This is the start of what I would like to turn into a book. Isn’t that the same for all of us? I will have my closer friends, those who have been witness to, shared a part in the stories that will hopefully be told here, add their own comments and from these comments I will edit and increase the comedy. Having those closest to me tell me what an idiot I am is always good for laughs 🙂
I really hope that you will comment and that your comments will encourage me, even kick my ass, into writing the rest.
I took the plastic Tupperware down from the shelf, out of the cupboard. Took the lid off, wet my finger, ok yes I licked it and stuck it into the chocolate looking powder. It was indeed some type of chocolate, a very sweet sugar crystal laden chocolate. ‘Result, I’ll have a hot chocolate then!’ Crystalised as it was indeed semi solid I shook the tub to break it up.
Chocolate coloured sugar crystals everywhere! A fine powder remained misting the air as the fall out covered the coffee machine, toaster, kettle, sunk in to the black granite kitchen surface stainless plate warmer. I mention this as it has grooves around it on three different layers. This took a while to clean up!
Luckily I had left the vacuum cleaner out as this morning, in full sunlight I see more of the mess! Not a lot more but still that residue that frankly should not be there. I mean I’m not a child of inexperience. I am 45 years of age. A 45-year-old with enough experience to check a lid before shaking. Especially a lid that he himself has just taken off and put back on; not very well!
The relevance of this minor catastrophe tale? Hopefully you are laughing at me. I’ll be interested in your definition of the relevance as this story unfolds.
The policeman, on the ground so to speak – already at the scene, heard me say, ‘This is not looking good!’ as I passed over him. I don’t remember the landing or anything after take off and this moment: one arm outstretched in front of me, I like to think that my fist was clenched giving a strong pose rather than flailing fingers or a nazi salute.
As I say a strong Superman pose, only minus the red swimming briefs.
How far did I fly? Probably only ten metres? Maybe I’d have got further with some (bright red) David Wilkie speedo’s?
I do remember that take off hurt. My left thigh hit the bumper, rear quarter? of the car. It was hard to tell which exact spot I made impact with. I’d been aiming for the gap. You know one of those spaces in between with nothing in them. The same could reasonably be said for that distance between my ears. I have no excuses, no mitigating circumstances. Just a total lack of thought process? A failure to take any responsibility? A true Johnny BollOX fuck up!
‘What happened?’ Dougie, my friend and boss asked as I called to say that I wouldn’t be making work that day.
To answer his question will just continue this story working backwards to the point of it’s beginning and I feel a desire to start at the beginning. So I’ll tell the story as I’ve told it to so many.
I was ‘visiting’ the city of Bath, in which I have lived a several years before. I had the offer of a week’s, or something of a number of days work with my friend the aforementioned Dougie. I was staying with another friend, Matt on the edge of Bristol, the next major city to Bath and only twenty minutes away.
On the particular day, the first step on a flight of stairs to catastrophe. A spiral staircase of uneven stone like that of a medieval castle. I’m not sure if I’m going up or down though there are many times that my sword hand is against the wall and times when I am certainly falling down them somehow finding the few sharp edges on the steps of that worn uneven stone.
Today, as on most days I am thankful for where I am and though I may not know if I am going up or down I am enjoying each step even the ones that bring pain.
‘Pain began, not in the moment of shock but when I realised that I had to remember in order somehow to forget.’ (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) The quote may not actually be the correct, exact quote yet it’s something like that. It has stuck in my head for nearly thirty years so please be lenient if I’ve got it wrong. I wonder how you interpret it. I play it like that Elton John song, sad songs say so much. For the most part, through most of those years I have gone over my errors to analyse my wrong doing and learn not to make the same mistakes again. Have I? Did I skip a couple of classes? Apparently one of our best methods of learning is through repetition. Doing something over again until it becomes a routine. That’s the army approach to training. Well, I have trained well and am very practiced at fucking up it seems.
That day: we finished work and went for a beer. Dougie left and I decided to profit from the sun. I stayed in the Adventure café window reading a magazine and having a pizza which, through that practice of habit led to a red wine, an expresso and all of a sudden sun and daylight have disappeared. The evening atmosphere is taking hold, along with the two glasses of wine of course. Red wine is my weakness. Probably influenced by UB40’s rendition of the Neil Diamond song at the time of my first, love? Sexual experience. Ptang Yang Kipperbang it wasn’t. That was a year earlier. The film on channel 4, not my experience. My experience started a year later as I was saying, with Scotch Mac, a kind of sherry based liquor. It wasn’t drunken fondling. It was Sue Harris. We were the same age and she decided that she liked me. I was a gawky virgin (I don’t think that she knew that) on a pair of roller-skates. I wasn’t even that good. On the roller-skates. I was utterly useless in the naked fondling. Experience has taught me, though this is not the intended connection to the chocolate powder. It is my intention to return to the story.
Evening arrived and the café became a bar and people arrived too, strange that? A little idle chat and I end up talking with a guy who turns out to be the brother of a friend of mine from years before. A bottle of wine, some shots and then the bar closed.
Time to go and I get on my motorbike. I do what? Yes. As I stated earlier, I’m not proud of my irresponsible delinquent behaviour. It wasn’t the first time that I had driven or ridden under the influence. That, makes it worse not better. Learning from experience?
Somehow the route that I had ridden to Matt’s, maybe a hundred times or more took me to a place that I knew. Not a problem yet, not a place that I was meant to be mind. Nor a place from where I could work out how to get to where I wanted to be. How did this happen I asked myself. I write it now without a question mark.
My easiest route, to my ‘tired’ way of thinking was to return to the start? Not as crazy as it sounds, I was close to the dual carriageway that led to Bath and from which I could go across to the country back road route that I knew. Obviously I was ‘tired’, really very tired. Not at all drunken, just influenced by alcohol in an extremely relaxing way. Tired and wishing for bed I set off once more and accelerated into the open empty dual carriageway somewhere around midnight.
My motorbike wasn’t the slowest though it was no race bike.
Around 90 mph was a comfortable travelling speed and I climbed around the slight left bend. The lights ahead of me seemed a little unusual. I don’t remember slowing down much and (possibly because of this) pretty soon I worked out why. It wasn’t that a UFO had landed on the low lit strip of dual carriageway. It was the hazard lights of a Volkswagen beetle, upside down and facing side long across the carriage. The only semi visible lights were its hazards flashing orange partly obscured as the lenses didn’t face me. This with the headlights of a car behind it facing me and a couple of fluorescent green jacketed individuals running around set the scene of an airport runway rather than a road. And that’s when I went for the gap. Why I hadn’t gone for the brakes I cannot say. But you can guess the reason. Don’t drink and drive!
My left thigh hit the bumper, rear quarter? of the car. It was hard to tell which exact spot I made impact with. That it was hard, of that I was certain. I thought that my leg broke.
The policeman, on the ground so to speak – already at the scene, heard me say, ‘This is not looking good!’ as I passed over him.
“Don’t get up!” He shouted as he approached me. ‘You might have a (neck, head, back.. One of those words) injury!’
‘No, don’t worry I know that I haven’t’ I replied. ‘I’m alright’
I was more interested in my bike. My poor bike! My helmet had lost it’s visor and a half an inch of metal from the front. I guess that hit the road then. I’m not exactly a Brad Pitt look-alike but had I no face protection, wow! I’d be not exactly a human look-alike right now. Sobering thought?
Pretty soon the ambulance arrived and I was of course breathalysed, standard procedure following an accident. Besides which, as the policeman explained; you do seem to be slurring your words. Well, I have had a couple of glasses of wine.. I said, and my slurring, that’s normal, I always do. It’s because of a head injury that I had some time ago.’ The police accepted this. It wasn’t entirely true. Of course the slurring (quality?) of my ‘normal’ voice was furthered by tiredness too. Too? As well as the tiredness brought on by alcohol. The head injury aspect, yes that was true. It causes me a tired left side of my face, not visually noticeable to others but as I get ‘tired’ things slur more. The policemen were very sympathetic. Not to the past head injury, not in some caring nanny nurse type of sympathetic. Not a pat my head, there there poor little you manner. No thankfully not. In a much more practical meaningful manner. ‘We’re sorry that you are here, you simply shouldn’t have been here.’ These were the words that they used apologising for my involvement. They insisted that I went to hospital to get properly checked over. I wasn’t exactly going to get back on my bike and go home now was I. Besides which, naturally, obviously to the story, I failed the breathalyser. Arrested and cautioned my choices were hospital or the cell for the night. Easy choice really. I took the option of a blood test at the hospital.
Arriving at the hospital we went straight back into the don’t move you may have a head, neck back blah blah injury. I retorted that I am an ex army medic and I know that I do not have any such injury. I argued with nurses who wanted and insisted on putting a neck brace on me. Eventually I just took it off. She’d measured it badly and it was too long, hurting me. Considering the pain in the ass that I was I wonder if she did that on purpose. I couldn’t blame her and though it’s unlikely, it’s worth considering all the same. I may have deserved it! I had hurt my wrist, forearm and it was aching like, well, something that aches, a lot. I asked for a bandage and was thrown an argument that there is evidence to show that there is no advantage to compressing such injury. I again retorted against the validity of such research. The basic principle of Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. They work. I got my bandage though the argument continued. I feel that I won the argument but did not win the friendship of the busy nurse. The police, other police there for a different reason, quickly struck up conversation having heard the accident unfolding over their radios. ‘We couldn’t believe it..’ they said. One of them told me that the said, policeman on the ground, had heard what I said as I flew past him. I laughed, we laughed. The whole episode was ridiculous. My ‘knowing’ that I did not have a serious injury. I’d have been a right pain in the arse even for me, myself had I been on the nursing side of the situation. Alcohol and shock had masked the pain I felt in my legs, arms and chest until the next morning when I left the hospital walked to my car parked close by at Carlos’s house and drove back, the right way to Bristol.
Alcohol had possibly, no probably, practically certainly stopped me simply stopping before I reached the point of impact after failure to find the gap! If alcohols influence was not the primary reason for that then sheer stupidity was. Wait a minute, wouldn’t that be the same reasoning process that I used when getting on the bike to ride home? That and taxis being seriously expensive? Not phoning my friend and asking him to pick me up? Stupid, arrogant almost, immortality of a teenager? Alcohol had masked all of this? What stopped it hiding some serious injury?
Life often has recurring themes. From these I should learn. I read a phrase that fits, ‘Sometimes it is good to burn bridges as this will stop us going back to places that we should not re-visit.’
Part of my problem perhaps is that I just keep moving. And going back to somewhere that I have been before lends me a sense of familiarity? Knowing something about somewhere: does this reduce my learning curve or increase the potential for playing a greater role in that which I encounter? Why a greater role? I ask myself now as I write and it is apparent that I am again moving. Moving away from the subject as yet unfinished. I must stick to the story. Keep writing. Or else I’ll never tell it, edit it, set it out for your reading, approval, disapproval, amalgamation of the two.
Writing out anything personal is good for any healing process. An opportunity to revisit, learn from ones mistakes. “Learn from ones”.. Who am I kidding, only myself, third person distancing? My mistakes. Writing them out is daunting. Scary. Why so? I haven’t even started. This is just an attempt at an accurate rendition of the last twenty-one months. One colossal ridiculous mishanter, mishaps in succession, setback, casualty, ruination? Fuck me, my life has been a twenty-one month disaster! Learning from this is a culture shock.
I have always wondered at what point and to what loss adults form their self-image and defend who they are thus making learning an act of self correction at times and that defence becomes a block to their own development. I am not asking this question in the third person. I am wholly and painfully in the first person right now. This story of successive fuck ups is not yet two days into the twenty-one months. My learning here could be likened to a very young child’s. Simple stuff like the pain of hot and cold and hunger; these are lessons yet to come!