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Not So Wild(ish) Nowadays

February 26, 2019 16 comments

When I re-shared Summer Of ‘69 I reminded myself that, although I didn’t plan it that way, it became the first of three posts in 2016 that saw me reminiscing about the 1969-70 period, during which I became 16, took on the ‘man of the house’ role after Dad left, and generally started to grow up a bit. But it was also a time for a lot of fun, too, so I thought that newer readers – and there have been a lot of you in the past three years – might also like to take my trip down memory lane. The second of those three posts was entitled ‘Born To Be Wild(ish)’ and I’m sharing it again now – the final part of my ‘trilogy’ will follow in a few days. I’ll drop by again at the end of the post to have another word on this.

Born To Be Wild(ish)

Do you ever find yourself looking back at earlier versions of yourself, and wondering about how different life was? As we get older, we have a lot more to look back on and while some might contend that we should always look ahead, and never look back, I think we can learn from our past. As I said in my post Summer of ’69 that was a momentous year for me. It was also the year that the movie Easy Rider first graced the screen – in June in the US, a little later in the UK – and it opened up the eyes of impressionable teenagers around the world to a way of life that was very different from our normal, humdrum existences.

If you haven’t seen the movie I’ll try to avoid spoilers, suffice it to say that it doesn’t end well! But for most of us at the time, that wasn’t the point. What we saw in the film was a lifestyle based on doing what you want to do, free from the constraints of regular life. Sure, it was fuelled by an illegal drug deal at the very beginning, but did we care? I know I didn’t! The concept of road movies hadn’t really been explored much until then, and the idea of watching 95 minutes of two guys riding motorbikes around was very strange to my parents: “what’s it about?” “that sounds boring” and “you aren’t old enough to see it” being just some of what they said. It was rated ‘X’ in the UK, which meant that you had to be 18 to be allowed into the cinema, but I somehow managed to raise my short, just-turned-16 frame enough to get past the prison cinema guards. Or maybe they were just glad to take anyone’s cash that they could!

I have the movie on DVD and occasionally dust it off for a viewing. Mostly, it now looks incredibly dated, a real period piece. But there is still much to enjoy in it, especially the scene accompanied by the Byrds’ song I Wasn’t Born To Follow, which is such a joyous expression of youthful freedom.

At 16, we all have dreams of what we want our lives to become, and a release from a late 1960s Britain, with economic troubles putting a real dampener on all the Swinging 60s stuff that had gone before, was incredibly appealing. We all wanted to do it! If you have read my Summer of ’69 you’ll know that I spent that school holiday working to earn the cash to buy my first motorised transport. This was where one of life’s major lessons first hit home: I was never going to be able to earn enough to buy a bike like Peter Fonda’s! So, with reality dawning rapidly, I adjusted my ambitions – another early life lesson – and bought myself a secondhand scooter, a Lambretta Ld to be precise. It wasn’t even the most recent model made by Lambretta, but it was mine! In case you’ve never heard of it – and you can be forgiven for that – this is what it looked like:

The same colour as mine!

The same colour as mine!

Suddenly, a whole new world opened up for me. I could go anywhere I wanted, without the need to consult copious bus timetables, and I really took advantage of this new freedom. I joined the local scooter club, called the ‘Saints’ for reasons no one actually knew, and as well as club nights we went on group outings. We often went to a place called Camber Sands, which was pretty desolate, although it did afford a lovely view of the nuclear power plant under construction at nearby Dungeness. But that didn’t matter to us – we enjoyed the camaraderie of the ride, the wind (and rain, lots of rain) in our hair, and as long as someone had remembered to bring a ball we had a game of football on the sands when we got there. I have been thinking about this post for some time, and it feels very poignant to be looking back at my own youth, and happy times, when the sea has just claimed the lives of five young men who had gone to the very same place to have a good day out. As I said, we can learn from our past: that could have been us. There was never any sign of a lifeguard there, and apparently there still isn’t, 47 years on. It always takes a tragedy for something necessary to be enacted, sadly. In our innocent youth, we don’t really think about potential dangers, do we? Life is for living, we’re young and it is all stretching out in front of us. Why worry?

The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!

The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!

Going back to buying the scooter and becoming part of the local ‘scene’, where the cool kids hung out – as if, in my dreams, etc. – it amuses me that despite the fact that what we thought we were looking for was a freedom from normality, we rapidly adopted a style that became our new normal. If you had a scooter but didn’t wear one of these (look left), you were nobody!

I didn’t quite manage to copy Peter Fonda’s crash helmet either. Although it wasn’t at that time illegal to ride a bike without wearing one, we prided ourselves on being a responsible scooter club, so I bought myself another fashion accessory, just like this one:

Stylish, or what!

Stylish, or what!

But we were happy, that was the most important thing to us. We may not have been like Wyatt and Billy in the movie, but we had a sense of freedom, and I felt that every single time I got on the scooter, even if I was only using it to go shopping or to go to school. In those moments, the world was all mine, and I felt a kind of invincibility. Admittedly, I didn’t feel quite the same way the day I came off it and embedded a stone in my arm, but that was just another life lesson: don’t be a prat! Looking back, through what are probably very rose-tinted spectacles, I do feel a sense of loss, the loss of the innocence of youth. I hope my 16 year old self would have approved of the way my life has developed: I may not be riding the breeze on the open road, but I’ve learnt to recognise how to find the best in life, and to enjoy it.

And finally, for anyone feeling short changed by the edited version of the song in the opening video, I leave you with a full version of what is still the best driving song I know:

And this is me again, now. It is a sobering, even slightly frightening, thought that the events I’m describing here took place exactly fifty years ago. It really does seem like another lifetime, although I still recognise it as a part of my life experience. But how times have changed! Social, political and technological developments have transformed the world in ways we couldn’t have envisaged back then. Much of this has been for the general good, but I’m not convinced that we are living in a completely better place than in 1969. Then again, utopia is probably an impossible dream! For me, personally, much about my life is better than in my teenage years, but I look back fondly on those days of innocence. I’m facing some big changes in my life this year, which are causing me some apprehension – maybe I’ll be writing about those at some point but, for now, I’m happy to keep on the rose tinted glasses through which I’m viewing 1969. It is my way of dealing with what feel like major threats to my mental well-being. Reality does have a way of intruding on us, doesn’t it, and life feels anything but wild just now.

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Glass Still Half Full?

November 20, 2018 8 comments

Having taken part in #NaBloPoMo in 2014 and 2015 I get two reminders in Timehop every day for the posts I wrote back then. In 2015 I re-shared a post originally written on May 5 2103, in response to one of WordPress’ daily prompts. It was titled ‘Glass Half Full?’

The link to WordPress still works, so I’ve left it in for you to see what others thought of their prompt, should you wish. Looking back at what I wrote several years ago, I wouldn’t have said this differently now, although the events of the past two years – in particular the UK referendum and US Presidential election, and their aftermath – do put a slightly more sinister context around my remarks about being bullied into agreeing with people. This is the original post:

 

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da Life Goes On

Today’s Daily Prompt is the old question “Is the glass half-full or half-empty?” There is of course a third possibility, that it is neither of these:

Blinded by science!

Blinded by science!

but only a pedant such as I would even consider such a thought! Actually, the science of that is beyond me anyway: given that I am blessed with the typical Virgo’s mind – logical, structured, boring – it’s a wonder I was always so bad at science when I was at school. But I was!

I’m rather hoping that the question is intended to be taken philosophically, rather than scientifically. At least that gives me a chance of answering it! The usual interpretation of the two approaches is:

Glass half-full = optimistic, positive

Glass half-empty = pessimistic, negative.

So what? Who’s to say if either of those is right or wrong? Actually, I think there’s a lot to be said for being a pessimist – that way, your expectations are likely at least to be met, if not exceeded, and that should be a cause for happiness  shouldn’t it? So, following that logic (I told you I was like that) I believe this means that pessimists are generally happy people. Now, what was the question again?

Oh yes, whether the glass is half-full or empty. My answer is: it doesn’t matter. Whatever best suits you and your outlook on life is the right answer for you: no one has the right to judge you and tell you which way to think. Look at Twitter, as I do fairly frequently. How often do you see people there telling you that your attitude, approach or beliefs are wrong if you differ from them? That’s a matter of choice, not a reason to be judged. Unfortunately, those who are like that tend to be lacking in self-awareness and unable to debate sensibly – they just want to bully everyone into agreeing with them. So if they tell you what’s in the glass they must be right? Total crap! You have a right to believe what you want, however ‘wrong’ it may be when judged by societal norms. Other people can then choose to agree or disagree with you, to like or dislike you and your beliefs and attitude. The world isn’t about to be knocked off its axis because you have the temerity to disagree with someone or see things differently from them. Anything extreme is likely to be filtered out by the majority view anyway – whatever that is.

So, believe what you want to. Look at the glass whichever way you prefer. It’s your choice, and it’s what helps define you as a person. The answer to the question

Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

has to be:

YES!!

………..

Back to 2018 again, and I expect you can see what I meant about the context that has built up over recent years. The UK referendum result was a surprise to many, including those on the winning side, but I don’t think anyone at that time foresaw how divisive it would prove to be. Voters on both sides are still being offensive towards those who disagree with them, and this is being led from the highest echelons of government down, as the whole thing becomes a farcical mess. Likewise the ‘election’ of Trump, via the crazy and unfair Electoral College system and despite his losing the overall vote by 2.8m. This was also a surprise to many, including the winner, and has also proved to be extremely divisive in what has followed.

One thing both of these events have in common is how we are bullied by those with whom we disagree. As I said in that original post, we have a right to our beliefs, even if they are extreme, and societal norms could be expected to counterbalance any extremism. But it seems that things are changing, and not just in the UK and US. Those two elections somehow gave extremists the belief that they had been legitimised, and there have been many further examples since then: the growth of support for the politically extreme in many European countries, and the recent Brazilian election spring to mind. My comment about the world not being knocked off its axis seems especially optimistic now!

I still believe that we all have the right to view that glass however we wish. I just wish there weren’t so many instances every day of – in particular – politicians telling us what we should believe. The obvious danger in that is that our leaders become authoritarian like Trump and, in her own beleaguered way, Theresa May are. I kind of hedged my bets in the 2013 post: that is becoming ever less possible to do nowadays. I don’t think I’m overstating it in saying that I’m frightened by the way the political world has moved in five years, or that I’m fearful for the future. But the last thing I would want to do is to bully someone into seeing the glass the same way I do: politicians – and quite a lot of others – could do with learning not to do that, too.

November Rain

November 15, 2018 13 comments

A fellow blogger (I’ve forgotten who, sorry!) recently posted a very positive piece about November, extolling all its autumnal virtues. I’ve always thought of autumn as my favourite season but that is based on late September going into October, when the leaves turn all those wonderful shades of gold and brown. Saying that reminds me of a song:

The photos in that video show what I love about autumn, but I’m afraid that my positivity about the season tends to evaporate when November rolls around: I’ve always found November a dull month. The clocks have just gone back, heralding the onset of long, dark evenings, the weather usually starts to turn from autumnal to wintery, and everything seems to be on hold until December arrives, bringing the promise of Christmas and good times with family. Unlike the USA, who have Thanksgiving Day, for us it’s a kind of nothing month. I wondered if I was alone in that so I did some research, particularly into poems about November, to see what others thought of this month.

Before I share any with you, take a look at this from Google:

image

I must admit I hadn’t realised that death was a criterion by which poets were judged! That Robin Williams movie has a lot to answer for!

The first poem I’ve chosen to share is by Thomas Hood, and is simply called November:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
November!

He doesn’t really like this month either, does he! At least he has shown me that my feelings about November are nothing new: Hood lived from 1799 to 1845 so that poem is almost 200 years old. Encouraged by finding this I thought I’d expand on this theme, as it is fertile ground for some very descriptive (and dismal!) poetry. My apologies to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, who no doubt are basking in sunshine and increasing temperatures and must be wondering what I’m on about: I guess your equivalent must be May, when autumn turns to winter for you.

Not being poetic myself, and feeling short of inspiration to recall any more poems about this month, I returned to my main reference source: Google. If you do the same you’ll appreciate how much dreary doggerel I’ve spared you by not sharing them with you here! The great (?) William Topaz McGonagall seems to have been particularly taken with bad news stories from this month. Here’s a typical example of his (thankfully) unique poetic style. One thing most of his poems have in common is that their length is inversely proportional to their artistic merit. These are just the first four verses of his poem about the Funeral of the Late Ex-Provost Rough of Dundee:

Twas in the year of 1888, and on the 19th of November,
Which the friends of the late Ex-Provost Rough will long remember,
Because ’twas on the 19th of November his soul took its flight
To the happy land above, the land of pure delight.

Take him for all in all, he was a very good man,
And during his Provostship he couldn’t be equalled in Great Britain,
Which I proclaim to the world without any dread,
Because while Provost he reduced the public-houses to three hundred.

Whereas at the time there were 620 public-houses in the town,
But being a friend of the temperance cause he did frown,
Because he saw the evils of intemperance every day
While sitting on the bench, so he resolved to sweep public-houses away.

And in doing so the good man, in my opinion, was right,
Because the evils of intemperance is an abomination in God’s sight;
And all those that get drunk are enemies to Him,
Likewise enemies to Christ’s kingdom, which is a great sin.

There are actually ten more verses of that tripe, and you can probably see why (1) I’ve only given you an extract and (2) audiences used to throw fruit and vegetables at him when he performed his poetry in public. He doesn’t sound as though he’d have been much fun at darts night with the lads in the pub, but it’s a change from poetic perceptions of the changing seasons, isn’t it!

Thomas Hardy is probably better known for his novels, but he also wrote poetry. Indeed, his final novel, Jude The Obscure, was published in 1896, and from then until his death in 1928 he only published poetry – he is rated by many as one of the best twentieth century British poets. Here’s an offering from him, entitled At Day-Close In November:

The ten hours’ light is abating,
And a late bird flies across,
Where the pines, like waltzers waiting,
Give their black heads a toss.

Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.

And the children who ramble through here
Conceive that there never has been
A time when no tall trees grew here,
A time when none will be seen.

There is the beginning of a theme developing here, I think: it’s rather bleak, isn’t it! One poem that did strike me in both its beauty and brevity was this one:

Listen…

With faint dry sound,

Like steps of passing ghosts,

The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees

And fall.

That is called November Night and is by a poet I’ll admit to not having heard of before. Let’s face it, if you’d heard the name Adelaide Crapsey you’d remember it! I rather like that little poem and didn’t just choose it so that I could mention the poet’s name, honest! I found this biography of her and it seems she lived a brief and tragic life. This poem was written when she was already aware of her own mortality, having been diagnosed with tuberculosis of the brain lining, and this makes it all the more poignant for me. The imagery of passing ghosts assumes extra significance when you know that she is one herself. In just 20 words she has captured perfectly the essence of November, as I believe it.

My final poetic choice is by Robert Frost, who was mentioned in the picture above as being one of those dead poets, so it seems only fair that I share his offering on this month, which is called My November Guest:

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise

After the older poems, here’s something a little more recent to finish off with – but no less poetic for all that, in its own way:

It rather fits the theme of this being a disappointing month, I think. Stay warm and dry, if you can!

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