ONE – The shit hits the fan
“If a herd of buffaloes had come along, there could not have been a greater mess” – Sherlock Holmes
Having got to this page, the first question you should be asking yourself is why. More specifically, why are you investing a part of your life reading what will most likely come across as the slavering of a sentimental, self-aggrandising, self-oriented arse-hole? Shame arse hole doesn’t begin with an ‘S’ but you can’t have everything. As you can see, I am not beyond the odd swear word or two. So be warned, this is a story of adversity, but it is a story told warts and all. I have tried to be as honest as I can (though true self-awareness is beyond even the holiest among us). So, be warned, there is no shining knight coming out the other end. I have found it sufficient simply to survive. Of course, in any event, there is no end. Life is a perpetual game of it’s a knock-out. And then you die.
Paragraph two: If you’re still with me, why?
By this stage, I’ll take it that I haven’t completely chased you away and I shall venture forth, I shall launch the ship, bite the bullet, engage the arse, commence the narrative, (I hear your refrain, get the fuck on with it). I promise, things can only get better.
This is a biography of sorts and to be honest, I am not sure why I am writing it. I have already written a book that covers quite a bit of the terrain but part of my brain keeps shouting there’s more, there’s more. The other part of my brain, of course, is shouting who gives a fuck? Anyway, I don’t have the energy (or probably the life expectancy) to worry about the whys any more so I am putting it out there and if I get to be the only one who reads it, I’ll be happy. Well, relatively happy. I mean, who’s happy? As for my audience, I am so confident that the fingers of one hand would feature in my readership statistics that I am writing this live online. Let’s face it, I’ll never know if there is anyone out there, let alone if anybody’s reading this drivel. I am not even asking you to pay, for God’s sake. That would be a crime.
So, it’s a biography and I guess I should start Julie Andrews style, at the very beginning. I was born in in 1959 into an RAF fam…………………. zzzzzzzz. Pause, reality check, and as Holden Cauldfield so astutely put it (well, there or thereabouts), I am sure you don’t give a fuck about that sort of shit so I am going to start sometime along in what for the most part to that time had been my fairly meaningless life. 25th November 1991 to be exact. As this saga unfolds, you’ll appreciate why I remember this date so clearly. I was alone at Sandown Park racecourse having spent a pretty good afternoon winning a little, losing a little. I was exiting the grandstand when my heart suddenly accelerated to somewhere in the vicinity of 250 beats a minute, (roughly, I wasn’t counting, it could have been 247, I couldn’t swear to it). This, of course, came as something of a shock and I stopped dead in my tracks. Well, not dead, but you know what I mean.
Dead was, in fact, to come later. More of that in due course.
If you know Sandown Park racecourse you will know that you have to go down a bank of steps to get to the car park (at least you did then, I don’t go there any more). I was half way down when it happened, so having stopped, I found myself stranded, if it’s possible to be stranded in an ocean of people. Having almost initially passed out I knew I was in serious trouble. Suddenly waiting for six of the best outside Father Mark’s office (actually he was never that good, I think calling them the best is pushing it a bit).
At this point a minor digression. I like to think of myself as a bit of a rebel at school (identity politics, small p) but the truth is that my head was in a black hole most of the time, so the injustices that are inherent in such places passed me by, (except where there was some impingement on my own civil liberties, of course – there’s none so blind as them that think they see. White sticks, part of the uniform, useful for beating the shit out of juniors). As a consequence, I only ever got six from Mark once. All other beatings don’t really count. It’s when the headmaster has to do it that you can put it on the wall. However, there were far worthier Lisbeth Salanders than I.
Anyway, back to stranded. The human brain and its relationship to existence is a funny thing, something I hadn’t fully appreciated until that moment. At this point everyone and everything else almost ceased to exist. There was this, like, enormous expansion in my head and all my senses turned inward. I did catch the odd remark as people pushed by, but I am not sure if I hear them only in retrospect. For some incredibly strange reason the only person that comes to mind when I think of this time is Major Bennallack-Hart, Major Ben as was, an old biology teacher from school, (if you’re reading sir, why?). He shouted at me, living thing, responds to external stimuli, (pause) you’ve had it, mate. Of course, he would never say mate, he was a Major, so it was clearly a product of my imagination. Just goes to show the weird stuff that goes in in your head when you get caught unawares.
Time passed and the only thing I can remember thinking is whether I should go back and look for a St John Ambulance man (it was man, then, not person) or continue to the car. It was a difficult decision, not least because I was terrified to move. Every time I inched one way or the other my heart seemed to imperceptibly quicken, threatening what I instinctively knew would be arrest. In the end, I realised there was no decision. There was no way I could get back up the stairs so it was down or nowhere. By this time, the crowd had gone and I was alone on the steps.
I was familiar with feeling alone so I wasn’t phased by that. I boarded at a prep school and went on to Public school (minor, I might add, subsequently closed down due to colossal incompetence and ineptitude but that’s another story. You can find us in Wikipedia – OMG it’s ‘us’, not ‘they’ or ‘them’ but ‘us’, ‘we’. Now I am depressed). I wouldn’t send my kids to such a place but I have to say it helped me to not feel anything at that particular time so maybe there was something in developing a bit of emotional scar tissue. (Yeah, that’ll be it).
I took the first step down.
It’s a funny thing about good things and bad things. Good things are gone before you can really appreciate them. Bad things have a relationship with time that is hard to fathom. It is as if someone takes the bad thing and stretches it so that it seems to become your whole life and there is no end, like an elastic band that never snaps. Add that to the fact that I was moving incredibly slowly for fear of triggering an arrest and you will understand how I now describe that walk of no more than two hundred metres as an eternity.
Of course, given that I am here writing this, you will have figured that I made it. God knows how, but I made it. The eternity had passed and I managed to get into my car and slump back in the driver’s seat. By that time there was not a single car left in the car park, other than a dilapidated bus or coach that looked as if it hadn’t been driven since Bedrock days. If you are familiar with racecourse car parks you will realise just how long it must have taken me to get to my car.
It was at this point that I realised I was totally soaked. Even my jumper was soaked. I hadn’t given it a thought before but when your heart beats extremely fast you sweat a lot. I had been sweating so much and for such a long time that I was literally wet through. I closed my eyes, Oh my God, what to do next?
Clearly I had to do something. If I didn’t they would more than likely find me dead at the wheel of my car in that God-forsaken car park. And worst of all, not for a few days. The thought was chilling. Would I be decomposing or simply rigid? Would whoever found me notice? Or would they simply think I had just come out of double physics? Cue Mr Spencer, (word of explanation: old physics teacher, the most boring bloke in the world, 250 beats a minute was nothing compared to double physics. Not that 250 beats a minute is boring, just mind-blowingly unbearable, cue double physics).
Of course, I ended up doing what I’ve done all my life. The most stupid thing you can think of! I turned the key and started the engine.