At what point did he (General Custer) realise that he had played one gig too many?
Those Rock ‘n Roll days were about to be over.
Originally from West Yorkshire, I was brought up on a regular diet of Cowboys and Indians. Cowboys were the goodies and Indians were the not-so goodies. In later life I discovered otherwise. The small tableau above shows selfless heroism in the face of overwhelming odds. What it didn’t show was the years of brutality towards an indigenous people and the self-serving, deluding arrogance of a man who thought he was beyond death’s reach.
We all have our bad days, but it’s nothing to lose one’s hair over.
Well actually, no.
Yesterday found me in enemy territory again. I was in the school that sounded like it ought to be my uncle, but wasn’t, and I was starting to get reports that a whole nation of hostiles were restless and considering the warpath. This time, I was on my own and my ammunition had dwindled to an apologetic, “Quiet please.”
The previous day had spared me this visit into the tribal-lands. I had stayed close to home in order to meet with a very steely woman who had reached great fame for successfully running a college of further education. I was on second interview and performed as well, or as badly, as I was able to. I have an honesty chip that switches on when I start to spout bullshit. Anyway, I came away from the shining towers of that establishment and started to consider my chosen life-path.
There was a time when I thought of myself as bulletproof. I could ride into any school, or veritable establishment of learning, quell the natives, teach them using highly efficient and engaging methods, and then retreat to my little fort, where I ignored the wounds and thought about battles to come. Life has a unerring habit of tearing down the vainglorious. Little by little, my self-protecting bull-shit-self-projection was being worn away. I think it’s called ‘getting older’.
I was once a good teacher.
Really. I believed in what I did and, more to the point, I believed in myself. I could parry spear-thrusts, deal with daggers and avoid arrows. The older I got, the slower I got and the more painful it became. Each new battle was a harder battle and tended to last just a little bit longer every time it was fought. Another thing was that the natives seemed to have been conducting a very successful recruitment campaign and their numbers were growing year on year.
When I go to these dangerous places (they are known as ‘challenging’ which implies that there is some innate quality there that will enable every participant to learn and grow by the mere acceptance to the ‘challenge’), I gird myself. I know that being prepared for what is about to be flung at me will enable me to at least survive. There is a list of things to do and I follow that list to the letter, until the battle is at its most furious and I think about the white flag approach.
Have kids changed over the years or is it just me yearning for the halcyon days of the long, long ago?
“Most of my teacher friends from London have either retired or taken early retirement for health reasons. Sounds like it’s getting more and more common although there is a financial penalty to pay, especially since mid to late fifties is young these day.”
A Message from a very respected old friend of mine.
Yes, the writing was on the teepee wall, but I had chosen, thus far, to avoid reading it.
YOU ARE TOO OLD.
I am reading it now and for the first time the true significance of it is beginning to sink in. My Wild West days are over. My pioneer times have come to an end. I still have a good head of hair and I intend to keep it.
Be gone Sitting Bullshit! Away with thee, Cowardly Custard!
Now it is just me, back at the homestead, writing to an invisible world. My week’s employment was terminated when I decided to do the ‘decent thing’ and tell them that I had other work for next week. I feel a mixture of relief and anger. My proud self is a little annoyed that I should be treated in this fashion. My pragmatic self is issuing a sigh of last-minute redemption. The battle will be fought without me. I will not have to ask and ask and ask and ask and ask and ask for a little quiet. I will not have to sit and restrain my natural impulses to step in when the hostiles have decided that they rule the roost. I will not have to feel that inner defeat when I realise that I am neither a chief nor a foot soldier any longer.
But what happens now?
There is a poem by Philip Larkin that spoke to me decades ago when I was still ‘young’ and ‘vital’. It deals with that inevitable moment when the world creeps on on you in order to show you just where you are in it. I believe that Larkin must have sat, or imagined that he was sitting, watching the onset of autumn in an inner-city park. The place is full of life with mothers, children, workers and lovers, inhabiting spaces in the scene. Larkin is there, but he is watching rather than participating. The final lines hit the nail directly on its weatherproofed head,
“Something is pushing them
To the side of their own lives.”