Thursday, 23 April 2015


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 explained 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 in each one - the impression that I've lived five distinct childhoods 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


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 horizons from my bedroom window.  Over the years, I grew to enjoy observing 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 developments, 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


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 bedazzling 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 (lawnmower, 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.  However, I can still seek sanctuary in its shadows with one short step into the hallowed halls of memory.  As Cicero himself 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


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 anything 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


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 atmosphere so exquisitely 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 everything 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 somehow 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 supplanted by newer, thinner models, placed on the inside of the pavements instead of at the kerbs. Then it was the paving stones, replaced with tarmacadam, 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, 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 ahead of me, my mind 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 head 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.

     Then they 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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