Food & Fuel My latest fruit fuelled adventure was cycling all the way around Lake Como in Italy. Just over 100 miles in two days. This is the furthest I’ve cycled. 10 years ago I cycled a…
Saying Sorry – Part 5
“Bide my time,” was the answer I gave.
It must have been the right one as my mother nodded before walking away to the dining room before calling me in. My dad was already in there. That was strange. Wasn’t he in the lounge fighting with mum just a minute ago? As I sat down I noticed Mum looked tidy again. Brown hair arranged neatly around her jaw line, a touch of eyeliner gracefully adorning her pretty eyes, and a hint of gloss shining on her lips. She had the air of confidence, intelligence and natural beauty that I grew to model myself on. But where was the cut on her lip? It wasn’t something she could have wiped away.
As I grew older and stronger, my training in physical skills increased, most notably in martial arts. The cellar downstairs had been converted to a dojo; a place where the principles of self-control, discipline and respect were further instilled into me. Etiquette was a critical part of the practice. No shoes on the mat, never turn your back on the life-statement, always bow to your sparring partner acknowledging their trust in you and demonstrating your trust in them. The focus was on speed of thought to deliver ‘immobilisation’. It was never on inflicting long term harm. No kicks to heads or breaking bones (too many repercussions and it only served to inspire aggression in those engaged in the fight). I was taught to move more like a dancer on a cushion of air, elegantly redirecting the force of my attacker. A brief touch on a choice nerve was enough to activate severe pain to make a person freeze into a position of fear and distress.
Once I’d understood and mastered these principles, the real training started. The training of immobilising others with mental energy. It sounded exciting when my parents explained this to me. When I was little I’d loved the thought of being a Jedi. However, much like my life, this aspect of my practice came with grey areas and blurred lines, unlike the yin yang symbol above the life statement:
“Do no harm to any person, as you yourself the first person. Through courage and non-violence, protect all sentient beings and the nature of life itself. Be always the greatest ruler, of the self and freedom, not of others.”
Every day as I recited the words before my practice, I was inspired with a noble purpose and humility. I learned fast, worked diligently and the poetic vow fired my focus and determination during the missions that started only a few years later at the age of 18…
Carly let out a big sigh and I saw the present day precipitate towards me like the bottom of a roller coaster. A few of my shards embedded in the hem of her jeans rose up and down as she walked to the local park to get some fresh air. I felt a pang of sadness rise up from the pit of her stomach, “The things I did… I’m still not past it. I was meant to have reintegrated by now. Staying silent and forgetting isn’t working. How do I work through this… Alone? I don’t think I can do it alone… James I’m scared…”
Next part of the story with verse 2 coming soon!
Saying Sorry – Part 4
I was jettisoned through time and space as Carly’s thoughts bounced from present to past. The vividness of the recollections were increasing, so much so that I was struggling to distinguish myself as a separate entity. I was thinking (she was thinking) about her childhood. But they weren’t glossy memories of GAP kid fashion, swings and playground smiles. They were about The Programme…
It was the most insidious training devised that penetrated our lives. Male and female – all were treated with the same rigour. This went way beyond basic “spy-dom” and infiltration. We were literally grown from seed for this.
The clever part was, there were no secrets. At least not from us. We were born into “normal” lives, with parents, a two-up two-down, primary school, middle school, high school and even some after school clubs like tennis or hockey. It was in the evenings that we received our reminders of not being normal, through our “parenting”. Every day was a lesson in toughening up, to let go of acceptance and bonding with other humans.
By the young age of 10 I’d become an obsessive perfectionist, trying harder and harder to obtain the illusive words, “Well done! I’m proud of you.” But they never came. I remember the day I thought I’d finally hear it, rushing home to share the news.
“Dad! I got 100% today. In Algebra!” I waited wide eyed for the congratulations.
“Did anyone else get 100%?”
“Yes two other people.”
“Who were they?”
“Vicky and Peter.”
My dad thought for a second and looked at me unimpressed, “Well it can’t have have been that hard then.”
He watched closely for my reaction. Any signs of weakness or sadness would result in punishment. I hid the death of my excitement and resolved to myself that I must find a way to be better than everyone else in the whole world and maybe then I’d be good enough.
The training never let up and age didn’t dictate what we were subjected to. I was only 6 years old, preparing dinner with my mum when she started teaching me Japanese. It was so hard and confusing. I kept misinterpreting the Kanji characters. But she always showed me subtle glimmers of kindness even though she wasn’t my birth mother.
“Remember. You’re special and that’s why you’re on this programme. The key is to remain calm and strong no matter how difficult a situation looks. Persevere and bide your time to find the right moment to act.”
30 minutes later, in my bedroom I was expecting the call for dinner and instead was startled by the sound of my parents shouting furiously downstairs. I crept to the top of the steps. The lounge door was closed. I heard slaps and screaming. I didn’t know what was going on. My breathing quickened. My thoughts raced. Then everything went quiet. Should I call the police? Should I stay calm and wait? The pause felt interminable… Then CLACK! The handle jolted down as the door flew open.
My mother strode out, make up smudged, hair a mess, a small cut on her lip. She looked sternly at me from the bottom of the steps, pulled her sleeves up and showed me her arms.
“These bruises are real,” she stated in a matter of fact tone. “So what are you going to do?”
Surely I was too young to know. But I was expected to know, and there were consequences for not knowing.
“Well come on!” she demanded, “Are you going to say something?”
Read the next paragraphs and second part of chorus here!
You can read about the previous activity of surfing in Llangennith here.
Back at the van Wigs has arranged the kit so it’s stable. I dry off, get changed and we head off to Brechfa to meet the boys who are out for the healthy part of Boaty’s stag do.
Picnicking and eating out in the countryside is one of my all time favourite things! It reminds me of happy adventures growing up in the Peak District and family holidays in the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District. I make healthy salad bowl lunches for us to eat on the picnic table which fills both my belly and soul with satisfaction.
The stag is late, but that’s his style so no-one is unduly surprised. I get my camera and tootle off up the hill to find the walking trail. At the starting post I have an option of red, blue or yellow. Naturally I go for the red but it’s not that steep or difficult, especially as I was pausing to take photos.
The scenery of rivers and moss laden trees inspires me with ideas of magic and fantasy fiction – as a dreamer it’s the type of writing I love the most. The damp forest smells are wholesome and fresh with the scent of soil and ferns. When we reconvene at the van Wigs is splattered with mud! I boil myself a hot cup of Rooibos while he gets into his civvies before driving us to St Davids.
Camping & Cooking
The evening is upon us. We pitch up in a delightful campsite with only 4 or 5 caravans and go up to the top field where there’s just one other van (and a crowd of rasping crows being fed by their parents who luckily simmer down by bed time)! Looking across the lush green grass out to sea from our pitch brings a sense of expanse and freedom and I feel my lungs filling with life and rejuvenation. It’s dinner time and I make a Thai Yellow curry to fuel us up for the next day. I love the cosy sound of bubbling pots.
Pembrokeshire Coastal Path
The next evening is perfect for a walk to ease off our legs after a tough session of land kiteboarding. Wandering out of the campsite we’re greeted with glorious views of St Bride’s bay just around the corner. The Caerfai Organic shop is on the way so we pick up some eggs as Wigs wants to keep up his protein whilst being so active. Vivd colours of wild flowers spring out of the grass that the cows are happily munching away on and the deep aquamarine sea sprays onto the cliffs. I take a few minutes to sit on a bench to enjoy the scenery and then head back to our home on wheels for a nap, just long enough to charge up for getting food in St Davids.
Land Kiteboarding & Cycling
I’ll tell you about my experience of Cycling to Norton from Newgale and Land Kiteboarding on the beach in my next post.
Saying Sorry – Part 3
Man Human took a deep breath in before bringing himself to say “I think it’s time to call it a day.”
I started to feel hot. Intensely hot, like I’d been thrown into a fire. Carly’s eyes were bearing down on me and turned dark as storm clouds. I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong! If I wasn’t inanimate I would have started shaking with fear. I felt a hurricane of rage being channelled towards me and then snap! It happened in an instant. She threw her hand across my side launching me off the coffee table and I flew through the air past Man Human. For just a moment I was free as a bird. For the next I was colliding into the radiator and smashed into small pieces. Why would I have been woken up only to be shattered like this?
I thought that was it, that I’d fade back to my previous incognisance. But I was still aware of what was happening, perhaps even more so now that my fixed form was broken. Man Human stayed calm as he got up and walked to the door. A piece of me sunk into the sole of his shoe as he left. Carly’s face immediately twisted up with the painful thought that years of building companionship and shared goals had vanished. Tears began to pour as she shouted “James!” but he’d gone.
As Carly started to sweep me up into a bag, tiny shards scattered further across the room and some landed on her clothes. At the same time I saw the memory of me smashing apart playing through James’ mind as he drove in his car, wondering where to go. Then an odd thing happened. I felt the flow of thought from both of them change for few seconds. Like the pause of an excited audience unanimously quietening in anticipation of an event. In that small window I pondered my own memory and saw that they were tuning into me.
I fondly remembered when James and Carly had liked me so much that they’d rescued me from The Pub. I felt so special that day. We’d all heard it was possible and 5 years ago I was chosen. I would get to experience life outside of being blasted with water 20 times a day and too many strangers’ lips pursed around my edges one after the other. James and Carly had been laughing and dancing, glugging beer from me, always getting me refilled rather than discarding me for a new glass. When they were ready to stagger home, I was still half full, so with the utmost care James placed me inside his jacket and only when they were at the top of the street did he take me out again.
The memory of me joining their household that day poured into Carly’s mind as she placed most (but not all) of me in to the kitchen bin. As she reflected on it her emotions changed from despair to sorrow to urgency – of wanting to fix what she’d done.
“But it’s not my fault,” she said to herself. “They turned me into this.”
The next paragraphs and chorus are here!
It’s touch and go all week as to whether we leave on Thursday night or Friday. I get the call from Wigs after lunch. He’s got enough energy to drive tonight rather than waiting ’til Friday but I’ll need to load up the van – something he normally does.
On the Road
I think it through logically, pile everything we need into the hallway and like a game of Tetris, work out how to fit it together in a confined space which is now also our home for the weekend. We’re stocked with food and kit and it’s a clear drive to the coast, arriving at Hill End 15 minutes before the 9pm closing time. We park up, level off with the chocks, pop up the roof and lay our heads down.
In the morning we’re blessed with sunshine and views of the rugged landscape. Wigs gets our surf gear out of the van while I make breakfast. It hasn’t been that warm this year so I put my full winter get-up on and use super soft, cold water wax on my board for grip.
Surfing at Llangennith
It’s not too windy, but the waves are choppy, close together and lacking power. Trying to paddle out feels like a treadmill of white water torture going nowhere fast. Patience is the key. I try to punch through, get pushed back, watch the waves and wait, figuring out the puzzle. It’s a solid beach break without any peaks but I manage to find a rip where there’s a dip. I take a few deep breaths to power up and then in the blink of an eye there it is – like a miracle, the sea goes flat but I don’t know for how long. I windmill my arms not allowing myself to stop for a rest. Stopping at the wrong place could put me right in the dumping ground of the bigger waves and they’re about 6-7 feet today. It’s still flat and I reach a lineup of 4 of surfers but I need to get further. They’re waiting to catch waves at their power point. I need to get out back so I can rest my jellied arms. It’s a meditative experience, relaxing my body, letting the blood come back into my muscles, scanning the horizon and focussing on the water.
After a while I’m ready to catch a few and see one rolling in with a decent height and shape. I spin my board on it’s tail to face the shore and dig my arms into the water to build momentum. It’s right behind me and I paddle faster and harder. I feel myself rise up about to be pushed forward but the wave passes underneath me and off into the distance like a bus that didn’t stop to pick me up. I roar like a peeved lion cub and have to go through this many more times before admitting that today I’m going to have to catch them closer the shore just before they break.
After a session time of 30 minutes I get one and it’s a beauty! Looking straight down from the top, its a big drop to the bottom, so I angle my board for a more gradual descent, spring to my feet and stay crouched until I find my balance. I can feel the wave trying to get out from underneath me, so I push my weight down hard on my front foot to keep ahead of it. I build up enough speed to start carving up and down the face for a lovely long ride with a reward that delivers an adrenalin shot, joy and peace all at the same time. Of all the things I’ve tried, this actually makes me feel high, like I’ve lifted into another dimension, flying weightlessly through the air.
It’s time to get off but I’m enjoying it too much and keep going even after the wave has broken. That was a mistake but I don’t know if I’ll catch another one so I get as much out of it as I can. Now that I’m tired, it’s almost impossible to get back out, but then the sea goes flat a second time and I manage to drag myself and my board to catch a second wave which is just as good as the first. The effort of getting that ride finishes me off. I keep going all the way into the shallows, lay back down on my board and cruise right in to the sand. 2 waves in 1 hour is a low count, but they sure were invigorating.
I smile all the way back to the van and a couple of old ladies greet me on the boardwalk, “Is it fresh out there?”
“Oooh yes!” I reply.
Walking in Brechfa
I’ll tell you about the amazing scenery along the hiking and mountain bike trails in Brechfa in my next post.
Saying Sorry – Part 2
It’s an odd sensation experiencing someone else’s thoughts. Confusing too, especially since I was receiving them from two people at once. Man-Human waited for 10 minutes in silence, before asking Lady-Human, “What’s going on Carly?” While he waited for a reply I heard him saying to himself, “I’ve been trying to understand this for years now. I have to get to the bottom of it. This time she has to explain.”
A torrent of panicky thoughts washed through me from Lady-Human (who I realised was named ‘Carly’). I could see a maze of memories she was working through, every turn leading to a dead end. She reflected on the times she’d attempted to talk through her intense reactions to innocuous events, but it never made sense because she never told the truth. She was too scared of what he’d think of her.
Man-Human was losing hope, still waiting, willing Carly to speak. An intake of breath signalled that she was finally going to break the silence, but she arrived at another mental cul-de-sac and stopped the sound in her throat.
“What is it? Come on Carly, please. We can’t sit in silence forever. Are you going to talk to me?”
Dropping her eyes to her feet, she shook her head.
That’s when the most horrible feeling rushed at me. Much worse than fuzzy recollections of their fleeting arguments, or their churning stomachs from food poisoning when they’d struggled to sip water from me. It was a feeling of falling blindly into a black hole where no hope shines through, and it came from both of them.
Man-Human looked at Carly. The emotion in his eyes winded her like a car crash. She’d expected to see retaliation, disapproval maybe even disappointment. But all she saw was pure hurt and she’d never seen that in him before. She cursed at herself inaudibly “Oh God… I’ve screwed up so badly. I can’t see a way out of this. What’s going to happen?” Man-Human put his head in his hands.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
The next paragraphs and chorus of the song are here.