Grabbing the Moment

It’s strange how sometimes you come face to face with a guy and have an instant flash that, lives being different, you could have become mates. As it is, you’ve got ninety seconds.

Tuesday, on the way to work, I stopped in at the local Post Office. By the time I came out, the heavens had opened West Yorkshire style. It crossed my mind that if Noah had still been around he’d be gathering the animals together again for another sailing.

As if by magic a bus appeared, so I hopped on. I made the mistake of saying ‘good morning’ to the driver. He didn’t seem to mind, but clearly the other passengers did. As I moved down the bus to the back seat where, on our buses, y’can sit with your legs open, I felt a communal glowering of vague distaste of the kind that makes you check your zip (though right now I’m into the metal buttons).

As we approached the main stopping point in ‘fax, a young guy suddenly bounded down the stairs, obviously pretty anxious to get off first.


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hair was a shaggy mass of freedom. I saw him check his reflection in the bus window, then shake his head so that the amazing mop became even more amazing. I found it quite startling.

Remember, this wasn’t happening in New York City, L.A., or at Piccadilly Circus. It was Halifax.

Halifax, the ‘armpit of West Yorkshire’? Hardly. We still have some excellent architecture and an enormous covering of trees.

But, ‘convention rules’. The Topman shop has had an uphill task making their slimline jeans popular with the local lads, so this young guy, clearly having no problem ‘Standing alone’ (as it says in the Guide), had a big pair of Balls.

I stepped up from the back seat sharpish to take a closer look but three or four crinklies moved ahead of me so The Hair got off the bus and was soon about ten paces ahead of me. Fortunately we were moving in the same direction.

What had entered my mind was a sudden need to acknowledge his Courage.

As I got closer to him he suddenly turned left. I realised that if I didn’t move fast, I’d be on to a loser.

‘Excuse me’, I called out. This you do with some caution in ‘fax as we don’t draw attention to ourselves – my ‘good morning’ to the bus driver f’rinstance – unless we’re returning something which has just been dropped.

He turned.

So do it, I challenged myself.

‘Your hair’s grrreat!’

He grinned. ‘Thank you very much’. (This surprised me as the best I’d hoped for was a ‘cheers mate’.)

Then we both turned and went our separate ways.

As it used to be

I can remember as a lad speculating about my place within the world. Not in the manner that I would (and still do) in later years. It was much more ponderous than searching.

As a nine-year old I had no grasp of science (I still don’t) but I did know that people were made of lots of tiny bits of stuff, and that these little bits of stuff all had jobs to do, to make sure we could function properly.

All that I knew about the world at this tender age was that it revolved round me. But even within this self-centric point of view, I began to wonder that if I was made up of lots of bits of little wonderful stuff, perhaps I was an equally little and brilliant bit of stuff in something much, much bigger.

My inclination at the time was that I was a little cell, and that the earth was a bigger thing, joined up to all the other planets that formed a much bigger part of a giant person, who back then I imagined as a footballer. I wondered about this huge person, playing with other big people, going about their day.

So earthquakes could be explained by the footballer falling over, and hurricanes by him farting…

Since my

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mid-teens, I’ve searched for my place within the world. At times the illusiveness of any certain answer fills me with discontent. It was during one of these moments recently, that I picked up a book with a contender for ‘Most ambitious title of all time’, The Meaning of Life.

Needless to say it didn’t live up to this lofty claim, and so utterly bored by the first three pages, my mind began to wander, until it stumbled upon my memory of the giant footballer, and my role in keeping him at his best.

I couldn’t help but think that perhaps as a boy I was onto something that I forget all-too-quickly. With the distractions and responsibility that comes with a few more years, it’s all too easy to take the endless opportunities (or distractions?) that the world offers, and be blinded by their number when it comes to making a decision about what to do with your life.

Instead, if I thought like I did as a child, and saw the bigger picture, I’d narrow the options down, as you naturally have to consider how whatever you do will help the other little cells, keep the footballer at his best.

For me at least, this naïve little notion has kicked my dissatisfaction in to touch (for now) and is very likely the reason I’ve sat up late to type this, and put it online, where hopefully it will be of some use to another little cell, wondering how he can help the footballer (dancer/dandy/artist/builder) be even greater.

George, way down deep in the hard place.

I love George Michael’s rendition of ‘brother can you spare a dime’.

He sings it with an intensity that rips into the essence of the lyrics to the degree that you can feel the despair.

There’s a great line in Arthur Miller’s, ‘Death of a Salesman’, in which our hero, Willy Loman tries to explain what, to him, it means to be a man. He says, ‘A man can’t go out the way he came in; a man has to add up to something’.

You can hear that yearning as Michael renders the pain of the song oh-so clearly.

And that’s really it, isn’t it? That a guy wants, no needs to believe that his life is going to add ‘up to something’.

Okay so maybe in his late teens he doesn’t know exactly what; his destination isn’t clear, but the will to get there, wherever it is, and the wherewithal to do so (Balls) is present, and buzzing.

The song is about a guy who thought he was there a couple of times but Fate, in the form of the economic Depression which hit America in the 1930’s got in the way.

Our man is now asking for help to see him through his current shit until… And that’s surely where Determination is such a big player.

Sometimes you have to have the Determination to hold on, to remember that to which you’ve committed, to believe, and to Trust that Life will reveal to you the reason for which you were born.

A small town boy in the Big City

I really, really hate Fear.

Fear is B-I-G in my family – actually, not my family, being as I’ve sired a son and daughter of my own, but my father’s family – he and my mother and my brother and myself.

Our family scenario was the epitome of Upstairs/Downstairs, except there was no-one Upstairs.

I didn’t notice this too much as a boy. It was explained to me it was important that ‘I knew my place’, especially in front of others, my place being invariably at the back.

However, as a teenager I travelled a lot – anything to get away from home. No relative was too obscurely connected, or too distant not to warrant a visit and, whenever I could wangle it, I went to London. It was there that I realised Fear had, my nuts well and truly harpooned.

To give you a rough idea – although I walked down it whenever I got the opportunity, I daren’t attempt to enter any shop in Bond Street, OR any hotel, OR any posh looking department store – ‘posh’ being defined as having a doorman.

My Fear of entering these places I never attempted to respond to rationally. It was more like it was something instinctive, like self-preservation. I trudged around under the impression that, if I were to attempt, to enter say, Harrods, the earth would open, nauseous fumes would attack my nostrils rendering me speechless, even as I fell to some hellish centre of the earth, fried to an overdone steak as I… well, you get the picture.

But, very recently I experienced an incredible triumph over fear; I repeat, a major triumph.

I was in a very strange mood – in London this was. I’d been in a department store to kill some time and spotted a pair of Speedos of which I’m still a keen user when I’m on vacation, not because I have a body like Tom Daley (though my abs. are still visible occasionally) but because I’m a Yorkshireman, so I like to play the awkward cuss, especially if I’m amongst Southerners, and more and more these days when I suspect most guys are scared shitless to actually admit they’ve a knob.

Anyway, having seen the Speedos I learned, on enquiry that they were available for two hundred and thirty fuckin’ pounds. Got that? Two hundred and thirty pounds – for a pair of Speedos. I left the store incensed, not because I couldn’t afford them (though I can’t) but at the insanity of living in a world where there are folks in London who have this kind of money whilst there are millions of folks all over the place without food, water, sanitation – you know what I mean.

A few minutes later, due to some roadworks, I found myself in a sort of pedestrian-jam. It was outside one of those posh hotels my kind of person is not allowed to enter for reasons explained above (the earth moving and stuff). But there attached to the railings, which I’d always presumed were there to protect those inside from those outside (like yours truly) there was a lunch menu indicating the food on offer inside at the restaurant of a celebrity chef.

I don’t know how I did it, but I did. I went inside, handed over my overcoat and briefcase and requested a table for one. For lunch. At first the young lady pointed at a table I was just about to fall over, it being so close to the door, but you won’t believe this – I declined it, and pointed to a table in the far distant. (It was a BIG restaurant.) My request was quickly granted and, to keep this short, I was promptly served three courses of the most excellent food, the quantity, as I’ve learned to expect, being small, of a Quality which was high. And anyway, it was so rich in flavor that as my mother would’ve said, y’don’t need a lot.

And, I’m here to tell you, the earth did not open up and swallow me into the hot place.

As I left the posh hotel I hovered by the door a few extra seconds as if to give the impression I was awaiting the chauffer and I was suddenly overcome with a sort of dizzying pride in myself.

‘Up Yours, Fear!’ I said to myself.

My parents wouldn’t have been impressed; they’d’ve been uncomfortable seeing me stand there, but when I told my two children they both smiled, and my daughter said – and this is without a word of a lie – ‘y’know who you have to thank for that. Daddy? It’s because of What Men Do.’

And I reckon she was right.