Chapter 46 – The End of the Beginning
At the end
We found ourselves
Ecstatic, sad, dancing,
Out of time
Slow, slow, quick
Between our lips
Silence unearthed us
This is where we’ll
Kiss goodbye, hello
Out of time
* * *
First Days in Halls and College – Part 1
I’m looking at my young self in the room in halls, he’s drawing what he can see from the window. The night sky’s dark and he seems captivated by the light from the bar across the way where a few students are playing pool, smoking, and fooling around. I remember that drawing, I’ve still got it somewhere. As he finishes, I look at it over his shoulder with my 58-year-old values and think, “It’s ok”. He looks around at me and says, “I can see you, are you me when I’m older?”
“Yes,” I answer matter-of-factly, I should be surprised but this is a dream and, well, it just feels very normal.
He pauses, looks at me and asks, “What happens to me, when will I die?”
I laugh, “I don’t know, I haven’t died yet.”
He purses his lips, they’re a lot fuller than mine now, which have been rubbed down by the friction of life, and a lot of talking.
“Well how old are you?” he asks.
“I’m 58.” I say, waiting for him to say I don’t look that old, but he doesn’t. Instead, he nods approvingly and adds, “So, I’m going to make it till then, it’s good to know I’ve got so long”
I shake my head, “It isn’t that long, trust me, it goes by really quickly”
There’s a pause while he thinks, “So, what’s going to happen to me, will I get married?”
I’m not sure whether to add an expression of disappointment or joy as I answer, “I haven’t so far,”
Slightly disturbed he wants to prize this one open more. “Well, will I find anyone who’ll love me?”
I’m not sure how much I should tell him, so keep it simple. “Yes,”
He smiles, “That’s a relief”
Realising I might be getting his expectations up a bit too high I add, “Well, it’s not that simple.” And it’s then I tell him a little about the main relationships in my life, their names and what happened. As you know, that took a bit of time.
Halfway through, obviously regretting his question, he asks, “Will I have any children?”
More relieved than him to get off the subject I say, “Yes, 4, two boys and two girls with two different women.”
He looks a bit bemused, “My life sounds very complicated”
I laugh, then explain, “Yes, you’ll be there a lot for your sons, but you’ll pretty much be an absent father to your daughters.”
A bit too quick to judge in my opinion, he interjects, “That’s bad, why do I do that?”
I can’t be bothered to go into details so just go for the, “It’s complicated. But it wasn’t to do with them. No matter what they’d have been like it would have gone the same way.”
Still with eyebrows in as high a position as possible, he asks, “What will my, I mean our, kids be like?”
I laugh a little, “Well, all parents say their kids are beautiful, clever and talented, but our ones actually are, although I can’t really take any credit for that beyond genetics, it’s their mums who did all the work.”
He looks disapprovingly at me again. “So will I be successful?”
I’m not sure how to answer that so ask, “How do you measure that?”
He smiles, “OK, will I be rich and famous?”
I don’t want to discourage him too much, “No, but you won’t be poor or a complete failure either.”
He sighs, and asks, “Will I be happy?”
I sigh too, “It’ll be a mixture, sometimes you will, and there’ll be times when you’re not, but try to remember most of the time things get better.”
He bites his lip, “Are you happy now?”
I sway my head from side to side a little, “Yes, but I expect that will change eventually, and after I’ve been down I’ll be happy again and so on, till I die.”
Slightly panicked, he tells me, “You’re beginning to fade away, there’s so much more I want to ask, have you got any advice before you go?”
I try to think of what might help but only come up with, “You’re going to live an interesting life.” And wish I’d found a better answer as I can see he’s a little bewildered, and then we wake, 40 years apart again.
* * *
First Days in Halls and College – Part 2 – 1983
As soon as I woke I could feel I’d had an important dream, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t recall it. Still haunted by the feeling it left me with, I got dressed, went down for breakfast, and had a laugh with a few of the others before getting my bike, pressing play on my pseudo-Walkman, and cycling up Worfield Street, at the top of which, I turned left onto Parkgate Road and then right onto Battersea Bridge where, as I got halfway up the incline I knocked a taxi driver’s wing mirror out of position with my handlebars. I stopped and reversed to where he was stuck in traffic. At first, the driver was annoyed but once he saw I was trying to help he guided me, and as it hit the right position he put his thumb up and smiled. I said sorry again then cycled on.
* * *
First Days in Halls and College – Part 3 – 1983 – The Present Presence
I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but there was a presence continually pushing up against me, and although I can see it clearly now, it’s easy to forget it’s here still.
* * *
Punch Line – Part 1
If you’re going to tell a joke, and you’re hoping to leave your audience in stitches, delivering its punch line correctly is going to be essential, although fucking it up will normally get a few laughs too. The same goes for stories, it’s how we end them that’ll leave the biggest impression. But when it comes to biographies it’s the journey rather than the arrival that’ll hold most of the emotional resonance, unless, of course, they die tragically or heroically, neither of which I’m planning on doing soon if I can help it. So, given most of the interesting things in our lives tend to happen in the early years or midway and not at the end I should be able to come up with at least one thing, you know, the way people do, maybe receiving a knighthood or some other sign of success but, well…
I had asked a few of my fellow karateka to take a look at the chapter on karate and disability a few weeks ago and when one of them asked how I was planning on ending the book he said, “You should end it with you being awarded [such and such] a grade in karate.” When I said I didn’t want to do that he looked a bit puzzled, so I tried to explain that, for me, what’s been important has been living my life with both a connection to my disability and a separation from it too and with that in mind I didn’t want to end this book with me being awarded anything, or receiving applause from my peers, especially because, if you take my disability out of the equation, I haven’t really done anything that out of the ordinary. But that’s the point. I along with the rest of us have done some good things, some bad, and if anything, are not all our lives exceptional even if when compared to more extraordinary folk, we may erroneously be categorised as having lived unexceptional ones. So, in many ways, this is a kind of celebration of all those who bear the mundane, because within such lives we all still come into contact with the same complex themes that can be found in the Greek Myths, Shakespeare, or any other work that weaves itself around being human.
Speaking of the mundane, I’ve often talked about how we’re driven to escape it and brush against the extraordinary whenever we can, however, when I returned home after being ill in 2017 and walked back into my living room I felt so relieved to be back, I almost cried as. I’d thought I would never see it again and realised then just how important our mundane lives are.
* * *
Punch Line – Part 2
I haven’t made life easy for myself by ending this at the beginning of my adult life, I mean had I gotten old I could have at least juxtaposed my glorious younger days against my older, nearly dead ones, although, to be fair, I would have had to wait a few more decades to do that version. Alternatively, I could tantalise you with what’s coming next, I mean there will be action, danger, love, and intrigue set within exotic locations, but that would be a bit Hollywood and you know I wouldn’t do that to you… innocent emoji.
* * *
2023 – The Blue Paint Story – May 2023
You may remember my CCTV systems had caught, at least on their memory chips, the guy who poured paint on my car blue-handed and eventually, it ended up going to court where he kept asking for extra time. The next hearing was due a few days ago, in the first week of May 2023, but I didn’t hear anything from the court, so presumed it had been delayed further and then I got a letter from the Crown Prosecution Service. In the first paragraph they stated they were dropping the case, which as you can imagine, I was a bit unhappy about, but as I read on I kind of got their logic. The accused had passed away, and aside from feeling sorry for him because he’d committed suicide, I was also a bit disappointed as I’d hoped at some point to have found out why he damaged my car in the first place. But as with many things in life, there won’t be any clear-cut closure in this instance.
* * *
Testing May 2023
On May 24th and early in June I’ll be going for more tests, I’ll let you know here what happens.
The Cruellest Month – 2023
Mum, Boris, and John, all died in the month of April, and just a few weeks ago my mother’s sister passed away too. One of her daughters, my cousin, had been sorting through her belongings when she found a newspaper article about me written when I was 16, so she emailed it to me. While most of it was about how inspiring I was, they obviously didn’t know me well, and some of it was somewhat inaccurate, I was surprised to see that somehow I’d managed to get the journalist to relay my thoughts that “society must do more to involve disabled people without making them special cases,” and then cited special youth clubs for disabled people as an example of a misdirected act of goodwill. After all, I argued, all youth clubs should be inclusive and welcoming of all youths, disabled or otherwise. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find any youth clubs, but that’s another issue. The article also ended with the first poem I ever wrote, which I find a bit naff nowadays, but its final lines were. “And in the end, what is left, but memories of love and wandering thoughts of death.” Which kind of fits well with these last few chapters. Had Leonard Cohen ever come across any of my work back then he’d have probably thought he wasn’t that gloomy after all.
* * *
OK, we’re getting very close to the end, and normally the finale closes with a curtain call in which all the characters who played a part take a bow and are either cheered or booed at by the audience. Don’t worry, I’m going to skip that bit, however, if I had done, then before my parents or any of those I fell in love with were to make an appearance there’d have to be a walk-on part for the German soldier who didn’t kill my grandfather, and his role wouldn’t just be a celebration of him doing what he did but it’d be for all those we’ll never know who had a profound effect on our lives. The unknown soldier and the unknown.
* * *
The Moral of The Story
One day while walking near the woods a man was suddenly confronted by a vicious tiger. He ran for his life but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. The Tiger slowly approached so, in desperation the man climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, he looked down to see the sea crashing against the rocks hundreds of feet below. As he looked to see if it was safe to climb back up two mice came out of a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed just ahead of him a plump wild red strawberry. He gently removed it, placed it in his mouth and was taken by just how delicious it was.
* * *
The Present Presence – 2023
The presence I mentioned a bit earlier, the one that pressed against me 40 years ago is something we can’t see or feel, even though it’s touching us all continuously, and within every moment’s passing, we break through its membrane, from the present into the future. These instants may seem so insignificant they’re not worth noticing, yet the consequences of what they hold for us may be the most profound moments of our lives. And then, later, as we look back, so much of what we’ll remember will be experienced as these small little segments of time, and their significance will be apparent because we know where they led.
Even here, in these pages, there are so many we shared together, too many to list, but what immediately comes to mind for me is, Boris’s eyes catching Angela’s in the coach’s rear-view mirror, my mother looking at me for the first time, the man showing Ruth the baby otters, Eddie’s dad, Moshe, helping Battiya onto the train, Jules watching me fall when we first met in the college, Joanna and I kissing in the churchyard, and of course amongst them all there’s you and I meeting for the first time. Little moments that change the course of our lives forever, out of time.
If I’m not out of time, I’ll try to write the next few volumes, but if I don’t get the opportunity, I wanted to tell you, I was glad we met, even if you think we didn’t, we kind of did.
First Days in Halls and College – Part 4 – A Happy Beginning
As the future presence pushed against me from every direction I moved forward into it. There was a sunny haze that promised a summer’s day and the traffic over the bridge was still almost stationary, so, after hitting the taxi’s wing mirror I ambled along cautiously, looking to my right to see the sun glinting on the Thames and to my left the Fulham power station billowing smoke from its chimneys. There was a very slight chill in the air, but I felt myself in the moment and was happy to be alive. Then as I got to the top of the bridge’s summit I took in a big breath, pushed down hard on my pedal to pick up speed and travelled out of the frame of the present I’d just been in, the one you’re viewing this through now and disappeared into a future one.
* * *