Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas

Category: autobiography

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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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

 

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

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

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

THE CITY OF MY INNOCENT DREAMS


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

quite simply what the prompt made me write

THE CITY OF MY INNOCENT DREAMS

I remember once being young enough to think that the world would never change. It would always be the autumn of 1960 and I would always live in our new home on the Ile Saint Louis in Paris. I would spend every day of my life going to early Mass and then walking the short distance to the Sorbonne to immerse myself in studying French, Italian, Spanish, history and music. Late in the day I would earn a lot of pocket money covering major European sports events for my father’s News Agency, because the American staff knew nothing about the subject and I was a fanatic. My paradise had come early and in the city of my dreams.

Paris was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. Everything was just as I wanted it to be as well. I never had breakfast at home. After serving Mass I would stop at a favourite Tabac on the Boulevarde Saint Michèle and have a croissant or brioche with a lovely steaming hot chocolate. There were always other students on their way to the university and we often had chats about everything under the sun. Lectures started soon after eight and it was constant study of a whole series of subjects relevant to French Mediaeval history until noon. Then three days a week I had four hours of various languages in the afternoon. On the other days it was music, in my case piano tuition and a couple of hours playing to continue the passion I had developed from the age of three in England. But Parisians also love eating.

Some days lunch would be in the university canteen, others just with a girlfriend at some nice restaurant she couldn’t afford but I could. Always she was invited for her ability to share my interests and my sense of fun. After an expensive, gourmet meal we would find time some days to see the really nice parts of Paris which we did not know. This did not mean all my companions were foreigners, not at all. Many French students came from far flung parts of the country and Paris was as much their first adventure in an unknown city as it was mine. The main places people wanted to see might include actual buildings like the Sacre Coeur or the Eiffel Tower, although I never ventured up it for reasons I shall explain. But my favourite pastime in my free hours was the art galleries, especially the Louvre and the Impressionist museum in the Tuilleries gardens. History of art was part of my course so this type of enjoyment was also very useful..

But I lived with my parents and my mother was terminally ill. I helped look after her as well. She was dying for most of my life and actually lasted out until I was nearly thirty. You can see that sanity could only be maintained in that sort of existence if you had two really important things in your life. Love, both spiritual and human, and the will to do everything you had to to fulfil the obligations that went with both. The other was money and we had always had plenty of that. I had a generous allowance from my father and I earned a lot through him as I have said, but then I needed a lot with the life I was forced to lead. I have often spoken in other posts and blogs about the crippling agoraphobia from which I have suffered all my life and in Paris this would have been a visit to hades without money. I had to take taxis everywhere for the first nine months until I passed my French driving test and could use the car. I couldn’t walk over any sort of river crossing so had to take cabs, or occasional buses if the stops were in the right places, if I was travelling to the right bank from the left or vice versa. But then, living on an island I had to use transport of some sort every time I went anywhere, every day to university at the start just to get off the Island. I couldn’t walk across a bridge. I still can’t.

But the beauty and friendliness of the city and its openly affectionate people made my life more than just manageable, it made itself into a place I thought I could never leave. I was only eighteen at the time I am talking about so I had no career even vaguely lined up in my mind. This was another world, a whole new adventure and I just wanted it to last forever. I soon got to know a lot of my father’s colleagues, through covering sports events and going back to the office to write about them. This sometimes meant having lunch with Dad and other journalists and I always got on well with them. I was blessed with a love of languages and ability to pick them up fast so was soon almost a member of the office staff, while also a university student. But my whole life was centred round seeing as much of a new culture in a beautiful city as I could manage.

Apart from time spent with mum, my sister also flew over from University in England at weekends to cheer her up, I loved taking visiting English friends to see the places I loved. This was especially true of Versailles, a half hour train journey out of town, which I think I went to with visiting friends and acquaintances about thirty times in my first year in the French capital. I almost became an expert on the place. But I had another way of helping deal with my awful phobia. Mass in the morning always got me off to a calming start but by the late afternoon I usually had either had a lot of alcohol with my lunch or, if it was a very busy day, would do so when eating at night. I also used to spend post sports events evenings with a stop off at a favourite bar and drink until about two in the morning. I actually got my first ulcer during my second year at university through lack of sleep. At least that was what the doctors put it down to. Nowadays we know ulcers can be caused by many different things. But filling up my Parisian life, right from the start, with so much to do was the only way I could live with my illness.

The strongest memory I have of that first term at university was getting home one night when Mum was feeling really bad and needed more medication, and being told I would die first if I carried on drinking so heavily. But she added one extraordinary comment, about three in the morning. “Why are you never drunk? You should be falling over with what you’ve had!” I told her I used my alcohol intake to control my phobia and it wore off as soon as I drank it. She just laughed and said I really had to give up fooling people into thinking I was mentally ill. She called it a poor excuse for enjoying myself. I gave up that night and never tried to make her accept my illness again.

But maybe that was what I really loved about Paris then, still so patriotically post war and so de Gaullistly anti-English. They accepted me because I was a Scots Australian, that was fine. The city satisfied all my needs, provided me with the chance to learn what I loved and love what I learned in every sense. It was vibrant, incredibly human and openly unashamed of the fact – nobody could have said that of the London which I had left! The people were all Catholics like me, well nominally, and I was later to learn how difficult it can be to live a life you only have to acknowledge and not really practise. Of course I knew it was the romantic and free love centre of Europe, but that did not matter as it would have done when I was much younger. Flesh pots were Satan’s hotels in England, not in Paris. Nobody even seemed to notice them, something I took time to understand. But at eighteen I was sexually inexperienced and had no immediate intentions of changing that, much as many of my student friends might have made me want to. I preferred Mass, piano music, and enjoying the human company of people so different to anything I had known before. In short I was just starting my introduction to a city and its life that I never wanted to end.

What a shame all our lives are complete operas and such brief interludes as my autumn of 1960, in the Paris of my innocent dreams, was only an overture.

AWE

 

PHYSICIAN HEAL THYSELF


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

explaining my natural contempt for psychiatrists

PHYSICIAN HEAL THYSELF

I was treated once by a psychiatrist who said

You’re doing nothing wrong by going to bed,

With someone for sex, when you’re not wed.

So throw all that unnatural guilt out your head.”

He said all natural feelings, except love of god,

Were normal and right and so I was a stupid sod

And thus mentally ill, for only trying to do right

And wasting my time saying prayers every night.

But he went even further, honestly, listen to this

He made the whole group give each other a kiss

Then share all their fears and acute mental pains

But banning talk of God, sex, or any fiscal gains.

Few of us took any notice of this, which backfired,

As he said he couldn’t cure any people who desired

To stay sunk in the depths of their natural depression

Which resulted, he said, from unnatural suppression.

I don’t know what they paid him to perpetuate my pain

And add lies to the confusion then torturing my brain,

But brain surgery, ECT, and alcohol he used on us a lot

So,when we committed suicide, he’d say,“see the sot

Took no notice of me and the medical advice I gave

He wouldn’t even give it a try or attempt to behave

Like a sensible natural person, doing exactly as he felt,

Instead of saying sorry for his sins as in prayer he knelt.”

AWE

 

AN UNNECESSARY ENDEAVOUR


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

a strangely unusual struggle

AN UNNECESSARY ENDEAVOUR

There are few things more  annoying in this world than knowing you know something but being completely incapable of recalling details, names, faces and quotes surrounding a key event in your life. Mine is somewhat esoteric in it’s subject matter but nonetheless infuriating for that. I have no recollection at all of my first encounter with K482. 

If you’re wondering,  it is not an animal in Star Wars or a similar space oddity, far from it. It is the catalogue number of Mozart’s 22nd piano concerto in Eflat major – no he didn’t write twenty two concerti in the same key, it’s just that this one was in Eflat major – and I know I was 14 when I first saw it played at a concert,  – Oh no! You won’t believe this. A twelve year old kid has just rung my door bell and tried to sell me a hair brush while pleading he had been made redundant in a steelworks more than 150 miles away. Teach me to live in a posh area! – where was I?

Yes, I cannot construct any mental images of my introduction to a performance of K482.  What annoys me most is that the concerto is one of my favourite pieces of music, the whole world knows the final movement – well everyone who saw Amadeus does, that’s HOW they remember it – and I have studied and played it many, many times now. I think it was my grandmother who took me to the concert, she loved good music and would have pinched my father’s press tickets. Ah, a clue. Yes!! Dad had tickets for every BBC Promenade concert at the Albert Hall every year from 1948 to 1960 so it must have been there. I think. So let me concentrate. I had heard it on the radio of course, and messed about with the solo piano score, but never seen it at a concert. Now it was almost certainly 1956 and I think school had not long broken up for the summer or I would have taken a friend.

You can’t hear it but I’m playing the concerto through my headphones while I write this. But it isn’t helping much. Ah, that’s one reason why. The pianist has just played the final cadenza, the one which Benjamin Britten wrote for Sviatislav Richter in 1966 when I was nearly twenty four! So it wasn’t that version. Hang on though, another clue. That cadenza. Many people play Britten’s version nowadays, and before that Paul Badura-Skoda’s cadenza,  (1958?) was very popular, it was not that either. I wish I could make my memory hear. It doesn’t have any trouble with hearing 1956 radio comedy shows so why can’t it pick up that concerto? I’ve been to literally hundreds of proms over the years so picturing the auditorium doesn’t help. Wait, but it does.

 – Oh blow! I’m doing the meal tonight as my wife’s ill and I haven’t prepared the Bolognese sauce yet. They’ll have to wait. No, they can’t there’s footie on the tele.-  Where was I? Yes another clue. I do remember that the soloist and the conductor were not dressed the same. Yes, of course. He was in evening dress and tails, they always were in those days, so the pianist must have been wearing a dress. It was a woman. Mozart so often is, especially this concerto. Now what women were around then? Hess, Lympany, Bachauer, Nikolyeva, Fuchsova, – Strewth! Of course. I’ve got a dreadful mind but that must be right. I made a joke about the pianist’s name when we got home and dad was not amused. So Lisa Fuchsova played the first ever K482 I ever saw? Really? She could have done, but if she did she always played the cadenzas by Hummel, never Mozart’s own cadenzas in either the first or third movements. And I can vaguely hear that particular passage in the final movement because the first time I ever SAW anyone play that Mozart concerto they definitely added bits by someone else. Hummel’s were the only popular alternatives in those days. So who was conducting?

It should  be easy now. Sir Malcolm Sergeant was the only conductor I saw at the proms before 1958 and he always directed the BBC symphony Orchestra. So the immaculate show off would have been in charge! –  hang on. I have to do this Bolognese for my gourmet trio, quartet if you include me. It’s a new original recipe I’m trying  by adding some Thai grains in with the green peppers when sauteeing them before adding them to the sauce. Mmmm….yes, lovely! Well they all seemed to like it. My son says it is just the thing before a match but Italy were playing last night so why didn’t I do it then? Can’t remember.

 – Talking of remembering let’s get back to K482. I’ve got the soloist, the Orchestra, the venue, the conductor and even whose cadenzas were played. That’s not bad. But what else was on the programme? Yes, got it. It was the first time I ever heard Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. It was dreadful, but then I never have liked his music. Hooray, I can retire satisfied to the lounge just in time to catch the Portugal game. My son’s just asked me what I’d been blogging about as I sat down. So I told him my struggle with my memory. Three minutes later he said,

“Dad, that was probably Tuesday July the 31st at the Albert Hall in a prom concert. It was being played by Lisa Fuchsova and Sergeant was conducting the BBC SO. Did you stay for that awful Strauss?” I gaped at him as he turned his i-pad towards me. It was on the BBC Proms archive site which has every concert listed, with full details, since the first in 1895. I could cheerfully have hit him.

AWE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUICK TO ANGER SLOW TO PRAISE


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

                              oh dear, I’ve upset a few people 

                 QUICK TO ANGER SLOW TO PRAISE

I’ve made some friends and relatives a bit annoyed you see

By announcing that  I am writing the great untold life of ‘me’.

It’s funny, in parts tragic, exciting,  a bit ludicrous yet sad

Painting  me as villain and as hero : so good and oh so bad.

But, despite the super adventures as I battle the world’s strife,

Already it’s been branded “unadulterated rubbish” by my  wife!

AWE

DUMMY RUN


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

a cunningly  concealed prompt

                                                DUMMY RUN

It often strikes me as amusing that many of the followers of my idle thoughts and memories believe me to have had an extraordinary life. A mixture of the greatest love, the most heart breaking tragedy; the enjoyment of celebrity and wealth, the suffering from a horrendous mental illness all my life and the terrible guilt at so seldom being able to live up to my own and my God’s ideas of the the sort of person I should be. And all this played out before the back drop of scenes in four continents and seventy three countries, covering seven wars and a host of peace keeping and diplomatic missions, that on reflection really do read like a novel no one person could possibly have lived. And yet I have, and have survived. Peace has mostly taken the form of dallying in the history libraries of five very old European Universities where five languages were also fully mastered. This was mainly for fun and to satisfy my natural polyglot curiosity,so often soothed into submission by my fingers on the keyboards of so many oddly tuned pianos.

I have been shot twice, survived two helicopter crashes, been blown up so many times I have honestly lost count and yet I have always just gone on to the next scene so that my life has almost been a long running series of films. Except it happened. Well, if I took it all too seriously I would have died of depression by now. Firstly, losing to illness and violence people I never thought I could live on without when they died. And now living with cancer, five strokes and a broken spine to add to my insanity. But I have always been able to see the funny side of existence as well, so I shall concede that I am an anomaly. But two things always help keep me sane; my ability to play music I adore, even If I cannot do this in front of other people, and being blessed with the help of a spiritual side to my life that actually cheers me up when chatting to two special saints who make me laugh when really they should be telling me off. So what is this wonderful build up, this blockbuster’s trailer, leading to? Some of you may have guessed, you have been asking for it for long enough. Yes, I have decided to complete, and be honest in writing, my autobiography. A few eyebrows went up there!

Well, what would you have me do? Hide my bushel in front of a light, thus consigning my life’s story to only the silhouette of its reality? There is no point in that now, for two of the three people whom I had recently promised not to hurt by ‘telling it like it was, is and will be’, have suddenly disappeared from my life. Yes that is sad, hard to take, hard to live with, or rather without, but the final supplicant of my silence has now said ‘Go on’. They did add, ‘it will take you so long to finish it I will probably be gone too by then, anyway!’ So for a while now my blogs may well be shorter than usual, a bit more brief rhyme, and yet everything designed to give me time to finish the most big headed thing a man can think; to assume other people want to read his life story. I often get suicidal at the thought of doing this. A lot of my life, from birth to the age of twenty nine, is already written in verse and yes, chunks of this may well be retained, but do I really want to tell my life story warts and all? Not always, it makes me feel positively suicidal at times. You’ll never guess what I have done to counter this unpleasant possibility.

Just in case I do find I am pressing a self destruct button in myself by determining to complete this literary venture, I have loaded a revolver with six cartridges which I shall keep beside me while I write. Should I feel like ending my life earlier than God would want, he’d stop me anyway, I will pick up that revolver, point it at my head and pull the trigger. The noise should frighten me into having a stiff drink, play a soothing piece of Liszt or Mozart and then resume my tale. I would not need more than six such shocks to finish my story. And I would finish it. I know, I loaded it myself! You see each of those cartridges is a blank.

AWE

MATER FAMILIAS


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

my survival of having a mother like mine is the only art I ever fully mastered.

MATER FAMILIAS

We all have mothers, of course we do. But learning to live, love and survive with them can be the most difficult thing in one’s life. It certainly is if she was was like mine. Survival in Mama’s world was a heroic and necessary act of devotion. Listen to this.

Quite honestly only my sister and I can probably truly have claimed to survive her at all. In 1940, after she had spent nearly fifteen years as one of the best known and highest paid female entertainers in the country, she was diagnosed with four terminal illnesses. She had already undergone major pioneering surgery for its time, 1937, having her thyroid gland removed, and half her bowel replaced by a plastic one. She was told she would never have children and would be unlikely to live for more than five more years.

But mama was a generous woman who wanted to share three things in life. Firstly her wit, which was fast, original, clever, hilarious and kept half the country rolling about laughing for some ten years. Secondly was her love of God which she never forced on anyone, just told it like a story which made people want to hear it. As a Scots/Irish Glasgow Catholic, with a very strong personality, people tended to listen. They predominantly did not agree with her, but she ignored this and just assumed they would accept her words as Gospel. Why on earth should they? After all she did not expect audiences to believe her jokes, and she certainly never expected anyone to think of her as anything but a very attractive woman, even if she was the best male impersonator on the British stage and half the country assumed she must be a lesbian, which she very definitely was not.

The third thing she wanted to share was her genes. My father was eight years her junior but really loved her. When she said “I am having a boy and a girl, she meant it and told her physicians what they could do with their protestations of horror about how she was planning to kill herself. Well early in 1941 my adorable sister was born in the middle of the blitz, just about every natural law of survival was broken that day. She is still going strong, healthy, happy and extremely successful. Mum certainly won her case in that argument. However, my sister has far more of my father’s natural traits than my mother’s so perhaps her next quest for a son was justifiable. Nobody in the family or the medical world thought so. But she and dad must have done because, against all the odds, I saw the light of day in May 1942. But with me her luck ran out.

My birth took far more out of her than just me. All her reproductive bits were removed and she nearly died. She had seven more major abdominal operations by l949, describing her stomach as a map of the London Underground, and twice during that period my sister and I were told she had died. I have still got a copy of one obviously precocious obituary on her written in an early edition of the London Evening News; hastily taken down before the next edition. Her only complaint about this was that someone had said she was the first female to top the bill on a live radio broadcast of a Royal Variety show in front of King George the Vth. She said she wasn’t she was the second as her sister, the female half of their act, spoke the first word. I have heard a recording of the show and actually you cannot tell!

But there were two very, very difficult aspects of being brought up by mum in one’s young life, let’s say three to eight  years. Firstly she did not argue with her children. She told them what she wanted them to know, right from wrong true from false, autobiographical and theatrical reminiscences. If either of us disbelieved her or pointed out that other people’s accounts of many events she recounted did not tally with hers, she simply looked at us as though you were mad and changed the subject. My aunt, the other half of the act, always told a different version of everything but if you got them together, in the hope of making one concede, they simply turned the moment into an ad-libbed, cross-patter sketch that was as funny as anything you could ever hope to hear. Truth in retrospect was a complete non-starter in their world then. Actually when my aunt did write her autobiography in 1966 she got her own birthday wrong, the place she was born wrong and the ages of both her sons wrong. We never even bothered to tell her, she had her own highly successful weekly radio show by then and it was pointless.

The worst thing about living with mum, though, was her love of acting like a raving idiot whenever she was out in public with my sister and I. This was not often as she was bed ridden for two thirds of  the time throughout the whole of her life after my birth. But imagine getting on a bus with a mother who was often recognised by many passengers and who might tell the conductor that she was bankrupt and was taking her poor children to a shop in Kensington to sell their shoes. Then asking to be excused paying the fare. On that occasion she got away with it, but imagine what we went through aged seven and eight! That sort of behaviour went on all her life and probably the days which really tested my ability to survive maternal embarrassment was when I was thirteen and she was well enough to be invited to give out the prizes on school speech day. As she handed a handsomely bound, gold embossed complete set of Dickens to a boy who was top scholar in his year, she turned to the headmaster and remarked, “You can’t think much of this poor fellow, Father, if you expect him to wade through all this rubbish.” The audience liked it, I curled up.

But poor Mama really did suffer dreadfully and in 1957 developed chronic emphysema, a breathing congestion of the lungs which stopped her singing and greatly reduced her talking. She had to give up smoking and drinking. With her other illnesses, it also started to change her basically humorous and loving personality. She knew she was dying but just refused. She became very possessive of my sister and me and tried to run our lives. She would totally annihilate our boyfriends or girlfriends, so much so that at sixteen my sister told her she was never bringing a boy home again. She never did until she married very shortly before mum finally died. I had one girl who simply put up with mum for my sake, pitying her more than anything. “Oh, Ton,” her pet name for me, “Why does Ermyntrude (a character mum invented) still smoke  and drink like she does, she must know it’s hastening the end.” It was true, but Mama’s will power was phenomenal.  She managed to break us up when we wanted to marry later, but by then her mind had gone. It was still quite terrible.

In the interim period my father had been posted to Paris and I went to university at the Sorbonne and my sister in England. We had one last great family holiday in October 1961 which I have recounted elsewhere. That was the time we met the Pope (St.John XXIII) as a family and was the greatest reward she ever received for her constant faith. But through all those weird days of wealth, fame, embarrassment, love and suffering for all of us, I still managed to keep sane and survive the extraordinary part of my life I shared with her. I flew back from Saigon and was the only person with her when she died 28 years after giving me life. My only regret is that she never believed I had a dreadful phobia and anxiety neurosis from birth. I can only live with this because I genuinely think she both knew and recognised my torment yet blamed herself for it.

AWE


MY BIRTHDAY POST


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

five very diverse celebrations

MY BIRTHDAY POST

I’m not always 100% honest on this site, try as I might, but today I am. It’s my birthday. More importantly this is my 300th post – coincidence – and is also My Feast day (the reason my mother chose my name) – not a coincidence! Now be honest, did ANY of you know it was the feast of Saint Anton? Which of us do you want to hear about first? Let’s make it me.

These are just five of my most memorable birthdays in chronological order. My tenth birthday in 1952 stands out for lovely spring weather, the great fun in our huge mansion and grounds with 20 boys and girls at the party, and the first time I really felt I could not live without always being with one adorable person. The food and party were great, the games indoors and out were super, but then there was Glenda. We had known each other for five years by then and, when we crept away into the orchard and kissed properly for the first time in either of our lives, that day became simply unforgetable.

The next was in 1963, my twenty first. I was at University in Paris and also working in my spare time as a journalist. The family lived on the Ile St Louis behind Notre Dame in the middle of the Seine. Dad offered me money or a fairly expensive party for my 21st. You know me, I went for the party. The day was free, he paid for three of my best friends to come over from London and we had a whale of a time. My parents and sister and three friends had lunch at my favourite restaurant in the centre of Paris. We were well known there and it just went on and on until around four pm. The evening section was an enlarged party in our apartment at home and in the fashionable brasserie on the ground floor and corner of the street overlooking the river. It was Fairyland. We even threw tomatoes at passing gendarmes who could see it was a celebration and just waved. Not like today, children. But wonderful!

My next memorable celebration was only five years later. By then, 1968, I was Reuters’ News Editor for Indo China and living in Saigon. On April the 30th I flew to Vientiane in Laos to help set up the first diplomatic contacts which led to the Paris peace talks on Vietnam. I could not have written that fact at the time, everyone thought it was just a journalistic assignment, but I fortuitously happened to know the North Vietnamese consul in Laos from my university days. I could speak fluently to him, to the South Vietnamese representatives and of course the US negotiator, who the next year held a senior post in President Nixon’s administration. We thrashed out a format for both sides to at least start talking to each other. As a neutral, and the only person in the group who could understand all the others, I was almost Shanghaied into joining the diplomatic teams of three incredibly diverse sets of people. I liked my work too much to accept. But while away a major offensive broke out in Saigon on May 5th and four journalists, including three of my close friends, were killed that Sunday. I flew straight back. There followed two months of hell; running a major news service, arranging two funerals and writing to relatives of dead friends, making sure new staff understood what to do, and only one senior member of the company there with me. My May tenth that year would normally have passed unnoticed. But I had a lot of civilian friends in the British embassy, not least the  ambassador, a Scotsman who had known my mother when they were children, who would not hear of ignoring it. They all insisted we had a really great champagne knees-up round the embassy compound swimming pool to celebrate the most extraordinary birthday in my life.

And briefly two more birthdays that matter an credible amount to me. The first in 1990, the significance of which only became clear much later. My wife and I set out on a pleasant break to include my 48th birthday.  But when we settled down for a drink before dinner that evening she found she had gone off alcohol. Almost impossible. But it made her think and she told me she might, just might, be pregnant.  What a present! She soon found out she was and a fifteen year old prayer was later to be answered in the form of my youngest son. That whole story is more incredible than anything on this page and is told elsewhere. And fifth and most different to any celebration was my birthday in 2,000 ad. That was the day I received confirmation after a biopsy that I had a serious form of cancer. It changed the rest of my life completely when added to the other major illnesses I was fighting. But in one sense this is the perfect point at which to tell you about Saint Anton, or Antoninus as he is in Latin and as I was baptised.

Florence in 1446 was the centre of the Renaissance world. The greatest poets, philosophers emerging painters and  humanist statesmen were starting to question the Church’s right to make pronouncements on science and factual knowledge and political ideas which many wanted to see overthrown. As The Medici family in Florence were the richest people in Italy, probably Europe, and had even started using modern international banking techniques when trading, the world of the high middle ages and its spiritual obedience were coming to an end, as was the universal acceptance of Papal authority in affairs of state. But Florence had just lost its archbishop and fully expected Pope Eugene IV to appoint a princely, rich prelate to the very important post. He didn’t. He remembered regularly chatting to a Dominican Friar who so often pulled him up and advised him when he was about to sanction developments which might not be in the Church’s best interests. He told the City fathers and the Medici family that he was appointing a Dominican preacher whom they might not at first appreciate, but would eventually come to love.

Following one of the most inspired papal appointments of all time, Friar Antonino devoted the next thirteen years to teaching, by prayer, example and above all preaching the rich and somewhat ungodly renaissance Florentines what Christianity was really about. He kept a household of only four regular people. He sold all the cathedral treasures and gave the money to the poor. He housed beggars and the destitute in the vast cathedral rooms and built a huge new hostel for the sick and unfortunate in his city. But above all, by preaching quietly, with sincerity and conviction he managed to turn half the rich families of the magnificent city into the greatest philanthropists Tuscany has ever known. When he died, worn out through neglecting himself, in 1459, Pope Pius II insisted on personally conducting his funeral service. He was canonised sixty four years after his death. My mother knew absolutely nothing about him when she thought that the Anglicised version of Antoninus would be fine for her son.

To have a model like that to live up to is impossible. I pray every day of my life to be worthy to share his name, but I have to say that I have only succeeded in one way. I cannot turn away anyone in need, because God loves them. Be they saint or sinner, believer or infidel, this is the greatest virtue I have been blessed with thanks to all I know of what Saint Anton taught and did. I could never have devoted my life to God as he did, I have not got the will power needed to be that much of a saint. But the example of one man who did have has stayed with me every day of my life.

AWE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LUCIA’S SACRIFICE


HOPE IN VEIN


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

the gift of never giving up

HOPE IN VEIN

When cancer of the blood is at first diagnosed,

And a fairly short further life span is supposed,

Sufferers often just pray for not too much pain

Believing they’ll not see winter or spring again.

 

But thanks to modern drugs, and new techniques

This condition can be reversed for years not weeks.

And expectation of a longer life patients thus regain

Through intravenously giving them new hope in vein.

AWE

 

SNAP SHOTS


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

thanks for this prompt!

SNAP SHOTS

I was once told that blogging was the equivalent of keeping a diary. It was, one should say is, the digital diarist’s  method of recording for posterity the events of everyday life. I have not used it as such  yet because I have never been sufficiently bothered about daily events in my life in the past two or three years. It’s all been hospital visits, funerals and similarly forgettable reminders of my mortality. But this week has been different.

As many of my readers know I live on a diet of music, prayer and sport. Well, music and prayer are lovely but not quite the stuff of diaries. I am fortunate, though, in that I live with a lady who some forty years ago did me the great honour of becoming my second wife. Both of us  were widowed but, despite each fighting dreadful illnesses ever since we met in a London hospital, we have had two great things going for us. Firstly we fell in love on sight, Romeo and Juliet really does happen in real life, even to people with histories of terrible personal sadness like us. Secondly, she happened to be equally passionate about motor racing, cricket and her beloved home soccer club Liverpool. Geographically we had some slight problems as I supported the London team  Tottenham HotSpurs. She was also a red rose Lancastrian so supported Lancashire at cricket and  I support Surrey. A real North-South divide. But our love was strong enough for us always to be overjoyed when the other had success to celebrate. Just imagine this week.

I am recovering from my fifth stroke, the long term effects of a double spinal fracture when being the only survivor of a helicopter crash in Cambodia, suffering from osteoarthritis, am being treated for my third ulcer, have had cancer for sixteen years now, surviving three terminal prognoses,  and have been a martyr to agoraphobia since I was five and a half years old. My wife was dreadfully ill with claustrophobia -how we met – at university in London but still persisted in studying aeronautical engineering. She was the only woman on the team that designed the two main helicopters in use by the British military today. She retired young after contracting very bad pernicious anaemia and then had an acute heart problem, which resulted in major surgery last year. It is still not properly fixed. So would you expect to see us sitting up for two late nights this week in a state of frankly uncontrollable excitement, a condition extremely dangerous for both of us? No you wouldn’t, but listen to this.

Major sports events do something to us. We can’t explain it. But on Sunday night, it’s six hours later over here, my my wife said she’d watch some of the last round of the Masters golf from Augusta to keep my son and me company. His wife was  on an overnight shift, she’s a senior staff nurse at a Merseyside hospital’s acute blood cancer ward. But it was just to be sociable, after all we had no thoughts of an English victory. But Danny Willett had. As the leader, and certain winner, Jordan Spieth faltered  Danny compiled one of the most immaculate rounds in golfing history. Starting at level par he did not drop a shot on that round and when told he was leading proceeded to birdie the most notorious hole on the course and went on to win by three strokes having shot a five under par 67. 

It was past midnight, my wife was still on the sofa, fists pumping the air and all of us in a state of disbelief. It was great too because Danny nearly did not play as his wife had their first baby just two days before he flew out to the US and he was the last player to sign in for the championship. He also had with him a snap shot of his new son. Can you beat that? I can, listen.

Last night, in the key European UEFA cup, Liverpool were playing the second leg of their quarter final against cup favourites Dortmund. In Germany they had tied the first match 1-1 the week before. Naturally my wife was watching this game. But what a game! The Germans were 2-0 up after nine minutes and this meant Liverpool had to score three as away goals count double in the event of a draw on aggregate. I commiserated with her as this was still the score at half time. All she did was remind me that Liverpool came back from 0-3 down to win the European Cup final against Milan eleven years ago. I smiled in sympathy.

Three minutes into the second half Liverpool got one back, hope was bubbling up on the sofa, but the Germans made it 3-1 ten minutes later. It was all over. My wife looked at me in surprise, “There’s still enough time.” I felt sorry for her. Well that was until 12 minutes from the end when Liverpool made it 3-2. And it turned into disbelief when they got an equaliser to make it 3-3 on the night with two minutes to go. But the Germans would still go through on more away goals in a 4-4 aggregate.

Time was up, but there were four minutes extra time to be added on for stoppages and with just one minute and 53 seconds to go Liverpool somehow scored again with a snap header to take a 4-3 lead  (5-4 overall). And that was how it ended. Did my wife leap up in euphoric delight? No, she just looked a little surprised that my son and I had doubted the support of the home fans; and then she took a pill to control her pulse which was dangerously high.

The end? No, something else happened to warrant putting this story in any sports report ever written. A chap tweeted in, the TV commentators told us, who was also a Liverpool fan but had been forced to watch the game on his mobile phone while holding his wife’s hand as she gave birth to their first child. Their son entered this world just as Liverpool were scoring the winner.  Now babies don’t really have that much effect on sport, but twice in five days? That’s more than a coincidence and worthy of an entry in any diary.

AWE

 

BODY AND SOUL


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/yawn/”>( YAWN )</a>

slowly getting better. meanwhile another repeat.

RECITATIVE 3

        BODY AND SOUL

In May, the lovers’ month, before day’s dawn

My soul first saw our world one Sunday morn

As I, gently, from my mother’s womb was torn.

My eyes were shut, yet my soul could clearly see

The severed cord that had fed and bonded me.

Preparing the body in which it ever was to be

My other self, protecting and loving but also sad

When my will was stronger than it and I was bad.

And yet I loved its heavy censure for I was daily glad

Whenever united with God in prayer and holy love.

As I grew up my soul bound me to Heaven above.

But even a soul can wield iron fist in velvet glove

If correction is the way it shows its sacred care

For our salvation and makes us, in confession, bare

Our forbidden actions – be she the fairest of the fair.

If how we love is outside God’s laws, and thus a sin,

The soul is our conscience which draws us back within

Heaven’s family, God’s children, His kith and kin.

Yet love twixt boy and girl is beautiful and pure

If they in constancy let their passionate hearts endure

A lifetime of keeping their loving vows and so ensure

Temptations of the flesh lead them never so astray

That lust or jealousy leads either one to have to pay

The sorry price of admitting faltering, even for a day.

The soul, our sacred messenger and spiritual friend,

Knows our worst misdeeds. It tells us how to mend

Our ways and thus try to live our lives unto their end

In such a way that God will be with us for all time

And smile on how we tried, ‘oft slipping, still to climb

The steepest mountains to our final goal sublime.

But, if I can live a life from which all bad deeds are hurled

Back to hell. Then may  I truly say, with all hope unfurled,

I paid for all  my sins and so all is well with the world.

AWE

PRESENT TENSE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/write-here-write-now/”>Write Here, Write Now</a>

I think I managed the prompt .

 

                  PRESENT TENSE

I can feel a phobic panic attack about to start,

And expecting it is the most frightening part.

I cannot escape as it relentlessly draws near,

Apprehension is far worse than the final fear.

 

By then helpless terror has me in its grasp,

Choking I cannot shout, or breathe or gasp.

I am at the mercy of all I irrationally dread;

Oh. God please take me. Would I were dead!”

 

I cannot move, screwed to where I stand

Unable to seek help with voice or hand.

Instinctively I fight, faint, fall, and sweat,

I Suffer awful mental pain, and yet…

 

Now, when it is over, and once again I’m sane,

And have restored my control of limbs and brain,

I try hard to relax, but remain totally quite numb

Mind and  body awaiting the next attack to come!

AWE

MY MIDNIGHT STROKE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/stroke-of-midnight/”>Stroke of Midnight</a>

I went to bed early last night, so here’s an old one !

                                      MY MIDNIGHT STROKE

    This story of a New Year revel takes me back many moons to the thirty first of December when I was seventeen and a half and left to my own devices at the year’s close for the first time in my life. My grandmother was on a world tour, my father on business in America, my sister staying with two school friends and my mother in hospital feeling very cut up after some serious surgical intervention. Being Scottish mama insisted one should always usher in the new year. So, true to family tradition, at around eight pm that evening I set out around the cinemas of our capital city to find myself an usherette.

    An usherette, in the Britain in which I grew up, was the girl in the cinema with a torch who showed you to your seat if you arrived in the middle of a film. During various intermissions she would double up as the popcorn and ice cream seller. If you went to a really posh cinema in London’s West End a quite superior harpy would take your coat and hang it up for you, but such luxuries were seldom found in the suburbs. I lived in a very rich suburb, but this largesse did not extend to palaces of black and white screens and giggling back row couples. The Odeon was a popular place for cuddles in the back row stalls and I felt sure I would be able to find an usherette to my liking. My sole aim was to take her somewhere for a midnight drink after the last film and keep up the family tradition.

As luck would have it the main film that weekend was Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds in ‘The Tender Trap’. Are any of you old enough to remember this run of the mill musical? It followed the previous week’s showing of ‘White Christmas’, you know Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen making the ultimate Christmas film of all time. What we had to put up with when we were young! But back to my nocturnal pursuits. As I bought my ticket and entered the cinema the usherette came up to me to light my way to a seat when she saw who I was. Have you ever stiffled an exclamation of joyous surprise just as Frank and Debbie were about to embrace? It goes like this.

    “My God, Anton!”

    “ShShSh”

    I, sotto voce, “Kate! But you’re far too young to do this when there may be X rated films on!”

    “Oh,”shshshsh, “Sorry! Thanks, but I can easily look old enough when I have to!”

   “Not twenty one you can’t!”

   “Look, do you want to park your Arkansas or shall I call the manager and have you thrown out?”       Totally muffled guffaws from both parties. I slid into the very back row just two seats along as the first five were empty. I also skillfully switched off Kate’s torch. Then I whispered in her ear as I pulled her into the seat next to me,

   “I bet they paid you before the last house and this is just a one week holiday job. The manager will probably even have gone to a party by now. They never get full houses on New Year’s Eve. Am I right?” She nodded.

   “Then, my sweet, you have just gone off duty and when this rubbish ends in twenty minutes we needn’t wait for the newsreel and ads we can just leave.”

    “Oh, can we? And what makes you think I .. oh,..oh… no stop it. Well, I suppose it is New Year. …mmm…..okay you win. Where shall we go?”

    An arm slid round her shoulders and I snatched a kiss on her neck while starting to whisper…”Back to my place. I have 37 empty rooms. The family are all away. We can tell your mum we’re at a party.”

    “Can we? Some cheek! ….oh,oh… yes,… whose party, Anton? She knows your mum’s ill. Is your elder sister throwing a bash?” I smiled.

    “No, she’s round at Linda’s for the night, but I feel too Garboesque to join anyone. Well not including you if you are all alone at such a time. So sad.”

   “Don’t do that!… We’d better go now while I can still sneak out without being seen. Come on, Romeo. I never imagined tonight would be such fun. Have you brought your car?”

   “No, dad’s Jaguar. He won’t mind he’s in New York. Also if I’m driving I have to behave myself in the car.”

  “Never stopped you before, “ was her grinning answer. We arrived at my family mansion around half past ten. Now Kate was only a couple of months younger than I but even so I did not want to offer her any alcohol she was not used to. Apart from anything else I had known her for several years and liked her too much to take advntage of her. But she was not looking at the bottles of booze or even at me. Our Christmas decorations seemed to mesmerise her.

   “Oh, Anton you have done the house up beautifully. I have always loved this drawing room, but the streamers over the piano and the huge Christmas tree through the doors in the conservatory, it’s just like fairyland. What shall we do?” I suddenly realised I hadn’t got a clue. Television was a big no, no at New Year and I’ve explained the drinking problem, so I was just about to suggest we sit down on the huge, comfy sofa when she really surprised me.

    “Could I ask for a New Year’s gift? It won’t cost you anything.” I momentarily thought the floor was about to open up beneath me and take my morals with it. What did she want? I never thought she’d suggest it!

    “Anton everyone tells me how well you play the piano, and yet I have never heard you because ..well..oh dear this is awkward.. you see mummy says….”

    “I gave her an affectionately understanding look. “Don’t feel any embarrassment, Kate, I know what everyone says behind my back. ‘He’s got this terrible mental illness and can’t do anything he’s good at in front of other people’. Or some such rubbish. I’m right aren’t I?”

   A tear rolled down her cheek. “Yes, I am sorry. People do say awful things about you, but so very few of us have ever heard you play. It’s said you can only play for one person at a time. Is that true, and if it is could it be me tonight? Jacqueline says you are a brilliant classical pianist and I love really good music. Would you play me something? Please!” Actually I had never felt more like playing something I really liked. But I asked her to choose. I told her I had a fairly large repertoire. Then it was my turn to be staggered.

   “I believe you love Liszt and your music master has told people you can actually play the whole of the twelve transcendetal etudes right through. I’ll be as quiet as a mouse, and even if takes just over an hour we’ll still have time to cuddle up on the couch with a drink to bring in the new year”. I could hardly believe it. I agreed at once and we both settled down to an hour of quite unusual and unexpected pleasure.

   It was twenty minutes to midnight when I finished and went to the fridge and opened a bottle of Champagne. This won’t knock you out or make you ill will it?

   “After that music, nothing you could offer me could do anything other than make me happier than I’ve ever been. This is a great, great New Year’s Eve. My best ever, thank you.” So we snuggled up in front of the log fire, a glass of bubbly in our free hands and our other arms round each other as we just smiled and kissed affectionately for a few minutes. Then I turned on the radio to hear Big Ben chime midnight and say goodbye to 1959.

   “Got any really important resolutions, Kate?” I asked, gently brushing the blonde curls from in front of her eyes. She had a far away look in her eyes and troubled expression that was half really happy yet half sad.

   “I had thought I was going to be really good this year and try to help as many people in need as I could. But after tonight I have to be honest, Anton. What I really want in 1960 is to fall in love. But that’s not something you can plan or arrange, is it? It either happens or it doesn’t. What’s your resolution?”

   I almost couldn’t tell her. “As we’re being honest Kate, I hoped that by the end of the year I would have made love to someone for the first time in my life. But like you, that’s not something I can plan or arrange. You see I could only bring myself to do it if the girl was as fond of me as I would have to be of her. And if I met her I might not even know at first. So we both seem to have landed ourselves with obvious but probably impossible resolutions.”

    It was the way she let me stroke her hair so gently as we held each other very close, and downed the last drop of Champagne half an hour later, that left us both lost. We looked quizzically at each other and then collapsed in each other’s arms.

    And do you know something? Later that day around noon neither of us knew whether we had yet kept our resolutions or not.

AWE

NO CHANGE IN MY PURSE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/a-brand-new-you-effective-tomorrow/”>A Brand New You, Effective Tomorrow</a>

Tomorrow you get to become anyone in the world that you wish. Who are you? You can choose to be anyone alive today, or someone gone long ago.

 

                               NO CHANGE IN MY PURSE  

 

At last, a prompt after my own heart! It might win it too. What a choice. My first inclination was to go for someone from ages past, Cleopatra.

Do I see raised eyebrows around the yuletide fire? I have a reason. Think of all the money it would save me not having to go to Brasil for an extremely expensive sex change operation. Yes, but then I would have to want to become a woman, and I don’t. I have not long mastered the art of being totally male, masculine as well, so I think being queen of the Nile would not attract me that much. And all that fiddling with the asp. God what a way to go. No I’ll stay gendered as I am.

But the question still arises shall I be someone whose life I know in full or someone still with us? A tricky question that. You see if I knew when I was born, how I lived and when I died I would have no more surprises left. But I would have the advantage of knowing all the mysteries of the next life. Yet then I would have to choose to be someone who was deemed almost a saint while on earth. Hmm…. I’m not sure I could quite manage to resist as much temptation as that. But I would like to be certain that Heaven lay in wait for me because I really would miss my friends in paradise.

But on looking around at the people alive today the choice is awful. Age is very important. Would I want to be a young, shy, lovelorn youth tongue tied whenever he met a girl who tickled his fancy? No, I couldn’t go through all that again. It’s fun to look back on but was hell to go through.

Well would I like to be a dashing hero in his early twenties, king of pop, God of sport or Hollywood actor who had every female in the world panting after him? Well good looking enough, yes, but fighting them off? Oh no. That would put me off passion fruit for life, and true love might pass me by completely.

Well, how about a successful 40 something with loads of cash and able to shower everything he wished on his adored wife and kids? Yes, but it could become boring. And much as I loved her she might be enamoured of ‘another’ and where would that leave me? With enough money to get drunk in my misery every night and die of alcoholic poisoning at an early age.

This is actually getting quite tricky. The problem with aiming to be someone aged 60 plus would mean keeping up a variety of interests to stop me reflecting on nearing my end while entering the last quarter of my allotted span. Well if I could be a head of  state or government that might serve, but look at the crowd we’ve got around today. I cannot think of any government leader with whom I would swap places. But there would be many, I am sure, who might be happy to live as obscurely as I do.

So I think that in the end I might just settle for being me. Okay I am seriously ill – 2016 might never change its last digit – but at least I can look back with pleasure on those I have loved in my life, on the happy as well as the sad moments and, above all, reflect that all in all I haven’t had such a bad time. Okay I’ve been caught up in seven wars, but I have also covered four olympic games, many top sporting events including a lot of major golf and tennis tournaments. Also I have made friends both with heads of state and workers in the poorest quarters of the world helping the ill, the old, the destitute and the bereaved. And most importantly of all I know I have not lived the life of a hero or a saint, but those moments when my courage has failed me, or temptation has been too great for me to resist, have never depressed me so much that I have lost my love of God or the people he created.

No, I’ll brave it out and see how much longer I have to go. But the one regret I will always have is that I will not be around to see how all the grand designs for the future, as set out by today’s ideologists, actually pan out. But maybe a friend or two in Heaven might let me have a peek at earth in 3000 AD if I’m a very good boy!

AWE