The words have become stepping stones that offer a way across the constant flow of time.
John Mortimer described getting older as an experience that increased the velocity of events; the older he got the quicker time flowed. He talked about it in terms of breakfast-time coming around, not every twenty-four hours, but every ten minutes. My now dead father told me something similar with one of those wait and see moments that has transformed itself into what I now understand.
Standing here, looking out on the landscape of my life, I direct my gaze to those significant events that I believe moulded me into what I am becoming. And now I am here thinking of friends that I haven’t seen for decades. My post on The Summer of 76 brought me a Messenger conversation about the bikes that we had back in the day before moving on to talk about the cars that we have owned. Another example of the pace of time and how it strangely stands still at some junctures in its journey.
I am drawn to a memory of a river in the Yorkshire Dales,the river Dee in Dentdale when much of its flow had been swallowed by the endlessly blue skies that had chased off any prospect of rain during those summer months. The river did not stop, but wound lazily along the exposed rock of the riverbed. Into that river bed had been hewn large standing pools where the bedrock had been softer and where once the river would have provided a perilous obstacle to cross it was now a breeze; the exposed rock became stepping stones as my words now provide passage into a place that should not be any more.
As the numbers on our daily rides began to decline, the ones who stayed the pace wanted to try more and more tests of endurance. In the end there were only three of us and, bored of the various excursions that took us through South and West Yorkshire, we devised a plane to go further afield. One of us came up with the idea of joining The Youth Hosteling Association. We were young and it was cheap. We toyed with ideas of where we should go, but never reached a definite consensus. In the end, a plan was hatched on one of the many long evenings which found us aimlessly riding along well-cycled lanes that had ceased to provide any more stimulation.
In a pique of urgency, during the slow-passage of hours, we decided upon travelling to Skipton, then some distance away, and staying at the hostel there for several days. It never occurred to us that we ought to plan anything more than this, so the next morning saw us load up our panniers, fill our drinks’ bottles and set sail into the vast blue of adventure.
The sense of freedom that I experienced as I cycled away from the soot-caked buildings and factories of Dewsbury and towards the even darker buildings of Bradford was something that suggested a trait that would remain with all three of us for the rest of our lives. Even back then, the three of us were from our West Riding village and controlling town, but not of it. In a group of outsiders, we were most probably the most outside. It was not a judgement made by anybody in The Losers’ Club; it just happened.
And to this day, I still have the urge to travel and to see.
Danny was the most obvious outcaste as he was a Catholic who attended a posh Catholic school in Leeds. We were all C of E and had been thrown into the newly established comprehensive system that was intended to replace the old three-tier Grammar, Technical, and Secondary Modern method of social-advancement. What really happened was that the comprehensive established streaming with Grammar, Technical, and Secondary Modern classes within the one school. That made for interesting societal-divisions that would last for the rest of our lives.
Because of our supposed intelligence, we did Latin and French, the rest of the school population looked at the top-stream as freaks, posh freaks, puffs and traitors. There still exists this working-class view of education, and the educated, as if it is somehow feminine to wish to learn and that that desire automatically makes one a traitor to those who have stuck to their guns. Resistance was not futile, but it was frowned upon. Just to emphasise this point, Danny spoke better English than we did and he introduced us to the word, puerile which he used to describe our general view on girls, the world, and farting.
Haguey was posh as well, but we knew him. His mother was our History teacher and we spent a bit of time sticking-up for him in the face of other kids who wished to beat him up just because he was different from them. Haugey had a dark side, an unpredictable explosion of temper that would immediately translate into violent outburst agains those whom he deemed to be doing him wrong. He was no coward but, like the rest of us, he was no fighter either. The inescapable rule of fighting is that you fight on a regular basis and hone your skills, stamina, and indifference to pain. We could all scrape ourselves along the road with a bicycle wrapped around our backs but we would never launch into fistfights with the various Visigoths who inhabited our immediate vicinity.
Me? I was me. I stil haven’t quite worked out what that personal pronoun means, but on that bakingly hot summer’s morning we set off into what would become the rest of our lives.
Now I am laying down the words to cross the stretch of motion that would otherwise separate me from that time.