Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas

Category: autobiography

MY “FAN”TASY WORLD


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

Are you a sports fan? Tell us about fandom. If you’re not, tell us why not.

 

                                       MY “FAN”TASY WORLD

Yes I am a sports fan, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, because I follow most sports with a deep and admiring passion. Also I am a sports fan in  the specific sense that I support particular teams and sportsmen and women above others in many different sports. I have also enjoyed playing a lot of sports very competitively, some very well, myself.

But I am afraid that I cannot discuss the subject of ‘fandom’, as the prompt setter requests, for the word does not exist. Shame really because the true lover of sport actually lives in a FANtasy world. Think about it. As a supporter of any team or person the true fan gets far more fun out of making up their own version  of what will happen before a contest in which they see their heroes winning, than having to live in the real world where no side or contestant ever wins every single time they play!

But being a fan only reflects what one would like to happen. The real sports follower is the person who actually supports their team or player by going to watch them, paying out money to be there and savour the moment be it glory or despair. But I am too ill now to go to live sports events and have to watch my heroes and heroines on television. But I still get worked up. My doctor says dangerously so and has banned me watching some sports teams in case they make me ill. If Scotland win a rugby international, Jenson Button wins a formula one motor race or Neil Robertson a snooker tournament I get quite animated and have to take tranqilisers. This applies to specific tournaments as well. The golf and tennis majors get me very uptight just because of their importance, and as for the Olympic Games, winter or summer, it’s the quest for British or Australian gold that turns me to jelly.

Now I live in a family where we are all as bad as each other. My late parents were cricket, soccer and rugby mad, my sons are keen followers of everything sporting and my daughter-in-law  cannot get enough track and field, gymnastics or tennis. I support Surrey at cricket and my wife Lancashire. Believe me when they play four-day long games against each other twice every summer not only do we have the daily eight hour, ball by ball, commentary on our separate tablets, but we hardly exchnge a civil word! You really can get that involved. Luckily we both support the same sides in everything else or our beautiful marriage would not be anything like as idyllic as it is.

But I have to admit that I really do place a large percentage of the greatest moments in my life  on sports fields or in arenas and at circuits  where great deeds  have been performed. And of all the sporting moments I have seen and gone over the moon about in 67 years the greatest is still back in October 1960. It was when Bill Maseroski hit that home run off the last pitch in the last inning of the last game to give the Pirates a 4-3 world series win over the Yankees in the greatest contest in any sport in my lifetime. Odd, isn’t it, because I have never been to a baseball match or played the game, but the fire my Pennsylvanian uncle put in my belly when talking about his team lit up like a beacon as I followed those seven games on the radio when I was at university in Paris.

I wish I understood what motivates sports FANatics. I mean just imagine my calm, sedate wife leaping six feet in the air off the lounge sofa and pumping the air with both fists when Button came from last to overtake the entire field in the last few laps and passed, the then unstoppable, Sebastien Vettel on the last corner to win that year’s Canadian Grand Prix motor race. That’s not love, it’s not charity – heavens only knows what it is. But if you suffer from bouts of human reaction at sports events like we all do then you know what I’m talking about. I just wish I did.

AWE

 

LOVE, FEAR AND SURVIVAL


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/safety-first/”>Safety First</a>

The closest I have ever come to death.

 

LOVE, FEAR AND SURVIVAL

The only way to discover whether or not the main force of the rebel troops was on the Vietnamese side of the river when dawn broke was to risk taking helicopter reconnaisance flights along the edge of the river. This way we hoped to spot them before they took cover in the dense forest a few miles north of the temporary press corps H.Q.

It was a question of who would travel in the main helicopter, which held some 20 people, and who would fly in the little observation craft which only had room for the pilot and a gunner or journalist. The 23 members of the press who were assembled agreed to draw lots so 20 would go in the large Chinook and three would be alone in a small aircraft with just the pilot. Lucy had come out of the tent to watch. She was obviously very nervous and implored me not to go.

Darling do you have to? You could ask the others what’s happening when they return.” No way. I shook my head as I kissed and hugged her. She broke down and said she could not whatch them drawing lots for the unlucky three, so returned to a safer point. I drew a short straw.

The small helicopter I was in had an an excellent view of a wide strip of the River and I could see there were no troops anywhere near our position. I ordered the craft to return to base, but at that moment several shots rang out. The pilot, Charlie, shouted over the noise of the engine and rotor blades, “Don’t worry Sir, I can land her”. I was not so sure. In fact I was petrified and felt an awful panic attack starting.

The aircraft started to drift towards the treetops on the river bank getting further and further away from the press tents, until eventually they could not be seen at all. It was only then that Charlie admitted he thought the had lost a rotor blade and might not get the chopper down. I started to sweat and choke as we descended fast into the edge of the forest. About 25 feet from the ground I could risk no more ,

I’m going to jump Charlie, you will never land this thing”, were the last words I shouted. In desperation I pushed the gun mounting across my lap to one side, unfastened my straps and jumped. A branch almost hit me in the face but I somehow managed to hang onto it for a second or two slowing down my fall. Then I watched in horror as the whole aircraft exploded in a fireball above me. The branch snapped and I fell a long way before hitting the ground in agony and sank into merciful unconsciousness. I did not know it but I was trapped between a tree and the river bed half in the water and half wedged between two tree roots. Before entering the water, I learned later, my back had cracked against the tree trunk as I slid towards the Mekong.

I have decided to write the next part of this episode in my life in the third person, as my friends later described to me everything that happened on that last day that I worked with Lucy in Indo China. She had insisted on coming to Cambodia on my third posting there, saying that waiting for news of me in Singapore or Saigon was far worse.

———————

The Chinook had not taken off when a helicopter was seen descending fast into the trees to the north of the journalists’ camp. Military personnel rushed towards the direction in which it was coming down when an almighty explosion totally destroyed the aircraft and its remains showered down into the trees. Nobody knew who was in it but radio contact with all three observation craft was made immediately. The pressmen on the large craft streamed off to see what was happening and the senior officer told them what had happened. He was still talking when Lucy raced up. Mike saw her and stopped her, putting his arms round her shoulder.

Luce, we don’t know which chopper it is yet, but they are checking the other two by radio now. I think we’d better wait here till we know who’s been lost. I’m afraid Anton, Joe and the Belgian radio man were the three in the small craft.” She almost fainted on Mike’s chest. Then she fell to her knees,

Oh dear God, not Anton. Please, not my ‘Ton.” She had seen so much horror in her time in Indo China that Mike knew she could not take this if it was her husband. They listened as the colonel updated everyone.

Ladies and gentlemen the two helicopters that are still airborne and safe contain Mr Joseph Williams of the United Press and Monsieur Guy Bichaud of the Belgian radio. We have no news of the condition or whereabouts of th…..at this point Lucy collapsed completely round Mike’s ankles and he knelt down and put his arms round her. He could not see her face but other friends and colleagues who approached them saw the tears streaming down his face. Of the people in that jungle clearing he was not the only one who could not control his feelings.

As the inferno that many of the military had seen explode in the trees by the waters’ edge was still crackling in the jungle, it was accepted that Anton and the pilot had both perished. The question of what to do with and for Lucy seemed to be the biggest problem. It was arranged that a small convoy would return to Saigon when she was recovered enough. However, this took several hours and it was well after noon before everyone was ready to set off. But just as they were about to leave one of the native scouts came running into the clearing waving his arms and then making for the US officers’ headquarters. He was met by one of the Americans, who spoke Vietnamese, and he in turn signalled to the convoy to wait. Then he ran across to the jeep that Mike and Lucy were in.

Mrs.Wills-Eve, hang on we may have some news. But please don’t hold out too much hope.” Lucy had been given some tranquilisers and did not seem too clear what was going on. Just as well. “Some native villagers on the riverbank have reported seeing a man jump from that helicopter before it exploded. He swung on a branch for a minute or two and then fell. But although they have searched the area they have found nothing. But I have told the colonel and he says we must have a proper search before it gets too dark. Some men have set off already.” The effect of this news on a confused Lucy was odd. She seemed to assume her husband had been found, but could not understand why he wasn’t with her. Mike took her back to the tent to calm her down.

The search went on until the very quick sunset began over the Mekong, and they were just giving up when an unmistakable whimper rather than a cry was heard coming from the bank. Two troopers reached Anton first and then stood back in horror.

He’s alive sir,” they said to their officer, “but he seems hurt real bad. Do we have a medic with this team?” They did, and men with a makeshift stretcher were also on hand. In the fading light the doctor could not see how badly hurt the patient was, but from the angle of his back, the length of time he must have been half in the water and the pitiful soft groans that were now constant, they all knew he had to be got to a hospital as quickly as possible. They carried him gently but speedily to the HQ where has was transferred to a proper ambulance to be driven to Saigon.

Lucy gradually returned to normal and could not contain her hope that they had reached her husband in time. She was present when he was carried towards the ambulance and dashed over to him. She looked down at him and realised how badly hurt he was. But as she got into the ambulance she thanked God that at least he was alive.

—————————————–

I have no recollection of anything before waking up in a sunny ward in a military hospital with an awful pain in my back and unable to move my legs. I was on my own and only the US flag on the wall of the ward told me where I was. But within minutes a male nurse came in and seeing I was awake imediately rushed to tell doctors, nurses and best of all Lucy. Without even knowing how badly hurt I was she put her arms round my neck and kissed me, the tears streaming down her face. I tried to raise my hands to touch her face but the pain was too much. I could barely speak, either and yet I had to ask her to let go of me as she was hurting me so much. She shot back in horror and then collapsed on a chair by the bed, her head in her hands.

The next few days, I had no idea it was more than a week at the time , were taken up with getting me sufficiently fit enough to be told I was being flown to hospital in America and my wife was coming with me. The day before we left Mike put his head round the door and was allowed to chat to me for a few minutes. Lucy told me how much he had helped her, but all he said was,

“You know how much I owe you, fellah, it was the least I could do.” The journey from the hospital to the plane was dreadfully painful but Lucy’s hand was better than any pain killers. She told me she had given the medical authorities a full run down on my health and soon I could feel the aircraft taking off as we set out on a new chapter in our life. How I would cope with my partial paralysis or occasional memory loss I had no idea. But I had my Lucy and what we did next is another story which you must remind me to tell you some time.

AWE

 

EYE TO I


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/the-artists-eye/”>The Artist’s Eye</a>

let he who as eyes to see, behold……

 

EYE TO I

I refuse to believe that anybody alive who has seen a painting, sculpture or any similar type of work of art has not reacted either positively or negatively to it in some way. I do not mean that everyone is an art lover, heavens no, but that art does not draw some level of response from the beholder I find very difficult to accept.

In my own case I am very lucky that I have travelled widely around the globe and seen many of the most beautiful paintings of all time. But which do I admire most in the sense that they have had the longest lasting, or made the strongest impression on me? Well given that I used to take visiting friends round the main galleries in Paris, London and Florence when I was at University you would probably expect me to be primarily a lover of Western Art. And then again a trip to the USA and their museums followed by my almost four years in the Far East could have touched a chord in me that reacted melifluously with Eastern art, but you would be wrong. Ever since I was about ten years old I was always fascinated by Byzantine inspired iconography and this reached its apotheosis when, in 1971, I spent a few days in Moscow and fell hopelessly under the spell of Andrei Rublev (c 1362 to 1429). Most art historians’ consider him to have been the greatest Russian Mediaeval painter. There are many, I included, who place him the greatest of all time.

But why should such basically not fully developed artistic works move me so much compared to the many later masters of other genres? A simple, single word answer. Love. He portrayed it as few others have ever managed, and more consistently peacefully and spiritually than anyone else at all. This is an example of his famous painting of the Holy Trinity, (see below) kept today in Moscow and through all Russia’s turbulent ages since it was painted around 1410, was always revered and guarded as a national treasure. It is the quiet, happy quality of the expressions of the mystery of God, his son and the Holy Spirit, happy and tranquil in their Trinity, that are literally a century earlier than any other school of art depicted anywhere.

Andrey_Rublev_-_Св._Троица_-_Google_Art_Project

Now my univrsity studies, mediaeval history, iconography, hagiography and philosophy never had any bearing on my future career as a journalist. But as I said it did give me the opportunity to take friends and relatives round famous galleries where most of them drooled over Leonardo, or the impressionists or cubists, – though how you could drool while squinting I cannot imagine – . Yet I always found myself going back to my early roots and to Byzantium and its following centuries of influence over Eastern European art for nearly a thousand years. I found myself lost in the universal good sense of the artist in realising, and managing to portray at the same time, the quality that is most important in spiritual love. His portraits show that anyone can love and forgive anyone else if they keep their feelings and emotions of revenge, anger and violence under total control when separating the person, the sinner if you like, from the the evil deeds they may have committed. Look at Rublev’s portrait of saint Paul, (below), that hangs in a Moscow gallery. Who else has ever depicted the writer of so many important letters on how men should live and behave to please others, and ultimately God, without a suggestion of censure in the face? And even more clever, note the way the majority of the head is bald, suggesting a wisdom beyond the ordinary. Few, if any, painters have captured those dual aspects of the author of so many early epistles.

800px-Rublev_Paul

But my favourite painting (below) of Rublev’s, which Mocow at the hight of the cold war also blessed me with, was Rublev’s beautiful picture of the Angel Gabriel telling the Virgin Mary reassuringly, “Don’t worry my dear. There’s nothing wrong. God has done something wonderful for you, you are to have his son.” And as Gabriel smiles, so we can just see the light of an uncertain joy starting to form on the face of our Lady. You may not believe the Christmas story, but if, like me, you do, then that work of art sums up the most beautiful moment in our history more perfectly than anything else I have ever seen. I may be a Catholic but I am so glad the Orthodox church canonised Rublev in 1988.

Annunciation_from_Vasilyevskiy_chin_(1408,_Tretyakov_gallery)

So all I have left to say to all of you, whatever you believe or like looking at, is have a very Happy Christmas, for that is what Andrei Rublev would have wanted you to have.

AWE

OUR PRODUCTIVE HOURS


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/because-the-night/”>Because the Night</a>

the most productive time of day, or is it night?

                OUR PRODUCTIVE HOURS

Isn’t it lucky I’m not a woman? No, listen; not that way! I mean in the context of the prompt. If I was a woman then I would know what  my most productive time was, all my kids would be born at times the doctors noted as they delivered the babies. It’s easy for the the fair sex to know such things beyond doubt.

But it’s very unfair on the unfair sex. How are we supposed to remember? I mean my late first wife and current second wife were gorgeous and eminently loveable at any time of the day. I am no prude but you surely don’t want me to go into details do you?

You do!? Okay, well firstly I have to count up the children I have and see if I can work it out. No, you’re right it’s hopeless. Gemma, my little girl who was killed, could have been begotten  at any one of four times between midnight and eight am. Then The twins were almost certainly sometime in the late afternoon. My eldest boy was the victim of gestation on a Malayan Beach at around 3.00am, I think, and my youngest son was definitely around eleven at night, in a hotel by the seaside in England. Then…..

What are you looking at me like that for? How the hell should I know how many more I’ve got? Some women never tell you anything!

 

AWE 

 

 

LAST IN TRANSLATION


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/third-rate-romance/”>Third Rate Romance</a>

the gift of tongues

 

          LAST IN TRANSLATION

 

What was I supposed to do? It was not just my first term or first week at university but my very first day. And to make it worse I had only been living in the country for just over a month and was eighteen years and four months old. But the academic authorities at the Sorbonne in Paris were very understanding and, for all first year non-French students, they laid on two hours of French language lessons twice a week for the whole of the first year.

It was late September and that was supposed to be enough to get our written scholarly French up to the standard of any clever French so and so by the end of the following May. Well I just looked round the classroom of twenty nine students and wondered if I could even talk vaguely sensibly to any of them. Okay, my French, Spanish and Italian were usable as I had studied them to university level at school in England, but I had never spent any lengthy spell of time chatting or writing to natives of those countries.

And worse, much worse, half that class seemed to be German, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, and at least six varieties of Asians with whom I knew I hadn’t a chance. Oh well, I shrugged my shoulders and supposed we were all in the same boat. But we weren’t.

The chap in charge of his polyglot flock seemed very pleasant but spoke only in slow, correct and basic French. He told us that if anyone had serious problems he did have some English, Spanish, German, Russian and Italian so could try to help students from those countries but only when absolutely necessary. I almost gave up my scholasitic ambitions there and then because the prospect was daunting. But I had always had a roving eye and, as we could sit where we liked, I saw a really cute little Asian girl and bowed slightly before sitting next to her. My intentions were not totally linguistic. She smiled broadly and made a valiant effort to start a conversation.

“Qui escque que tu crois que est votre pays et nomme, Monsieur?” Boy! I could be in here, her French was much worse than mine. I spoke politely and slowly and said,

“Je suis Anglais, Mademoiselle, et je m’appelles Anton.” Her eyes lit up, as she floored me with her reply.

“Ohh! You GI Joe, no?” I shook my head as I repeated her no. Then an idea struck me. I had a historical atlas with me in my briefcase which I had been given that morning in the lecture theatre, so I opened it at a map of Europe and pointed firmly to England.

“Anglais!” I almost shouted pointing at my own chest. She frowned and then comprehension spread over her enlightened face.

“Blitish man?” she suggested a little tentatively. “You Blitish man, no GI. You fight for my countly 1953. You in Middersec legiment? So my father also, too. Hey, we beat clap outta dem commies, yeah?” This, I could tell might not turn out to be one of my best choices of amorous partner. I thought the only way to help this delightful South Korean girl, she must have been, surely, was to remind her we had to talk and work in French.

“Tell me your name, and reply in French.” The perfect reposte I thought. I was wrong. She was so pleased to find someone on whom she could practise her pidgin English that she at once shook her head.

“No, my pop tell me learn language good and plopper. So you and me we go out all time for you teach to me number one Blitish. Okay?” Well she was very pretty so why not? I smiled back,

“After this lesson we will go out together and I will teach you to speak English very well.”

“Fine,” she said. “but no funny business, okay? I got brack belt in kalate, see. No monkey business.” In truth it had never been my primary intention to play primates with her so I agreed, and after that lesson I never spoke to her again. Anyway, by then, I was eyeing a really dishy blonde on the other side of the room hoping to heavens she didn’t turn out to be as Francophobic as my first acquaintance.

AWE

PLUS ÇA CHANGE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sorry-im-busy/”>Sorry, I’m Busy</a>

I should have written this years ago!

PLUS ÇA CHANGE

We have a very interesting debate going on in the media in Britain at the moment centred round probably the most emotive and disturbing subject that has done a complete U turn in my life time. But before continuing let me make it clear that I am not writing anything other than an account of how acceptable behaviour has changed in the past sixty years. I am telling my own version of what I have observed and why I am very worried at how easy it is to change different classes of society’s perception of right and wrong, and hatred and acceptance, without actually changing much conduct at all. Just making the sins of the rich available to everyone.

When I was growing up as a young boy, let us say at the age of ten in 1952, three aspects of sexual pratice among people of all ages was seen as being very definitely the worst things anyone could do. One was being a practising homosexual, the second a practising prostitute and the third being a practising paedophile. One of these has since been legalised, one made illegal and the third abominated as the worst crime of all. Incredibly, members of the public have been told it is a criminal offence to oppose the first change. A new and inaccurately stupid word, ‘homophobia’, has even been coined to allow people to be charged with so called ‘hate crimes’. I know why things were as they were in 1950 and why they changed, but I have no idea why the emotive hate aspect had to be brought in to justify changes in the law.

Take a typical central London street in 1950, say in the West End; eg. Soho. Prostitutes were allowed to solicit openly because they provided a ‘service’ that was not something against which legisation had ever been introduced. Homosexuality was condemned because many upper class people held hypocritical views about Victorian morality and, although practising homosexual acts a lot of the time from their schooldays onwards, – both sexes, – were socially ashamed to admit this. So they either never spoke of it or ranted against it. But where did that leave youngsters of my age who were told that some things were wrong and dreadful while experiencing the horror of watching ordinary people either committing such acts themselves? Or worse, being abused by the very people who preached to them that such behaviour was disgusting? Well here is my experience.

My mother’s side of the family were all on the stage or in some branch of the entertainment business and with my sister, a year older, we often spent a lot of time in top theatre dressing rooms with members of the family. But we had been well instructed in the dangers of allowing homosexuals anywhere near us because they might influence the way we perceived sexual practices both then and later in life. The important thing was that we were never made afraid that any so called ‘pervert’ was going to sexually abuse us as children in any way at all. Actually it was mostly exhibitionist lesbians and male dancers who flaunted their homosexuality, but we found it amusing and actually got to know and like quite a few of them. So I asked one of the monks at my school, I was a catholic at a school run by a religious order, why I should not make friends with people my mother thought could have a bad influence on me or set a lasting bad example. The answer was superb.

“Anton, any sexual act outside marriage, no matter what combination of genders, is against the ten commandments, therefore a sin and therefore you shouldn’t do it.” You have to admit that was pretty straightforward, down the line and spot on; but it was how he dealt with my reply that I did not understand until I was nineteen!

“Father, why are sexual acts between people who enjoy them any worse than breaking any other commandment? I shouldn’t tell lies, but we both know that and do it all the time. Why is one worse than the other?” Listen to this reply.

“Because by the age you are now (I was then 11) you understand why lying is a sin and why you shouldn’t do it. You won’t understand sexual misdeeds until you are old enough to have experienced them. So you have to be told in advance what to look out for and then avoid it.” What a confusing load of rubbish to tell someone my age who did know and did understand anyway. From then on I formed my own philosophy about ‘sins of the flesh’ as they called them. Yes, they were sins but there were good reasons why people committed them, as with all sins. But what changed?

Well first we had a law passed in the late fiftys making soliciting in public illegal for reasons which I never understood. A lot of my female acquaintances round the theatres were on the game. I knew they were, they never threatened me and as often as not they had a good sense of humour and my sister and I were too young to see any harm they were doing. Even so they were soon classified as criminals if they sought to sell themselves in public.

A long time later the outcry against homosexuality began to die down because, as my generation grew up, we could not accept that those who did not like having sex with people of the opposite gender should be criminally marginalised just because of the biological natures and predelections with which they were born. A man can love a man just as much as he can a woman, and so too with women. It was this realisation that led to the changing of the law to make it okay for anyone to have sex with anyone else no matter who they were. The logic is simply that one person’s sexual preferences, though sinful, are not something which they can help and is not a fit subject for legal interference. But there is a point where it is.

If people start telling other people that having sexual relations with anyone at all just because you enjoy it is not wrong, then the moral dimension comes in and that is where so many people get inordinately over heated and concerned both ethically and emotionally. Well as I’ve said I know what constitutes a sin and what does not so I have no problem in this way. But I certainly would if I found anybody trying to make another person commit a sin when that person did not know why it could be wrong. And, as the law stands, if I interfered in such a case where homosexuality was concerned  I would be liable to be jailed, but not if I told someone they should not be adulterous!

Insane? Yes, of course and nothing to do with free speech. Just the failure of the politically correct to see my point of view, which is that if I love someone I would not want them to be encouraged to do wrong. Done with compassion that is an act of love not hate. And it goes as much for people trying to seduce others into acts of heterosexual adultery or any other type of sin. What I should never do, and never have, is insult or berate a homosexual just because I know that is the nature with which they were born. But then you shouldn’t do that to anybody simply because their natures are different to yours.

Just because the idea of having any type of sexual relationship with another man makes me feel like vomiting is my bad luck. It is, if you like, the natural reaction to matters sexual with which I was born. It certainly does not make me holier than thou when comparing myself to a homosexually orientated person. I would never encourage anyone to deliberately commit a sin if I knew they understood and believed that that was what their actions might be. And I would always make it a priority in everything I did to ensure that I was not hurting, harming, mentally upsetting or just being plain insulting to somebody else for any reason at all. A good or clever joke, which might not be appreciated by someone because they had no sense of humour, would only be insulting if I told it in a deliberately insulting way. Believe me Catholics and Jews tell the best jokes on themselves of any people I know.

But I haven’t mentioned how and why paedophilia has become so much more widely perceived as a really dreadful act. Firstly, if it involves adults abusing young children, up to the age of twelve, there really is no excuse for putting a youngster through an enforced experience that can physically and mentally scar them for life. This is not just a sexual crime it is an act of torture for which there is no excuse at all. And yet there is a reason why people do it. Some people, far more than most of us would like to imagine, actually get physical pleasure out of having sexual relations with very small children because it turns them on. This is the really hidden ‘crime’ whose name nobody mentioned for centuries and is only now being universally criticised. Its full viciousness has been realised only since being brought out into the open by the large number of admissions from its victims that they suffered in the way they did.

But I wish the media would stop reporting celebrity, educational and religious cases of child abuse in a way that suggests that no journalist or news photographer ever lusted after a child in their lives. They are amongst the worst of the lot and should be named and shamed as much if not more than those they publicise. To my own knowledge more than half the newsmen I knew when working in different parts of the world used to make for the nearest child brothel as soon as they hit town. In asia and South America it was especially disgusting, and the way they boasted about their discoveries and methods of enjoyment, which they could only satisfy when a very long way from home, was ghastly. It is the only aspect of journalism which I can honestly say revolted me and made me ashamed of my profession. Consequently it is the only profession in which you never hear of anyone being guilty of this offence. Many, many reporters are too afraid to finger someone who might be able to point the finger back. The world of entertainment is just as bad and my mother would not let me enter the film business when I had the chance aged fourteen, and thank heavens. Child molestation was rife in that industry and still is.

But There is one side of sexual consent and the law which is still absurd. In our country if two fifteen year olds make love neither is guilty of anything. If a sixteen years and one day old kid makes love to a fifteen years and 362 days old child then one is deemed to have been raped and the other to is put on a sex register and could even be jailed. I admit one has to draw the line somewhere, but I think common sense should be the arbiter here not an absolute rule for every case. I believe in some states in the US it is illegal to even write about someone having sex under the age of eighteen. Why, when hard core porn is available on tap for all ages on all computers throughout the world? I am not advocating filming and then uploading licencious behaviour between any couples at any age, just wondering why the anti porn laws are not enforced. I suppose there is too much money and greed involved for thousands of cases to be brought to court.

But to finish, I think what I have seen in my lifetime is a world in which one lot of double standards, where everyone was either good or bad according to their station in life, has been swapped for one in which nobody is considered wrong for following any sexual preferences. Yet if you think of it, everybody is still behaving exactly as they always did only it just happens to be the turn of a different section of society to get away with being as awful as others have always been. Plus ca change….!

AWE

PIANISSIMO


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/strike-a-chord/”>Strike a Chord</a>

why I love the piano

PIANISSIMO

I have loved the piano all my life. I first tried to play it at three and half years of age and when no tune came out of it just by hitting the keys at random with my fingers I just got flaming mad with the thing and tried to imitate the tune I had just heard on the gramophone. It took six goes at listening to an arieta from Figaro, and some fifteen to twenty goes myself trying to pick out some similarity to the melody on the instrument before I finally played something which sounded vaguely like Mozart’s tune. I had lessons for 16 years after that and have played for enjoyment ever since. However, I have never described in prose how the music I play inspires my thoughts especially on topics that really matter.

I have to be completely alone, and also wear my voice activated recorder round my neck so that I can verbally jot down thoughts as they arise when I am playing. Proof that this works came only yesterday when I read a blog by sachemspeaks: in which a girl called Marwa defends her identity as an ordinary American born, peace loving, charity working Muslim.

Her main complaint is againt the lunacy of people like Donald Trump who believes all Muslims are potential terrorists and should wear some sort of identity badge and also be able to be tracked. She puts him in his place perfectly, so please click on the link above. I was playing a lovely piece of music, Granados’ Valses Poeticos, when her ideas made me think what on earth had made it possible for a man like Donald Trump to have any influence at all on Americans in general and the current terrorist situation in particular.

Imagine a very vain man, he colours his hair to look younger for heaven’s sake!, who has made two criminal speeches – one anti race and one anti religion – so far in his attempt to get the Republican nomination, either of which would normally have landed the speaker in jail. He insults people he doesn’t like because he’s so rich he can get away with it. Now there is nothing wrong with being rich, but if you don’t share your good fortune with others in need, or on causes that the world needs promoting, then you are not much of a human being. In fact you are rather despicable. But he’s worse than that, he’s actually mentally as thick as two short planks. I mean he actually thinks that being president would make him able to run the country as he wants. No president since Jefferson has ever done that.

Look at the present incumbent Mr.Obama. His three main aims when coming to the White house seven years ago were a) to provide more affordable health care for everyone. b) He wanted to stop ordinary people from carrying firearms because his country had the highest level of gun crime and socially related deaths of any country in the developed world, by a mile. And c) he also wanted to ensure that his country was at the forefront of restoring the world to economic stability. Well Mr.Trump should look at what his party ensured. That NONE of these ideals could be implemented as the president wanted because just 9% of the population were in a position to politically stop the head of state from doing what was best for his people. At least the republicans don’t pretend to be democratic, they just rig whatever elections they can – Bush Jnr was never legally president of the US, at least no non-Americans ever thought he was – his family merely had the right judicial support.

But what struck me most about my thoughts as I played was what I believed should be the attitude of all people in all countries towards people of so called different faiths. I am a Catholic but that doesn’t mean I think all Muslims are inhuman terorists or a threat to my own love of God. We love the same God, for heaven;s sake, and for the same reason. There is one thing that all religions have in common. They all believe there is only one God. Well that is the point, there is. We simply worship that deity in different ways. Fanatics have led factions into religious wars, and prelates of all faiths have tried to claim civil authoritarian priority over their flocks, but that is just a human fault. What matters is how we live our lives by being kind and considerate to others and helping those whom we love, and try to love and forgive those who we have problems with or have committed really awful acts. That is my creed, and certainly that of all the faiths I have studied in depth, which is most of them. You should never preach from a position of prejudice or ignorance.

I wonder how Mr.trump would feel if he were taken suddenly seriously ill and the only doctors available to save his life were Muslims who were only too willing to help him. I bet he would not stop them, though he might deny he knew their beliefs. Unless of course he’d tagged them. Think of the state we’d be in in Britain if we lost 30% of our health industry workers. That is the per centage who are Muslim.

And another thing that I find odd about such a man is that he is opposed to illegal immigrants in the US from Hispanics to Syrians. I wonder how he would feel if he had to deport 776 of his personal employees, who are on one third the average wage for their menial jobs, and pay the full rate to the type of Americans (if they exist) whom he wants to see in work in his country.

But the one thing I would never wish on Donald is somebody kidnapping him, blacking up his hands and face and setting him free near a police station in the middle of the night. He wouldn’t be around the next day and it would be his own fault. But I still could not do that to him. No, people like him are there to be shown the error of their ways and turned into decent human beings who might eventually get to Heaven. We have to do our best to make sure everyone has that opportunity however much we dislike what they purport to be.

And as the music and my musings come to their end I just want to add that I have more blood relations in the States than any other country, so I have no feelings of ill will towards the country at all. I just wish those with power would use it like good people and not self centred idiots, or worse in many cases.

AWE

 

TO SHOOT OR NOT TO SHOOT?


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/the-guilt-that-haunts-me/”>The Guilt that Haunts Me</a>

a war correspondent’s neutral dilemma.

 

         TO SHOOT OR NOT TO SHOOT?

I myself never chose or wanted to  be armed,

My gun was there simply to stop me being harmed.

Should I have shot the sniper as I saw him take aim?

Should I have risked killing him or just let him claim

The life of a man I never knew and know I never will?

Should I still feel so guilty at remaining so totally still?

No firearm of mine was employed there to aid another 

Fighter in that jungle who was neither foe nor brother.

I stood detached and idly watched a man being shot

Without defending him. Well, what right had I got

To interfere in a war that meant almost nought to me,

An independant observer, who even so could see

A human life threatened and which I might yet save

By risking killing another? Was I cowardly or brave?

I have never killed on purpose, but still  feel that guilt

On which all fears of committing such a sin are built.

Whatever I had done I would still have been ashamed

Of letting a man die, rather than be forever named 

An unsung neutral hero who tried to save another life, 

While wondering for ever if the dead man had a wife.

But I might have killed the sniper, oh what sort of choice

Did God really give me, for I never heard His voice?

AWE

 

THE POLYMATH MALGRE LUI


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/ballerina-fireman-astronaut-movie-star/”>Ballerina Fireman Astronaut Movie Star</a> what did I want to do in life aged 10 and did I?

 

                  THE POLYMATH MALGRE LUI

I wonder what the prompt setter meant by ‘the age of ten’? Did they mean at the age of nine years and 367 days or did they mean 10 years and 363 days? At that time in my life there was a huge difference.  Well think about it.  First I must leave aside my spiritual side for the moment, which was as loving and fulfilling at nine years as it has remained for another 64 years, to today. That side of my ambitions in life, ie wanting always to be in love with God, was very strong from the age of six or seven and has remained so despite all the various paths through life that I have considered. But how I wanted to spend my life, or at least hoped to spend it, changed several times depending on how I was able to see myself adapting my ambitions to fit in with the limitations of the awful mental ilness that has plagued me every day since I was approximately five and half years old. So why was ‘just ten’ so different to ‘not quite eleven’?

Well my main interest outside my family’s influence, such as Mum wanting me to be elected Pope or Dad’s ludicrous vision of me becoming prime minister or some similar absurdity, lay in three main fields. Music, sport and some branch of medicine.  These became firmly fixed in my mind just before I was eleven whereas a year earlier I really had no ambitions as such, just the enjoyment gained from indulging in sports and music. So I am going to start by outlining what I really wanted to do when I was fractionally short of my eleventh birthday. Firstly I was already by then very good at cricket, tennis and golf and basically loved competing in any sport that I could. Swimming and gymnastics would have been missing as I could possibly have won the world drowning championships and had absolutely no natural spring in any part of my body. But I was gifted at hitting, throwing or catching a ball in any game. So winning Wimbledon, the British Open Golf championship and playing test cricket for England or Australia – by birth I qualified for either and had dual nationality – were genuine goals of which I dreamed and over which I often fantasised. Not unreasonable at that age. But they were not careers, sport in those days was very much an amateur affair. So how did I envisage earning my living?

Well there was a lot of illness in our family and at exactly that time my mother was starting a terminal illness so I became fascinated in all things medical. I always imagined myself  reaching highly exagerated levels of success in all I attempted so I really did want to become a leading specialist in some branch of medicine. As the idea of cutting people open and fiddling around with their insides tended to turn me off, I imagined myself as some form of psychiatrist who would intuitively correctly diagnose all his patients and send them on their way cured of their demons and depressions for the rest of their lives. Very laudable in some respects but highly ambitious and over the top in reality. But where I would really have loved to make my mark and earn a good living  was playing the piano. I had been glued to the instrument since I was three and a half and by the age of ten really was exceptionally advanced as a classical pianist for my age. Also my mother’s genes may have had something to do with knowing I would get a thrill from the rapturous applause with which the audience would spontaneously acknowledge my outstanding genius. So which of these goals at that tender age did I actually achieve? Yes, of course you’ve guessed it. None! But why? Now that is a good story. Listen – or read if you prefer.

At the age of five and a half I first experienced the horrific irrational panic of an attack of agoraphobia that left me frozen to the spot unable to run or move in any direction, gradually losing control of my breathing and finally hyperventilating and passing out. Such fainting episodes left me unconscious for seconds only and often people would think I had just fallen over or tripped or something, but the gradually increasing apprehension that preceded these attacks, when I knew I was facing a situation where they could occur, made the fear of them possibily happening just as awful as the occasions when the panic actually took hold of me. So how on earth did I manage to play cricket and golf in the vast open spaces that both sports involved? Simple. All my close relatives, and I mean all over the age of twenty, and their friends drank like fish, so from a very young age I would ward off my mental demons with a good shot of something strong that could calm me for anything up to one or two hours. This started when I was about seven and escalated throughout my life until in my mid thirties I had to cut down and increase the tranquilisers I was on by then, or I would have killed myelf. But sadly it also meant that cricket and golf had to go when I was in my mid to late teens.

I was playing golf off scratch by the time I was sixteen but the strain was so bad I broke down on our local course one autumn day and just sat alone outside the clubhouse and wept inwardly for nearly an hour when I found I could no longer walk to the first tee without nearly a bottle of whisky or gin inside me. I just told my friends I was concentrating on my tennis and cricket as one of my three sports had to go. I was the best cricketer in our school by my last year there  and yet regularly had to play stupid shots to get out after just starting to hit the ball well. You see I could not stand, exposed, miles from anywhere. The boundary and pavilion got further and further away from me between the ages of 17 and 18 and our first team coach even gave me a really harsh ticking off after one game because he thought I was not trying and did not care if the school won or lost. How wrong he was, but how right as well. I had to stop. After the family moved to Paris in the summer of my last term at school I never played the game again. I did try to keep up my tennis, but good though I was it was impossible to get in enough practice with everything else I did, so my Wimbledon dream faded before it had really started.

My failure to become a doctor of global repute was actually much more interesting. At the age of thirteen and a half I had to decide whether to concentrate my studies on science subjects or languages and the humanities. After all one could not do everything. I was still quite keen to follow medicine as a career at that time but our senior science master had a long chat with me. He said it was the opinion of most of the staff that my maths would never be up to the standard needed to master university level physics and chemistry, which would have been necessary for a medical degree. I argued that I could quickly put that right with a lot more application  in order to master a subject that I found very hard. Unfortunately I missed a lot of school that year when I was struck down with poliomyelitis and had to agree, reluctantly, that I would never bridge that academic gap. So I never did any physics, chemistry or biology at all which naturally put paid to any thoughts of a career in medicine. I settled instead for taking advantage of my natural gift for languages and vocal mimicry and finally spent my time at university in France getting the equivalent of a Masters in history and French, Italian and Spanish. But I did become a doctor of sorts shortly afterwards with a PhD in ecclesiastical history and logic.

My love of sport was also rewarded when my father, European Editor in chief of a major news agency, found me plenty of freelance work between my studies covering a huge variety of major sporting events. The money was good and I went on to have a career in journalism, but always fighting my phobia as I still am now. But do I regret not attaining any of my very youthful goals? Yes, one. I would have loved to have played a concerto before a live audience, but alas my anxiety neurosis stopped me ever playing in public. But I still practise and play several hours a day and get more enjoyment out of this than anything else I do. I always have.

 

AWE

 

MENDING A BROKEN HEART


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/teach-your-bloggers-well/”>Teach Your (Bloggers) Well</a>

my lesson to satisfy this prompt, orhow to survive against the impossible

 

MENDING A BROKEN HEART

I looked forward enormously to that day outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Saigon, South Vietnam’s largest Christian building and a monument to French colonialism. It had been built to accomodate those lazy colonial administrators and worshippers who ruled French Indo-China more than a century and a half ago. They wanted to show the indiginous population the majesty of their imposed adoration.

But on that day in May 1969 it was not that wonderful church and its purpose there that I was adoring as I entered it. No, it was the lovely girl who was about to join me at the altar that we might be married and pledge our lives forever each to each in the sight of God. Anh really was beautiful and I the envy of my friends and journalistic colleagues. I often used to criticise the learned fathers at the second Vatican council in the early 1960s for changing the Catholic liturgy from Latin to the native tongue of each country in which holy Mass was said. I am an Anglo-Australian Catholic. My beloved Anh was pure Vietamese and in her religious practices, such as they were, a Buddhist. But the nuptual mass and wedding vows were said in French thus satisfying all parties. Her inability to learn all the tenets of the Catholic faith meant no more to the priest who wed us than it did to me. We both promised to look after each other and never come between each other and our god, whatever such spiritual experience that might mean to each of us. And the hymns we chose were sung in Vietnamese by the cathedral choir to music in a pentatonic key that I had never realised could sound so beautiful.

Now, what sort of a honeymoon do two young people have when one works daily at an orphanage for blind and abandonned infants and the other spends his time covering man’s inhumanity to man in the form of a war that was neither desired nor understood by either side? We only had two days  but by good luck I had been to University in Paris with the son of the head of state of Cambodia and we became good friends. Although, at that time, journalists were barred from the country on the other side of the Mekong river to Vietnam, I managed to get visas for both of us to fly to the wonderful Cambodian resort of Siem Reap and its jewel, Anglor Wat, a world of a thousand temples set in a forest and surrounded by a moat-like lake. In those days only a few tourists could visit those remnants and ruins of an ancient cult, and the calm and serenity of the spires and trees by the lake in the moonlight was as perfect a setting for a tryst for life as any place on earth. We only spent thirty six hours there as Prince Sihanouk’s guests, but it was more than either of us could have imagined we would ever experience. On our return to Saigon I wrote to the prince to thank him and was later to be instrumental in saving his life when the war spread to his country the following January. I must tell you about that some time.

Anh and I settled down to a daily life of  work and as much family life as we could get, living in a flat over my office by the presidential palace. We often helped each other out in our work and I always loved playing with the poor orphans that she cared for. Her sense of fun and love gave them hope and daily filled my heart with more and more love for her. Shortly after our marriage she became pregnant and I had to cajole her regularly into taking it easy when she worked too long or took on tasks not at all suitable for her condition. But eventually on February the 5th 1970 she gave birth three weeks early to a gorgeous little girl. I was over the moon with my wife and daughter. I chose Gemma, my favourite name, for her and Anh added Tuyet, very popular in Vietnamese. Given the dangerous circumstances in which we lived and worked, though, I  was keen that the baptism and Christening should take place as soon as possible, which it did in the cathedral soon after Anh and Gemma had settled down in the flat.

But we both knew that with a child Saigon, given our work, was somewhere we had to leave fairly soon. My editor in chief in London had written to me about this and I was told that in a month’s time we would be returning to England, first for two months much needed leave, and then I was going to be posted either to the United States or France. I told Anh and even little Gemma smiled as she heard the news. Anh was taking her for a short walk in the park by the palace opposite our flat. I waved to them and watched in unspeakable horror as a mortar shell, I know not from where, landed almost right on them and killed them both on the spot. My eyes could not take in what they saw, and I remembered nothing more about that day. My colleagues and friends both military and civilian did all they could for me but apparently it was obvious I had to get out of Saigon and fast. But I could not leave without burying my family. The funeral service was arranged for the cathedral just two days later. I had to be there.

I looked forward in mental and spiritual agony to that day outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Saigon as I walked towards the huge doors. There before the altar was the coffin containing my wife and the tiny immitation of it in which my little daughter’s body lay. A close friend who had worked with me for several months held my arm, well held me up to be honest, as I walked up to the front pew and collapsed rather than knelt in prayer. I did not ask God why, I think for the only time in my life I did not want Him to answer me. But as the Mass progressed I looked at Anh and Gemma and I did ask one Saint to help me mend my heart, lying in shattered shards on the cathedral floor.

“Antonino,” she said. I actually heard her, “stay with those who need you and love you it is the only way you will get over your sorrow. Go across the river to your Cambodian friends and when the war breaks out there, as it will very, very soon, continue Anh’s work helping the poor and the maimed and continue to tell the world how terrible acts of war really are. Just for a few more months until you can live with yourself again”.

The voice that spoke to me, or whatever was happening in my head, was the gentlest Italian sound I had ever heard. So I did as she bid me, and in a relatively short time those shattered shards began to come together normally once again. Every child I helped to laugh again and  deadly engagement  or bombing about which I wrote evoked Anh’s adorable smile or little Gemma’s infectious gurgling chuckle. I don’t know how they got me back to normal. But even after all that time, and another very happy marriage some years later, they are both always with me in my dreams and in my loving, mended heart.

AWE 

 

 

A VERY HAPPY DAY


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/one-more-time/”>One More Time</a>

 

well, connected to the prompt!

                                                           A VERY HAPPY DAY

I wonder how many of my readers know that today, November 17, is ‘World Prematurity Day’. Well for those of you who would like a happy memoir from me for once let me tell you why it means such an awful lot to me personally.

On a day in May 1990, after recovering from a prolonged bout of influenza, my wife and I were able once again to resume our usual, normal and lovely ability to make love. A few weeks later we went on holiday and were just settling down to a drink at the bar before dinner when my wife took a sip and screwed up her face. “God this stuff tastes awful”, she said, and could not face any alcohol for the rest of that evening.

As we were going to bed she suddenly had a thought. She hadn’t had a period for a while and, being 43 years old to my 48, neither of us even thought she could be pregnant. But that wake up call made her do some maths and she was seriously wondering if she could be. We had been together for some 18 years by then and always wanted a child but it just never happened. So we cut our holiday short, returned home, saw our doctor, did tests and things and the greatest news was true. She was expecting a baby.

The next twenty one weeks were spent with the usual chaos of hospital check ups, getting matternity clothes, planning the nursery, choosing names and everything an expecting couple enjoy so much. But then something went wrong. My wife started getting stomach pains. They got worse and eventually at 22 weeks she was diagnosed with appendicitis. From then on for more than a week the doctors did everything they could to treat it and protect the baby; but to no avail.

On October 17, 1990, from the scan photos we knew we were having a son, after giving her all sorts of drugs and doing everything in their power her waters broke. I signed a form to let them give experimental drugs to the baby to help his breathing and at 2.02pm they had to perform an emergency Caesarean section with little hope that the 23 week old baby would live. We had decided to call him Benedict and the chaplain baptised him as the doctors were removing him from his mother.

I lived in that remarkable place in my wife’s room for eight days while they fought to save both of them. Ben was so small he did not stretch from my finger tips to my wrist. My wife had had to have major surgery, as an abcess on her appendix burst, and was not able to visit the special care baby unit for the first week of his life, while I spent the time between each of them. But we had been very fortunate in our doctors and the care that was possible by then. Against all the odds he would not give up and we visited him every day for more than three months when he was at last fit enough to come home. Even then it was a trial as he was wired up to alarms and things to alert us if his breathing pattern changed. The little so and so seemed to realise that pulling on a tube, and thus waking up mummy and daddy, was the highlight of the night. Not ours! But let’s jump forward to today.

Our little Benedict was hardly ever any trouble through two schools and two universities. Indeed at sport and academically he was very bright and ended up with two degrees and no visible side effects at all from his prematurity except highly over-developed hearing. Last year he got married and is now working in various capacities on several committees that plan and help the health service and ‘Bliss’ the UK’s national charity of the newborn. But the really great thing about today is the appearance on Amazon of his first e-book on medical history called ‘Boxes, Bubbles and Babies’. The links to this are:

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Boxes-Bubbles-Babies-history-progress-ebook-x/dp/B018295OI8/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447756510&sr=1-2&keywords=boxes+bubbles+babies

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Boxes-Bubbles-Babies-history-progress-ebook/dp/B018295OI8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1447756606&sr=1-1&keywords=boxes+bubbles+babies

It is written as a short, highly informative yet entertaining history of the care of premature babies like himself, and was inspired by his study in university laboratories of the drug which saved his life at birth.

I said at the start that this was a happy memoir, as the whole of his life has been, and I get special pleasure from knowing that everything we and the medical profession did for him against all the odds is now worth so much more than just the effort everybody who cared for him put in. I hope those of you who read his book enjoy it, and remember all premature babies and their needs. Today especially!

AWE

A TALE OF TWO UNCLES


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/lifes-a-candy-store/”>Life’s a CandyStore</a>

my ideal 24 hours when I was six years old.

A TALE OF TWO UNCLES

When I was six years old in May 1948 we still had post war food rationing in England and the hardest hit commodity of all was sweets and chocolates, or candy as the Americans call it. I was fortunate in having an Australian uncle and aunt in Brisbane who sent us food parcels, and an American uncle in Hollywood and another American godfather in New York who did the same. So I wonder what my perfect 24 hours would have been?

Well, for a start I would have insisted that my seven year old sister and I both had passports and could travel, under air hostess supervision, on our own. My Australian passport and her British passport might have raised eyebrows as we checked into the earliest flight possible at Heathrow to visit our famous film star uncle in Hollywood. We would have gained eight hours in one sense which would have given us more time and let us count eight of our 24 hours from the moment the plane took off at 8.00am as part of the day. It took ten hours with two changes to get to LA in those days, but even so Uncle Brian would have met us at the airport at 11.00am California time.

I would have insisted we were stuffed with sweets and chocolates when not asleep on the plane and on arrival would have got our US family to make up boxes of our favourites candies and posted them back home. Lunch time would have been a real delight as we toured the film studios and enjoyed joking and play acting with many of the stars whom we already knew from their visits to London. Peanut butter and Coke would have been high on the lunch menu and by the time we had to catch our 3.00pm flight to New York we would have had a great time, especially with the kids of our family we had never met.

The five hour flight to New York would have included a bit more sleep and it would have been about nine at night there when my godfather, Walter Cronkite, and his wife Betsy met us. They stayed with us a lot in England during the war and Walter and dad worked in tandem covering all aspects of military news, my Australian father for British United Press and the English papers and Walter for United Press and the American journals.

Knowing our time differences they would have given us a slap up meal and a party with their friends. But first an evening drive round New York would have left both of us wide eyed with wonderment at such a young age. However, the one thing I know they would have done is shower us with presents. Cowboy outfits, real jeans, a lot of other kids clothing, that too was still heavily rationed in England, and made sure we never forgot our visit to their home as they had spent so much time in ours.

My real 24 hours would have run out around three in the morning New York time, so the flight home the next day would not have counted. But I can’t believe Betsy would not have made sure my sister and I had a tour of the New York shops the next day before catching our flight home.

Well that never happened, obviously, but I did make several trips to the States later in my life and Uncle Brian came back to England for a few years when I was eleven. Also Uncle Walter, as the whole family called him, always made a point of keeping a day free to see us whenever he was in London or Paris where we lived until 1967. But my greatest memory of him, and the reason why he would have to figure in any really great 24 hours, was what he did in Vietnam in 1969. I was there for more than three years as news editor of the main British News agency, and the day after he arrived to do a US television special he came round to our office and put everything on hold for four hours while went we out to lunch, just the pair of us, to catch up on family gossip. As you can imagine my rating amongst my colleagues rose considerably from then on.

AWE

FEARS, PHOBIAS, KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF.


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/phobia-shmobia/”>Phobia, Shmobia</a>

on reading  of Richard Dawkins’ dislike of the term ‘Islamaphobia’.

 

FEARS, PHOBIAS, KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF.

     The constant mistake of adding ‘phobia’ to so many words nowadays is ludicrous. Homophobia, for instance, is a non-word because for anything to be a phobia it has to be something of which one is unusually strongly afraid or irrationally petrified. If one has a good reason for strongly disliking something that is not a ‘phobia’.

     Homophobia is the most commonly used non-word in English. If one does not like the practice of people of the same sex loving and having sexual relations with each other that is not an irrational fear of their preferences, it is a dislike of them. I have many close homosexual friends but I never condemn the sinner when they act in ways I think they shouldn’t. I only condemn the sin. God knows I commit sins enough myself, but just not that one because it turns me off! I actually consider adultery a worse sin because it usually also involves breaking a solemn oath, taken at one’s marriage, not to do it. There are no laws in our country of which I am aware which tell us what we may legally like or dislike. It is what we do about our dislikes – violent actions or insulting and defamatory verbal remarks to peoples’ faces are common examples – that break the law, not the way we feel about them.

     Also there is a great disparity between marginalising people because of their natures and because of their actions when the predilections with which they are born are neither their own fault nor within their ability to alter. Medical science may allow us to make all sorts of changes to our physical sexual anatomy, but it cannot change how we started out when we were born. That is in the past. So it is quite unnecessary to single out anybody for censure or applause because of their natures.

     One exception here to the use of ‘phobia’  is when words like ‘Islamaphobia’ are coined to describe people who fear a religious or idealistic grouping. While I would never use such a spurious generality myself, I can see that some people might equate being Muslim with being a terrorist who could start world war three. It is very important to recognise that you can be afraid of both the physical threat of fanatics, or of a religious sect which might threaten members of your own religious group if you are a member of one. However, as a devout Catholic I can only say that I believe I should love all men, obviously not everything they might do, but they themselves as God’s children. After all the vast majority of Muslims are perfectly ordinary, harmless, nice people anyway. It is very hard when somebody of another faith deliberately blasphemes in front of me to get my back up. Yet much as I may dislike this the last thing I should do is trash their beliefs. That just alienates us more when I should be trying to befriend them. However, atheists like Richard Dawkins try to rise above this level of fidelity and infidelity by saying we both believe a lot of rubbish anyway. Poor man, I can think of nothing more sad than not being afraid that one might be mistaken. What dreadfully meaningless, hopeless lives atheists must live.

     But this leads to the whole question of why we fear some things or groups of people for good reasons just as much as for totally stupid ones. It is usually the conflation of knowledge and belief. Take the arch atheist-scientist Dawkins. A truly brilliant man in his field but a quite pitiable one in his passion for blindfolding himself to the obvious. He says that he knows God does not exist and belittles people who claim to believe that God does. How unscientific can you get? There is a very simple example of why nobody can ever prove that science answers everything or that God exists. Take a piece of string, any length you like, and cut it in half. Throw one half away and do the same to the half you have kept. There is no limit to the size to which you can reduce the piece you retain if you continue this process long enough. But something always remains for nothing can be made out of nothing.

     Do you see what this proves? It’s so simple. It proves that anything solid, any form of matter, can never be made to disappear. It can only be split up into ever smaller atomic and ultimately sub atomic particles. Then, in theoretical thought, there is no limit to how large any concept can be. It is self evident in maths, for instance, that there is no number to which you cannot add one. This is the proof of rational infinity and goes way out beyond our cosmos. It must, by definition. So if a scientist thinks that everything can ultimately be empirically investigated so completely that all existence is known and explained, all you have to do is add one to it and you will find there is an infinite, and ergo unknowable, scope to the field of  scientific discovery. Yes we can find out and empirically prove how everything originates, works, lives etc physically. But there will always be a limit to that knowledge.

     So if I was to say I know God made me, loves me and wants me to live for ever in heaven, that is only ‘knowledge’ as far as I myself am concerned. I really do physically love God, which helps a lot, but basically what I am doing is believing in God even though I cannot empirically prove His existence. But my belief is just as strong and likely as Richard Dawkins’ empirically provable knowledge, because while we are alive and on earth neither of us can know the limits of what we believe, nor how something must at some time  have been made out of nothing.

     I believe in eternity, and infinity beyond  human comprehension. A super mystery which one day I genuinely believe I will understand. But not while I’m alive. Dear Richard seems not to want this kind of really lovely hope, and is content to just dig deeper and deeper into discovering all the practical things in our cosmos knowing he will never reach the end of that search. I do hope he realises this before he dies, or at least thinks about it enough to like the idea of being in Heaven some day. Surely he is far too intelligent not to want to save his soul if he cannot, just by using empirical logic, prove that it does not exist. He is literally taking a helluva risk. 

AWE

BODY AND SOUL


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/no-cliffhangers/”>No Cliffhangers</a>

the prompt asked that this post end with the words…’and all was well with the world’.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US AND THEM


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/west-end-girls/”>West End Girls</a>

on the prejudices of my childhood world : hyperbole in places, but only in the telling.

US AND THEM

I never found the silver spoon that so many  of my friends thought I had  in my mouth when I was born, but for several years something akin to it was definitely spoon-feeding my life. My family had access to considerable wealth and many of them very famous, from May 1942 to April 1956, my sister and I first lived in a mixture of fairyland and Heaven. I am just thankful that Heaven is still a possible final dwelling place. But Oh, were we the anomalies of our age. Let me give you a flavour.

I spent the years aged three to fourteen in the most beautiful suburb of London, in a thirty seven room Georgian mansion which we finally had to sell to pay the bills we ran up over ten years. The bank knew we were good for them. We got £2.5 million for it in early 1957 so you can imagine how beautiful it was. And the location! Richmond Park and Sheen Common, bordering our house with Kew Gardens, Hampton Court, etc all a five minute drive along the beautiul banks of the Thames where Surrey made it so attractive. Also only fourteen minutes on the train to the very heart of the city.

Our house was totally secluded from prying neighbours with an enormous ten foot high wall and holly hedge round three quarters of the estate which also included an orchard of six different types of fruit trees, four summer houses, a pond and huge elm tree in the 3 acres of garden plus a separate walled rose garden. You get the idyllic picture. My sister and I went to an expensive, private school from the ages of three to eight (she’s a year older). BUT we weren’t allowed to play with any children except our vetted school friends. You would only believe this if you had known my mother and her side of the family! Not snobs, no, far worse. Content to be different, recognised and obeyed.

So, given the setting, what in life could not possibly be very pleasant when all the rooms in the house were huge, superbly decorated and especially the living room with a bay window and door onto the rose garden and a grand piano where I spent eleven years learning and playing at least three hours a day. Dad even had to have it sound proofed without spoiling the decoration or the superb Adam fireplace which burned whole tree trunks. At one end was the sliding glass door to the huge conservatory with real grape vines and a marble fountain which was turned off at Christmas to accommodate the twelve foot Christmas tree? So where was the prejudice?

I never saw a coloured person, any colour other than white, in the area I lived in until I went back thirty years later. In the late nineteen forties there just were none. At the local pub some fifty regulars from our incredibly select road, the most sought after in South West London, met each Sunday lunch time for drinks and they agreed never to talk religion or politics at the bar. Unfortunately mum’s notoriety as a famous entertainer let her get away with murder and insult whomsoever she chose. Dad was accepted as her pleasant, Australian, other half who had one of the top jobs in British journalism. As bars closed at 2.00pm on Sundays in those days we usually had about 20 people back to our house for drinks and finally had lunch around 4.00pm. That house swam in booze every day I spent there.

So who were the baddies, ie those not accepted by our ‘clique’? WelI everybody who did not know any of us. If they came in expecting to buy a drink, as they would in any pub, they were simply ignored totally by staff and customers unless they were guests of the set. Most gave up and walked out dejected after recognising most of the people in the pub. But even within the accepted drinkers there was a hidden class of stereotyped prejudice that would make you sick. They all smiled and laughed together but detested, in order of priority, first and foremost socialists, then Catholics or any non-conformists, then Jews but worst by far the thought of an American tourist ever being let near the place. Not famous Americans like three of my family members among the regulars whom they had got to know, but the conviction that US citizens only came to London to gloat over how they had won the war for us after raping all our virgins. (Both of them). Quite seriously, in that environment that was a prejudice which lasted until the Conservative government was returned to power again in 1951. The American presence in Britain towards the end of the war left a horrible anti-US feeling of pure jealousy because they were, to use the famous quote of ‘Mr. Average Brit’, “over sexed, over fed, over paid and over here!” My uncle in the US air force reserve had a PX card, though we never told anyone.

But my sister and I just led a strangely unique and unreal life until I went to the most exspensive Catholic boys school in London and again mixed only with my school friends. Fortunately we had all colours and races in the school, mostly sons of foreign Catholic diplomats, rich businessmen and 33% of the upper school from the age of 11 were on totally free scholarships gained through the state scholarship system. Thank heavens for this because  the only way I ever have met ‘ordinary’ people was through my school.

Yet even within this strange mix of a world when we were ten and eleven the Catholic/Anglican/Jewish divide was huge. Many of my family’s clique were Jews, we were Catholics and in every case it was humour that saved the day and calmed things down. Naturally being Irish was not acceptable either, but Irish, Jewish and Catholic jokes were the backbone of the pub conversations. Imagine this scene. A Jewish fellow who owned a company the equivalent of Hertz in the States, with a lovely French titled wife, once teased my mother; she was excused the politics and religion rule on account of her wit, “Vel, yor Jesus voz a Jew? Vozn’t ‘e?”

To which mum snapped back in miliseconds,”Yes, Bernie, but we were taught that out of humility He chose to come to earth in the guise of the lowest form of humanity known to man!” What response would that have got anywhere in the western world today? The whole pub, Bernie most of all, just creased with laughter. But that was 1950. There was no malice, just relief that you could laugh in peace and honestly no offence was taken by anybody.

Are you all wondering what my sister and I were doing in a pub barred to kids when we were that age? Well at least nine other children our age of members of the set were also there most weekends because the pub owner wanted his customers money and could not give a fig for the licensing laws. Catholic priest and Jewish Rabbi jokes were also all the rage because the Anglicans laughed at every opportunity to see the absurd side of Catholicism and Judaism. One such joke that went down very well was told by a Catholic Irish crooner who lived four houses away from us and was never off the radio. (Is the awful hypocracy coming through?). I heard this one when I was ten and took a few minutes wondering the meaning of a word when the loud mouthed, blousey wife (?) of a member of parliament whispered the meaning in my ear. You’ll spot it.

“Der was dis priest on a bus and who should sit next to him but de local Rabbi? They smiled and de priest said,’Ah god bless ye’ Rabbi, now isn’t it a lovely day for me to be covertin’ Jews?” They laughed.

“Not me, fadder,” the rabbi replied. At the next turning the bus skidded into a ditch and turned on its side. Nobody was badly hurt as they scrambled off, but the priest stared in disbelief as he watched the Rabbi place his right hand on his forehead, then his lower stomach, then his right breast and then his heart. A miracle! He was blessing himself. But the rabbi smiled and, shaking his head, said,

“Sorry, Fadder, bud I alvays do dat after an accident just to check. Spectacles, testacles, wallet and watch.” Again total collapse of all present and the story teller was bought several large libations. But these were not snobbish people, just totally self satisfied. There were two occasions only before I went to my final school when I felt the heart stabbing horror of the only prejudice that directly affected me. The first was at the age of seven when the son of my parents’ best friends was getting married in the local Anglican Church just two roads away from us. Our own parish priest would not let us attend the church service because we were Catholic. In those days (1949) catholics still prayed for the conversion of England to Rome. The reformation was still alive and kicking. I prayed for weeks to try to understand, but eventually got my own back by first marrying a Buddhist in a Catholic church in Saigon, and after she was killed, my present wife who is a Liverpool Anglican. But we go to each other’s churches, so the world is a lot better than it was.

My second horrible experience of religious prejudice was aged eight and one month, when, on the day I had made my first Communion that Sunday morning I did not go to the pub, but one of those ‘regulars’ mentioned above, said to me back at our house after the usual exodus from the boozer,

“Here, Anton. Have a coke and get that awful taste out of your mouth!” He was rich, influential, forty seven and I hit him so hard he lost two teeth. I was ushered from the room and was obviously never going to apologise. He made no fuss, but never spoke to me again. I also broke a finger.

Well, My last example of early 1950’s prejudice was also my first brush with racial prejudice. In the summer of 1952 my mum’s sister and her American husband, were starring in a very popular revue at the Piccadilly Theatre . The vaudeville show had been packed out for eighteen months and one of the hit turns was a young American half coloured half Hispanic singer. She was 22, a real poppet and my sister and I loved her. As mum was in hospital after major surgery, (my sister asked the surgeon if mum was having her gin and tonic removed), and dad was on an assignment in New York we asked our aunt and uncle if we could ask our friend back to spend the weekend at our house. They agreed and so we all went home after the Saturday night performance. My American uncle was by far my favourite relation. He taught me baseball and I taught him cricket when he was starring in the West End production of Damn Yankees. He supported the Pittsburg Pirates and I still do. Anyway, to the terrible bit. Perhaps my life’s main introduction to just how awful some people and groups of people can be.

As my uncle was well known at the pub he suggested we all go down for a drink at lunchtime as usual. My Aunt pleaded a headache. We had just started the first round of drinks when the pub owner came up to my uncle and took him aside. He said he did not want to upset him but no way was he allowing a coloured girl, however much a friend of ours, to drink in his bar. He would lose all his customers. I won’t say what he said to her but the singer just smiled and told my uncle it happened all the time in London. She understood and told the three of us we’d better go home.

My Uncle, God bless him, never entered that pub again. My drunken, cowardly aunt did not even warn us but did at least tell us she had telephoned the pub owner during our five minute walk round there to say who was about to arrive.

So, like a pleasant encore at a piano recital I shall finish with an encore on the subject. But a nice one. My grandmother made two little woollen dolls for my sister and me when we were five and six. They were black with big smiles, fuzzy hair, and E.P.Christie minstrel outfits. We loved them. They were called Golly and Sambo and we took them to bed with us every night. As we grew up we never lost them and both of us still have them and love them. But we can’t call them by their names in front of other people. So, out of love and respect, we don’t.

AWE

THANK YOU


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/community-service/”>Community Service</a>

for all my local friends.

 

THANK YOU

 

Just a short note to the 230 people I know who live within five miles of me. Thanks for never reading my blogs or  contacting me about them if you do, with one exception. I really am pleased, because they were not written for those to whom I can talk.

AWE

THE NEWS THAT TRAVELLED SLOWLY


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/break-the-silence/”>Break the Silence</a>

nothing to do with the prompt!

 

Well, as I seem to be number 2 in Jennifer’s new site and as she’s given me the words LUCKY LOSS I thought I’d tell you a true story.

—- ———————–

THE NEWS THAT TRAVELLED SLOWLY

Many years ago, far too many, I was a war correspondent for a major news agency in Vietnam and Cambodia. Yes, yes, war’s hell and all that, but sometimes it isn’t, it’s simply unbelievable.

When the war spilled over into Cambodia in the spring of 1970 I was sent from Saigon to the Cambodian side of the Mekong to find out what was happening. I’d spent a month in Phnom Penh in 1968 as a guest of Prince Sihanouk as his son and I were students together in Paris four years earlier. Journalists were barred from Cambodia then, but I got in as a friend of the family. But when I returned in March 1970 the family had fled and civil war had broken out. It was considered only a matter of weeks before American troops would join in.

Well I dealt almost exclusively with breaking political and diplomatic news in those days, even if it was military, but nobody on any side had a clue what was going on. Then by luck I met Bertrand, a French friend from my 1968 visit who said he had unearthed a very good story and he had a car, gold dust in the jungle roads. He drove me for hours to a remote village where he said he had heard of an extraordinary commune.

I’ll say he had. I was confronted by a community of about forty people making up some six families who were either French colonials left over from before the second world war, or their first or second generation children. All ages from about seven months to seventy years. They were petrified of us.

My friend introduced himself and then me by name only. One fellow in his sixties thought I was Japanese and went to get a gun, before I reassured him in fluent coloquial French that I was a Scottish Australian. Soon the whole commune were surrounding us rejoicing in the news that world war two had ended. As you can imagine, this posed a problem for Bertrand and me because we knew we had to somehow arrange their return to safety and preferably in France. Then we got a shock. They didn’t want to go!

I explained how the world had changed, the looming danger of another war that would certainly kill them if it found them, as it would. But still they preferred to stay. I had to know why so asked some of the apparent acknowledged leaders of the group. And this was what I was told.

“Monsieur. We came out to Asia because we thought life in the colonies would be so much better than the amoral and immoral mess that Europe had become. We chose Phnom Penh because of its reputation for peace and tranquility and of course most people spoke French. But some thirty years ago the Japanese invaded and we fled into the jungle with only our easily portable belongings. We walked for weeks until we had to rest. We stopped here.Mon ami, we were so exhausted we just slept. There were seven of us then, three girls and four men, and we did not wake up for two days. We had no idea where we were and so decided to stay here until someone found us, praying they would not be Japanese.

“Well, here you are. The first people we have seen since we arrived and built a new life for ourselves. And it is lovely. Peaceful, plenty of edible vegetation and the occasional buffalo to eat. It is paradise. You are very kind, but we are staying. Oh, and all of us have agreed we are not giving you our names. We do not want to be found.”

Bertrand and I wished them god speed and were totally unable to decide what to do about them as we drove back over the rough jungle tracks to the Cambodian capital. Half way back a sudden mortar attack, about six shells, landed very close to the car and we were lucky to escape as it was first blown on its side and we scrambled out minutes before it blew up. Immediately several Cambodian irregular army guerrilas surrounded us but could see by our ordinary clothes that we were not soldiers. Luckily Bertrand spoke quite reasonable Cambodian. He told them what had happened and they escorted us to a nearby village where we got transport back to civilisation, of a sort.

What do you suppose happened then? Before we had a chance to talk to anyone who mattered Bertrand had a total blackout from the delayed shock of the escape from the car. He spent days in hospital, but even when I wrote to him last he could not remember a thing about our jungle discovery. And worse still, nobody would believe a word of my story. The company wouldn’t even publish it. So eventually I returned to Europe and just hoped that little commune was safe and happy. If it was then Bertrand’s amnesia really was a Lucky loss.

AWE

 

 

A PLANE RELATIONSHIP


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/delayed-contact/”>Delayed Contact</a>

my wife really does do all this!

 

A PLANE RELATIONSHIP

 

I adore my wife and she still adores me

She’s fifty seven and I’m sixty three.

So, with Jane’s next birthday coming up soon

I wanted to buy a present really in tune

With everything she likes doing best of all

I hope I’ve passed. I’m awaiting  her call.

 

Now Jane isn’t  the same as most other gals,

She loves our kids and gets on with the our pals,

No, it’s her work and hobby that’s rather odd

She’s obsessed with getting ever closer to God.

Not a religious nut or anything strange or queer,

My wife’s an aeronatuical designer and engineer.

 

Her working life’s spent designing helicopters,

And flying old planes and even gyrocopters.

The first female in England to gain a Ph.D

In frightening the  living daylights out of me.

I’d enjoyed four hundred odd flights before we met

But since that day I’ve not enjoyed a single one yet.

 

She told me in detail all that could go wrong

When taking off, landing or the whole flight long.

She knew all the ways an aeroplane could crash

And the chances of surviving even if you splash

Down in the sea and somehow get out of the ‘kite’

There is often the fear of a killer shark bite.

 

She loves all planes, but not like she loves me

So today my son’s driving her, she thinks, to see

An air display. But guess my secret present for Jane

Yes! an hour flying herself in an ancient bi-plane.

She’ll be flying all alone in the great blue yonder

While I’m left alone at home to wonder and ponder

 

All she’s told me could cause her plane to stall

With only her parachute left to break her fall.

But I know she’ll be in heaven while she’s up there,

Or go straight back to heaven if she doesn’t take care.

No, I shouldn’t worry at her unusual enjoyment

There is far more boring feminine employment.

 

So when she gets home and thanks me proper,

And probably asks me to buy her her own ‘chopper’,

Hang on, my phone, it’s my son…. “Mum’s what?!

Crashed on landing, not hurt, but you think a lot

Of damage to the plane as she made three passes.

You’re joking! She was flying without her glasses?”

 

That night, remorseful, but overjoyed and thrilled

Jane apologised for nearly getting herself killed.

“But darling, she added, as she snuggled up to me,

I had an awful lot of fun and suffered no  injury.

The insurance covered it all, and I suffered no pain.

They return the £ 300 flight fee, so could I do it again?”

 

AWE

NOTA BENE


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/three-coins-in-the-fountain/”>Three Coins in the Fountain</a>

I have

 

 NOTA BENE

 

What a nice prompt. Right up my via. I am currently on a three coins in the fountain wait to return to Rome.  Or am I?

Before leaving the last time I was in the eternal city I threw my three coins  in the Fontana di Trevi like I always did before leaving town. I worked and lived there a lot in the 1960’s. However my last actual contact with the city was somewhat strange. I was working as a journalist in Asia in 1970 when my father had his second heart attack and the company flew me back to see him as he wasn’t expected to live. Well the flight back made three stop overs between Singapore and London, to wit Karachi, Cairo and Rome.

Now, does visiting an aiport outside a city’s limits count as a visit to that city? I don’t know. So are my last three coins alive and waiting for me or not? I could drop Pope Francis a line and ask him, but being Argentinian he possibly wouldn’t know. Pity, because the one  trip I want to make again before I die is to fly to southern central France to see someone I love, and then on to Rome to try to manage the train journey from there to Umbria to visit Cascia, the burial place of somebody who has helped me more than any other in my life.

But I suppose, if I think of it, the superstition of the coins and my deep  spiritual love of St.Rita, patroness of hopeless causes and advocate of the impossible, are not things that should be conflated. The first is just a nice, charitable custom. The second is part of everything I hold most sacred and dear to me. So let’s just hope that my health improves enough, and then holds out long enough, for me to do my pilgrimage and if I come back through Rome I shall toss three notes into the fountain instead of coins.

After all, when they empty the fountain that evening to gather up the coins to give to the poor the ‘poveri’ will be a little bit better off than they would have been. I also think my spiritual friend would prefer it too!

 

Anton Wills-Eve

YOU REALLY SHOULDN’T, YOU KNOW!


<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/daily-prompt-8/”>From You to You</a>

 a letter to myself at 14

YOU REALLY SHOULDN’T, YOU KNOW!

Look, I know it’s an important game at the weekend, and I know how much you want to do well but you’ll make yourself ill if you carry on like this. No, seriously you really will. I’m sure you’re playing a Lizst rhapsody or something equally calming for your whole body. I’m sure it’s beautiful, but can’t you just stick with that? Your music at least doesn’t bring on your agoraphobia, at least not when you’re alone at home.

You know, mate, there are four days to go to that match. In that  time you’ll have had to somehow walk or get a lift to the Abbey and school, there and back, eight times which half kills you. I know once inside the buildings, well only some of the abbey, you calm down, but you often miss breakfast and then lunch because you can’t swallow at a table with a lot of people without choking. Then, like the idiot you are, you throw your homemade sandwiches away so you can play football or cricket and get in some piano practice before afternoon school. You really are stupid.

But it’s the game that worries me. Look you can’t cross a large open space without hyperventilating and sometimes even fainting. You make excuses if people see you, but it’s taxing your mental and physical resources dreadfully. I know you find the phobia dies down if you join in a kick about with other boys, or practice in the cricket nets right next to the pavillion, but your lessons are starting to suffer given the state you’re in by the time you return to learning. Okay when you’re with your mother or sister or a close female relative you know you can hang onto them if you have to, and some understand your problem. But you’re fourteen and a quarter now so you can’t hang on to another boy, can you? Well maybe David, he knows how ill you are and often walks home with you so he can put his arm round your shoulder if he has to, but there’s no one else.

Okay, it’s 1956 and most people would think you’re far too young for a girlfriend, but couldn’t your sister ask Sandy or Theresa or someone your age at her school to help? They’ve known you for a long time now and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind helping you, even if it embarrassed you to tell them what was wrong with you. Yes, Yes, everyone at school would notice and rib you rotten, but isn’t that better than doing what you do? And don’t worry about getting over fond of them, all that sort of thing will worry the pants off you, well probably not literally, in a couple of years, so why not start early and help yourself?

I know the doctors can’t give any stronger tranquilisers to somebody your age, but they don’t work anyway, so why even take them? Well allright they help a bit but not that much. But what I’m really afraid of is what you’re going to do when you’re picked for the team on Saturday, and you’ve been doing it too long now. Four years isn’t it, at an average of once or twice in the same week for twenty odd weeks in the year? You know what I mean. In order to control your nerves enough to stay on that cricket field for as much as you have to, especially fielding miles from anyone, you drink about two thirds of a bottle of neat spirits – gin, whisky, brandy whatever you can find or even mix! –  about fifteen minutes before the game.

Fine, it works, even if your almost alcoholic parents are starting to notice, but how long can you keep it up? Maybe until your twenty if you’re lucky and then you’ll be both addicted to drink and suffering from an incurable anxiety neurosis which is driving you round the bend as it is! So look mate, cut out the booze and if it means no more golf or cricket well so be it. There are people far more physically handicapped than you who have to do without lots of things they want. Anyway, just take my advice and behave sensibly. You never know you might fall in love and that would teach you a lesson. Seriously, though, do stop the booze. I mean, imagine what will happen when you have to pay for it yourself!

AWE