So This is Fun Is it?

The road ahead was grim, stationary traffic, heavy rain and his bladder was painfully full , a problem compounded by the certain knowledge that that pain would get more intense as the large latte, consumed in the jovial end of meeting session was working its way through his innards.   The large continental lorry ahead of him blocked his view but that didn’t matter, the satnav had given him the bad news that this jam stretched for 7.5 mile and was caused by a broken down coach full of passenger.  He could bear it no more, turned off the engine and headed over to the hard shoulder , in the full view of hundreds of other drivers, but it felt so good.

Turning round, the pressure now gone and his spirits lifting, he was presented with a view of dense traffic stretching out in both directions. Nothing was moving except a very annoying motor bike that was weavings its way down between the stationary traffic. He could see that this freedom to make progress was upsetting just a few people, as some were opening car doors just as the bike approached or just indicating they were about to move off.  The rider was wise to all of this and kept up his weaving, a skill gained out of long practice. He knows that at this moment, he was hated by all the drivers now trapped on this stretch of the M-25 motorway.

He looked around and could see that now that he had set an example other drivers were getting out of their vehicles to relieve themselves on the hard shoulder, much to the obvious annoyance of a female driver in a BMW for whom this simple biological necessity was just not possible, at least not in board daylight.

The bike disappeared into the ocean of traffic ahead, a few conversations had started up amongst the escapes on the hard shoulder, emboldened by their bravery in leaving their vehicles (or was it desperation). Mostly monosyllabic the conversations seemed to consist of a just two or three swear words repeated in several combinations, although one lorry driver did have a much larger vocabulary of similar words   and was gifted in their use.

Looking up and down the hard should, he could see that he had started something as the drivers further away had now left their vehicles and wave of relief soon disappeared from sight in either direction.

There seemed little point in going back to his car so he started to look around. “I wonder where this is”, he thought?  The countryside either side of the motorway was a lush network of fields and small woods and he could just make out a church spire in the distance, maybe a village?   Drivers has mostly turned off their engines now and the sudden silence felt so out of place in this landscape of crash barriers, tarmac, while lines and sleeping vehicles.

The countryside around them seemed to grow in stature, surrounding their small ribbon of silence in the cacophony of the countryside, he could hear bird song and cattle in the distance and a tractor was working in a field over there. This ribbon of steel and tarmac , which normally filled his field of vision  had retreated to this thin monochromatic line, this unnatural scar of desolation, that scythed across the landscape of colour.

He had been this way many times, but had never seen this place before, it just flashed past, the road was the constant, the fixed feature in the firmament of his working life.

High above he could see a bird of prey circling, probably frustrated by all the people encroaching into its hunting territory along the side of the motorway.  Suddenly it plummeted down into the field next to the motorway and emerged from the long grass with a small creature clutched in its talons. He watched the bird fly away in rapt concentration, his emotions moved by this sight of extreme but so very natural violence.

The sound of engine starting and horns blaring roused him from this heightened state, traffic up ahead was on then move, he walked calmly back to his car and started the engine.

In a few minutes he was back up to speed. He knew that he would never be able to identify that spot at the side of the road where his life changed for ever, but it had. He pulled into the next service and just sat in his car reliving the emotions of those few minutes at the side of the M25 motorway.  The angry female BMW driver screeched past, her desperation now relieved  she was safe on the narrow this ribbon of tarmac and concrete that set the boundaries of expectation and  ambition..

And in that moment of complete certainty the course of his life changed and he escaped from the shackles of his narrow prison.

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So This is Fun Is it?

The Ring of Life

Set high up in the the garden wall, in a small crevice hollowed out when the wall was new, sit  two gold rings,  a small ring and a larger ring . They are dull and lifeless looking today, but when they were placed there they shone with the sparkle of young love, intense and crystal clear in its intensity.

The wall was built in the spring of 1914, by Ernest Smith and his father to enclose the small kitchen garden of the cottage Ernest had purchased to be home for him and his wife to be when they married in September of that year.  His father a well known local builder helped him with all the repairs and improvement works on the home and this ancient cottage was already looking like the dream home for the excited young couple.

They had been planning their marriage for 5 years, Ernest was a hard working entrepreneurial man and had wanted to be an established trader and to be able to support his family (they had plans for a large family). His fruit and vegetable business was now a success, he had natural flair and ability and business was growing and prosperous.

His finance, Gladys Attwell, was  equally determined to  succeed but her passion was nursing, and she  had that innate ability, that objective compassion that made the best nurses.  She had spent much of the last few years training and becoming qualified as a nurse and was now a ward sister in the local Cottage Hospital.

This couple had planned well and their lives ahead looked secure and comfortable so the momentous changes in July 1914 did not worry them unduly.  Everyone said it would be all over by Christmas and few could believe that their leaders would get it all so wrong.

The wave of patriotism that swept the land intercepted their plans in August, they were both moved to play their part.  Ernest would join up and serve in the Army and Gladys would  also join up as a nurse.    The did discuss the dangers, but off course neither could imagine the true horror of the war to come, that in just a few months would sweep away their lives and their joy so completely.

Ernest found himself being sent abroad within a few months, not to France as he expected, but to Palestine and and he served the whole war in the middle East.

Gladys was also sent abroad, and set out on a small ferry boat to France as part of an advance party setting up field hospitals, but she never got there. Her boat was one of the early casualties of the U-Boat campaign, and was torpedoed in mid channel.  Many of those who died drowned inside the ship, but Gladys was a fighter  and she managed to escape and fight her way to the surface where she endured many hours floating in the sea.  The  cold waters of that September numbed her to the bone and she eventually perished, lost and alone at sea, her beloved Ernest many miles away in the baking heat of Palestine on the very day they had planned to be married.

Ernest was devastated, and never came home again.  After the war, he fled to the far East where he became a shipping agent.  He died in 1941, still alone when the Japanese invaded Singapore.

And the two  rings, well they had spent a glorious summer day working in the garden that July in 1914. They talked about their plans and the coming conflict and made the difficult but they felt correct joint  decision to postpone their wedding for a few months.  Knowing they would be separated for a while, they resolved that they would meet again in this very spot.  Ernest took their two as yet unworn wedding rings and  near the top of the wall just above head height, he cut a small crevice in the wall , between two of the larger capping stones.  He placed both rings in the space he had made, hidden from view.  They never told anyone about this and so the rings are still there waiting for the return of the two young lovers, lost in the despair of war.

The Ring of Life

Somnolence

Creeps into the core  
of my being, this  
breeze of gentle dullness,  
dressed as contentment,  
so easy to slide  
into its grasp, fall  
into that soft cushion  
of peace, enveloped  
by its temping embrace,  
to be captured by  
emptiness disguised as release.
Somnolence

Sparkling Alluring

So he wondered what was this ,   this thing that shone with life and excitement.  It drew him , like a candle draws a moth into its flame he was attracted, giving up control to that which seemed to sparkle, letting himself dissolve in the intensity.

Personality disintegrating before the allure that slowly and so effortlessly killed his being, leaving just the husk of a man to live on in this world of wonder.

So many dead men, living their lives , but locked in deaths embrace of fear, believing the lies and deceit. So sad and so lost, blinded by this lie.

Sparkling Alluring

The Potting Shed World

It was one of those summer days that just sparkled with possibility.  The sky was the dark pristine blue, so clear and pure, with just the odd splash of brilliant white clouds sailing majestically. In the little boys eyes they became a host of creatures and amazing animals as they slowly ambled across this sky above his back garden.   Today was so special, they were heading for the large park down the road, one of his absolutely best places to be. The playground was good and had the benefit that it had climbing frames for all ages of kids, and one that his little brother just loved to play on.  This left the bigger ones for just him, to get away from his brother for some fun, just by himself for a change.

The park was far enough away that they all had to walk together, but not so far that it was one of those marathon exhibitions (not that he knew what a marathon was, he must ask Mum).   They got there early , before most of the other kids, which was great as he had the big climbing frame to himself.  He flew all the way to a distant galaxy that morning, climbing higher and higher and rescued people from a burning building.  More kids turned up and they had some great games together, some of they boys from his class at school joined in with an adventure high up in a city of  Skyscrapers , like Spider man swinging from building to building.

The games rolled on around him , but after a while the boy started to get a bit fed up, as little boys do and his attention started to drift away from the games to the look around at the park landscape around him.   After all , despite all the imagination he could muster  (and he had lots)  , he was just playing on a big metal and wood climbing frame and he wanted to have a real adventure.

By now his mum had met up with some of her friends from the school gates, and they were all sitting on the grass near the smaller frames,. He could see his little brother playing with his school friends (play school, not yet proper school).

Over in one corner of the park, he could see a large clump of bushes, but from up here, he could also see that their seemed to be a space in the midst of them, near the park wall.  Checking that his mum was still fully occupied, he set of to explore those bushes and find out what might be in the middle of them.   Now, normally he would never have done such a thing , but today, the sky was so blue and the days so full of potential he just could not resist the possibility of a little adventure.

He ran over to the edge of the bushes and walked back and fore looking for a gap, for a way in. The bushes were dense, and looked completely impenetrable and he was about to give up and head back for the playground when  he noticed  spot where the wall of undergrowth was different, moving closer to see he realized that although it looked dense, there was a place where one bush hid a gap behind it which offered the possibility of squeezing through, which is what the boy did. Once inside the bush, he found there was a lot more room , and he could almost stand up.  A tunnel like opening in front of him seemed the easiest way to go so he headed deeped into the bushes, in a sort of crouched walk, occasionally tripping over roots or banging his head on branches that seemed to snag on his hair and clothes.    After walking for what seemed an age , he began to worry that he must have left the park by now and be in someones garden.  But he remembered that there was a big wall around the park, so maybe he was just going around in circles.  He was about to call out for help, when he suddenly (and unexpectedly burst out of the bushes in a clearing.    He was now right in the corner of the park and the park walls  loomed high above him.  The clearing was so much bigger than he expected, with a nice area of  lawn, very neatly mowed, and right in the corner say a small potting shed.

He didn’t know what a potting shed was but he had heard his Granny talking about her shed as being a potting shed (it was full of tools and other gardening stuff) so he decided that must be what this shed was. This shed was most interesting, it had a window to the left of the door which was on the right of the shed front.  A  simple flat felt covered  roof sloped down from the wall toward the front of the shed. The shed was made of wood, simple planks, sort of dark grey in colour.

In front of the shed was a wheel barrow which some plants growing in it and an array of plants growing. They were not flowers so he assumed they were what Granny called a herb garden.  Looking around he could see no way into this space, which was surround by thick bushes so he wondered if there might be a door into the wall inside this lean-to shed. He walked to the door and found it was just the right height for him. Perhaps he should have wondered about that as any adult would have had to crouch down to get into the shed.

He reached for the door handle which was the metal hoop type, there was no sign of a lock. Turing the handle the door swung outward easily and he stepped into the shed. It was full of pots and smelled like a fresh meadow on a summers morning. There was a door set into the wall in front of him. Now he knew this was wrong, he was not allowed to leave the park without his Mum but he had to have a look, so he walked over to the door set into the wall, which was much more solid and had a proper handle but still no lock. Grabbing the handle he opened to door which let him out into a vast park of green glades and trees stretching out in front of him as far as the eye could see.  There will tall mountains in the distance, and he could hear the  buzz of insects all around.  IN the sky he could see what looked like birds flying , but as he looked more closely he could see they were like no birds he had ever seem before, they had long tails and big flaring nostrils, in fact they looked just like small dragons.

Stunned by this amazing vista which he know could not be real, he turned round to go back through the door in the wall, to find there was no wall here.  The open door was there and he could see the inside of the potting shed, and through the window the clearing in the bushes he had come through, but on this side the door was set into the side of a hillside which sloped up   above him.   He should be able to see over the wall into the park from up there  he thought so he started climbing the hill and as he climbed he started rising through the clumps of trees   and eventually after climbing for a bit he was able to see over the tops of most trees.  He was amazed to see a vast landscape stretching out as far as he could see. Looking around he could not see the park or the town or anything he knew.  As he looked back down from the way he had come, one of the trees moved, not just swaying in the wind , it moved , it took several steps , then settled down into the hillside, looking as fixed as a normal tree.

This was a very strange place. Suddenly he was very scared, and he needed to get back to his Mum quickly. He ran back down the hillside, following the marks he had left in the long grass.   IN all the stories he had read, at this point, the doorway would no longer be there, so he ran as quick as he could, and was relieved to see the open door still there. He dashed back inside the potting shed and closed the door in the wall behind him. Leaving the potting shed, (and shutting that door as well), he ran across the small lawn and plunged back into the bushes and in no time found himself back in the park. He sprinted back across to the playground to find his mum was still where he had left her and his brother was still playing.   It was almost as if no time had passed since he had left, but he knew he had been away for at least an hour in the strange place.

During the walk home he was very quiet, but his brother was a real pain so his Mum didn’t notice.   He mind was raising as he remembered all this things he had seem in the strange place, the miniature dragons, the moving trees and the thing that had sent him running, the dark menacing shape in the distance coming his way.

But he also knew he had to go back and find out more………..

The Potting Shed World

Abernethy Biscuits

The biscuit plate was coming around the room, being passed from person to person, and it was coming in his direction.   It was stacked with everyone’s favourite biscuits, digestives, rich tea, custard creams , Bourneville and just two Abernethy biscuits, his favourites.

They were all here, crammed into Aunty Netty’s front room, much older now, but still his family, his precious loving and compassionate family.

But the biscuits were going down, and the pate had still not reached him.

Dad looked sombre and wistful, not fully engaged in the buzz of conversation flowing around the room.  He looked across the room at Aunt Netty,  sitting there surrounded by her loving family, but so empty and alone.   Bill had gone, my uncle Bill who had taught me to ride a bike, and skim a stone. Who had offered worlds of wisdom into my life, dead and now buried.   My Dads second best friend, his brother who he had shared a life time of living, the empty space in the room.  Mum held onto Dads hand tightly.

One of the Abernethy’s had gone, cousin Violet  knew I loved them so she was still teasing me , across the room just as she had done when we were kids together.

The village had been so tight back then, so close and comfortable, with the freedom to explore and roam, knowing that when you needed help it would be there.  We had grown up in this large extended family of the village,  taking for granted this precious community of hope and love and now it was fading away as the world changed around it.  Most of us had left as we grew up, to seek our way in the big world, out there assuming home would always be here to come back to. But now I could see that it was fading into the past.  The graveyard now had so many stones with names I had known well, it had been their village, they made it for us, so much more than buildings and place.

Finally the plate arrived, but all of the Abernethy’s had gone.  I passed the plate onto cousin George who loved custard creams and smiled gratefully at me.

Violet smiled across the room at me and held out her hand.  There was that last Abernethy biscuit. I reached out to take it as my family laughed, they all knew of course.  Violet held my hand  for a moment, our shared sense like a cord that bound us together , so physical and real in that room on that day among us all.

And the biscuit plate continued around the room.

Abernethy Biscuits

Somehow

To speak in silence

words that resonate

with value and depths,

that fill the void of

empty humanity with space

to run free,

released from the pain of

this daily darkness,

Exploration of this world

of wonder and awe,

real life outside

 the dull monotony of survival

Life expanded for a moment of joy

Words that speak above

the noise of life’s bland flow

That lift and enable us

to be all each one is.

Somehow