It was twelve noon and I was at the cricket field waiting for the doc. He was getting close to being late. Maybe he’d been called out on an emergency? Or maybe his surgery had run over? No change there then!
Dozens of cyclists breezed by and I was beginning to think I’d been stood up, when suddenly, a ‘tartan?’ lycra clad figure came into view, peddling like fury. It was the doc.
As he neared, I couldn’t help but notice that no safety aspect had evaded him. Not only was he lycra’d from head to foot, but he was also sporting knee pads, elbow pads, helmit, fingerless gloves and even bloody riding goggles!
Yet he went on to call me weird!
As he pulled up beside helmitless me, clad in black trackie bottoms and tee-shirt, I muttered, “bloody amatuer!”
“Sorry did you say something?” He puffed.
“Yeah, where’s your chin pad?”
God, the sarcasm just spills from my lips. I tried to remind myself that this was the doc I was out riding with, a bit of respect wouldn’t go amiss. But hey, we were out biking together, it was a pal thing now. And let’s face facts, the doctor, patient facade that dictates watching the old p’s and q’s went out the window way back!
“I take it your wife has no objections to you roaming the countryside with another woman then?” I asked as he caught his breath.
“No, quite the reverse actually, she’s pleased I’m not alone, in case of accidents you understand? She used to worry when I cycled alone. By the way, sorry I’m late, the surgery ran over.”
“Not a problem, I guessed as much,” I answered before asking. “Do you fancy a moorland ride then?”
“That sounds good, I’ve only ever gone up and down the dis-used railway before, a moorland ride will be an adventure.”
Little did he know it would prove to be an adventure for me too, I’d walked the moors plenty but I’d never ridden them before!
Now to get to the moors from where we were, was a bit of a challenge. Reason being, we were at the bottom of a valley and we had one hell of a big hill to surmount in order to reach the moorland. Luckily for both of us, I knew a few short cuts.
Firstly we had to cycle, together, through the village. And I don’t mind telling you, I could see that our being seen together was going to cause something of a flurry among the gossips of the parish.
On the whole, our village is the best place ever to live. We are like one big happy family, all rubbing along together very nicely indeed thank you very much. We try to help one another out where we can, we don’t judge anyone who lives life differently from the norm, and the kids get away with naff all mischief without someone spotting them, who will either issue instant justice or sprag them up to thier folks!
But, like all walks of life, you always get the few!
I was aware of heads turning to do a double take as we cycled along from the more pretentious ladies of the community. You know, the ones that turn up to collect thier kids from school in top of the range vehicals when they only live half a mile away! The ones who think money talks. The ones who look down thier noses at anyone they believe to be their social inferior, yet painfully but laughably, creep and crawl and generally lick the arses of those they think are superior. The ones who are in fact spiritually dead!
I could almost hear them chattering, ‘what was the doctor doing with her? Her who was half a step up from trailer trash! Her who didn’t have two pennies to rub together! Her who used to have a reputation for…but let’s not go there. Not yet anyway.
Once through the village we faced an uphill climb on the road that lead out of the valley, half way up this road we had to get off our bikes and push them up a rather narrow, overgrown snicket. Although we had to battle our way through overhanging branches and thorny bramble bushes, the snicket cut out a good half a miles worth of hard leg work, had we continued with the road route.
We emerged from the snicket onto a single track lane, that ran parallel along the side of the valley for half a mile. The view was spectacular. The valley fell away below us, revealing all its many hidden hamlets and stretching out to the coast, ships miles out at sea could be clearly seen from this vantage point. The two villages, mine a mile inland, the docs clinging to the coast, looked so cosy, it warmed your heart. However, as I always noted when taking in the view from that particular point, there was a distinct lack of trees! It’s not as if there aren’t any, there are plenty scattered about, it’s just that there is no significant amount, there should be swathes of woodland and there isn’t! It’s all bloody farm land! In my minds eye I pictured a future time when the kids had reclaimed land for the community and the wildlife to thrive in. I saw woods spreading out from the three major becks that wound their ways down the valley from the moors, eventually feeding the sea. In my world, the world ruled by Constantine, land ownership is cast into the realms of history, we belong to the land, the land does not belong to us. Still, as I took in the landscape before me, I didn’t see what was there, I saw a time in the future when the land was governed by the community, for the community. I saw a market garden, organic of course, that employed locals to feed locals. I saw a community farm whose animals served the dairy needs of the villagers…all the butters, creams, yogurts and cheeses being produced on site, with any excess being sent to town for barter. On our future farm the animals were treated with love and respect, those that were destined for meat, were killed humanely when the time came, having no suffering or even a clue of their fate…well most of them…but you’ll need to read on to discover my meaning? However, I also saw the many cottages, the major part of the village, that had been bought up by outsiders to make a profit at the expense of the locals who had been driven out of their own homeland by faulty economics, being filled again with life and laughter, as the cast out children came back home. Natives the world over have been driven out of their communities by profiteers of some description or other for way too long. Big companies have been doing it for eons, squeezing out the indiginous peoples by fair means or foul, but mostly foul, before they wade in to distort and destroy the earth for profit. But, the individual invaders, who collectively turn homelands into spiritually dead ghost towns full of strangers, are a more recent problem, but none the less damaging. Their desire to make money out of communities that they are no part of, has caused heart break and misery to the endless village children and the families they have formed, who’ve found themselves cast out. They have been cast adrift, forced to live far away from the love and support of the community spirit that should have been theirs by birth right, the birth right that has been stolen by profiteers. In my minds eye I saw the next generation drawing up local laws that prevented outsiders stealing their homes for profit. And it’s not because we don’t like strangers visiting, we love them coming to share in our little bit of heaven on earth. Hense, I glimpsed in my imaginings log cabins peeping out of the woodland, errected to house our visitors. The cabins were discretely placed so as not to inhibit the abundant wildlife. I saw a lake that attracted birdlife and was well stocked with fish. I imagined basket ball courts, a skate park, a place where the kids could build ramps to jump with their bikes, all hidden away among the trees…with of course, a trained medic on standby, just in case of accidents you understand. In my world everyone had fun, playing, loving and working together for the good of all. Everyone was happy and healthy, with the possible exception of the lovelorn.
When we came to the end of the flat lane, another lane ran from the top of the valley to the bottom, we had to push up the hill, the very steep hill! We huffed and puffed our way up before turning off onto an ancient cart track, we passed through an old overgrown quarry, that lead us to a patch work of old farm tracks, one of which took us directly to the moor.
The sweat was dripping off us, it was a roasting hot day. I think the doc must have lost a good half stone by then, clad in lycra as he was! He looked well knackered. But, at least the goggles had vanished!
Over weight and of dubious health I might have been, but unfit I was not, I recovered myself quickly. Unlike McGivitup who was used to sitting behind a desk most of the time ministering to the sick, I was endowed with a very low boredom thresh-hold, I had a contstant need to be doing, moving, achieving. My mother used to call it fidgeting!
McGivitup sprawled himself out on the long tufty grass, obviously intent on hanging out for a while.
A few moments passed in companiable silence before McGivitup moved into doctor mode.
“Right Constantine,” he said, as he turned to face me, still laying down but resting his head on his hand, “we are out together for a purpose and if we are to do this thing correctly and I’m to understand whatever it is that’s troubling you to the degree that your health is suffering, then it would be helpful if I knew something of your past.”
Wasn’t he the proffessional?
“What would you like to know doc?”
“We could start with your childhood and the family that surrouned you then.” He offered. “And if you don’t mind,” he held a dictaphone up, “I’ll be recording what passes between us for the record.”
“Okay,” I giggled, “but which part of my family would you like to hear about first, the posh side or the working class rogues?”
He grinned, as if to denote he was going to enjoy this story.
“And, there are a lot of us,” I continued, “I might only have one sister, but aunties, uncles, cousins, grandparents when they were still alive, are in no short supply. And what with all the once removed relatives, The Top Dog thinks I’m related to every living soul in the area and beyond, and he’s not far wrong!”
“So why do you refer to a part of your family as being rogues?” He asked.
He obviously wanted the juicy bits!
“Well, what can I say, they instinctively knew what all peasant people know, that the land belongs equally to all, not just the select few who think they own it.”
“So they were poachers?” McGivitup cut in.
“Petty poachers,” I giggled, “among other things.”
“Other things?” The doc quizzed.
“Things occasionally fell off the backs of lorries, if you know what I mean?”
The doc raised his eyebrows.
“Oh nothing major,” I assured, “but it was like my dads cars were always the same colour as the wagons he drove for a living. Things occasionally fell off the back of afore mentioned lorries. The pirates of the highways swapped their booty around among themselves but it was no more than petty pilfering. I think it was pretty much par for the course in those days, people worked hard for low wages and those in charge turned a blind eye.”
I suddenly got a fit of the giggles as a memory popped into my head.
“When I was a kid, my mother worked in a big old rambling place that catered for big parties of people who came from all over the country. The cook would often, surreptitiously, behind the bosses back, give my mother plate fulls of leftover food to bring home to feed to us. Every once in a while, a serious amount of work plates would stack up in our kitchen, awaiting return. Good quality plates they were too. Anyway, one afternoon after school, I brought my best friend home for tea. Mam decided to get the best dinner service out, from the must be returned to work pile. We were all sat at the table, having just been served with a huge mound of food, when there was a knock at the door. My mam looked out of the window to see who was calling, then suddenly she was running around in a frenzy snatching our plates from under our noses and whisking them back into the kitchen before she opened the front door to her boss! I’m sure he was wondering why we were sat with our knives and forks still poised but no food in sight! He was only calling to tell her there had been a cancellation and she could have a few days off work, but he left looking slightly baffled at the scene he had witnessed.”
The doc liked that one judging by his chuckling response.
“Have you many stories like that then?” He asked, angling for more.
“Oh plenty,” I replied with raised eyebrows. “On my mothers side I was surrounded by a pack of wind up merchants. And I know exactly where they all got it from! My grandad! For instance, when I was very young I was curious about why he was bald. He told me that when he’d been a young man, he used to be a sailor who roamed the seven seas. One day a terrible storm blew up, it tossed the vessel unmercifully for day after cruel day, until finally the ship was hurled, by the unending storm that raged, into some treacherous rocks that smashed their craft to smitherines. Grandad and the rest of the crew who were lucky enough to have survived, found themselves to be marooned on a deserted island. The island was small, with no sign of life what-so-ever, animal or otherwise. The only thing it boasted in any sort of abundance was coconut trees. And because grandad and the rest of the crew who were lucky enough to have survived, thought they would be stranded on the island for ever more, they came to a mutual decision to have all their hair shaved off, so that when their razors eventually went rusty and couldn’t be used anymore, they wouldn’t have to worry about cutting their hair! However, I was a sharp kid…’but grandad, your hair would grow back anyway.’ I challenged. Ah, he came back at me, that’s where the coconuts came in. Not only did they keep me and the rest of the crew who were lucky enough to survive, alive with their fruit and milk, but it’s a little known fact that if you rub coconut milk into you head every day for a week, it stops your hair growing for ever more!”
McGivitup was howling with laughter.
“It’s alright for you to laugh, but I believed that bloody story until I was about eleven! When I eventually wised up I felt such a bloody idiot.”
He was now rolling about in the grass trying to contain his mirth. I made his condition worse.
“And that’s not the worst of it! Every time I saw a bald man in those tender childhood years, I’d look at him in total awe and think, God, he must have been marooned on that island with my grandad! The old bugger he was!”
The tears were pouring down McGivitups face by that time but I was on a roll.
“Yeah, the fibbing old dog was full of tricks like that. When I was pre-school he used to have me helping him to wash all the ornaments and polish the brasses. They had a pair of beautiful porcelain dogs that sat at opposite ends of the pelmit above the curtains. It was always a big ceremony getting them down to be cleaned. He warned me that we had to take really good care of them because when they were made, there had only been one hundred produced but, one of them had been filled with priceless treasure! I spent hours gazing at those bloody dogs wondering if it was one of them! And the temptation to accidently on purpose drop one to find out! The silly old sod, what a thing to tell a kid!”
“And did you?” The doc asked when he finally calmed down.
“No, they stand proudly in my aunties front room as we speak…but on reflection, I’d like to bet he didn’t like those dogs and was hoping I’d be tempted to smash them so that he wouldn’t have them to clean anymore!”
“Your probably right.” McGivitup grinned.
“But then,” I eyed the doc, “there was the time I was watching a western with my uncle…on that new fangled thing…the television, when grandad casually walked by bemoaning the fact that now he was going to have all those dead cowboys and indians to clean out of the back of the bloody thing! I still remember having a sneaky look down the back of it when no one was watching to see where the dead men were!”
“Och Constantine, you seem to have had a marvelous childhood.” McGivitup spluttered when he’d finally calmed down.
“Yeah I did.” I acknowledged.
Another tale from my past had found its way to the fore front of my mind. I was enjoying making the doc laugh, I didn’t want to stop.
“I recall my eldest uncle telling me the story of how he had returned home from a lengthy sea trip, long before I was even a twinkle in my dads eye he’d winked at me, and when he was still a young man yet to fly the nest. Granny and grandad always had a house full of family, friends and neighbours, so, when he had arrived home, it was to a full house. As the evening had worn on those that didn’t belong had left for their own homes, when suddenly a baby started bawling from a pram in the corner. Isn’t it about time that bairn went home? Uncle asked. No one had bothered to tell him it was his new little sister!”
The doc was rocking with merriment.
“And that was before the last one came along, my uncle, the tormentor!”
“The tormentor?” The doc quizzed, suddenly appearing slightly alarmed as if a possible trouble spot was about to emerge.
And he wasn’t far off the mark, the tormentor was definately trouble!
“Yeah, he would have been about twelve when I was born,” I milked the moment and dramatically thrust my head into my hands as I declared, “and the bastard made my bloody life a misery!”
I could see the doc was perturbed at my implications.
I wickedly pressed on.
“The swine nearly did for me when I was nought but a babe in arms, I am actually lucky to be alive!”
I nodded sagely at the doc, who appeared to be perplexed, wondering where all this was leading to. “Yeah, he took me for a walk in my pram, only he decided to nip into the shop for a packet of woodbines, at twelve I ask you! He parked my pram up outside but failed to apply the brakes properly, so when he emerged, I was heading off down the hill, happily gurgling as the pram picked up speed. Apparently he’s never run faster in his entire life, before or since! And he didn’t dare confess to that misdemeanour until I was twelve and he still got battered for it, by my mother, all those years later.”
“For a moment there I thought you were going to tell me someting sinister,” the doc admitted, “when all along you were merely indulging in your family trait.”
“Yeah I know.” I giggled, “sorry.”
“That’s okay, I haven’t laughed like this for years, I’m really enjoying myself. Presumably you have a wealth of shared experiences with the tormentor to relate?” He asked, obviously intent on hearing more.
“Too many to mention.” But I leapt into the topic anyway, “but needless to say, I was something of a moll to the tormentors gangster! Even before I started school he would drag me along on his poaching expeditions. I’d have to stand as look out for the ballif while he tickled trout, either that or I’d be posted to keep an eye out for the farmer while he scrumped apples or tresspassed to pick mushrooms. And woe betide me if the farmer or the ballif did happen along, because that heartless git would leg it and abandon me to face the music!”
“So were you left to face the music very often?”
“Often enough! But like the git face reckoned, because I was a little girl, it was assumed I was an innocent being dumped in the shit by a naughty big brother. All I had to do was become incoherant with tears to be let off the hook without having to reveal a name.”
“So the tears were pretend then?”
“No they bloody were not! That swine put me in situations where I was scared witless! The tears were very real.”
“I’m beginning to see why you call him the tormentor.”
“Oh that was nothing, he was a cruel git as well. As a kid I had a passion for marbles, I spent months filling one of those big glass sweetie jars you see in the shops. Mission accomplished, I proudly carried it to grandads to show him, only grandad was out but the tormentor wasn’t! He got his catapult out and fired every last marble, despite my loud protestations, into the field behind the house…then he told me to go fetch them! But revenge was mine, when grandad got home I spragged him up! Then I pulled faces at him while he was across grandads knee getting a good hiding!”
“Didn’t he resent you for seeing to it that he was punished?” McGivitup asked.
“Nah, he knew he was out of order and besides, I was his favorite.”
“It sounds like an excellent childhood to me,” the doc mused, “a lot more normal than children are allowed to live today. By the way, did the pair of you manage to bag many trout?”
“Yeah, in that respect we were a pretty good team. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, it was only some fourteen, fifteen years after the second world war ended, it must have been hard feeding a big family, so all our ill begotton gains as you might call them, were an added bonus for the family.”
“Yes,” McGivitup put in, “my parents were in their early forties when I was born. These days they would have been refered to as geriatric parents,” he added wryly with a half smile, “but I remember they always had a well stocked garden. Mother could create a splendid meal with nothing more than produce from the garden. Even puddings,” he wallowed in nostagia, “gooseberry fool…summer pudding as she used to call it, packed with raspberries, blackberries, red currants, strawberries, black currants, rhubarb… I can almost taste it now. But yes, your right, my parents well stocked garden was quite probably a result of the hardship of the war years. You grow your own vegetables don’t you?” He asked, not quite sure where he got that knowledge from.
“Is that info on your bloody computer as well?” I teased.
“I’m not sure, it might be.”
“Well yes I do, I learnt my gardening skills from my grandad. Like your parents he kept an excellent plot and I was his ever keen acolyte,” I giggled as I recalled, “he once asked me to wash some lettuce that ‘we’ had grown. Only he had to intercede when he caught me scrubbing each leaf with a nail brush and soap!”
“You seem to have had a very close relationship with your gradnfather?”
I became awash with emotion.
“I absolutely adored the man. I worshipped the ground he walked on, he was the centre of my universe as a child, he was the first person I was aware of loving.” I drifted into the past. “He lived on the next street to us. And always being an early riser, I got into the habit of letting myself out of the house and taking off to grandads. It didn’t matter how early I got there, he was always up and about. But my mother got a bee in her bonnet about this habit of mine. She wasn’t keen on the idea of such a young child roaming free so early in the morning. Long lectures followed, only as my dad says to this day, I can be lectured from here to eternity, it all goes in, I make all the appropriate responses and then do exactly as I please! So when her talks to me didn’t work, she resorted to pinning a big note to the inside of the front door stating, ‘Constantine, if you go out of this door you are in BIG trouble!’ So always striving to be the obediant child, I employed a bit of lateral thinking and then went out of the back door!”
McGivitup let out a peel of belly laughter.
“So what about the other side of your family,” he asked, “did you see much of them?”
“Oh yeah,” I grinned, “we were packed off to granny and grandads every school holiday. They used to live just up the road from where I am now. Gran used to have a small holding. She kept goats, chickens, geese, cats and always had a dog about the place. We were kept well busy collecting eggs, milking goats and being chased by blood thirsty maniac geese!”
McGivitup chuckled. “Sounds like fun.”
“Oh it was, it was great fun, but she always had a bee in her bonnet about the ‘cod head’ accents we were aquiring, so she insisted on giving us elocution lessons!” I giggled at the memory, “I remember Lil Sis once fell down the stairs when she was about four, she landed in a heap at gran and grandads feet, she looked up at them with teary eyes and said in her poshest voice, ‘oh dear I appear to have hurt my bloody arse!'”
“Oh they were the days,” I smiled remembering, “we would be bidden by gran to collect fruit and vegetables from the garden then taught how to cook them…she even taught us how to neck a chicken! I was bloody horrified when the thing ran with a broken neck round the garden before keeling over! It was only the nerves, she explained. It didn’t stop me wanting to throw up when it came to eating the bloody thing!”
The doc was smiling with raised eyebrows, “but it’s that sort of connection with the land and animals that children of this generation have lost sight of. It’s shocking just how many youngsters don’t even know where milk comes from.”
“I know, it’s criminal really…every child should be brought up with access to farming methods and how food is grown. If they witnessed first hand, the cruel, profit orientated, intensive farming methods that are inflicted on animals these days, then that barbaric way of putting meat on the table would soon become a thing of the past.”
He appeared to be well rested and I was getting decidedly fidgety, we’d been lounging about for far too long.
“Ready for a moorland experience yet?” I ventured.
“Yes, ready when you are,” came the reply.
So we made our way along the grassy cart track that lead us to the gate which opened up onto the rolling moorland, it was awash with a vibrant carpet of purple heather.
If your not familiar with moorland, you get a criss cross of well pot-holed, single tracked ‘roads?’, which were quite probably the highways of days bygone. Reeds grow in abundance around the sparodic boggy areas. My gran on my fathers side used to warn me about the bogs, apparently when she was a girl, a horse and cart ventured into one of the bogs and was never seen again! The whole lot allegedly sank without trace, swallowed into the bowels of the earth! Then you get the sheep tracks. Now the sheep tracks are about six inches wide, with heather bushing up on either side, haphazard bunches of fern rising higher, just to throw a spanner in the works, or is that the wheels? And that was where we were heading. And considering heather is a low growing plant, it grows high enough to keep getting your peddles caught up in!
The doc was quickly getting the hang of navigating this wild terrain.
I spent more time sprawled out in the heather than I did on my bike! But I suppose I was lucky I hit the heather and not the erratic splattering of rocks that tend to litter the moorland.
When a big hole opened up on the path before us, the doc skillfully bunny hopped over it. I on the other hand careered straight into it, my front wheel crashing to a halt, with me flying over the handle bars!
The first time it happened, and yes, there were many, the doc leapt off his bike and came running to check that I was okay.
I played dead and heard him muttering something about I should have had a helmit on. Only I couldn’t keep it up and began giggling as I told him that I couldn’t possibly be any more brain damaged than I already was!
After that, whenever I went pelting over the handle bars, he would just wait until I’d picked myself up again.
And my conclusion of this experience is, if anyone ever tries to tell you that a bike ride on the moors will be a fun thing to do. Do not listen to them, they are lying!
I’m only pleased I didn’t realise, that also at that time, the adders, that is adders as in snakes! Adders as in venemous snakes! Were out in force, basking in the sun.
I only found that one out after the event, along with another scary bit of information, which we shall come to soon enough.
Still, after about an hour and a half of tearing about frightening the sheep, we agreed it was time to have a rest before heading homeward.
“I’ve got to say Constantine, I’ve really enjoyed myself today.” McGivitup said while stretching. He looked a picture of health and happiness. “I feel quite invigourated.”
“Pleased to hear it,” muttered a battered, bruised and seriously pained me. I was knackered. The moors lark is really hard work if you didn’t get the knack of it. And I hadn’t!
“So shall we continue with the therapy?” The doc asked, as I wondered exactly who was benefiting the most from this therapy.
But somehow I wasn’t in the mood anymore, especially as he had failed to notice the fact that I was writhing about in dire agony!
He took his drinks canister from its holder on his bike, before plonking his mighty frame to be seated in the heather. It was then he noticed me pacing about, doubled up in torment, clutching my crutch.
“Are you alright Constantine?” He enquired, just before taking a swig of his drink.
“No I’m bloody not! I went numb in the nether region way back, now the bloods beginning to flow again and I’m in dire fooking agony.” I writhed and squirmed. “I tell you doc, if The Top Dog thinks he’s getting sex tonight he can bloody wellen think again!”
The docs drink went down the wrong way for some reason, he came close to choking!
Once he’d coughed and spluttered his way back to life again, he rolled over burying his head in the heather and gave way to uncontrolled laughter.
“God your a revelation Constantine.” He exclaimed when his hysteria had died down.
“Not yet I’m not!” Came my quick response.
I then eased myself into the comfotable heather and we lay in companiable silence, while our bodies recovered from the torture we’d put them through.
“So how much did you have to drink last night?” The doc cut into the numbness that was my brain at that moment in time.
“A few tumblers of rhubarb juice,” I replied, lazily but with total honesty.
“Rhubarb juice? I’ve not heard of that one before.”
“No probably not, I make it myself,” confessed me, tensing up ever so slightly.
“Oh right, how do you do that then, with a juicer?”
“No, not exactly.” I shifted uncomfortably.
“Well?” He demanded the answer I was loathe to give.
“You begin by chopping enough rhubarb to fill a bucket. Then you pour over enough boiling water to cover the fruit. The top of the bucket is then covered in muslin and left for about ten days, or, until a thick mould has formed. At that point, you lift off the mould, strain the liquid through fresh muslin, then add six pounds of sugar or honey which has been disolved in a pint or two of boiling water. Then it’s poured into demi-johns where it’s left to hubble and bubble for about six months or so.”
“Constantine! That’s not fruit juice, that’s wine!” He chastised.
“Is it?” I pretended suprise, “well my gran always used to call it fruit juice, no wonder we always wobbled out of her house!” I giggled.
“Your pulling my leg Constantine,” the doc admonished, “you really should be making more of an effort.”
“Like I said, I need to unburden my soul before I can properly kick the props into touch.”
“Well unburden away,” he said as he lay back in the heather.
I felt slightly uncomfortable, I didn’t know where to start. It was a strange story and I didn’t want to frighten him off before I’d barely begun.
“Is there a problem?” He asked after several minutes of silence.
“Kind of, it’s just that I don’t know where to start.”
“The beginning might be a good a place as any.” He encouraged.
Ha, that was easy for him to say, but I wasn’t precisely sure where the begining was, this life, the last? The first?
I mean, I couldn’t exactly wade in and tell him there was an all invasive, omnipresent prankster who had been pulling my strings for the entirety of my life, now could I? He would have run a mile!
Stuff it, I thought, I’d take a chance and leap in at the deep end.
“I had visions during my childhood.” I casually announced.
That got his full attention, he sat bolt upright.
“Oh God, why me?” He beseeched the Almighty.
He sounded just like me, that was the very question I used to offer up on a regular basis.
“You’ve got me down as schizoid already, yeah?” I ventured.
“No,” he defended, “well not yet anyway,” he added sardonically, “it’s just that I appear to be a magnet to people with crack-pot, mumbo jumbo theories that have absolutely no scientific grounding. And to be perfectly frank, I think it’s all hocus pocus, simple nonsence. Your visions, as you call them, were probably little more than lucid dreams.”
“Well I happen to know they were not lucid dreams.” I wryly smiled, then added with interest, “so what are these crack-pot theories that seemingly seek you out?”
“One belongs to my eldest brother, who is nineteen years older than me,” he nodded at me with humour, “and yes, I was a late accident for my parents, however, my brother recently suffered a heart attack,”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I cut in, “but that obviously accounts for the new slim line you eh, you think you are heading in the same direction?”
“Yes actually, it was discovered that heart desease runs in our family, so if precautions are taken early enough, the better the chances later. But to carry on, my brother insists that during the two and a half minutes, when he was clinically dead, he left his body and observed all that was going on from the ceiling.”
At this point I could have related my own experience in this area of the unknown, but decided it was too soon.
“And you don’t believe him?”
“It’s not that I don’t believe what he thought he experienced. But I’m inclined to think it was little more than brain activity causing hallucinations as the system began to shut down.”
“You know doc, I’m getting the distinct impression that you will believe nothing unless it has been scientifically proven beyond any shadow of doubt?”
“That would about sum me up.”
“So have you any more tales from the world of the supernatural?” I prompted.
“I have one big head-ache concerning an old and dear friend of mine, I try to make light of it when I see him, but I am getting terribly worried about him. I first met him in med school when we were both starting out, we hit it off immediately and have been like brothers since. He went on to specialise in brain surgery and is now at the top of his profession. He’s an absolute miracle worker, taking on cases that others won’t touch and more often than not, saving his patient from an otherwise certain death. However, over the past few years he has become increasingly obsessed with the idea that the world is in the so called end days, as is written in the bible apparently!”
“So have you checked out his discoveries?”
“No of course I haven’t, I don’t have time to waste on ‘the end is nigh’ nonsense, it’s merely millennium madness!”
“Does your friend think the world is going to self-destruct?”
“No, quite the reverse, he’s gone mad enough to believe that some saviour, namely the second coming of Christ, is going to be coming on the clouds to save the world!”
“Interesting! I worry about his sanity sometimes!”
“So you don’t think he might be onto something then?”
“No I do not, I think he has dedicated far too much time to this…this…fantasy, when he should be concentrating on his vocation.”
“Well maybe he feels this is his vocation as well, presumably your allowed more than one?”
“No, that is ridiculous, his work is beginning to suffer because of this fixation he has with far out and obscure signs. He’s even talking about cutting back on his work load in order to write a book on his findings! The national health service is in enough of a mess thanks to mismanagement and a lack of good staff, without losing a damn good surgeon to bloody hocus pocus!”
“Doc you swore!” I teased.
“Yes, sorry, but I worry about the man. The last time I spoke to him he was quoting the bible at me, now what was it?” He scratched his head and looked thoughtful, “that’s it…Let no man beguile you in any wise…”
“for it will not be,” I cut in, “except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
“You know it?” McGivitup was stunned.
“Yeah, Thessalonians two, chapter two, verse three onwards.”
The docs stunned look turned to bewilderment.
“My friend has convinced himself that since we invaded Iraq along with the Americans,” He stated flatly, “that that passage refers to George W Bush and the American administration!”
“Do you know what perdition means?”
“Yes,” the doc nodded, “death.”
“Eternal death,” I corrected, “and damnation, to destroy.”
“And don’t you think the American administration is leading us all towards eternal death?” I asked, as I kept intent eye contact with him, “the destruction of the very earth that houses us?”
He appeared perplexed.
I finished the biblical passage.
“He that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.” McGivitup was still holding eye contact with me and I ruefully smiled, “it sounds about right to me! Hasn’t the oh so supreme being, that man of God, George W Bush, the most powerful man on earth, seconded by our own, I say unto you, I’ll save the world, messianic Tony Blair, put us all on the fast track to the armageddon?”
The doc continued to hold my gaze, but I could discern he wasn’t seeing me, he was visting his own thoughts, digesting the words that had gone before.
“Oh yeah,” I continued, as he became alert to my words again, “the men of God hell bent on destruction! Both allegedly deeply religious, devout believers in Christ, who blatantly and arrogantly disregard Christs pacifist teaching! They believe themselves to be above God. And we’ve all witnessed that they see themselves above the United Nations and the voices of the people! Our country has been dragged kicking and screaming into and unjust, illegal war very few wanted, just to bolster the American administrations quest for global domination! And our government is actively aiding and abetting the setting up of their ‘son of star wars’ project, which will give them power over the entire world from the very heavens! They condemn others for having weapons of mass destruction, yet they think nothing about using their far superior weapons to blast the shite out of other nations in their supposed war on terrorism! Talk about the democracy of hypocrisy! And the rhetoric that spills from their lips is no more than self-serving bollocks. Oh yes, villany wears many masks and none so dangerous as the mask of virtue!” I looked him in the eye, “I mean, when we invaded Iraq along with the yanks, didn’t you ask yourself…why Iraq? Why now?”
McGivitup was thoughtful.
“Well Saddam Hussein is an out and out despot,” he answered, “who has systematically maimed and murdered his own people…”
“He’s been doing that for donkey years, we didn’t intervene then!” I cut in.
“and it’s yet to be discovered whether weapons of mass destruction exist or not.” The doc continued.
“And don’t you suppose they would have used them at the outset,” I laughed scornfully, “had they had them?”
McGivitup gave a non commital shrug of his shoulders.
“Yes, Bush claimed he wanted to flatten Baghdad to get rid of Saddam because his heart bled for the oppressed Iraqi people, but ask yourself this, exactly who kept the Iraqi’s sick and starving since the last gulf war over a decade ago? Yeah us, the wonderful western world with our killer sanctions on food and medicine, keeping the Iraqi populace sick and starving, without recourse to even the most basic healthcare! And consider this, for the past decade and more, Iraq has been under serious survellance from the millitary satellites, monitoring their every move, they couldn’t have hidden a pin, never mind weapons of mass destruction! And although it hasn’t been widely reported, we have been bombing the shite out of Iraq on a regular basis since the last gulf war. No, sorry doc, if you think that’s what this war is about, you’ve been hoodwinked. I’m afraid the gates of hell have been opened just so that cheating cuckoo in the nest, imposter Gearge W Bush and his gang of charlatans can get their greedy, corrupt hands on the second largest oilfield in the world! And they have the barefaced nerve to hide their crimes behind a cloak of righteousness! You should study their record doc, who threw out the Koyoto treaty? The biggest user of the earths resources condemn us all to environmental disaster! Who shouts the loudest about human rights, yet keeps prisoners in sub-human conditions at Guantanamo Bay? Who has threatened to use nuclear weapons in pre-emptive strikes? Who has their military machine scattered all over the globe, but strangely enough, concentrating a mass of their bases in the middle east, around the oilfields? Yeah, the fattest most morbidly obese country on earth, whose addiction to the black pollutant, has caused them to rampage all over the planet, weilding their war mongering sabres at will. Then when innocent men, women and children get caught up in the conflict and are maimed, mutilated or murdered, that most abhorant of phrases gets uttered, ‘collateral damage’! The mother fucking twats, God alone knows how I hate and loathe that phrase and the pillistine sons of satan who use it! But no, as long as they feed their sick addiction and fill their own personal filthy coffers, they don’t give a shit who or what they destroy along the way…they are costing us the earth!” I paused for effect and looked McGivitup gravely in the eye, “And then the haughty fuckers have the gall, the sheer audacity, to strut the world stage, grinning from ear to ear, like the cats who have stolen the cream! They are contemptible, their heads should be hung in shame for the carnage and wholesale slaughter their actions have wrought! They should be on their knees begging forgiveness from the Almighty. I tell you doc, Georgie boy would have been better off staying on the grog and rolling about on some bar-room floor, it might have saved his eternal soul. As it is he is nothing more than a dead man walking.” The doc raised his eyebrows in astonishment as I barged on, “and for the record, I think your pal is bang on, he is a damn sight saner than you give him credit for!”
The doc was dumbfounded at my rant.
“Are you okay doc?” I asked.
“To be perfectly frank, I’m stunned. I had no idea you were so…” he searched for words, “so literate, so knowledgeable. Although I’m not sure if you aren’t being somewhat over dramatic, I’ve never really studied these things before.”
“Definately not over dramatic. I could go on about many other ways they are allowing the bounty of the earth to be sold for the riches of the few and the enslavement of the majority. But I have a better idea, the next time you talk to your friend, discuss with him all that passes between you and I.”
“Yes I might just do that.” He replied, still dazed from the brain storm my rant had caused him.
“Meanwhile,” I offered, “I have a book I think you’ll find interesting, Stupid White Men by Michael Moore…it’ll prove to be an eye opener.” Then suddenly another idea hit me. “I’ll drop you a video off as well, you can resurrect the late, great, deeply lamented Bill Hicks…he has been dead for about ten years but you would think he was relating to events we are passing through right here and now…and he’ll leave you helpless with laughter!” I winked at him.”So,” I asked changing topic, “are there anymore wacky people lurking about in your wardrobe?”
“No,” he answered, “only you.”
“Are we ready for homeward bound then?” Asked I.
“I suppose we should,” he said, as he consulted his watch, “I’m on hospital duty tonight.”
His parting shot on arriving in my village was, “see you in a couple of weeks when you get back from your holiday, have a nice time.”
And with that he was gone.
I posted the book and video through his letter box half an hour later.