Saturday, 22 November 2014

The letter part three (edited)

It was Tom’s sixty ninth birthday and once again he creaked downstairs already knowing what was going to happen. He wasn’t sure if he could face putting on another faked smile for the people around him, and was more than likely not going to bother. To be honest, most of them only drive him mad now, and he really couldn’t care less about anyone else’s feelings. It had been another really bad night and he could feel an attack coming on, there was a pulling sensation that always told him it was going to start, a pulling feeling just underneath him, it would dart around back and forth before settling on a place just in the middle somewhere behind his bladder and then it would start.


It could last for hours, it could be seconds, but it was absolutely maddening. It would lie totally dormant and then attack just as he was going to pick something up or talk to someone. In his younger days he had tried to run away and hide from people when it happened, not wanting to have to go through the rigmarole of explaining that some people were just born to make people mad, and that he had been extra especially good at that. It just seemed like a vacuous cry for attention, another empty statement in these days of on-screen confessionals and cries for attention. No one would really listen to anything he was saying anyway, he could happily admit to having just murdered his next door neighbour, the only thing the Rick or Denise would do is to nod non-committally and carry on with the monologue they were having for their own benefit.

He shambled down the last remaining steps and tried hard to concentrate on the door, it didn’t always help, but sometimes it gave his body a few more minutes rest before… That.

Opening the door, the first thing he saw was Alice, and his mind immediately shot to just how attractive she was, he thought that instead of inviting a few crusty friends over they could have gone and had a quiet five minutes by the rose bushes in the back garden, but knew that it was more the thought than the probability that amused him. All of a sudden it amused him more than it should have and he started to laugh. He started to roar with laughter, doubling up, shaking and crying with the strain of the feeling exploding out of him.

The bewildered looks on the house guests supposedly there for a surprise party just got even more perplexed as they watched this gentleman of a certain age in hysterics for no apparent reason. Some just looked knowingly at each other, some tittered a little trying to get the joke that they were obviously being left out of, and the others felt deeply saddened by the sight before them. 

All of the onlookers came to the same conclusion as they saw the shakes change to sobbing pain.

Endless rain in paper cups

Over mystifying things might not really be the done-thing these days. We live in a very cynical world and most people are very quick to see through most of the chaff, as we are now totally desensitized and devoid of any great emotions thanks to the wonderful world of reasoning and science we now live in.

Although, I feel pressure. Not bad pressure, just the pressure to write, and it is something that I really can’t avoid. Usually on a Friday night, my first port of call is either Steam or the PS3 to disconnect form a week of small children, frantic classes, and running from one end of Bargas to the other end of Argés.

Tonight, though, there is pressure. Pressure to write and to express in words everything that is contained in the paper confines.

Today has been a day where chapters have ended, although I have managed to send letters to most of those I need to expressing my thoughts and feelings about our times together it just doesn’t feel like enough, although perhaps the lack of fanfare is just the fitting thing for the occasion. Understatement is always far more effective than huge displays of force. It can be seen in the classroom, that when you finally give in to the urge to shout, the effect is only momentary and only lasts as long as the sound reverberates around the room. The most effective way towards class control is actually silence and speaking in a low voice, but that takes years to perfect and isn’t something that new teachers ever find very easy.

So today has been understated, it is the day where I have finally left one of the most important jobs that I have ever had professionally and personally. A place where I felt realized and complete with the people around me, a place where I felt accepted and that my efforts were always recognized and even celebrated. That has now gone and there is a void where it used to be. It isn’t really a sad void, as I know that the people that I have met and the friends I have made have become a part of a wider family, there is just a little hole in the shape of the Infantry Academy where I shall hold all of the memories that the last two and a half years have given me. The thing is that it feels like those constraints are about to burst, and so I have had to write it all down.

I was underpaid and overvalued, and I am now a far better man for it. I really can’t think of anywhere else that I have been where I have fit in to the current and become a part of everything that surrounded me so easily. I could be me, I could relax and didn’t feel like being the clown just because. I laughed when I was happy, and looked for solace when I needed it, and was always repaid with bucket loads of care and affection when needed and the right words when I slipped or fell.

Spain seems to feel some inexplicable shame for its military, but I can tell you that it is one of the places where I have had my preconceptions challenged, I have seen and learnt a new work ethic, and I have seen that the only person stopping me from doing a lot of things was me. I have made relationships that will last and some that will nver be forgotten. That isn’t to say that I don't still have limitations, just that the awareness of those limitations makes you a more relaxed and peaceful person thanks to those that surround you.

There are times when I wish I could always have felt like this, just at peace.

I leave you for now thinking of a chilly September morning out in front of the Alcazar watching the red and yellow bird flying over my head as dreams flew and words started to rain down into that paper cup, overflowing into a dream that is slipping away as today ends.

Saturday, 1 November 2014


Some experiences in life give the opportunity for a bit of empathy for those that you live with, and give you a better understanding of what happens when what you take for granted is taken away from you. This week has given all of htose in the house to do precisely that.

On Monday night I had a stabbing pain in my abdomen and it just didn't seem to go away, it just got worse and worse. After trying hard to ignore it and then curling up in a ball on the sofa, I was eventually conviced by my wife to take a trip to A&E in Polán. I was inspected and prodded by a friendly village doctor, and then told to go to Toledo to the main hospital as they thought I had apendicitis. After a few hours, it was confirmed that this was probably the case and the next day it was decided that I should have an operation.

So I now find myself with a tummy full of staples and in a state of empathy; my other half is also in the same condition.

I say empathy, because I now have a deeper understanding of what it is like to have been operated on and trying to function normally. It would be seriously crass to compare the pain after a simple apendix operation to that of having given birth, but I now understand a lot of the complaints that Sonia had that I really couldn't have before. I have lost most of the use of my abdomen, can't bend down for things, can't lift weights, and am generally unable to do ten thousand simple things that are taken for granted every day. I now understand a lot of her worries after giving birth, a lot of the things that she wanted to do but couldn't which just seemed perplexing at the time. Back then she seemed fine, so why couldn't she walk to town and back with me? Why couldn't she give me a hand with a few of the things that needed doing? Surely a few bags weren't that much weight?

Now I am in that situation and can see it with a much clearer perspective. Even the mundane thngs like coughing and sneezing cause a lot of pain, bodily functions become a source of panic, and getting up and sitting down seem to take hours. It's frustrating to watch everyone else beaver on around you and not be able to do anything any quicker than a snail's pace. Sonia has battled on and managed to keep everything going, get the kids up and to school, and to look after her wibbly burden of a husband.

She has said that it's now that she realises how much I actually do, and how much I am in charge of too, the kids have always been my responsibility, getting them ready, dressed and to shcool in the morning, making the beds and tidying up before going to work are also my domain. When she needs anything then I'm there to do so without complaining whatever time of day or night it might be, because that is my role as her husband.

So we now have come a lot closer having understood each other by being forced to take life on from a new perspective. As said previously I would never presume to understand anyone, no matter their age / sex or condition, however, any opportunity for empathy should be taken on to bring greater understanding of the people that surround us. I have tried to walk a mile in her shoes, but I can't cope with the heels or the distance yet - which only make those shoes ever more admirable for all that they do on a daily basis.