Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas

A LIFE OF TRUE BLISS


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/bliss/”>Bliss</a&gt;

 

A LIFE OF TRUE BLISS

How many of you can guess who this is? Very few I suspect, but his connection to BLISS and my life is quite a story. For a start I will put you out of your misery by telling you that BLISS is the main national neo-natal charity in the United Kingdom. It raises millions of pounds every year to help maternity units deal with very premature or seriously ill new born babies, while supporting the parents of such children in every way possible. And the connection?

 

L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona

Well this photograph was taken two years ago when my then 25 year old youngest child, Benedict, was given the national fund-raiser of the year award by the charity. Here he is seen addressing some 750 distinguished health professionals on the role of the charity at the annual AGM after receiving his award. But listen to this.

The young chap you see berating all and sundry about how much more they could do for this cause had a very good reason to feel so strongly about the subject. He was born on the 17th of October 1990 exactly 23 weeks and four days after his conception. Under British law he could just have been left to die, but thanks to truly caring and humane doctors and nurses he wasn’t. He now holds two records. He is the most premature baby born in Merseyside in the last century to have reached the level of academic and public achievement he has, and is happily married. He holds a lst class hons degree in physiology, a Masters degree with merit in the archaeology of death and memory and is currently in the middle of his PhD course in digital humanities. He is on three regional National Health Service committees, including being the youngest member of the panel which assesses proposed medical research programmes to decide whether they merit public funding. But how do we know the exact date of his conception so precisely? Well my wife and I had not long recovered from influenza and we made love for the first time in seven weeks shortly before she became pregnant. The only way we could be mistaken would be if he had been even more premature. The actual birth was an incredible drama in itself.

Three days before the birth my wife had an abscess on her appendix and she was rushed into hospital but they delayed the caesarean section for a day to give Ben one slim hope of life by filling his tiny unborn lungs with an experimental drug so he could breathe outside the womb. I was told that neither of them would survive. But the combination of medical determination and expertise, total nursing commitment to saving a virtually ‘certain to die’ baby, and the prayers said over both of them by the priest who baptised him as the umbilical cord was being cut, combined to perform a medical miracle. My wife and son spent many weeks in hospital but both returned home eventually with no lasting ill-effects of their experience save that we could not have any more children. And the chap you see at the start of my story enjoys his spare time helping look after the  needs of premature children like the baby boy he is playing with here. Indeed he has even written a short book on the development of neo-natal care  in the last 150 years.

L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona

It is thanks to BLISS and all it does that thousands of babies and their parents now have the chance of watching their children grow into the people they always hoped for. I, for one, can never thank all those people who helped us, and are helped by BLISS, for giving my wife and I a measure of ‘bliss’ that we never dreamed we would be blessed with.

AWE

 

 

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WHY I CANNOT REMAIN SILENT


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/silent/”>Silent</a&gt;

Hi all,

I had another cerebral stroke eight days ago and am only just able to type one handed again, so I’m re-posting an old blog for today’s one word challenge. Don’t worry, Christmas is coming and I will be ok again soon.

WHY I CANNOT REMAIN SILENT

(summer 2016)

Hello again. I am struggling at the moment to come to terms with the farce that has become US politics, Britain’s insanity in contemplating leaving Europe, North Korea’s nuclear mania and the Islamic world’s resurgence wherever post cold war countries have let it. And I do not just mean former communist countries, but all the powers that opposed them in the cold war. Well for all the people concerned I think I’ll update an essay of more than two years ago as it seems even more apposite now than it did before the so called Arab Spring. Too many have just sprung sideways as they flee war, terror and persecution. Just a few things to think about for my readers, as thinking is not my strong point at the moment.

 

We are now well into 2016 and marking the centenary year of the full horror of the first world war. It must have been very worrying a century ago today to be looking forward to another year in which most people in the Western world feared the conflict between Germany and Britain, if not more countries, would continue for much longer than expected. Here we had been living safe in the belief that the power of the British Empire would soon crush any military threat from Kaiser Bill. We were invincible in those days, or so we believed, and could see no further into the future in 1914 than a week or so ahead, because the world was not going to change and we ran it. What lessons have we learned since then?

 

To start with, we forgot that our power and wealth were based on the money we had accrued from our great days of industrial invention which spanned the century from 1770 to 1870. From then on, approximately, we were living off the wealth which our lead in the means and the source of everything we needed to maintain our place as top nation were dependent. This included owning our colonies and sitting back and enjoying the fruits of our forefathers’ labours there. The Germans, on the other hand, had spent the whole of the previous 100 years from Waterloo in 1815 to the start of 1914 in gaining supremacy in continental Europe, where only the French could keep up with them, and again only because of their colonial possessions. The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 to 1871 should have told us to stamp on the German threat then. But as most of our rulers had German relations we had neither the interest nor the inclination to do this. When the United states produced the first working aeroplane at the turn of the century the whole world should have seen that the New World was about to become the new Top Nation. But, those who did just sat back again, and lived comfortably off what they had. It was obvious to a blind man that the balance of power was shifting, but those who could have made sure this balance was carefully monitored, and controlled for the good of everyone, did nothing. And then there was another element that effectively changed the world in the last half of the nineteenth century.

 

Industrial wealth, and colonial exploitation of sources of wealth, were only made possible by the use of very poorly paid workers or slave labourers. Two works which changed the world’s approach to the poor appeared in the 1850’s and 1890’s. The first, Das Kapital, by Karl Marx, advocated a complete change in the world order and the levelling of all social orders under what came to be known as Communism. But this was a doctrine opposed to the personal possession of money, or almost any kind of property, and thus also was against any religious teachings which allowed people to hold what they had. The great encyclical of Pope Leo XIII in 1891, Rerurm Novarum, (concerning the new order of things) laid down, for the whole world, the first sensible rules governing the rights of workers and their duties to their employers. But most importantly it stressed the duties of those employers to treat their workers humanely and pay them a negotiated living wage. This idea that a trade union need not be anti-capitalist, but on the contrary a tool for making capitalism work better for the good of all, ultimately became the central idea of all political parties which used the word liberal in their names. But it took a war which killed millions of working men, but very few rich employers, to awaken the average citizens of all countries to the plight of workers globally.

 

Unfortunately, it also stigmatised the people who owned and controlled the means of workers’ earning their living, and the ignoring of the significance of this fact by too many governments for too long led to the second world war. This was basically revenge against the Germans for their fascist attempt to regain self respect, through blindly and cruelly following a madman. The shambles that was Europe after this led, in turn, to forty five years of dreadful Communist oppression in Asia and Eastern Europe from 1945 to 1990. If a Tory government had been returned to power in Britain in 1945, instead of a Labour Party with a huge chip on its shoulder and no concept whatever of world affairs, it is most probable that Communism would never have been allowed to survive in Eastern Europe, and possibly even China. We have come to understand our mistakes then, but do we understand today’s world?

 

A very different world map confronts us to that of 1914. Oil rich Islam controls the majority of the world’s wealth, and for the same reason as we and the United States did 100 years ago. The ethos behind its method of ruling the countries it controls does not allow for the inhabitants to have a say in what is, or is not, right concerning how the ordinary citizens conduct their own lives. We did this in Asia, Africa and the West Indies especially, but today we do it nowhere. Islam has another 623 years to go to catch up with our concept of democratic government; we can only hope that it will not take this long for it to change its ways. If it does not I greatly fear that the third world war will be between Muslims and the rest of the Industrial countries. Let’s hope Trump is never in a position of power to confront that situation because he would nuke the world out of existence.

 

But personally, I suffer from terminal optimism and do not believe that the average Muslim would let this happen. What I can see in the short term, however, is that the economic wealth which the world creates collectively is insufficient to allow all its inhabitants to live in the type of luxury currently enjoyed by many in the West. We all have to be patient, be content to settle for a lot less than we would ideally like, and above all be kind and helpful to each other with the ‘haves’ unselfishly giving all they can manage to support the ‘have nots’. Even if I will not be around to see whether I am right or not, I still fervently hope I can eternally pray for it.

*******************

Dear me, God has kept me going for more than another year and it is now December 2017. But all the worst scenarios have come about. Trump has brought the world opinion of the United States to its lowest ebb since Paul Revere managed to stay on his horse. We are just waiting to see whether he launches his first nuclear attack in the Middle East or North Korea. His strike will of course be pre-emptive in case the US gets hit by such a device itself. He might not be re-elected in 2020 if New York city has disappeared along with some ten million US lives.  What a delight if he had to take refuge in Mexico.

Then look at the people in the part of Asia Trump wants to nuke. I have as many blood relatives in South Korea and Vietnam as I have in the United States, some dozen in each. The thought of nuclear carnage killing any of them makes me feel physically sick. Trump really must be removed as soon as possible whether constitutionally or not. In North Korea Kim will be harder to dislodge unless foreign agents manage to assassinate him, but that is very unlikely and anyway I don’t hold with killing others just because they are mentally ill.

Then, in Europe and the UK, we have the Brexit farce. Over here we are watching our currency being devalued, our cost of living rising, our health service crumbling and our government not having the courage to admit that nobody understood the referendum last year, apologise to the EU and call the whole thing off before it bankrupts us as a nation.  If that happens, and Trump is still in power, he won’t raise a finger to bail us out and our national security will become a joke. I hope I will have cause to write something more cheerful about all this soon. 

AWE

A THEORY ABOUT A THEORY


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/theory/”>Theory</a&gt;

 

A THEORY ABOUT A THEORY

 

I once developed a theory

In a doctorial dissertation.

The words, though esoteric,

Needing no extra explanation

 

For my academic examiners

Would never publicly admit

Their ignorance of all I wrote,

Not understanding a word of it.

 

The secret of gaining distinction

In rarified realms of academe,

Is never stating what you think

Merely making your theory seem

 

As though it is, in all probability,

Superior to all earlier thought,

Your professors had ever had

As they lectured and they taught.

 

My theory, such a simple one,

Confounded dons high and low

For I spoke it in a foreign tongue

None admitted they didn’t know.

 

All I argued was that the limit

Of all human scientific enquiry,

Could never be mastered totally

The future being part of entirety.

 

But I declaimed my dissertation

In Virgil’s rhyming, metric Latin

Which at Oxford is assumed to be

Easy for gowns, ermine and satin.

 

So, the moral of this, my verse?

Well, at least it is meant to be.

For a ‘first’, make pompous judges

Accept, in ignorance, your theory.

AWE

YOU CAN SEE THE BITE


a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/bite/”>Bite</a&gt;

You can see the bite

“Daddy! Daddy! You can see the new bite on our computer. I think the dog must have done it.”

I had a good look and it was just as I thought. Yes, there was an odd scrape mark on the side of the laptop but no way could a Labrador puppy have done it. He’s only three months old and has not yet got teeth or claws that could do that to a thick metal surface. I was inspecting it more closely when four year old Augustine – actually his seven year old sister Persephone is already threatening to sue us as the nicknames at school are getting worse – asked me whether computers could feel pain.

“No, of course not. Why, Gussie, what made you think they could?” He looked relieved,

“Well the manual says it’s got trillions and I couldn’t believe it could write in that much pain.” I made a mental note to remind my wife that teaching young children to read very well was only worth it if they understood what they were reading. My son looked glad as he said,

“It’s lucky I asked you before telling Ostramonious he was a bad little dog.”

I took only a few seconds to decide that ‘Persie’ and ‘Gussie’ could choose their new brother and sister’s names. My wife is expecting twins very soon and we know it’s one of each.

All that was six weeks ago and the twin babies are lovely. Persephone adores her sister Ermyntrude and Augustine is very proud of his brother Hyacinth. They want to get them a puppy of their own. They’ve decided on a sheep dog which they would like to name Vercingetorix.

My wife sighed as she looked at me today and said, “You know it’s nearly thirty years since we met at infants’ school, aged five, and we were always being put together to do everything because we were called John and Jane!”

AWE Read the rest of this entry »

A SOFT TOY STORY


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/clutch/”>Clutch</a&gt;

A SOFT TOY STORY

Oh heavens, you won’t believe this. I wasn’t drunk or anything, but today I bought my wife a really lovely Teddy Bear. You see I’d taken my youngest son and his wife, and my wife out to dinner a few days ago to celebrate something or other, her new promotion to a leading nursing role in our main Cancer Hospital I think, and on the way out of the restaurant we passed a charity shop. It sold donated items to support a chidlren’s  hospice at the hospital.

Well, when we got home my wife said, “Ton”, she always calls me that, “did you see that sweet Teddy Bear in the charity shop window? Well she’d make a super friend for that enormous cuddly bear you bought at the Scouts auction a couple of weeks ago. I’ve sewn his bad eye back on properly, and he was telling me how grateful he was as he could now see the other stuffed toys clearly, and was very sad because amongst the 79 animals there was no female bear.”

Now if you love your wife much as I love mine, the first chance you get you go in and buy the bear she wanted and tell her it’s a little girl bear, and a super friend for ‘Gladly’. Did someone say “Who the hell’s Gladly?”  Look its complicated, but the bear I bought at the auction was given that name after one of the worst jokes I’ve ever been told by a nun. My youngest son’s godmother is a nun and she told me once she’d had a Teddy as a small child and said she had to call him Gladly. Wait ’til you hear why.

“My mother asked me,” my nun friend said, “Why I’d called him Gladly and I replied, ‘after the bear in the hymn.You know the one with the lines,

“Dear Lord if it would ease your pain, Gladly my Cross I’d bear.” Well you see my Teddy is cross-eyed!” As you will have guessed so was the one I bought at auction, actually my wife was so sorry for it and with no one else bidding, I had to buy it didn’t I?

Anyway, this evening we took our little girl bear upstairs to the playroom, the kids are all married and left home but even though there  are only two of us we still keep the playroom properly for housing the toys. We called her Clare, after part of the children’s hospice name. My wife placed her on the sofa next to a very correctly sighted ‘Gladly’ and introduced them. You could tell it was love at first sight. And when we popped in to say goodnight to all the toys, you know before going downstairs for the evening’s telly, we could see that Gladly was clutching Clare to his  chest both of them in a state of total bliss.

By the way, I’m 75 and my wife, Pammie, is 70!

AWE

 

OH NO! YOU IDIOT!


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/gremlins/”>Gremlins</a&gt;

Oh No! You Idiot.

I once did the most stupid thing thanks to a very unusual Gremlin. You see I have a great way of keeping up my polyglot appetite for inexpressibles abroad. As some of you know I am totally bi-lingual in four languages – hang on that’s wrong. If I speak four that’s not bi-lingual it’s quatro-lingual, or is it? Avaunt all such irrelevances – and can write and get by in five more. But how do you think I keep up with them when my health stops me travelling much now? Listen.

If you know all the instructions on your computer, ie which keys do what, or which spaces mean ‘fill here with this type of information’ etc, you soon realise that you know instinctively what commands mean in other languages because they are in the same place as they would be in English. An example is that list of commands you get when cutting and pasting articles or just single words. I know where the command ‘paste’ is situated on my instructions list, so when I want to paste something in Italian I just hit the word ‘incolla’, because it’s situated where paste usually is. Note the use of ‘usually’ it’s the point of this post. Also note my computer is set up in Italian, like my Facebook page.

It also helps if you’re a sports fan, and if you follow a favourite pastime with a foreign commentary. You can see what’s happening on the TV so you know what the commentator is saying – as good as anyway. But there are times when these methods of expanding your vocabulary don’t always work.  For instance, I can read Korean well enough to scan a newspaper, especially photo captions, as I had a Korean girlfriend in Seoul who taught me their pictographic alphabet. It was a revelation. It’s based entirely on the 26 letters of the English alphabet and, around 1560AD, the king of the country devised a way of using a symbol to represent each of our letters. Clever man, but he did a rather obtuse thing. If he had a six letter word, say ‘friend’ he didn’t write the six Korean icons out in a line as we do. No, he put them in a box to make them look like a pretty picture. Hence friend translates as 친구 (the little man’s arms are actually two separate symbols incorporated in the whole). You should see some of the letters I wrote to Choi after my trip to Korea with President Thieu of Vietnam in the summer of 1969. She said she hadn’t had such a good laugh in years.

But I married a Vietnamese girl, Anh, her tragedy is told elsewhere in these ramblings, and she taught me the similarity between Vietnamese, as written in Western script, and French. Vietnamese simply has about ten more accents. But she was amazed at my almost perfect pronunciation of her language. I was no genius, I merely had a mother brought up in Glasgow whose native speech was incredibly similar to Vietnamese in its guttural accentuation of every second or third word.

But what has all this to do with gremlins? Yes, I remember, I was showing off about how one can appear to know words in another tongue by cheating on guessing their finger positioning. The worst gremlin that ever attacked me was when I was covering the world ski-ing championships in Chamonix in the French Alps in 1962. My Sorbonne university life included such short absences to earn a small fortune covering sports events for my father, Paris bureau chief of the largest US news agency at that time.

After the men’s special slalom we all sped for the press HQ, no instant communications in those days, everything had to be written and handed to a teleprinter operator as fast as possible. But as we entered the Press room there was a power failure. No communications via electronic cables for at least fifteen minutes, we were told, as the generator had to be started up and we were  all left in the pitch dark. But was I going to wait and not be first with the results? No way. I sat at the nearest typewriter, picked up what typing paper I could feel on the desk, and wrote the first four pages of my epic account of the day’s events, certain I had beaten everyone.

As the lights came on, I whipped up my four pages and was first in the queue to file my copy. Then I looked at it. It was some five hundred words of rubbish. Yes, in the dark I had sat at a typewriter with a Polish keyboard! At least my colleagues were so amused they helped me out when they stopped laughing.

AWE

LOVE NEST


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/nest/”>Nest</a&gt;

LOVE NEST

 

“Nest is the only four letter word in English of which you cannot make an anagramme,” James said to Peter. Peter thought he was slightly unhinged.

“James,” he observed, “I should imagine you could be sent a whole lot of them, tens in fact.” Peter felt a bit of an idiot. He worked it out. What was it you did again, start with each letter and add the other three in order, like a four horse accumulator in gambling at the races. He tried it.

“Nest, Nets, Nste, Nset, Ntes, Ntse, Esnt, Estn, Etns, Etsn, Ents, Enst, Snet, Snte, Sent, Setn, Stne, Sten, Tens, Tesn, Tnes, Tnse, Tsne, Tsen.That made 24 combinations, the maximum for four letters. Let me count the actual words. 1. Nest:  2. Nets: 3. Ents (well Tolkien allowed it): 4. Sent: 5. Sten (as in gun probably): 6. Tens: 7. Tsen (well the English way of spelling a Chinese name): Yup, that’s the lot.

“Sorry, Peter there are only seven possible words. How do you make it ten?” Peter had a rather romantically wistful look on his face as he came out of a daydream and replied,

“Oh, I was thinking of all the girls Ilove and there are so many. How can I work out the number of girls who might yet be true to  me?” When you said ‘nest’ I immediately added a word and thought of my future love nest. Just for fun, what can you come up with for love?

You have probably gathered by now that James adored challenges. “Hang on a tick, I’ll see. I’m sorry, but let me do this. Love, Loev, Lvoe, Lveo, Leov, Levo, Ovel, Ovle, Olev, Olve, Olve, Olve, Vole, Voel, Vloe, Vleo, Veol, Velo, Evol, Evlo, Elov, Elvo, Eolv, Eovl. That only gives us three possibles. 1. Love: 2. Vole: 3. Velo (if you allow a French bike). I’ve ruled out Olev as I don’t think the Scandinavians spell it that way.” Peter stared at him in awe.

That night James had the oddest dream. He was being chased by a vole on a velo sent by Tsen and armed with stens as they attacked the Ents protecting the nest by the tens of nets sent with love from Peter .

AWE

 

 

AGE OF CONSENT


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/particular/”>Particular</a&gt;

 

AGE OF CONSENT

You once said you wondered how old I am.

Please never ask me that, I’ll tell you why.

I am very particular about being truthful,

But that’s the one time I always tell a lie!

 

When I was eleven and going to the movies

I told the ticket seller I was well past sixteen

Though particular in all matters of veracity,

I’d have missed all those adult films I’ve seen.

 

Then when my eyes beheld a Parisian beauty,

Whom I particularly wanted gently to seduce

I could not tell her I was barely past eighteen,

“Trente”! My conscience said, we made a truce.

 

In later life, when sixty, I once again dissembled,

Some insurers are particular and fussily insistent,

I would never have earned so generous a pension

Without five extra years typed on their document.

 

But whenI die I must be honest on my gravestone.

The dates will be etched in gold and shining clear.

I shall be particular when telling the undertakers,

It’s 1942 to 20** How can one lie about that year?

AWE

 

WHEN IT MATTERED


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/atmospheric/”>Atmospheric</a&gt;

When It Mattered

“I say, have you ever been up in a plane, old boy? Eh? You know one of those four winged, dangerous looking things that people say can fly. Never even seen one myself, but I’m sure it’s all a lot of bosh really. I mean we are already in 1915, surely people in the modern world don’t believe fairy stories like that, do they?”

Cuthbert looked at Humphrey and surprised him enormously.

“Humpy, old man, actually I have. And they do fly through the air, and I’ll tell you something else. We are going to win this war with them too. I know. I am in the flying corps and pilot one.” His friend looked scared more than anything and merely replied.

“How do you mean? What can we do to soldiers on the ground when we are so far away from them up in the sky? It’s nonsense. No, give me a cavalry charge any day.”

Four years later the two friends were sitting in their club in London, Cuthbert being one of the small handful of pilots who had served throughout the 1914-18 war and survived unscathed to tell the tale. He explained why he had been right. “It’s all down to a thing called ‘atmospheric pressure’, my dear chap. Keeps us up there shooting, bombing and reporting on troop movements to the army generals. The Germans didn’t have a chance.”

“Oh,” said Humphrey, “didn’t the Germans have atmospheric pressure then, my dear fellow? I mean why did we have it and not them?”

“I haven’t a clue,” Cuthbert answered. “I only flew the planes, it’s the boffins who told us we did it due to atmospheric pressure, whatever that is. I suppose the Germans couldn’t make any.”

But the fact that it happened again in 1945, left none of the club members in any doubt that the British always invented the most important inventions when things really mattered and the chips were down.

AWE

FOR US


I wanted to entitle this post ‘Pro Nobis’ but remembered that few people know much Latin now and it would have looked like showing off. But you’ll see why I wanted to when I explain the reason for this blog. It’s a few short words about prayers.

Whenever we want to have a chat with someone we love we always do one of four things. Firstly we in some way say I love you. When praying this is usually called praise.

Secondly we often want something and so ask for a favour of some kind. In prayer this is called rogation or asking. The most common reason for any communication.

The third thing we have to do a lot is apologise. ,’I’m sorry’ is an expression of sorrow at having upset someone in any way at all. If it is someone we love it is normally accompanied by a plea for forgiveness. This is probably my most regularly necessary form of prayer.

Finally, there is the fourth type of prayer. Today I had the most wonderful happiness I can ever feel when saying my prayers. I had just learned that something I had been asking God for was in the process of happening. After years of distress suffered by someone who had told me about their problem, and in doing so had come to mean a lot to me,they were at last seeing things improving enormously. I was able to look up to God and smilingly say “Thank you”. Believe me, whether in prayer or any human exchange, gratitude is the most loving and happy feeling of affection one can experience. Why? Because through it we know that someone we love reciprocates that love. So many people forget to say thanks, they don’t know what they are missing!

AWE

George’s Nightmare


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/honk/”>Honk</a&gt;

 

GEORGE’S NIGHTMARE

The worst continuing saga in the news these days is the ever growing list of girls and women who claim to  have been, or are being, sexually harassed. Just one case is too many, nobody would disagree with that. But then just one case of any type of sexual harassment by anybody on anybody else is totally unacceptable and inexcusable. Take the case of George.

A normal middle class boy of average looks, academic ability and pleasant if slightly shy personality, he always tried to get on well with all his peers male or female. The last thing George would ever do would be to make any type of unacceptable approach, verbal or physical to anyone. Touching up girls or boys, calling out names with sexual inuendos or any sort of groping were actions he would not even contemplate. He was quite normal in everything he did, or any games or social events in which he took part. And yet he had few friends. Not real friends, but it was no accident. The poor boy had the misfortune to celebrate his  fifteenth birthday in the year 2015.  His parents asked him if he wanted to ask any school friends to a party or do something special to celebrate the day and he thdought about it for just five minutes.

“No thanks, I don’t think so. I don’t think any of us would enjoy it very much”. The trouble was that he would not tell his parents his reason for his answer. He had a lot of children in his class whom he would have liked to ask to a party but just couldn’t. He was getting very annoyed with them and finally started to question their behaviour. He began with John, a boy very close to himself in age.

“John, when you and the other boys have late night parties and things, do you always have to do drugs and watch porn?” John thought he was raving.

“We don’t have to, we just enjoy it. The girls do to, so why not? Our parents are seldom around and most would understand even if they were. Why? Don’t you like porn and drugs and things that make you feel great? None of us think you’re gay or anything, are you a religious nut or something?” George shook his head.

“No John, it’s not that. It’s just that drugs are dangerous and although a lot of the girls turn me on I don’t want to upset them by having sex with them, maybe getting them pregnant or upsetting them by seeming to share in enjoying watching porn with them, which I don’t.” John just wandered off, bewildered.

Next George asked a well known siren in the class, fourteen year old Katie, why she behaved as she did? She was not so much surprised, it was George after all, but saw no reason why she shouldn’t be honest with him. “Look we’ve known each other four years now, George, and I’ve changed from a little girl into a young woman. What do you expect me to do. I enjoy most sexual activities so I go with a lot of boys. We enjoy it. I admit drugs are a bit dicey and I’m not really into them, but I pretend to be or I might not be invited to the all night porn show and sleepover dates. It doesn’t affect my school work so why should I worry?” George was getting seriously worried about himself. Finally he asked his headmaster if he could have a personal chat with him.

“Well of course, George, I have to uphold the standards of decency demanded at this school, but you can see it’s impossible. If I or any teachers tried to interfere with activities outside school we’d be in court on trumped up rape charges from the girls, or homosexual and paedophile charges from the boys. Parents never back teachers so we just keep our heads down and hope to survive from day to day without finding ouselves suspended or arrested. I wish all the pupils were normal and pleasant like you, but this digital age has made that a pipe dream.”

Poor George. There were 16 girls and 17 boys in his class all aged between 14 and 16. He could honestly name only two boys, both obviously gay, and four girls, one a mouse, two lesbians, and the fourth an academic genius who just got on with her own life, who did not indulge in fairly regular orgies of some description. When his seventeenth birthday came along he was thoroughly depressed and summonded up the courage to ask the ‘mouse’,

“Carla, it’s my birthday tomorrow and I wondered if you’d like to come out with me, you know, to a film or maybe a dance. Whatever you like, you say. She just stared at him. She was far more scared and frustrated than he was. The girls made fun of her because she would not join in their high jinx, and the boys just pinched her backside or made lewd jestures at her while making it clear they would never want to have any more meaningful relationships with her. Sheblushed and almost accepted George’s offer too fast.

“Oh yes, George. yes please. I haven’t got a boyfriend at the moment, well I’ve never had one really. Do you mind that? I mean I’m still a virgin and everything, would it put you off me?” George had never felt so sorry for ayone in his life.

“Don’t be silly! I’m hardly Don Juan, am I? What would you like to do?” Then came the shock.

“We could have a bite at mine, if you like. Dad is away on business just now and mum walked out on us thee years ago. I’m on my own at the moment.” Somehow George felt uncomfortable but having cheered Carla up so much he couldn’t let her down. He just said,

“OK. I’ll come round about six, after my homework. Oh where do you live?” It  turned out she lived only four roads away. They had a very nice, friendly evening discovering they liked the same music and both enjoyed the football on the television. At midnight George thought he ought to be going and was sitting next to Carla on the sofa with his arm round her when he remarked on this.

“You don’t have to George, if you want to stay with me my bed’s a very large one,” and she kissed him very seductively as she said this. George wondered what on earth he should do. He could not bear the thought of disappointing her by not making love to her when she so plainly wanted him too, but also he did not have any feelings of love for her and genuinely thought it was something he should not do. In the end he gave her a goodnigt kiss and said he had had a lovely time and hoped they would soon feel more for each other. A very crestfallen Carla said goodnight to him.

Three days later a policeman called at George’s house asking to see him on a serious matter. It was early evening and his mother, but not father, was home. What followed left him staggered. The policeman said he had been accused of rape by one of his school friends as an i-phone had a video on it showing him snuggling up to her on a sofa and another series of still photos showed her in a state of distress with torn clothing. He had to answer the charges at the police station. One can imagine his nightmare. Carla, in her chagrin at being spurned, cried “rape.” She had a medical examination showing she had indeed been subjected to sexual intercourse, but nobody even thought she had phoned another boy and asked him round for a quickie just to substantiate her claims. No DNA tests were possible  because she had showered, bathed and cleaned herself too well. The magistrates court summoned George to answer the accusations, while most of the children at school thought the whole thing was a huge joke. The female magistrate,   asked him for his version of events. At last he could take no more,

“Madame,” he answered, “I am the victim of respecting the rights and personal wishes of my female colleagues and friends in all matters appertaining to any sort of sexual harassment or interference. I recently read on line eight tips of how males of my age should behave towards females of any age in such matters. Let me enlighten you:

  1. I should never drink so much alcohol that I feel uninhibted and indulge in any form of sexual harassment. I never have and I do not intend to. I see no question of this raised  in the charges against me.
  2. I should not boast of any worth or personal prowess to impress a woman or make sexual advances  following such behaviour. I never have , I never will, and I am not charged with this.
  3. Calling out lewd remarks or cat calls to women. This is not pertinent to this case and anyway it is the last thing I would do.
  4. Not to send pictures of my genitalia to a female. I never have, am not accused of it and ayway I consider it disgusting.
  5. Never treat a woman as if she owes me sexual favours. Well this whole case is about the fact that I did  not assume this, was home before my normal bedtime, and would never  treat a woman in such a way. If anything it was she who thought I ought to make love to her.
  6. Not to expect to be praised for NOT indulging in such practices. In short for being a ‘goodie, goodie’. I don’t, haven’t and in this case would hardly expect to be so treated  would I?
  7. In all relationships remember that sexual intercourse must be consensual and that if a woman does not want you to have sex with her at any time I should respect that. Well, what happened here was that it was I who refused to spend the night with her, but she did not accept my reluctance to practice fornication with her.
  8. Keep your hands to yourself. Actually this is the only one with which I disagree. Neither party should be allowed to stroke or fondle the other if it is against their wishes. Well the video showing us having a goodnight cuddle certainly does not infer that I was doing anything unpleasant or unloving towards her. On the contrary she wanted me to.

“There you have  my defence. I have since dicovered that she fabricated all the evidence against me out of spite and by coaxing another male friend to have sex with her so she could cry rape against me. I can no more prove or disprove my case than she can hers.”

Poor George was found guilty of attempted rape with violence and sentenced to six months jail pending time to appeal. Unfortunately, being a normal, consideate, pleasant and kind young man was not enough to allow George to retain his sanity. Two days later he took an overdose of sleeping pills and, as I write, his life is still in the balance.

AWE

EVERYONE I HAVE LOVED – 2


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/recognize/”>Recognize</a&gt;

recognise chapter 2 of my story

EVERYONE I HAVE LOVED – 2

BOOK 1  

SANDIE

Chapter 2

Leaving a school where I had a lot of friends, though none very close, was naturally quite a wrench and above all a somewhat sad time as I knew I was no longer going to be with my friends of nearly four years, well most of them very seldom and several never again. I never had a very close relationship with the teachers at Pathways because at that age they were people whom one was always trying not to upset by breaking rules and talking in class and such like. But on the whole I think they liked us all and none of them had favourites. Also when I left at least I was not severing my ties completely as my sister was staying on until she was thirteen. For girls the academic teaching was very good to this age and Michèle did not want to part from her friends yet. My parents were quite happy with this. Indeed they could see she was happy at Pathways and in those days that was all the ambition many parents, especially wealthy ones, had for their daughters.

But for David and I things were very different. Firstly we had to get new school uniforms and neither of us liked them. Even aged eight they were herring bone tweed suits, with short trousers to the age of ten, and school house ties and white shirts with starched collars that rubbed the neck off you. The school caps were naturally compulsory and nobody liked them. Also our grey knee length socks did not suit us and if we arrived in the morning with anything other than shining black leather shoes we were in trouble. For some unfathomable reason we also had to wear a different pair of black shoes inside school, so every boy had a small shoe locker which wasted five minutes every time we had to go out to play, have lunch at the main school or change for games. I should have mentioned that we started in the junior school which was almost in a campus of its own, a separate large old Victorian mausoleum for the seven to eleven year olds. For those who were eleven before the first of September in any school year this meant moving up to the middle school for two years, eleven to thirteen, again in a building and area of its own. We discovered why later.

Now you may have guessed from what I have already written that my background was a little different to that of other pupils. For a start my uncles and aunts, with occasionally mum, were regularly appearing in West End theatrical productions and Michèle and I spent some of our free time, either at weekends or early evenings, in dressing rooms full of stars and well known entertainers. But our mother gave us one really important lecture when we were six and seven. She took us into the playroom and said she had to explain to us something which most parents did not discuss with their children until they were a lot older. We then got a wonderfully explicit and highly dramatic account of every type of homosexual perversion. This, we were told, was so we would know what was happening if any male or female homosexuals tried to interfere with either of us in any physically abusive way. Apparently the theatre world was full of them. My instructions were to immediately tell any such men that I knew what they were doing and was reporting them to my relations, and to any such females that I was reporting them to the theatre manager. Don’t ask me why my mother told us to discriminate in such an odd way, but she did say one thing that I really loved.

“And remember, I was probably the best male impersonator the stage has ever seen so people will expect you to be odd. Therefore you must politely tell them that you have nothing abnormal in your own sexual make up and they will understand.” As it happens no one ever did try to abuse either my sister or me in the theatre, which rather disappointed me as I was looking forward to giving such a person the fright of their lives. I am old enough now to realise that I would probably never have been so approached because of who I was. But to return to school. Listen to this. The week before going to a public school for the first time, not a boarding school I am glad to say, mum told me that most boys would probably try to experiment, as she put it, sexually with each other but I was not to get involved. If any teacher tried to do so I was to tell either her or dad at once. She had had a series of boyfriends who turned out to be homosexual, and one homosexual husband who committed suicide in front of her, who all told her that such behaviour was normal in English posh schools. Rather like allowing caning, and other dreadful forms of corporal punishment, she believed such schools to be hotbeds of many painful practices. But it was just part of growing up. As you will hear I did not accept that side of life with my illness at all.

The worst thing about the first couple of months at our hallowed school was the absence of any girls. I had always loved female company and, I must freely admit it, showing off to them with what I was later told was my very charming and amusing manner. I was not handsome in any striking way, I certainly never even thought about it, but for some reason lots of girls always seemed to want to make friends with me. I cannot deny that I liked this, yet I also enjoyed playing all types of sports and games with other boys. But David soon saw how much I was missing having Sandie near me during the day. I saw her on occasional weekday evenings, but it was the weekends that mattered. And this is how I managed to kill two very tricky oiseaux with one pierre. About two months after she had come to Mass with me and a month into my first term at my new school I went to confession one saturday afternoon. I told her I was going and that I was going to tell Father Fagan about her. To my surprise she insisted on coming with me as she said it concerned her just as much as me. She sat at the back of the church to wait for me. It was one of the oddest confessions I have ever made. I entered the confessional box knelt blessed myself and began,

“Forgive me father for I have sinned, it is eight weeks since my last confession. I do not think I have done anything especially wrong but for one major thing, and Father please help me. You see I don’t even know if I’ve committed a mortal sin or not.” At this point he interrupted me in a friendly voice which made it obvious he knew who I was but could not actually say so.

“Well, what could you have done that is so seriously wrong at your age and not be sure whether it is a sin? What have you done?” I took a deep breath, paused and said in a rush,

“Please, Father. I have converted someone to the Faith. But I think I’ve gone too far.” I have never experienced since that day such a long silence in a confessional. It seemed like hours but was probably only twenty seconds before the priest asked,

“What on earth do you mean you’ve gone too far? Now take it slowly and tell me clearly exactly what happened.” So I very precisely told him how Sandie accompanied me to Mass and received Holy Communion. I mentioned no names but when I had finished I asked what should we do and was it a dreadful insult to God, even if she now loved him as as much as I did. His reply was so short I could not believe it.

“It was a beautiful thing to happen to both of you. Tell her she is loved by God as much as she loves him and both of you stay close friends until either she or her family allow her to come to confession. When that is arranged she may receive the sacrament as often as you do. And do tell her all her sins are forgiven as she has expressed sorrow for them. It is obvious she understands far more than you realise. That’s all. Now, for your penance just ask God to stay close to you both.”

That was it. That was all he said or did. He never even thought I’d done something sinful. Wrong, yes in one sense, but not on purpose. And then I remembered you could only commit a sin if you meant to and understood what you were doing. Apparently he and God could see that there was not a sinful or even wrongful intention in anyway connected with what happened that day. I said a very short prayer to ask God to look after us both, as I had been asked, and signalled to Sandie to come outside with me.

She was very happy when I told her what happened in the confessional and said she would try to get her parents to let her become a Catholic properly, as she put it. “But Ton, if they won’t let me I shall keep on trying with you and Father Fagan for as long as I have to until they cannot stop me.” Incredibly she seemed quite happy with that solution and almost dropped the subject for more everyday and ordinary topics. We went on seeing each other a lot that term up to Christmas, mainly at weekends when I also gave her beginners’ piano lessons, and she soon settled into a great relationship of friendliness with me that centred almost entirely on us just wanting to be together. But life at school slowly began to accentuate aspects of my phobia which I never expected. I think the worst was the way we were punished and the reasons why. I noticed that to break any school rule seemed to involve being physically smacked, caned or hit really hard with a leather strop depending on the seriousness of the offence. This is an example from late in that first term when I was eight and a half years old.

The junior school headmaster, Father Jerome, was the only master allowed to hit pupils and then at first not very hard. One might be caught talking in assembly when school started and would receive whacks on the left palm with a wooden ruler and told to do what one was told in future. I made my first terrible mistake the first day I was sent up to the head.

 

But Father, nobody told me not to talk in assembly. What did I do wrong?”

“Wills-Eve, it’s written on the rules on the main notice board that no boys may talk in assembly. A teacher saw you talking and so reported you to me. Therefore you have to be punished.” I felt something was going very wrong and then I probably said too much.

“I repeat, Father, nobody told me not to talk in assembly. I have never read the notice board, who does? And even if I had it would not have constituted somebody talking to me, telling me,  would it? It is merely a list of suggested forms of conduct at the school. It calls them rules but at no point on that board does it say we have to behave in the way they advocate. No, I’m sorry but those rules are merely suggestions, certainly not someone giving verbal instructions, so I maintain I have done nothing I was told not to.

“Oh heavens, but wait. They aren’t sins are they? Those I would not commit.”

In many respects I think I was lucky it was the first time I was sent up to him because he could not expel me. For minor offences one had to be found to be flouting the rules deliberately three times before the ultimate sanction could be imposed. The poor man just stared at me.

“It has been drawn to my attention that you are noted for your clever talking, wit and occasional remarks very close to insulting the teaching staff. Well I shall take this conversation as my introduction to your extremely rude behaviour and warn you never to repeat it. I am neither amused nor impressed by you!” And I was asked to hold out my hand. He was so cross he did not notice it was my right hand I put out. He struck it three unmerciful blows. As he was about to forget himself and deliver a fourth blow I pulled my hand away.

“Only three times Father. I believe that is the custom for a first offence. Also it should have been on my non-writing hand. I shall not be able to inscribe anything for the two hours remaining before lunch!” He was almost apoplectic by this time, but I was already on my way out the door. Actually I had behaved like a show off and an idiot because he was never going to spare me again. Then a thought struck me and I went straight back into his study. He could not believe it.

“Oh Father, you forgot to ask me what I was talking about when the teacher apprehended me. I was telling a boy next to me that I was feeling very ill and wanted to leave assembly at once. By attracting the teacher’s attention I was sent up to you straight away and so achieved my aim. Do thank him for me.”

You can see that I had not started off on the right foot. But I did gain one advantage from the encounter. When striking my hand he accidently broke my index finger at the second knuckle. My finger grew slightly out of shape from then on and by the time I was thirteen I could spin a cricket ball so well I was the best slow bowler in the school. I remember going up to him when I had taken eight wickets in an innings in a school under fourteens match that year and thanking him for what he had done five years earlier. By that time I was an established anomaly amongst the pupils of my age and he ignored me. Luckily my odd finger did not hamper my piano playing.

However the whole of my first year at school was taken up with with playing the piano, for an astonished music master who regretfully accepted my refusal to play in front of any type of audience for ‘nervous’ reasons, and working out how to control my phobic panics in everyday life. At home only Michèle could tell that I was actually ill and not just acting the fool. In many ways this was my own fault because I was a very good actor and so people took my exhibitionist behaviour and exaggerated pompous speech in several languages as merely showing off. It was not always, but often let me cover up for times when I could not behave normally. Like David, Michèle played with me a lot and when I was not far short of my tenth birthday she asked me one night when the grown ups were either out or listening to the radio,

“Anton, have you actually got anything wrong with you? I mean, it is plain to all of us that your linguistic and acting ability is very advanced for your age but is it just put on to impress people who know your background and how many languages are spoken in our family circle all the time? Well I speak five already and I’m only eleven and a bit. But you also look very scared at times, I’ve seen it often, and wondered if I could do anything for you? I mean, what’s wrong?” I told her in detail and she was in a dreadful state when I’d finished. But the one thing she could see was that I could never tell our parents unless it got hopelessly worse. My mother was far too ill, Dad would have had to tell her and my grandmother could never keep her mouth shut try as she might. Michèle dried her eyes, kissed me and said she and David would look after me for the time being.

Can you now see what a strangely abnormal world I was growing up in? I begged them not to tell Sandie either as she would be far too upset, so they agreed at that time and then came a really bad shock that nearly finished me off for good. Just before Easter in 1952 Sandie, her face gaunt and drawn, told me they were moving. Her father had been posted abroad, to Switzerland, and she would hardly ever see me for two or maybe three years. I literally fell on my knees by the bed that night and asked Saint Rita what I should do. It was the second time she gave me audible advice.

“Antonino, I will help you, but be very careful of the ways you try to treat your phobia and loneliness when Sandie is not with you. It will be very hard for you but I will do all I can.”


Our school staff included about 14 ordained monks who were also academically distinguished scholars. But they never treated us as anything other than youngsters whom they had to show how to live as God wanted them to. Thus for them the idea of following a rule, as they did spiritually in their daily lives, was the obvious way to help us to organise our own lives. But it did have its drawbacks. They also carried this to the extreme of obeying school rules in our everyday lives in such a way that they did sometimes get things horribly out of proportion. The panic attacks which accompany my phobia can still occur when just faced with the prospect of not being able to seek shelter when left on my own’ This drives me to a fit of breathless horror when knowing I am going to have to go through any physical really painful experience because my phobia has conditioned me to fear something unpleasant happening to me just as much as the panic symptoms themselves when they occur. Added to the mental side, anxiety neuroses are themselves physically very painful, as well as tiring and terrifying.

This is not cowardice, just simply the inability to deal with the apprehension which attacks me when I know I am going to have to undergo such a horrible experience. In short, by the time I reached a master’s study to receive a severe thrashing I had already had my punishment and almost no longer cared what happened to me. Just Imagine poor Saint Benedict having to apologise to me for his followers’ mistaken interpretation of his rule. But also imagine Saint Rita hanging on to me like grim death outside the headmaster’s study and smiling at me as she promised me I would soon be okay and it would all be over. They were really terrific, both of them, and in fact were the only reason why I did not report the school to the education authorities for excessive brutality as I was thrashed to within an inch of my life for regularly being reported for misconduct both verbal and physical. A threat my father would have carried out had I told him what I went through.

Did I hear you say, ‘what on earth had you done to get so severe a punishment?’ Not a lot, just being late with my homework, talking in class or obviously not working as hard as the teachers knew I could. But in 1953-55 those were very serious offences! Also my mother was terminally ill at this time, which the school knew, but did not know that she hated to hear that I had ever done anything wrong. She berated me, told me it made her feel worse, and went through the whole gamut of her actresses’ emotions to convince me that I was ungratefully repaying my parents for all the sacrifices they made to keep me at such a good school. The trouble was I believed her, never wondering what such sacrifices were given our wealth. So you can see why I never told the school that, if my punishment for something was, for instance, detention after the last class of the day, I would just not do it. I would just go home at the usual time and thus not upset my mother even though I knew the price I would have to pay at school the next day! But I had a third and stronger reason for this by the time I was thirteen.

If my heavenly friends tried to lessen my pain and mental anguish, they also did a lot to help me and in such a glorious way that I have never held any of the really awful events of those years against God in any way. You see I lived near the Abbey attached to our school and the one thing I loved doing more than anything in life was serving Mass. Standing with the priest on the altar made me feel so happy, so full of God’s love, especially at the Consecration, that I would have gone through anything to be able to do this as often as I could. In fact I served Mass at 7.00 am every weekday I was available and really thanked my spiritual friends for making this wonderful experience possible so often. The major difficulty was the way my phobia meant I could not walk the length of the long aisle down the centre of the Abbey, or stand alone and exposed on the high altar. But we had a series of small altars down one side of the church where most of the monks said their daily masses. These I could manage, and did. Whenever I served Mass God and my favourite saints made my life truly great and compensated a thousand fold for all my mental illness. Eventually I was so ill with my phobia, and two major nervous breakdowns between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, that I was finally excused several school activities because I just could not do them. The classic one was parading with the school army cadet force.

I finally told the senior school headmaster, who mercifully did understand my phobia, that I was not hamming it up when I could not breathe if asked to stand silently to attention. In the end, after a medical examination from a doctor who did not have a clue what I was talking about, I was excused corps for my last three years at school. Also they respected my wish not to worry my parents with my nervous condition.

I think my other main memories of early school life were loving all sports at which I was fortunate enough to excel, coupled with the subject of Saint Rita’s warning. Can you imagine a ten to eleven year old playing cricket and doing really well for the school under elevens side thanks to nearly half a bottle of scotch he had to drink to manage to cross the cricket field?! David knew about this and became very worried at first. But as I never appeared drunk, and the booze only calmed me down and did nothing else, he put up with it for quite a long time. The other sports memory was what I called the unnecessary side. I was regularly punished for not doing things which I could not manage because of the limitations of my phobia. For instance I could not do a cross country run outside the perimeter of the school grounds or playing field – well who could with my illness? So I just sat out such races and was of course reported for being lazy and disobedient. And then the awful added anxiety of waiting for three days before going into the headmaster’s study to be thrashed for being too ill to run. I remember first getting thoroughly fed up with this senseless torture when I was still only nine and holding out my right hand and saying to the new junior school headmaster, his first term in the job,

“Look Father you use your left hand to hit me and we’ll see who comes out of the contest best”. He did not have a clue if I was being impertinent or genuinely trying to crack a joke. He smiled and said, sorry it wasn’t negotiable. Following this I pulled my left hand from behind my back and said, “Sorry, but I fell off my bike yesterday evening and I’ve broken four fingers. You can’t hit that one.” He stared, put the ruler away and said

“Okay we’ll make that your punishment for a couple of weeks’. But I finally had him.

“No Father. That’s the last time you’ll ever hit me. I told the doctor the injury was the result of the ferocity with which we were thrashed at school. My father is taking no action, much as the doctor wanted him to, but he will if you ever touch me again.” Nobody did hit me again in the junior school so I had managed to stop that double torture without the family knowing about my phobia. But my father’s added condition was that no boys in the school aged under eleven should receive any form of corporal punishment, and as he was a well known journalist they did not argue with him and the rule he demanded was brought in.Actually what annoyed me most about that incident was not being able to play the piano properly for three weeks.

Finally I must briefly outline the last part of the story of my introduction to the Faith, the Charity and above all the Hope which control my soul. Let me explain what I believe spiritually which reached it’s final complete stage by the time I left school in 1960 aged eighteen and a few months. This will complete the background to the many exciting, dreadfully sad and unusual events that occurred during this part of my life. Above all, after this short explanation of how my soul loves God, my readers may better understand all the subsequent loves of which I write. It is best summed up by telling you about five saints who have long been very special friends to me in heaven.

Firstly there is my name saint, Antoninus, on whose feast I was born and has been with me all my life. Every day I ask him to make me worthy of his name, but nobody could ever aspire to the level of holiness he attained in giving all he had and devoting every word he preached to helping the poor. I try to imitate him but am very definitely only a very pale shadow. Secondly in my life came Saint Rita of Cascia. I have already introduced her to you all and made you aware of how much I rely on her help to get through every day of my life. Thirdly I learned about Saint Benedict, founder of the religious order which taught me for ten years. He has always reminded me, through his incredibly sensible directions for reconciling our humanity with our love of God no matter how often we stumble all over the place in all directions, how to get back on our feet whenever we fall.

Saint Caterinetta, or Catherine, of Genoa, the fourth saint I came to know, has probably played the greatest part in teaching me to trust in God’s mercy by refusing to condemn anyone whom he loves for any reason at all and to God, she realised and made clear to me, that means everyone because God created everyone and loves everything he created. She is more responsible than anyone for my approach to God, that is my personal relationship with him in this life and the next. Like hers, my spiritual relationship with God is totally just him and me. Not even the church gets a look in when I realise how much I love loving him and being loved by him, both now and eternally, provided I never forsake or deny him. And finally I pray every day to Pope Saint John XXIII to help all my friends who once professed their love for God but now doubt him. Why a man who was only made a saint less than three years ago and holds no special place in most people’s hagiographical knowledge? Simply this. I met him and knew him in the early 1960s, as did many people who need his help now for the reasons for which I ask for it.

Well that completes my very brief spiritual story from the summer of 1950 to my last days at school when eighteen years of age in 1960. In order for it to make sense I have had to write it straight through to let the events of the rest of my life during that decade show up against the background of the person I was. You will see how much of my life seems quite out of keeping with the spiritual love that underpinned everything I did, fought, or tried to do.

But I would like to end this chapter on a pleasant note, and they don’t come pleasanter than Sandie. It was my tenth birthday party and we all played hide and seek in our big garden. About ten boys and ten girls from near where we lived came to tea and games at our house. May is a lovely month for a birthday, yet Sandie seemed strangely shy and very upset.

While playing hide and seek I partnered her and knew a perfect spot behind the orchard fruit shed where no one would find us. I smiled at her deliberately affectionately, “Now what’s got into you since I saw you a couple of weeks ago Sandie? It can’t be just missing me for such a short time.” A tear ran down her cheek as she answered.

“Oh, Ton. It’s not that. At our age grown up life has not even started, no it’s our moving abroad soon for maybe three years. Dad’s been posted to Switzerland as I told you, so I’ll be a long, long way away from you.”Amid sniffles she added,”I promised myself I would not spoil your birthday. I’m sorry, I shall be good from now on. I looked round, saw nobody could see us and placed my hands on her shoulders and gave her the softest kiss I think I’d ever given anyone by then as I said,

“I agree with you we are too young to be in love as grown ups are, but I promise you this, my Sandie. I love you more than anyone I know and I hope I always will. So please just keep writing to me and as we get older we may get to love each other more every day. I am sure I can talk the family into a holiday in Geneva this summer as well. It needn’t be too bad.”

She said nothing, just put her arms round my neck and returned my kiss with ten times the love I had given her. She hung onto me for five minutes, wiped her eyes and completed the promise to write and never lose touch. She stayed very close to me until they moved two and a half months later. What I did with my family, David, and in different countries up to the end of 1956 follows next.

End chapter 2

 

CLOUDS OF NIGHT AND DAY


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/clouds/”>Clouds</a&gt;

An allegory of depression and contentment

CLOUDS OF NIGHT AND DAY

 

STORM CLOUDS GATHER

Lightning black eventide clouds cover all the land

Rain and Storms drench each forest field and farm

And country folk fast race to shelter in their homes

Floods force a family to huddle close in their alarm

 

NIGHT CLOUDS OUT THE MOON

Hell bitter black is sucking hope from every breast

As foresters or herdsman fall to their knees to pray

Lest evil spirits of the clouds on this accursed night

Should take their very lives before the break of day

 

DAWN CLOUDS PART AT SUNRISE

Pale pink rays at last break through the clouded sky

Rain and storm decrease their war on beast and man

Dawn’s bright smile to the afraid now lifts their fear

And joy at last is felt at the end of night’s dark span

 

CLOUDS DISPERSE FOR THE DAYTIME SUN

Clouds now shrunken to small white powdery fluff

Allow the warm and welcoming sun to shine on all

Each farmer thus again enjoys his bright new world

And swains and maidens kiss behind haystacks tall.

AWE

THE VOYAGE OUT


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/voyage/”>Voyage</a&gt;

I have stolen the title of Virginia Woolf’s first major work because I could not find anything more apposite.

THE VOYAGE OUT

Just before midnight on the evening of June the 23rd 2016 I was lying in bed with my tablet watching the BBC coverage of the election results on a referendum to decide whether or not The UK should leave the EU or remain a member of a united Europe. The first large city to announce its result was Newcastle, in the North East. It was forecast to vote 60% to 40% in favour of remaining. It voted to do so, but 50.3% to 49.7%. I Put away my tablet, turned out my light and prayed for the future of all my friends in Europe.

A few minutes before six in the morning I awoke, turned on the tablet again and accepted the fate imposed upon the world by 52% of the electorate who had decided, for whatever insane reason, to leave the sanctuary of a ship that was floundering but which could yet be saved. Instead those voters chose to let it sink and preferred to sail off alone into the egotistical, self-centred oblivion of finding its own new world. Sadly, nobody pointed out in the preceding campaign that the New World had already been discovered, was not that great but bearable, and there were no more worlds to conquer.

I let the day pass as I assimilated the damage that had been done to three things. Firstly to the world’s opinion of the UK which had changed from a respected and prosperous democracy to a selfish, uninformed and greedy bunch of nationalistic extremists who cared for nobody but themselves.

Secondly I surveyed the economic damage done to the UK itself as the pound floundered and the value of each person’s possessions, monetary, industrial or in real estate diminished on average by seven per cent. The promised land of no longer allowing immigrant workers to steal jobs by accepting lower wages backfired and UK workers realised they would soon be earning less anyway. But the immigrants would earn what they always had. Commercially, small businesses would fold as banks now had no money to lend them to keep them afloat. Just as they would not be able to lend people money for mortgages, so the homeless would remain just that.

Thirdly I reflected that, as the ship of state sailed off into the wide blue sea of uncertainty, the UK’s European partners were now facing a horrific reality that could have been kept hidden until it was put right, but now cannot. Most of the countries in Europe were living off the money Britain gave them, but as they traded with Britain this was a problem that could be managed. Now, when that trading stops , seventeen European countries will be so badly bankrupt that the common market will no longer be able to exist and several hundred million people will be facing ten to fifteen years of recession bordering, in some cases, on starvation. Did our voters even know this two days ago? No, because nobody bothered to tell them the implications of what they were doing. In short, the claim that we held the first truly democratic vote in our history proved only one thing. Democracy only works when those who take democratic decisions are correctly informed about all aspects of what they are having to decide. In the UK most of us did not. I am glad to be able to say that I at least pointed out these dangers in blogs and on Facebook several days ago. But then a voice crying in the wilderness does not expect to be heard.

But our voyage out may not have been a complete disaster for the Western world. There is a strong chance that when the citizens of the United States see what economic and social chaos is created to the detriment of all, if one votes for walls instead of doors, they might think twice when confronted by extremism of this kind in their own country in November. They will ditch Donald Trump when they see that Britain is no longer GREAT and that the rest of the world will hold them in universal contempt if they bring their own country down to the same level of vilification. Thank God I am a Scots Australian, though born in England, for it was the ENGLISH vote that did this.

AWE

I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO PROMPT


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/awe/”>Awe</a&gt;

In my career I signed over 100,000 news bulletins, stories, etc with my initials awe. what a prompt!

 

I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO PROMPT

This is quite amazing. When working for any news media if you file anything, a story, a breaking news flash, an obituary, a sports result or even an information message to another office you always have to append your initials after it so the company knows who the writer is. Guess what I have used all my life , 61 years since my first music critique for British United Press aged thirteen. Yes of course. AWE!

Now this does not mean all my work has been AWEsome but it has always been prompt. The whole idea of working for a News Agency, my first twenty years in this field were with  BUP, UPI, Reuters and AFP, is to get the top stories to the press and other outlets FAST and FIRST. I actually created a record with UPI in Paris in 1962 by beating all the opposition with the winner, yellow jersey holder and lap time on all 22 laps of that Tour de France cycle race. I wasn’t clever I just hated being beaten. I wasn’t even a staff member then, I was just doing freelance sports reporting work while at university.

But two firsts I am proud of were very different.In May 1968 I gave Reuters a seven minutes world beat on the announcement of the agreement to hold the Paris peace talks on Vietnam . This was actually cheating as nobody knew the meeting was taking place. It was in the Laotian capital Vientiane and I was the only journalist there. I had been asked by the US, Australian , North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese teams to be a fifth and neutral negotiator as I knew all the diplomats involved personally and could speak all three languages needed for the discussions. It was great fun and they all respected my plea to let me file my story before their various governments made official announcements.

My other super beat was closer but very lucky. I gave Reuters a three minute world first on the death of General de Gaulle thanks to a former university friend giving me a phone call. By then he worked for the family at their home in Colombey les deux Eglises where the former President lived and died. But I was always incredibly competitive in all I did and could not bear letting others get in before me. The only really good story I had first, but could not file, was a military helicopter crash in Cambodia in which two choppers hit each other with twelve people in one and two in the other. I saw it happen and it would have been a great story.

Why did I not file it?  Thirteen people were killed and the only survivor broke his spine. That was me!

AWE

NO FIRE BUT A LOT OF SMOKE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/empty/”>Empty</a&gt;

the empty lives of two wartime smokers

NO FIRE BUT A LOT OF SMOKE

“Empty the ashtrays, darling

Get rid of that awful smell

Of cigarette smoke wafting

Out of the windows as well.

 

I want the whole house empty

No family lives here any more.

Mum puffed her way to a coffin

Cancer showed Dad to the door.

 

Ok they were both almost ninety

You may say they had a good run.

But not us and the kids, watching

The only thing they ever called fun.

 

In wartime it calmed their nerves,

Maybe. But they never could stop.

Sixty a day gone on money wasted

In empty bank accounts not a drop,

 

Of security left for the young ones

Nothing valuable left to bequeath,

Just empty rooms, smelling of fags.

Two graves and a token red wreath”.

AWE

COMING IN


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/companion/”>Companion</a&gt;

it’s a lovely feeling telling your companions the truth.

COMING IN

I am sorry if I had to keep you all in any suspense for this confession. Please don’t get too up tense or hate me because I have told the truth about myself at last, admitting the actions of my unsuspected past. Mentally tormented, I cannot live another day without telling every one I know, in some way, about what I am and and feel and what I have been naturally forced not to do. Mostly I regret the unhappiness I may have brought on others by spurning relationships with my closest friends. Yet, you surely understand, I could not die without tying up these loose ends and letting my fans, my loved ones, my whole world hear all my admissions of my true self which are here unfurled.

I wonder, after this, how in the future I will be remembered by you all? Will my family be proud, saddened or just ashamed to read that I have said this of myself? Are there those amongst you who will think it worse simply because it is true? Will it be totally unacceptable to so many of you because I have refused to dilute my feelings, refused to lie? I have been told that in such matters political correctness forbids delay. Everybody must know everything and seem to have the right to know it immediately. That is the world in which we live today. So without more ado, this is what I must say, not knowing the price I may have to pay. My dearest friends, all of you I love. You now no longer have to wait. This is what I am. I am sorry if I offend any of you, I love you all too much to ever wish to do that.

“I am a Catholic Christian. I actually believe my prayers are heard and answered. I love all God’s creatures, especially sad sinners of whom God knows full well that I am one. But, above all, I love the fact that I am straight. I am proud of it.

AWE

PAWS FOR THOUGHT


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/companion/”>Companion</a&gt;

aren’t they everyone’s?

PAWS FOR THOUGHT

‘Springles’, our cat, is black and white

And insists on sleeping with us at night

How we put up with it goodness knows.

Ever slept with a tail right up your nose?

Then being the object of scratching claws

If you try to adjust his outstretched paws.

 

Our cat is also saintly, how can we tell?

By the way he meows his prayers so well,

When purring beside us, eyes shut tight

And head tucked in to keep out the light

As his ageing eyes don’t like the glare

Of our bed lamp shining on him there.

 

There isn’t really room enough for three

On the pillow, him, my dear wife and me.

But no matter how much we try to edge

Him down to our feet he’ll always wedge

His nose and ears up closer to our heads

And he’s vetoed the idea of separate beds.

 

So every night as my wife and I turn and toss

And he wakes us up, we sure know who’s boss

For his hungry yawns at six o’clock each day

Signal breakfast bowl time, then out to play.

Fourteen years now we’ve slept with our cat

But we love him and so we just give him a pat.

 

Do the rest of the family get treated this way?

No! The rest of them have to do what we say,

Sharing the housework, gardening and chores

“Washing up’s mine, today Hoovering’s yours.”

But Springles just lies in the grass and rolls over

Waiting to be tickled. A life of whiskers in clover!

AWE

INFINITE SUMMER LOVE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/summer/”>Summer</

wondering what my wife will be thinking under anaesthetic, undergoing a major operation soon

INFINITE SUMMER LOVE

My love  are you thinking of us both,

When plighting each to each our troth,

Of loving days and sweet maternity,

And swearing fidelity for all eternity?

 

Never doubt my passion nor your own,

A love like ours was no temporal device.

In all my prayers I have always shown

Thanks for your heart, the inner grace

That lit the fires we have always known,

Never dimming, still brightly so ablaze.

 

Our endless love has no sunset and no dawn,

Just a summer’s day filled with infinite hours

Of heartfelt heartbeats shared by us each morn.

Please guard them Lord. Please keep them ours.

AWE

I THINK I’LL STAY IN THIS WEEK


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/aimless/”>Aimless</a&gt;

we should all aim less and embrace more.

I THINK I’LL STAY IN THIS WEEK

‘Brexit’ demands that we all get out,

And Thursday we’ve been asked to vote.

Should we ditch all our European friends

To keep British economic hopes afloat?

 

The idea of abandoning many poorer folk

To give us more cash makes me feel as sick

As any sane American would feel next Fall

After giving Donald Trump a thumbs up tick.

 

There is no excuse in this modern world

For being selfishly mean or power mad.

Nobody from any country, by their birth

Alone, should be considered  as being bad.

 

Yet there are people from my native land

Who really believe unity, to be just a word  

That means being ‘un-British’ in some way,

I can’t think of anything so stupidly absurd.

 

I was born in WWII, bombs falling all round

The house which was my first earthly home.

But now, nearly seventy five years on, I call my

Enemies friends, thanks to the treaty of Rome.

 

I can’t run away from folk I’ve come to love,

My whole life would be a mockery, a waste.

No. I’d rather remain with my European kin

Than abandon them in selfish, hateful haste.

AWE