Memories of Flying in Cuba

Off to Cuba in 1999.  Flew one day late due to engine problems. Should of seen it as a sign. Arrived in Havana and mooched around. For me it was a delight. For the locals a nightmare stuck in time. Remember one shop, a chemists, with only vinegar for sale.

Onwards and another flight. Driven out to an airport that an Estate Agent/Realtor would call ‘’well lived in.’’ There was a plane, shiny and modern. A list of names tramped out and boarded the gleam machine. I waited. Next airplane. Older but relatively new and smaller. Another list, but not for me. Then I spied a relic being towed to  museum or knackers yard. No, wait a minute, it’s stopping. It stopped outside the departure lounge. Departure seemed to take on a new meaning. Everyone left was beckoned onto the relic. An ancient Antonov, probably from the 1950s love festival between Castro and the U.S.S.R.

As we approached the Wright brothers reject an engineer was tapping the nose cone with a mallet. Nervous laughter. On we climbed. The seats gently in their brackets and Russian accompanied Spanish instructions. Gunning the engine outrageously, the pilot got us airborne.

As we straightened out the cabin began to fill with smoke. The steward ran up the aisle to assure us it was harmless and from the old air conditioning  system. More nervous laughter, and a large rum, please. As I sat in the window seat I decided to watch and pray. Then to my dismay a flame shot back out of the engine. A couple of people said, ooh and one person screamed. The steward tried allay our fears by stating that on these engines, ‘’it was normal.’’ He needed to try harder. Well we landed and it was time for a large rum..Return flight to Havana was at night, in a thunderstorm on the same aircraft. It was a very, very quite flight.

Baggage Allowance

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Whitby bound soon. Flying to Newcastle, and later out of Leeds, with Ryanair. Some wags say that is the best thing to do with Leeds. Fly out.

The luggage allowance is so low with Ryanair that I can only pack my emotional luggage. Could still be tricky! Must check how many pairs of socks I can fit on my feet?

Whether the Weather (app)

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Bob Dylan sang, ”You don’t need a weather man, To know which way the wind blows.”

Bob, get with the times, man. As I meandered through the Telegraph I spotted and article entitled, ”When should I hang my washing out. Met office app will tell you.”

Really? Folks now need an app to judge weather conditions that are not conducive to the drying of wet or moist fabrics and materials! Evolution has furnished us with highly evolved senses to be aware of the world around us. And, and this is a big AND, a brain!

A brain. Fully evolved (in some) for the assessment of conditions around us.  What next? When to use the W.C. app, hunger app? Time for a another triple burger with cheese, app?

Now excuse me. I’m just going to check my ”will the circular wheels on my bike turn when propelled forward, app.

 

 

Travel and Pollution

Ripping the skies

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We travel. We like to go places. I like to travel. Travel broadens the mind. We like to travel to many places. Most people travel by air. Flying further and further in search of the exotic or simply a week in the sun. This coupled to an increase in the number of people travelling is a cause of pollution. Flying is the number one culprit. Estimates state that around 13-15 percent of greenhouse gases in the UK are generated by aircraft.

As we speak, the Arctic is rapidly moving towards an ice-free scenario. The upshot will be the increase in plumes of greenhouse gases, which will warm the planet even more. Our protection, the Arctic Ice, which has  shielded us from climate extremes is rapidly disappearing. Predictions state that 2016 will be the hottest year ever since records began.

We are like a smoker with a hacking cough who simply cannot quit. We are addicted to our own demise. Technologically there is no airborne revolution that will change this situation. Certainly not one which will comply with the number one directive. Namely to make money.

This is something we must take into account when planning our travels. For as we travel, we are killing that which nurtures us all, our planet. It is time to look beyond our own noses. But will we?

In Homage to Sport (not)

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Sport

Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.

Gary Lineker

Football was sport. Sport was football. Fact. Our hero played football in the front room. Football in the garden, the neighbours gardens, in the fields and at school. He played football with friends, classmates and his Jack Russell dog. He played football. Full stop. Even preparing for football lesson was special, electrifying. Into the changing room and roughly pulling his kit from his bag. Our hero had his own kit which met his aesthetic dreams. Dressing for football was a ritual The kit had a specific smell. Laundered cotton and leather. Strip down and on with his shorts. Navy blue and plain. Then knee length pure white socks, pulled up and rolled over at the top. Then his football shirt. Pure white again with a round collar. Pulled on with an air of solemnity. Pukka. Last but not least, on with his boots. They smelled of leather. They smelled good. Laces tied up and then that wonderful clip clop as he made his way outside. At no other time would such noise be tolerated in school. Freedom to run and jump and all in the name of football. Marvelous. Slowly the P.E. teacher brings them under some sort of order. There will be two teams. One will play in their own kit. The other side we be differentiated by a sky blue bib. The teams are selected and he is in the weaker team, again. Why?

Playing football before rules and tactics. The teacher blew the whistle and off they went. Quite literally. One boy had the ball and everybody apart from the goalkeepers, would chase and run after the ball. Complete mayhem and wonderful fun. The teacher shouting orders and instructions as he sought to kill off the fun. Then it was over. His side lost yet again? Back to the changing rooms and time for a very important assessment. Just how much mud on his knees, socks, shorts and top? The dirtier the kit, the better the game had been. Strange Mother never saw it that way. However football was already teaching him something. He played once for the Junior school second eleven. How could the others run so much faster? He was never picked to be on the good side in the PE. Lesson Could it be?

One thing about football that appealed to him. He could pick his own team, his own colours. This was brought to him again when he went to senior school. Mother had to put her hand in her pocket and fork out. The schools’ colours. Green top with a white collar, white shorts with a thin green stripe and white socks with green tops. The combination made him pine for junior school sky blue and maroon. Football at secondary school was serious. Tactics, passing, working in threes and pairs under the instruction of Mr Hook. Dull, boring and pointless. He just wanted to play. Then it would be time for a game. Finally a kick about. Weaker team for him. again No worries. He was to slow for a forward, not skilled enough for a midfielder and lacked a goalkeepers agility. Namely the ability to fall down and make it look good. So he was a right-back. Yeah, right-back behind the goal. Our hero did his best. A lack of speed was made up for with some cunning. He found that if he got the timing just right, just as the quick boy was next to him, a good hard shove was effective. If the opponent just started to leave him behind, he would go into a sliding tackle from behind. Take the other boys legs out from under him and force the ball out of play. The bonus was getting good and dirty, too. Not so dusty.

Other sports, what the hell, other sports! Nightmare. Football finished and an athletics track took shape on the playing field. How he loathed, detested and hated with every fibre of his being hideous track and field. Pathetic athletics. The long jump, renamed by him the short jump, and go home. The triple jump, if done successfully it melded into a short run with half skip. Waste of time. Get changed. The fuck ups made the only sense. The javelin. Now there’s a sport for a group of stupid boys. The javelin, or throwing stick,  has been dated back to the lower Paleothic era. Since then it was modified into a deadly weapon and used by ancient Greeks to Anglo-Saxons, well just about anybody body who could throw. Tipped with steel, it could be thrown at attacking soldiers, women, children, anyone who took their fancy. This deadly would-be weapon was handed out by the pensive P.E. teacher. To boys. Boys shouting and acting in a stupid manner. A rudimentary explanation of do’s and don’ts. Then off they went. Nobody had listened. They never did. Inevitably one boy managed to push the steel tip through his trainer. The teacher retrieved the javelin. Sent the boy to get changed. Javelin was taken off the list of sports for his class. As was the norm.

Rounders. Now that would be safer. Basically a smaller version of baseball. A bit more girly. Hit a ball and then run from one base to the next. The bases were aging half circles of red steel plopped in a circular shape. Chipped and old. No problem. Well, maybe just one. The teacher covered all his bases. Or so he thought. Fielders set, batsmen ready and back stop in position. The game started and was going well. Shouts of encouragement from team mates. Derision from the opponents. All under the sun on a warm day. Wonderful. What could go wrong? Up steps Thompson. Thompson is a would be sportsman. Would be, but for the fact he was an idiot. All fingers and thumbs and gangly legs topped by curly blond locks. Thompson sought glory, the big hit, the game hinges on his innings. The drama builds as the bowler bowls, the ball is in the air. Thompson swings with all his might and gives the ball a hefty thump. Excited and elated he allows the momentum of the swing to carry the bat back behind him. Without a backward glance he lets go of the bat. And go it certainly did. At a speedy velocity straight into the face of the back stop, who then crumples to the ground. Time  to call it a day. Game over.

Cricket. Now there was a summers game he could relate to. Dressed in white and played out under the summer sky. Crack of oak on willow. Well, cork covered in red leather on willow. Batsmen, slips, wicket-keeper, bowler, silly mid-off, or was that silly mid-on? Then there’s Deep Midwicket, Square Leg, enough, enough! The teacher told him where to stand, basically around Deep Midwicket. But as the sun shone and boredom increased he would amble over to Cow Corner. Our hero wanted to bat, he loved to bat and for him that was cricket. Batting. So he stood. The batsmen hit the ball, they ran between the wickets. He stood,  scratched his balls and walked a bit further to Cow Corner. All the while speaking to himself about Miss Horny and chewing on a blade of grass. Wishing he was chewing on Miss Horny between her legs. Then it happened. The batsmen sent the ball thumping out in his direction.  In a millisecond he had the impression that everyone had turned and was looking at him. Our hero looked up as the ball arced its way over to him. Arms out in front of him he waited to catch the ball. To be a hero. As he squinted against the sunlight the ball hit his hands, bounced, and dropped dully to the ground. The palm of his hand was on fire, and he could hear hails of derision as he threw the ball back. Stupid game anyway! Two more overs were bowled and then his side were batting. Trudging back over to his team mates he sat down and nursed the palm of his hand. He could feel the bruise waiting to come through. Fuck, it was his wanking hand, too. As with football, he found himself on the weaker team. Thompson was there opening batsman. That said it all. Geoff Boycott he was not. With undue haste the bales flew and catches were made. The P.E. teacher told our hero to pad up. Yes, great, he was finally going to bat. He loved to bat. An, howzat! The P.E teacher acting as umpire, slowly raised his hand and signalled the batsmen as out. Leg before wicket. Our hero was elated, he was in next. He was the batter. Clutching the bat in his sore right hand he strode up and stood in front of the wicket. He really loved to bat, it was the best. He checked his position. Looked masterfully all around to check the fielders. Batting was the best. He was ready, gently tapping the end of the bat on the ground. The bowler took a long look, then a long run. Batting, that was his forte. The bowler wind milled his arm and released the ball. Howzat? Our hero turned, heard and saw the bales flying off the wicket at the same time. He loved to bat. It just never lasted very long. Trudging away he thought how he’d have to use his left hand in bed.

 

Gymnasium is derived from ‘’Gymnazein’’  which meant figuratively or literally “to train naked,” which in turn comes from gymnos or “naked,”  So now he knew why Mr Goblin was so keen on the gymnasium. For our hero it was  a hell hole. High walls with strapped back climbing frames. A horse for attempting to jump over. As if. More often than not he ran into it and squashed his balls! Baskets on walls. Climbable ropes that he never climbed dangling from the rafters.  Of course our hero did not excel in any sportsman like manner in the gym. Our hero really didn’t give a toss. He looked upon  the gym rather as a place of pain and humiliation. The climbing frames swung out and locked into place. Circuit training. They had to catch and throw medicine balls, do press ups and then climb the frames. Why medicine balls? Well, doctors in ancient Greece wrote about weighted exercise balls and these balls appear in drawings of wrestlers dating back to 1000 B.C. in Persia. Mr Goblin liked wresting, he liked big balls and wanted to see his pupils playing with them.

Anyway, as our hero got to the top of the frame he heard Mr Goblin remind him to climb right over the top. Our hero squeezed through the gap betwixt frame and roof. Cumbersome leg over, body through and then, slip whoops lunge and fall. Bang. Darkness. Waking in a smelly room badly lit room. Couldn’t see very clearly, but why were people not wearing clothes. He heard shouting and felt disorientated. There was an older man sitting far too close, Who the hell was he? The old man  asked him to count fingers.  Count them yourself. Home he went buy a long meandering route without even changing his P.E. kit. Knock knock, do I live here?

Different P.E teacher. Mr Hook.  Same manual dexterity. The pointless aim of the lesson was trampolining.  A skill he would obviously need every day in future life. Not. Trampolines were employed by the U.S. Navy to train pilots and navigators in World War 2. The idea was to acclimatize them to flying around head over heels. Was our hero going to join the US navy? No, thank you. Was he going to fly war planes. Again no. Father had told him what sailors get up to on those ships. After World War 2 the Russians and the Americans used trampolines to help astronauts gain experience at being ass upwards. Which was probably why the US Navy really used them in the first place! Was our hero going into space?  Still no. More pointlessness from school.  School excelled in pointlessness. The trampoline was wheeled out by Mr Hook. The device was basically a huge bear trap. The two ends had to be pulled up, then down, finally being locked into place.  Bounce, bounce aimlessly. P.E. teacher is happy. Nonce. Then it was time to put the spring loaded bear trap away. The snappy spring loaded weapon. Again the P.E. teacher stood back as he was too sensible to get involved in such shenanigans. Unhelpful, lazy bastard. Each side had three boys allocated to pull up the ends, and then hold and control them as they were lowered, under great pressure from the springs. Unfortunately he had a boy called Olive on his side, and he was called Olive for a reason. As the spring pressure increased , Olive and the other boy abandoned their position. This meant that the end crashed down on our hero, actually on his wrist. Pain. A great deal of pain. Home he went. Arriving home he explained to Mother what had happened. She then walked him to the local GP. Sagely the GP advised a trip to the hospital. So they walked to the nearest bus stop. Gingerly onto the bus. Into the hospital, wait for a couple of hours and finally x-rayed. Our hero had broken his wrist. Jesus wept, his right wrist. What a tragedy for a thirteen year old boy. He really, really  didn’t like the gymnasium, naked or clothed. Mr Goblin, please take note.

Strange as many people view rugby as a dangerous sport. Taking into account his misadventures in the gym he was inclined to think of it as fun.  “Rugby is a game for big buggers. if you’re not a big bugger, you get hurt. I wasn’t a big bugger but I was a fast bugger and therefore I avoided the big buggers.” As Spike Milligan said. True. Whereas he wasn’t the biggest buggar in the class, he was bigger than most. Mr Hook assigned our hero as a lock in the second row directly behind the front row. Strange that. This entailed putting his head between the props and the hooker. Push. Worryingly someone in the third row would put his hand up under our heroes crutch, and hang on to the waistband of his shorts. Hoping Ass Licker wasn’t behind him, they pushed, shoved, kicked, punched and had a great time. Then the ball was released and the running part started again. Not his strong point. Yeah, rugby was okay. Even better than football was the dirty kit factor. He could even kick quire well. The ball, not the other players. Typical. A round ball is made to be kicked, long and straight. But he managed to do it better with an oval ball. But he turned down the chance to play for the school. Our hero wasn’t a  company man. There was also the matter of image. When he pulled on his football shorts he lost Mr Goblin’s interest. Thank God. More importantly he pulled on shorts that looked cool, fitted well. Were part and parcel of the image. Rugby shorts lacked a certain savoir faire. In short they looked stupid and distinctly uncool. Too small, no flair no style and too fuckin’ tight . Like a cheap hotel, no Ballroom. Worn with the shirt tucked in one could spot the Nigels’ and Tims’ and his Brother. In fact a team of spazzy like people. No, he would stick with football. Definitely football.

 

Sport, he concluded, wasn’t really for him, he wasn’t sporty. However he loved to watch football on television, rugby, motor cross, women’s tennis and sheep dog trials. A Saturday in late August. Another cherry to burst. Our hero was off to football with Brother and his latest tart.  Train and tube to a land with seven sisters. In a crowd on the way to the ground singing, shouting and soaking up the buzz. Banter and bullshit abounded. Scarves and pubs full of supporters, hot dog stands selling lips and assholes with ketchup. Then all of a sudden, rounding a corner, the stadium. Tall and imposing and surrounded by people milling around in an a chaotic dance. Through this he followed Brother diligently keeping him in sight. Tickets were bought at the door and turning an aged turn style he was in, in the ground. Unbelievable. Brother referred to the ticket stub. South Stand Upper. They dodged and  maneuvered into the waiting South Stand. Then with knees clipping seated spectators they made it to their seats. In front of him an old couple were dolling out the contents of a flask. Our hero looked around. Where are the speakers? He didn’t want to seem to stupid. A modicum of stupidity from time to time, okay.  But where were the speakers? For all his life his experience of watching football was on television. Match of the Day which kicked off in 1964, and from 1966 was hosted by Jimmy Hill. Its rival was the Big Match on ITV on Sunday lunchtimes with the inimitable Brian Moore. What was a supporter of Gillingham doing on a football program! Akin to Adolf Hitler in charge of a Kibbutz! There was also the Midweek Sports Special late at night on a Wednesday. All with commentary. Wednesday late night football. Followed by a very late night wank. Magic.

Back at the ranch, that is back in the South Stand. Our hero sat between Brother and current tart. The players from both teams came out to warm up. The ground was filling up rapidly. Back jogged the players and the singing crowd grew in noise, grew in size. Sights and sounds filled our heroes senses and he could feel himself soaring.                  Rhythmic, basic and tribal. Brother, scarf round neck, singing and chanting, too. But where were the bloomin’ speakers? The players reemerged and ran out to deafening applause and much clapping of hands overheads. Still no speakers. A tannoy announced the teams, who took up their positions and then the game started. So that’s how it works. You watch and scream and shout but there is no Jimmy Hill, no Brian Moore, no commentary whatsoever. The game was great. Well in truth it was probably rubbish, but it was his first and he loved it. Of course it helped that his side won 2-1. Couldn’t see how the centre-half from the other team could see with such a huge Afro. Maybe the reason why his team won. But it was great. Game over and more instructions to stay close and off home. That night the game was on Match of the Day. Viewing it on television looked so different, so close and so clear. Now with the commentary he could tell what had happened. That’s how it’s meant to be. All viewed while eating a cheese and onion sandwich and a positive result guaranteed. Sorted.

Mother and Fathers Improbable Meeting

 

“To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

Woody Allen

 

Once  again the actual fat chance of our hero existing once again comes into play with some incredibly, mind boggling odds.  The numbers are difficult to comprehend.  There are approximately 7 billion people in the world, give or take a few dozen.  It does tend to fluctuate. Now factor in that around 70%  are adults and that there’s essentially a 50/50 split between males and females. Which means there are about 2.45 billion potential special people out there for any one person. So in a nutshell a person has a 1 in 2.45 billion chance of meeting a life partner.

 

In this case the egg donor and the sperm supplier met as entirely by chance as is possible to conceive, quip fully intended. Mother was on a day out at, roll on the drums, Southend-on-Sea.  Again the sea and water! Mother and her younger sister were ambling around the beautiful playground that was the funfair at Southend in an affable manner, circa 1951. As they strolled around in their best attire they spotted a ride that they both agreed would be fun. However the ride was going to project them up to some crazy G-forces. Giggle force. They duly deemed the ride unsuitable for their handbags. Then the problem arose. Neither of them had had the forethought to bring alone a young man as company and chief bag handler. What were the young ladies to do in order to find a solution to this thorny problem? Trumpets please and sounds of horns blaring out in a Roman Empircal mode in the background. Enter stage left our hero, that handsome slim but well -built old devil, Brylcreemed and clad in jaunty grey flannels and a blue jacket, that caddish looking chap who would be known as Father. For some blindingly naïve reason, or such was the desire to go on this particular fairground ride that the ladies asked Father (to be) to hold their handbags. But move beyond the mere bag in its material form. For in the bag was their money. Money they had been saving for this day out, the keys to their home, ration cards and other forms of identification, apart from the mundane essential of cosmetics, and probably spare knickers for purely emergency reasons. Just what were legitimate emergency reasons was never alluded to in any great detail. Although there was enough material for an emergency parachute, or two! Maybe that was the answer. Covert parachute production.

 

And what a fascinating place Southend-on –Sea was for the funky hipsters of the time. Originally the ‘south-end of Prittlewell village, so much more appealing and lyrical to the ear. As a resort Southend- on-Sea grew in popularity from the Georgian era onwards. To celebrate this popularity a pier was built in 1830. Then after some time the very sensible idea of building it in iron instead of timber saw the new, stronger modern pier open in 1889. And what a pier! At 2,158 meters long, or 7,80 feet, or if you really want to get a concept of its length try 1.34 miles or 2.16 kilometers, the longest in the world. Southend-on Sea could really say come and have a look at this! This epic sized construction juts in a phallic like manner into that aquatic playground known as the Thames Estuary. The location of Southend -on-Sea geographically means that it has warm summers. However remember these are British summers we are talking about, with no dry season.  Exactly. Brolly, please.

 

Back to the amusement park. In fact they met at what they termed the Kursaal. This is a German word and means the ‘main public pump room in a spa.’ However it was used in the  English language to denote a Fairground or Amusement Park at that time. The Germans must have been outraged at this blatant and abusive misuse of their beautiful language. So much so that in May 1915 the German High Command sent a huge Zeppelin captained by a certain Hauptmann Erich Linnarz to visit England. Well to be honest they only did huge when it came to Zeppelins. Anyway, the gallant captain was tasked with attacking London. However he single handedly destroyed the myth of German thoroughness and efficiency  when he decided, on a whim, to drop a few bombs on Southend. As you do. Just to say hi! Maybe he spotted too many sunbeds without towels laid on them reserving them for after the war. Later when Captain Linnarz was deterred from attacking London he dumped the rest of his bombs on Southend again on his return trip. What a generous soul. Hundreds of  bombs exploded in the town and duly punished the English for using and twisting the linguistic usage of Kursaal so derisively. Take that Englander! Anyway this meant nothing to Mother and Father in 1951 outside of the offending Germanic word which was in common usage at that time.

 

The ride. Father, on being accosted and asked if  he would hold their bags, and being the gentleman that he was, duly agreed. And then he waited patiently while the ladies had their fun, hurtling around at unimaginable speeds and giggling. He did not rifle through the bags, for he had left his rifle back in barracks. Nor did he pilfer anything, not even the spare bloomers. Instead he  stood as if he were a sentry outside Buckingham Palace, solid and reliable. Hwe was definitely starting to feel solid. Or maybe he was thinking along the lines of a ride for a ride. Come on ladies, I was ever so helpful! Either way contact was established and events would unfold at such a rapid pace that Father would ask for her hand in marriage, and all the other attached bits too, in only three weeks from the day they met . Now that was a fast worker. Notably neither of them took heed from the inherent warning to be taken from the initials of where they met, Southend -on-Sea, or SOS. Three dits, three dahs and three dits. Which incidentally does not stand for ‘’Save our Souls’’ as apropo as that sentiment may have been for their fateful meeting.

 

Now back to creating him. So, 23 male and 23 female chromosomes fused in perfect harmony, and excuse his immodesty, devilishly handsome to boot, and the process of creating him from the nothing he had been, which is nothing and nowhere as there was nothing there,  to the something he would become. He had, if you will, surfaced turtle-like and had his neck lassoed with his very own life-saver slung around his neck.

‘’And as unplanned as the ensnaring of a turtle with a life saver’’,  said the counselor, who really was pushing home her bitch-like advantage behind a banal smile, pineapple tilting slightly to one side dangerously. He agreed with the counselor, not from deference for her profession, but for the fact that somewhere in the depths of his mind, his walled and partioned brain, a dim 40-watt fly shit encrusted bulb had illuminated. It was visible through the cracks in some of his walls.

 

Unplanned he had slipped in unbidden (more punning) into Mother’s nether regions. Well, that was not exactly completely accurate nor true. He had been pumped in at 28 mph, or 44 kph for those of the metric system. Just stop and think about the size of a sperm, which is as mentioned earlier only 50microns long. And then fire it off at 28 mph, that really is some forward motion. After such an explosive start the sperm, naturally, starts to slow down just a tad. Well you wouldn’t you. And then takes the slip road of the motorway and takes about 72 hours to reach the egg.

At first he wasn’t much to look at with just two layers, but he was replicating nicely and by 4-weeks he had built himself up to the size of a poppy seed, and could then officially be called an embryo.

’’ Hey you’’

‘’What’’

‘’You’re an embryo’’

‘’Thanks’’

His brain which developed from a neural tube, was coming along nicely, as was his spinal chord. Although others would later testify that our heroes brain development had been as stunted as Snow Whites dwarves. But still nobody knew he was there, not even Mother. However around the 12th week Mother grew exhausted on blaming everything on ‘the wind’ and sought a more definitive diagnosis for her discomfiture. If it were wind, then the future did not look rosy for her, or those in her company. Beseeching pleas were made by the family who felt the acute lack of ventilation in their home at that time. Mother was encouraged strongly to find a cure for  her windy problem, so a visit to a doctor was arranged. The very profession that had been so reliable in her life up until then.  But beggars can’t be choosers. The doctor concurred that it was not wind in a relieved tone. The he quietly closed the surgery window fretting over the lack of fenestrations in his small surgery. He then informed Mother that she was in fact pregnant. With child, bun in the oven and up the duff.

‘’So you were an accident,  an unwanted child and you threw a the family out of kilter ’’ said the counselor.

‘’Have you ever thought of how such thinking pervaded their thinking of you then, and later on?’’

No he hadn’t, he was being taken to places his mind had not dwelt on before. It was unsettling. Revolutionary.

The flensing was going quite nicely.

Being

Because  I was conceived and born, and grew up and I’m breathing, and my heart is beating, as much as it hurts, as much searing monumental pain it causes me-I have to exist.

Brenna Yovanoff – Paper Valentine

Mother was 42-years old when she gave birth to our hero. So in addition to her age, the fact that there was almost a mathematically zero chance of living, at all  meant that he did well to be born. Fullstop. She gave birth to him in the month of February.  February as a word derives from the last month of the ancient  Roman calendar and refers to a month of purification. Whilst the old English name was mud month. So much more earthy. Wet earth of course. It was England after all.  Mother had duly purified herself by jettisoning our hero into the world in mud month. As a young lady Mother had been informed by doctors that she would never be able to give birth to a child. Leastways not a live one. In fact that she was as barren as the surface of the moon and that there was more chance of Britain having a female Prime Minister one day, as if! (male humour circa early 1960s).  The problem was that she had not developed reproductively from a girl into a woman. But this is the wonderful thing about doctors. And not only doctors. But the seemingly endless queue of experts who are wetting themselves to pass on bad news, the end of all and the nil chance of something happening forever. They get things wrong. They are not accurate in their doom-laden prophecies or simply cock it up. Well, in this case the doctor was wrong. For Mother this was not an unique experience in her life. The proof of the pudding being that our hero was the fourth pregnancy for Mother.  He had an older sister, and elder brother and sadly the third pregnancy which did not make it out of the starting blocks. A real zero and a true dead end. Even before that another doctor duly informed Mother that she would not live beyond 30 years of age. Wrong again doc. How to make a young lady happy. Imagine that conversation.

Doctor Doom says

‘‘I am very sorry to have to inform you will never have children. What is more you will  most likely die before you are 30 years of age. Have a good day and close the door on the way out, please. Next’’.

 

The next obstacle that the doctors said she could face was the very real prospect of giving birth to a child with Downs Syndrome. Which luckily did not happen. Enter Brother. Brother pointed out on a number of occasions in later life as being an accurate diagnosis. Horrible ginger cunt. Downs Syndrome, or the far less  politically correct term, Mongolism, is the most common of all birth defects. Did anyone ever ask the Mongols of having their name ascribed to this malady? Ever have the politeness of enquiring if it was okay with them? Being over 40-years of age automatically put Mother in the, ‘we should warn her’ category for her doctor in his ‘list of things to do and what ‘what to tell my wife when I take the new young nurse for multiple meat injections over the weekend’, no maybe not that list! She was actually informed that she was at ‘high risk’ of having a Downs Syndrome child and that she should know the risks before considering her next move. Fortunately Mother didn’t listen to the professionals who were laying before her the option of an abortion.

Now according to early Christians, not ones that rise early in the morning you understand, but those hanging around at the start of the faith. Well these guys thought that Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus was the second person of the Holy Trinity, only second to God. So for Catholics, Jesus’ life was sacred from the very opening seconds of his conception in Mary’s womb. So a big no to abortion.

“Thereupon Mary set out, proceeding in haste into the hill country to a town of Judah, where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and cried out in a loud voice: ‘Blest are you among women and blest is the fruit of your womb. But who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby leapt in my womb for joy. Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled’” (Lk 1:39-45).  Well Mother didn’t use the Holy Spirit to get pregnant, or the Holy spirit did not use her, nor was there much ‘blesting’ at the news, but fortunately abortion was not an option, even as a non-Catholic, that she wanted to pursue. Phew!

So Mother would have been told something along the lines of the following. Downs Syndrome is a disorder, actually a clutch of birth defects which derive from a problem with chromosomes resulting in heart conditions and intellectual disability and the telltale characteristic familiarity of the facial features. Basically instead of having the requisite 23 male and 23 female chromosomes, an extra chromosome is added to the mix, and having 47 chromosomes rather than 46 is not good and leads to Downs Syndrome. Well, he had straddled another hurdle in the great race to exist, and assuming that he went the full 9-months, it means with some nifty back engineering that he was conceived and came into existence at the sub-atomic level sometime in May 1963.

 

But these were troubling times, the era into which he was formed and later born. Troubling indeed. During the early 1960s the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) became the latest thing in military must haves for a superpower. Now there are always dangerous people around leaders with crazy ideas. The U.S., those defenders of freedom and liberty and the American dream, had an idea. Dating from 1957 the U.S. military postulated the thesis of  a preemptive nuclear strike against the then U.S.S.R. This gung ho attitude was rooted in the fact that the U.S. had an overwhelming strength in big stones to throw  at the U.S.S.R. The U.S. Air Force and CIA leaders apparently believed that a window of complete ballistic missile superiority would hove into view for a perhaps, note perhaps,  successful first strike in (late) 1963. This would of greatly limited his chance of existing, and quite a few other people, too. Thankfully somebody sane spoke up and the world did not descend into a Nuclear nightmare. Leastways not yet. Now back to a real nightmare. In this case which means that much vaunted home of excellence, British television. There was, and this is his distinct impression, nothing, shall we say stimulating on British television in the May of 1963. At least not enough to draw his parents attention to the television long enough to bypass the carnal urges that led to his conception. It must have been a night without the Black and White Minstrels Show, Liberace or something equally hideous to divert their energy. Something good on television, anything on television come to that, and the moment would have passed. For he was, as the counselor pointed out to him, definitely not planned for or wanted in any way shape or form beforehand.

 

Now  the subject of sex rears its ugly head. Head, rears, isn’t this all a bit naughty? Or as John Cleese stated, “Life is a terminal disease, and it is sexually transmitted.” Mother had obviously got the hang of sex by the time he was conceived. Leastways at the most rudimentary level of laying down, putting it in and jiggling it about it. Praying or at least waiting patiently until Father had finished. Mot probably planning dinner for the next day. One of her favourite phrases lent weight to the ‘rudimentary’ level theory. Speak in less than glowing terms of Fathers prowess in all things related to the sexual and erotic pleasure. Mother was often heard lamenting,

‘’I don’t really know what all the fuss is about.’’ Nice.

Mother really should have taken Monty Python’s advice.

 

Sit on my face and tell me that you love me

I’ll sit on your face and tell you I love you too

I love to hear you oralize

When I’m between your thighs

You blow me away

 

Sit on my face and let my lips embrace you

I’ll sit on your face and then I’ll love you truly

Life can be fine if we both sixty nine

If we sit on our faces in all sorts of places

And play till we’re blown away

 

However our hero had learned in later life just how naive Mother had been about all things sexual. Especially as a young woman.  A  young lady who came from an English village named after a Saint no less, was warned earnestly, with much wagging of the parental finger, not to lay on the grass with a soldier. A very timely warning as soldiers were much in evidence due to a war.  A big war and thus many soldiers. For those women who liked men in uniform, or part of it for a knee trembler, the war was a boon.  A fact which in fact led to a surfeit of men in uniform in general. He thought about this warning handed out to his Mother, and decided that it actually included all serviceman, and probably men in general. However Grandfather had highlighted soldiers as the main threat. Most  probably as he had been a soldier himself. Dirty old hypocrite, another man’s daughter was fair game! Back to the warning which basically proclaimed that laying on the grass with a soldier would result in her being with child. Pregnant, as if by a miracle. Most likely with three wise men no doubt seeking her out in the local hostelries with gold, silver and muir, or more probably a pint of bitter, silk stockings and cigarettes.

 

For him and for you, the process that would lead from the sitting on the grass, to the having a child are obvious and as old as the hills. A theatre played out by humankind since the dawn of time, but  one which it never grows tired of doing again and again. However for Mother the process was blanketed in a fog of  ignorance. Sex and reproduction had a taboo and a dirtiness as enveloping as a London pea-souper. The poor woman simply lacked the wherewithal to make the necessary leap of logic, to connect up all the dots. This was all down to her upbringing. Being raised in a small village was bad enough.  Being raise in a tiny world In  conjunction with the general  societal taboo in regards to all things sexual, which  was blanketing and completely uninformative, well, it equaled a disaster. So Mother was completely bereft of any sex education. Talking of things sexual was taboo. Even the word sex would have been spoken in three low, single syllables, S-E-X, behind a cupped hand with eyes moving shiftily from left to right, or right to left depending on the prevailing wind.

 

Mothers parents were by birth Victorians. The age of Victoria shaped them and moulded them into rigid inflexible forms. Sadly many people born in the Victorian era were both badly informed and emotionally frigid about sex and laying on the grass in general. Historically, it appeared that the fun and bawdy behaviour and attitudes of the let’s just do it Regency period were replaced by a new order of puritan control and repression. This new order of tight assed repression was heralded in by the newly dominant bourgeoisie. It then filtered down through the strata of the social fabric, permeating every class. Basically trying to spoil everybody’s fun. Its footprint lasted well into the twentieth century. ‘Lie back and think of England’, as one mother is famously said to have advised her newly married daughter who was anxious about the coming event. Very helpful.  From such an environment, with such ignorance, was Mothers upbringing shaped. Mother was not only uninformed of things relating to sex, but had to be chased to school by grandmother with a broom to learn anything at all. From this great village institution she gleaned very little and from which she was able to leave at the tender age of 13. The school not the broom. Mother then went straight to work at a  local mill. Ironically with a broom. She was bereft of education and lacked insight into the world in general, and sex in particular. Mother was adrift in life without much in the way of preparation, let alone parental guidance. But by way of consolation she did have a good broom. Bass broom.

 

What were the ramifications of being told to stay of the grass lest she become pregnant? Manifold. Mother duly adhered strictly to pavements, ardently to roads and other  man made reassuringly artificial surfaces, but not on the grass. Nope, not the grass. Especially if men were lounging seductively upon its velvety surface. Seen to be lounging on their backs supporting their weight on their elbows and suggestively thrusting their genitalia skyward, inviting her to partake of  immoral salaciousness. How signs reading, ‘’Stay of the Grass’’ must have taken on almost semi-erotic warnings. Inviting people to partake of such overt salacious behaviour. Disgraceful. Even when first married and living with Grandmother and Grandfather, aglow with news of her first pregnancy she asked Grandmother for information about the birth. This was  because for all she knew the baby would emerge from her belly button. And this she had stated was her opinion. Mother was bereft of any information. Full stop. So the following conversation ensued.

‘’Where will the baby come out of, Mum?’’

Grandmother was succinct and direct in her reply.

‘’Do you remember how it got in there?’’ she asked.

‘’Yes’’ replied Mother.

‘’Well, it’ll come out the same fuckin’ way it got in there in the first place’’.

And there you have it. The miracle and wonder of birth explained in unequivocal terms for Mother. There was such a veil drawn across the subject of sex, and whisper it quietly, reproduction, that even talking of it was problematical. Even for Mother being a married woman  and announcing that she and Father were expecting their first child caused a stir.  Grandmother didn’t mince her words. Grandmother called her a whore. To her daughters face, a whore, her own married daughter. Grandmother had been at the wedding, seen the service, heard the vowels and witnessed the swapping of rings. What more did she want? In fact the problem was selfishness. Mother had found love and been married relatively late in life. In her late twenties, distinctly late in that era. For her family she was an old maid. Left on the shelf. Grandmother had, in her mind, appointed Mother as the child who would always be at home to do her bidding. To look after her and Grandfather when they grew old and infirm. Add to this the fact that Mother and Father were married in February and Sister was born in November, it was all just to quick!  Not seemly. Oh, the love and support of a warm family unit. The tenderness and irreplaceable support of his doting Grandmother for his Mother. But that was just the shame associated with all things linked to reproduction. Imagine Grandmother and Grandfathers unrivaled angst, if God forbid, a person actually enjoyed the sensuality of the sexual act and took erotic pleasure from the activity. And of course there was a warning story which did the rounds  in the village to guard  against just such a disgusting state of affairs as sex, reproduction and laying on the grass in general.

 

A young lady, let’s call her Miss Erotica, did not pay heed to her father’s entreaty to stay of the grass. Maybe he used another substandard ploy instead. But which in all events went unheeded, too. Erotica did not just ignore the warnings of a life of loose morals. Miss Erotica flagrantly threw them out of the window of obedience as she followed the hormones and the desires coursing through her young sex hungry body. She not only laid on the grass with a man, but men, many men and showed far too much interest in sex and the biological ins and outs of reproduction. And heaven for fend, not for the sake of reproduction, but just to have a good hard fuck and reach climax. Again, and again and again. In fact she was so diligent in her pursuit of her lusts that she was branded a cock-hungry slut in the village. At this juncture it is best to clarify that Miss Erotica was smitten with the male sexual organ, in its rampant form, and not with the male ‘gallinaceus bird’ usually a male chicken (Gallus Gallus). Which would of undoubtedly got her into far less trouble, and may even have brought her invitations to County shows and similar rustic events, where cock appreciation could have been done openly and in a socially acceptable manner.

 

No, sadly for Miss Erotica her sexual enthusiasm was focused on the male member, and to celebrate her hobby her mother and father took her to a doctor. The expert duly declared, after examining her thoroughly, nudge-nudge, that she was suffering from a chronic disease. Yes Mr and Mrs Erotica, your daughter is a dirty cock hungry slut who fucks like an uninhibited whore. Can you bring her back next week for another check-up said the doctor wiping his lips with  handkerchief? No, there could be no mistake. The doctor was certain of the ailment afflicting poor Miss Erotica. She liked sex. Loved it. Was gagging for it. Couldn’t get enough. As a result of his expert diagnosis she was sent to a large building with barred windows, drugged and treated for her shameful affliction and removed from society. The local male community exhaled a deep collective sigh of sadness at the terrible heart-rending news. For Mother the moral of the message was clear. Neither talk about nor enjoy sex, an ethos she would pass on in Motherhood to her offspring in a diligent manner. But they would not listen.

 

Now back to 1963, and whether Mother was enjoying it or not, one of Father’s 1% life-giving super sperm was swimming towards one of her eggs with dogged determination. Just like the bombardier of a World War 2 Lancaster bomber over enemy territory. Egg in sight, penetrating now and fertilized, mission completed, and  back for a cup of Rosie Lee and a full English breakfast. Spiffing. By the way, all this reference to swimming is odd, as he would later show no tendency whatsoever to aquatic sports at all, nor bathrooms in particular. Especially  bearing in mind where our heroes Mother and Father first met.