Thursday, 23 April 2015

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS...?



As someone living in my seventh house by the time I was twenty-
eight, I've often wondered what it must be like for those who've lived
in the same abode for all of their remembered life.  You see, to me, the
memories of each area I've lived in (especially growing up), each set of
friends, neighbours, experiences, etc., is almost like having lived several
alternate lives when I think back on them.  To someone who has always
lived in the same house, I'd imagine it's an entirely different scenario.


This makes me wonder if their perception of time is the same as mine.
Having stayed in the same place all their life, does the period of their
childhood seem to have passed quicker or slower to them, not having
consisted of separate 'epochs' in the way that mine has?  As I once ex-
plained in a previous post, regardless of whether I lived somewhere for
one year, four years, or eleven years, when I look back, it doesn't feel as
if I spent longer in one place than I did another.  Consequently, having
stayed in five different houses before I was fourteen - for what seems
like equal duration - the impression that I've lived five distinct child-
hoods is perhaps more understandable than would at first appear.


However, if you've lived in the same house all your life, you only have
memories of growing up against the background of the same place to
reflect on in later life, so - does your sense of time, uninterrupted as it
was in comparison to mine, operate on the same level?  I don't suppose
I'll ever really know, but the question fascinates me.  As I also said in
another post, I have a tendency to imbue a sense of the profound into
the most trivial of concepts - perhaps this is just one such occasion.


Anyone got any thoughts on the matter?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

HAVE YOU MISSED THE BUS...?



Funny what thoughts go through one's mind during a casual
glance out of the window, isn't it?  When I first moved into these
vaulted halls many years ago, I had a panoramic view of the far hori-
zons from my bedroom window.  Over the years, I grew to enjoy ob-
serving seemingly tiny double- decker buses, interiors lit up against the
darkness of the night sky, as they traversed their routes in the distance.
I'd watch, fascinated, as they suddenly entered stage left, and then
parade across the bejewelled black canvas backdrop of night,
before exiting, stage right, from the scene.

Sometimes, of course, they'd glide into view in reverse order to
the one just described, and at other times, two buses would appear
simultaneously from opposite directions and approach one another like
dueling behemoths, only to pass without incident or acknowledgement in
the middle.  On occasions such as these I was spoilt for choice, my eyes
dancing from one to the other, captivated by these glowing little boxes on
wheels as they narrowed the distance between them.  I can't explain it,
but there's just something magical about watching lit vehicles at night
from afar, especially if one is within the cozy confines of one's
own hearth and home at the time.

Nowadays, I still have pretty much the same vista spread before
me, but there have been encroachments.  Due to building develop-
ments, part of the stretch of road along which these buses run has
been blocked from my view.  I'm lucky if I can spy on the sojourns of
these night-time buses for half the span I enjoyed in years past, before
they disappear from sight behind a new school near the road.  I can't
help but wonder if those narrowing horizons might mirror my life
in some symbolic way.

In youth, with the future stretching seemingly endlessly before
me, my life was in 'widescreen';  as the years have passed the
screen has shrunk until it's now 'regular'.  Imagine if, in some strange
way, the remaining visibility of that stretch of road was an indication of
the measure of time left to me.  (And that's if I'm lucky.)  Of course, I
can only hope that the two aren't connected.  Otherwise, if that view of
the road and its procession of buses becomes completely obscured
anytime soon, then I'll be deep in the softsmelly brown stuff

It's a sobering thought.  And, being a teetotaller,
I'm already as sober as I need to be.

Monday, 20 April 2015

JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN...?



Outside, it's a wet and windy day.  The rain lashes the streets with
unrelenting fervour as, from my window, I observe a few bedraggled
passersby scurry for shelter or in pursuit of some purpose know only
to themselves.  The sky is grey and ominous, clouds swirl overhead in
regal, grim-meined majesty, contemptuously regarding us mere
mortals as the lowly ants we undoubtedly are.

And that's the weather forecast for today.

However, cosily ensconced within the comfortable confines of my
comics covered cubbyhole, I luxuriate in the warmth emanating from
the radiator and concern myself with what pithy (no, I don't have a lisp),
profound and poignant comments I can bestow upon my eager audience,
who look to me to lighten and brighten their unbearable burden by be-
dazzling them with the wit and wisdom which so freely pours forth
from my meaningful, methodical and monumental mind. 

Oh, what lucky people you are.

When I was a boy in
Belmont, we had an
outside 'garden cellar'
(as did most houses in
the street), in which we
stored coal in one half
and garden tools (lawn-
mower, spades, etc.) in
the other.  (It was called
a cellar even 'though it
wasn't underground, but
apparently the term is
not misapplied in such
circumstances.

 On rainy days I'd sit on a deckchair inside the bigger-sized half with
the door slightly ajar, reading comics and listening to the rain pattering
off the pavement and caressing the concrete roof under which I
ever-so-snugly sheltered.

Even today, I find it a supremely calming experience to sit in a car in
the rain and listen to the drops rattlling on the roof in their staccato, tinny-
sounding fashion.  There is a wonderfully diverse quality to rain;  when one
is out walking in it, it invigorates, it refreshes, and it cleanses.  Yet, when
one takes the time to regard its presence in quiet contemplation from the
comfort of a dry haven, it also relaxes the mind and soothes the soul.

Sadly, refuge in the
garden cellar of my
youth is a couple of
houses ago and many
years in the past.  How-
ever, I can still seek
sanctuary in its shadows
with one short step into
the hallowed halls of
memory.  As Cicero him-
self said:  "Memory is the
treasury and guardian
of all things."

Failing that, of course, I can always go and sit in my nice new acrylic
garden shed and listen to the rain pitter-patter all around me, the door
half-open to allow me to watch it in silent awe.

******

Incidentally, the photo below was taken about twenty years ago
outside the very cellar mentioned, around twenty years after I had
moved from the house.  How did I manage that, do I hear you ask?
Ah, but that's a story for another time.


Sunday, 19 April 2015

UNFINISHED BUSINESS...



About eighteen years ago, one of my old schoolfriends found
himself in the unfortunate position of having to vacate the family home
when his father died.  In order to help him and his sister have less to carry
with them when they moved, I accepted his offer to see if there was any-
thing I might want to buy from their excess of unwanted baggage.  I gave
him £100 for a few relatively worthless odds'n'ends (books, ornaments,
etc.) so that he didn't think he was the recipient of charity, and hoped
it would be of use in some small way.

Amongst the items I purchased from him was the above book.  I
bought it for my father who was in hospital at the time, so that he could
read it when he got out.  He never did.  He died not long after without ever
seeing it (unless he glimpsed it on a brief visit home) and it's languished
in a cupboard since the day it came into my possession.  Having fought
abroad during the Second World War these type of stories were right
up his street, but I've never been interested in military matters.

However, whenever I lay eyes on the book, it brings with it a sense
of 'unfinished business' - as if it's waiting to fulfill the purpose for which
it was bought, but has been denied ever since.  As I said, the subject isn't
really my 'cup of tea', but, more and more, I'm left with the sense that
maybe I should read it on my father's behalf - and thus end its years
of neglect and abandonment.  I know it sounds daft, but the feeling
is beginning to haunt me. 

Unfinished business, eh?  One day soon perhaps.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

MEDITATIONS ON BEGINNINGS & ENDINGS...



It may come as no surprise to any of you, but from a very early age
I was much given to looking back on the past.  My remembered past,
obviously, as I wasn't interested in or capable of reminiscing about events
which pre-dated either myself or my ability to recall them.  When, aged five,
I moved from one house to another just a few short minutes away, I made
it a point to return to my previous street on a regular basis so that I could
re-experience the nearby woods in which I'd once played and again
take in the expansive view from the top of the hill.

Over the years (and houses and neighbourhoods), I always found
it comforting to return to the places of my youth and reconnect with
them from time to time, and for almost the first three decades of my life,
most of these hallowed haunts remained essentially unchanged.  Each
time, the experience was akin to the hushed awe and reverential atmos-
phere described in The PIPER At The GATES Of DAWN chapter
in Scots author KENNETH GRAHAME's beautiful book, The
WIND In The WILLOWS, published in 1908.

It was almost like returning to the dawn of creation, when every-
thing must've seemed magical and mystical, and from which every
living thing derives its strength and power.  Revisiting the environs of my
early childhood recharged and revitalised me in some way, but it also some-
how made events from even only a few years before seem like a far-distant
era - at the exact same time as making them, paradoxically, closer than
a lover's kiss.  I suppose, to a seven year old, three years is more than
half one's remembered life, and perhaps half one's life seems just
as long or as short at any age.  Does that make any sense?

Then things started to change.  First it was lampposts being sup-
planted by newer, thinner models, placed on the inside of the pavements
instead of at the kerbs.  Then it was the paving stones, replaced with tar-
macadam, dark and dismal in the gloom of the night.  Next, it was building
on fields and green areas, and the removal of swingparks, resulting in
open, spacious, well-planned neighbourhoods being transformed into
crowded, claustrophobic, concrete ghettoes.

Earlier this evening I decided to retrace a certain route to my
first primary school.  Sometimes, as children, we'd take a detour into
a swingpark and then through some woods that led to the school.  The
swingpark is an empty space and the trees were cut down some years ago,
the fallen giants now littering the overgrown trail they once used to shade.
On previous occasions over the years, visiting the area was like a pleasant
journey into yesterday and a salve to my soul.  That these places could
always be relied upon for the same simple welcome seemed like one
of life's unchanging truths, but, alas, that is no longer the case.

I'd always thought that, in my declining years, the locales of my
boyhood would still exist and that I'd  be able to revisit them one last
time, and find solace in the fact that these spots would yet be around for
future generations to enjoy similar experiences to my own.  I'm now only
too well aware that when my final bedtime comes, that, sadly, won't be
the case.  The only hope left to me is that, should I awaken on 'the
other side', I'll find all those familiar places waiting to greet me
and welcome me home.

Night has fallen and the daylight seems a long way off.  Is that my
name I faintly hear, carried on the whisper of the evening breeze?

Sunday, 5 April 2015

IF YOU HAD ONE WISH...



If, by some magical process, you had one wish, what would
you wish for above all else?  Would it be wealth, health, youth,
looks, immortality - or some other aspect which could be yours
for the wishing?  Sex appeal, hair, height, charisma, etc., you
name it and just imagine you could have it in a heartbeat.

In the following poem, the writer's wish is abundantly
clear - but what would you wish for?

******

The time hangs heavy on my hands
as I think back on bygone days,
When in fair childhood's far-off lands
I played beneath Sol's golden rays.
I thought myself immortal then
and never spared a thought for death,
For I was just a lad of ten,
but now I'm old and short of breath.

With little time in front of me
my gaze turns backwards to the past,
And days of glory do I see
of happy times I thought would last.
But Time, the one who mocks us all,
will have her way as years pass by,
We are but captives in Time's thrall
and 'tis appointed that we die.

But in my mind I'm young once more,
surrounded by my childhood friends,
And things are as they were before
in mystic time that never ends.
There's Tom and Jim and Joe and Bill,
restored to youth once more in dreams,
We play again upon that hill
which rang with laughs and joyous screams.

They all grew up and went their way;
they met and married loving wives,
They gave their all in work and play,
they led such rich, fulfilling lives.
There was so much I meant to do,
but never seemed to find the time,
And now I sit here whilst I rue
that I'm no longer in my prime.

But then as if freed from a trance
my reverie comes to a close.
In mirrored-glass I catch a glance
and wonder if that old man knows
When he was young he had it all,
the whole wide-world lay at his feet;
He should have conquered and stood tall -
but now I stoop low in defeat.

My friends are gone, dead many years,
and I am left to face my fate,
I try to hold back stinging tears
and know I've left things far too late.
I should have made more of my life
and not just let it slip away,
And raw regret cuts like a knife
for things unsaid I meant to say.

Regret for things I meant to do,
but sadly, madly, left undone.
The women that I meant to woo,
who might have borne to me a son.
I sat and watched life pass me by
as I was left upon the shelf,
And then it was too late to try
and I blame no one but myself.

So one truth now I realize,
that life is like a bitter pill,
And as I dab tears from my eyes
I dream once more of that green hill,
Remembering with poignant joy
the happy lad I was at ten -
And wish I was a little boy,
if only for one day again.

(Halcyon Days by Iain Osborne.)

******

Feel free to share your wishes in the comments section.

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