved or even hated for that matter, are just accidents of chance. If that is the case, then we are all lost without even knowing it.”

“What do you think?”

She asked me this question, probably aware that I didn’t have an answer. My mind was tumbling with newly sprouted hypotheses but there was nothing firm about it. Mental masturbation is what it was, creating questions and running down pathways, not to reach a climax of understanding but just to play around with the thoughts. The truth of it was that I liked this after-accident evaluation. Part of me was dead and the rest was floating above the scene trying to make sense of it. Nevertheless, just the act of trying to make sense made sense.

To Be Is To Do.

To Do Is To Be.

Do Be Do Be Do.

Cognito ergo sum.

“I think that I don’t know. I think that I will have to think about it some more; and then some. I think that I should sometimes stop thinking and just do, be do be do. My dad never had a problem with discarding deep thinking. He once criticised me for thinking too much about the past. He told me to, “Just get on with today.” I told him that I found that impossible and that I found the past interesting. He said something about dead people and nonsense. I just nodded and turned away. I wonder if he would have ever imagined that I would be thinking about him now all these years after he died?”

Don’t think. Don’t prevaricate. Act.

Act 1 Scene 1

A middle-aged man in a room with a woman. They are sitting facing each other. He has his right leg crossed over the other and is pushed back into his chair. She is sitting slightly forward. She holds a notepad and a pen but she doesn’t write. The man is talking. The woman is listening. Her eyes watch him whilst he looks beyond her into some vague setting.

“Where are you now?” She asks.

I’m back in school. I’ve just played football for the school team and I scored the winning goals.”

“Why do you look so unhappy?”

“My dad never came to see me. I played football lots and scored lots of goals. I was a decent player. Not once, not ever, did my dad come to see me play. How does a father do that to his child? What was he thinking? The thing is that I learnt from him. I learnt how not to be a father. My wife taught me how to be a proper one, a dad and a husband.”

“How does that make you feel?”

“I suppose that it should make me feel angry. I should be full to the brim with resentment. All those years of playing and not once was he there to see me. That was the norm for working class men. Too busy at the club with their mates playing at being lads who never grew up. Never, never. And, do you know what? I do feel something about that which is not anger at him, but guilt for my own self. It was me who was the cause of him not being there. I was a let-down and there was nothing I could do to change his mind. He didn’t come to see me because he wasn’t proud of me so I spent the rest of my life trying to make him proud. That was after I had got over the fact that I once thought that I hated him.”

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum…

Whatever we believe, it doesn’t have to make sense. Not even to ourselves.

Some of us get to certain ages or stages in our lives when things to believe in run out. Gods and Santas have gone the way of the dodo; the fittest only survive and there is no room for sympathy. If we have reached those ages/stages, we have probably deciced that we are of the weaker mould, our maps and philosophies have been blown away; the world is run by the strong for the strong and we are that other group, the ones left in the breakdown lane.  

So the phrase above, which isn’t in Latin nor any other language, is a good one to believe in. It can act as a mantra (as it did In Handmaid’s Tale) or it can act as a defensive threat (as it did when used by  Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) or it can act as quiet reassurance for all of us who struggle with the constant grind of this thing we call life. 

Strangely, I find it has some aspect of optimism about it. It’s a message from one person to another, a shared commentary on a journey, a secret spell that wards off the dark. The Bastards are out there and grinding is their weapon of choice, but they don’t know what we know.

It’s not the sexual act that has become the reason for people meeting on the internet, but it can f**k you up. This ‘grinding’ is about loading you up or weighing you down. It’s about seeing how much you can take before you can take no more; before you break. It is the straw that is placed on the donkey. It is that last thing that an indifferent boss, uncaring system, or even a cruel universe, wishes to put upon you just to see  the comic outcome.   At least somebody gets to smile.

People who know me may now be thinking that I am going through another bad time. I am not.

I am ruminating. I am cogitating. I am stretching out into myself and touching the implications of what it means to be me and to be you. And what it might mean to be somebody who sees the end of the process, the welcome onset of twilight in which a low sun shines without a care about whose halo it is touching. It’s the time before sleep when memories of the day that has passed move like mist through the minutes leading up to the onset of dreams. A feeling of warm repose and a welcoming of sleep (human and not forever). I have gone all Robert Frost again.

And now to help my wife with the washing up. And then the lunchtime preparations. And then to see our daughter home for a quick visit from university. And then…

Grind all you will, I am too busy to think about you!