The Importance Of Night

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Almost twenty-minutes past three and I am sittng here in the darkness, without my glasses, whilst my wife and daughters sleep upstairs.

I woke thinking.

Now someway into my veritable older years, though the boy inside me queries this, I have those nocturnal meanderings that lead to a gnawingly inward frustration.

It’s over two-years since I finally wobbled beyond wise words. My ‘burnout’ was a forest fire that destroyed everything that I had come to depend upon in my daily existence and spiritual certainty. Even then, I still had a belief in the whole business of God.

I was a character in some cosmic saga and my lines were being written in a sympathetic ‘it will all work out in the final chapters’ manner. It was a nice thought, but it was a thought that gently drowned me into inactivity. Why should I bother to make the hard decisions when they had possibly already been made for me?

It takes many deaths before we awaken to the possibility of our own.   

I think the fifties decade is the one that begins to place the Grim Reaper before us on an ever more frequent basis. People die. It’s not just people we vaguely know or celebrities we have grown up with. No, those now dying are our friends and our family. At this point, life stops being endless, ceases to be something that will happen tomorrow, and starts becoming a little urgent.

We have just returned from holiday in the past week and yesterday I was talking to my wife and commented on how full ‘holiday days’ are compared to non ‘holiday days’.

We were camping in France and we based our stay around the beautiful Lake Annecy. Our camping was a mixture of hard and soft camping with ten days being spent in mobile homes whilst the other eight was real camping in tents. We had our bikes (five people in my immediate clan) and the car was full to bursting with everything that we were to need and lots of things that we had forgotten that we would need. But we were on holiday and that meant that the days were ours and needed the respect that they deserved. So, instead of just letting them drift by, we filled them full of ourselves. Cycling, walking, talking, cooking, meeting, talking some more, seeing, site-seeing, BEING! We did it all.

Like most of our best holidays, the weeks were book-ended by potentially disastrous events. The car broke down, badly, and or final dash for the ferry saw us driving through the most torrential of storms which demanded my wife and daughters’ abject fear and my 1000 percent concentration. We survived both. When we got home we were well and truly knackered, but we had done it; we had filled the days of our holidays with meaning. We ‘did’ rather than procrastinate. It made sense. Back home the doing seems to get pushed to one side for that great big empty balloon of a thing called ‘everyday life’. And that is what we genrally do (or don’t).

Have you ever been to a funeral and said to yourself, “This is too important to waste”, then gone straight back to wasting it the next day and the day after that and the one after that…infinitum? It’s the holiday thing. We have a brief epiphany, a break from the everyday, a glimpse of what could be, then the blinds come down and we are back in the darkness of the mundane.

The thing with the mundane, the everyday, the normal world, is that it’s not taxing. It may be ultimately a stealth-tax but we don’t immediately feel it. We are not left exhausted by our attempts to seize the day and don’t feel the need to stuff all of our energies into a few weeks that will come to an end.  Unlike life, holidays are finite. And that is ‘rub’. Life does end. It’s a holiday that starts with a breakdown and finishes with a dramatic storm that threatens to derail everybody’s safe passage.

So after those fine words, I am still confused as to what my true holiday should contain.  

I have a decision to make in the next few days.

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I can’t put it off. The clock is ticking. 

 

 

Selling Like Hot-Cakes?

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL Read After Burnout.

It makes no sense. 

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Read After Burnout. com

Check the link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?k=read+after+burnout.+com

 

The Last Ride…

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More than any other motorbike, Harley Davidson conjures up images of an easy-riding, non-conformist lifestyle. The term, Legend has been applied to it, not only from the company itself but from those who ride them; or aspire to ride them. 

Yesterday I tried to marry three things together, but I failed.

The story that I was writing was about a man who I know who discovered that his life was about to end prematurely; motor-neurone disease had taken root with out him realising. For a man who had incredible powers of endurance, as a long distance runner, this must have been a betrayal beyond belief.  Life has its little jokes, existential ironies that are played out in tragic dramas; on little stages.

We all die, but what is gained from this type of cosmic bullying beyond reaffirming the fact that life can suck? I suppose that the God that some people choose to believe in sees this as just another little reminder of his omnipotence and our inbuilt fragility.

“What’s the point?” I would say to that type of cosmic bully, “You’ve won, anyway.” 

I suppose the point is the same point that that type of god has been making for the whole of time; we are mayflies caught up in a dreadful eternity of summer promises.

So, what happened to my story?

When I woke up this morning, I made my usual trip to the Apple (man’s invention, not God’s) and looked at the reading figures for yesterday. The Last Ride hardly featured. My marriage of motorcycles, the Mother Road (Route 66), and a motor-neurone sufferer did not exist.

I went into the post and only the title remained. I checked some more without any luck. I scoured my drafts file, but that brought me no luck either.

The Last Ride had disappeared and it did not take much to connect that disappearance with the lesson that was taught at Babel, rendered to Prometheus, or writ large in the pages of Frankenstein.

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And yet there are times when we grow and think and wonder. We stray into that place where questions have to be asked. 

“Why am I here?”

“What is the meaning of it all?”

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“Where can I get a Harley Davidson from and where can I ride it?”

Another Breakout Looming…

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What can teachers do to escape the yatta tat tat of the classroom?

I have made a number of escapes throughout my life, both literal and metaphorical. I have never raced a motorbike up an Alpine slope and attempted to jump over ten feet of barbed wire, but it is safe to say that I once had the tee-shirt, and the chinos.

 

My greatest escapes have been to foreign lands.

London, although not another country, was an alien environment. My love of Hemingway had led me to believe that experience was essential for understanding who you were and what the world was made of. The industrial landscape of West Yorkshire had not prepared me for the vastness of what lay beneath Watford. London, in the early eighties, was not the place it has since become. Back then it was shrouded in a greyness that sat upon its citizens like a weight from the past. Blair Peach, a New Zealand teacher and left-wing activist, had been killed by the Metropolitan Police’s Special Patrol Group. It had happened close to Southall police station during a protest march. Southall was a Sikh area that had experienced its fair share of racial incidents. There was little doubt that many of these incidents had been fuelled by a repressive police force. After Sixth Form, I joined the Met in a vainglorious attempt to put things right. Three years later, found me retreating back north and regrouping.

 

My memories of the Met are like pages that I have read from a book; long, long ago…

There was the initial interview at Scotland Yard in which a medical involved bending over and having your backside inspected. This had nothing to do with concerns about northern cleanliness but they were bothered about unauthorised entry. At Hendon training school, we learnt to march. We exercised and expended ourselves to the state of exhaustion under the neo-sadistic eyes of our instructors. We learnt to understand the salvo of barks and orders that were constantly fired at us. We pressed uniforms and shone boots to mirror-like quality and we studiously digested each page of the police instruction manual. We played at being policemen in mock-ups. I began to understand how stupid my accent appeared to others and started to smooth it down. More than any other thing, we were slowly being inducted into an order of authoritarian, misogynistic, racist, rightwing and wrong-minded Visigoths from another era. Life on Mars got it spot on with its depiction of characters who belonged to that time.

I use my experiences in the police as anecdotes that are rolled out on different occasions to shed a little more light upon my past. I try not to embellish these tales but am well aware of what time does to ancient events. Playing the role of storyteller amuses me. It’s a story, my history, an evolving narrative that has been changing and adapting; at both chronological ends for some time. The further I get away from the opening, the closer I get to it. This is the paradox of time that shortens the lens of experience and changes horizons and limits. The defeats I suffered during my earnest spell in the Met should have set me up for the rest of my life, but I was always an optimist who thought that things would definitely get better. Like Santiago, the old man of the sea, I have the worst type of bad luck; never knowing when I am beaten.

 

A fellow whom I met when my wife and I worked in the Basque Country of Spain once noted that we were always striving to better ourselves, always talking about the future as if it was a world waiting to be shaped, never sitting back and letting the tide do the work. It was perhaps easier for him as he was of the upper-middle classes and had chosen to slum it as a teacher of English as a foreign language. He couldn’t ever understand the need to make things better. He could not contemplate the desire to build defences for that time in the future when outrageous fortune might wash against them. Jacob (double-barrelled surname) had a pile to fall back on and could therefore fail in comfort. For us, failures howled in our dreams and shook us from sleep with the cold sweat of realisation that it would be like this for life. So, every day became a battle to hold our ground and to move forward, inches at a time. Stoicism can get ever so dull.

Sophie takes charge of our operations on the battlefield.

My wife is tough, resilient and generally forgiving of my escapist nature. Life has been very difficult for her with almost all of her original family now dead. Ironically, the only one still living is her natural mother. The clue lies there in so much that the woman gave birth to her, looked after her for several months, brought her to a state of malnutrition, and then handed her over to her own mother and her step-dad. My wife was adopted and then grew up wondering why her parents were so old compared to those of her school mates. There is a stagnant sea of loathing that now stretches between Sophie and her birth-mother and it is safe to say that we will never cross that vast expanse any time soon. Whatever life throws at her, she continues. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to throw it back, slam the door open and start again.

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All of our escapes had been prompted by me. 

I am thinking about the parachute and the German airmen in that garden all those years ago. There is me, tail-end smoking, guns stuttering and half a squadron of enemy planes swarming. I have my parachute and am pressing the ejector button.  Soon only the air will be between me and the freedom of the ground. Sometimes however, they attack a helpless escapee and, when they come again, there is nowhere to hide and nothing to hide behind.

 

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via Great Escapes…xxx