When I was Young – Viewed from a distance.

When I was Young – Viewed from a distance.

When I was a young boy of fifteen, in 1965, it became apparent to me that I was being channelled into a groove. Everything conspired. My parents and school, the structure of society, all applied pressure. Society had a place for me. I could live a happy life. All that was required was that I knuckle down, work hard, pass my exams, avoid the pitfalls, go to university and I would have a glittering career, make lots of money, live well and live happily ever after.

It was all mapped out.

At the age of fifteen I looked ahead to a set of O Levels, followed by A Levels, a place at medical school, a good job, comfortable life, wife and kids. It was safe.

It was what my parents wanted for me. They came from humble backgrounds and had bettered themselves. They saw education as the passport to a better life. They wanted me to have an easier life than them. They were right.

But I had been reading Kerouac. I had been reading Ginsberg. I had been listening to Dylan and Woody Guthrie. At the age of fifteen I knew I had a decision to make.

Did I want a quiet, comfortable life? Or did I want a life of adventure?

Kerouac had opened up a world of madness, road trips, adventure, crazy driving, sex and drugs and Jazz. It was outside of society.

It made me look at the society I was part of. Did I really want to spend my life accruing money, cars, houses and suits? Did I like the look of the society I was living in? It’s greed, acquisitiveness, inequalities, aggression, racism, violence, hypocritical religion and plastic meaninglessness.

At fifteen I decided that I did not like the values of the society I was part of. I did not like its hypocrisy – god, queen and country. I did not like its smugness, arrogance and old boys’ network; its class divisions, xenophobia, narrowmindedness and boring suburbia. I thought that the pursuit of money was a meaningless exercise.

At fifteen I had it sussed.

By seventeen I was going to loud rock concerts. I had discovered Roy Harper, Captain Beefheart and a mind expanding universe. I was hanging out with the outsiders. I was searching for something more meaningful and honest. I had discovered girls, alcohol and fun.

I wanted crazy!!

I made a decision.

My studies went by the board. Friends, girls, parties, music and mad talking, talking, talking – trying to make sense of life. Zen, travel, sex and excitement.

I was always in trouble at school – my hair, my clothes, my attitude – but I was popular with the girls and had a good group of friends. My parents despaired. They thought I was throwing away my future. I was young, obstinate and headstrong. I did just enough to get by. I didn’t listen.

I knew the lifestyle I wanted and it wasn’t playing that conformity game. I had my motorbike and my freedom. I was poor but rich in experience.

There are many pitfalls and I saw a number of my friends drop into them – addiction, madness, suicide, pregnancy, prison, accidents. Life isn’t easy. For many it is tragic.

I had a little rude awakening at the age of twenty-five when it became apparent that I needed to make a living, but I managed to find a niche in teaching that did not compromise my ideals too much and enabled me to pursue my creativity.

I look back now from the age of seventy-two. That fifteen-year-old did not really find the answers to all the mysteries he was so enthralled with at that age. He gave up Zen. But he did discover literature, art, dance, music and wine. He did some chemical exploration. He avoided becoming a casualty. He did have a life of adventure, creativity, excitement, friendship and love as well as a career that was fulfilling and valid. He did not have to sacrifice his ideals. He did find the compromise that worked and now lives comfortably with his memories while looking ahead to more adventure and creativity.

Regrets?

Life’s what you decide to make it.

Poetry – The Alphabet of Life

The Alphabet of Life

Each letter, each word,

Each sentence, paragraph and chapter

Is precious.

Any loss leaves a hole

In the telling of our tale.

We become as impoverished

As empty

As the blank pages

We create.

What profiteth a man

When he has gained

The whole sterile globe

But lost

More than he will ever know?

Opher 25.6.2018

The Alphabet of Life

I was thinking about the incredible DNA molecule that spells out the alphabet of life. Back in the beginning that first amazing molecule started the ball rolling. We have all descended from that. We are all related. Every single cell of life is wondrous, precious and miraculous.

Yet we are destroying life at an increasing rate, driving species after unique species into extinction. Yet every single species is precious.

We should certainly respect it more!!

Poetry – Kenya

Kenya

Kenya – where the rich red soil of Africa is like the living blood of life,

Where bones protrude from the soil in profusion,

Testament to the proliferation of the creatures that were there before.

Kenya – whose valley was the seat of all our births.

Whose yellow sun and blue sky still shine as it did on the very first;

The first of us to stand tall, pick up a tool and question the stars.

Kenya – where the elephant once roamed in huge numbers and the game grazed the plains

Providing rich pickings for those who were there to be part of that web.

Kenya – where the air sang to the ears of those first people, where the land glowed with colour and the breeze was pungent with the scent of life.

Kenya where camp-fires warmed the soul with chatter and tales of daring

Where the stars mysteriously glistened and mystery abounded with wonder.

Kenya – where it began for us.

Now I want to stand in that valley, tease out the bones to remind me of the past, taste that breeze and look up at that sky

Just to see if there are any traces left of that magic.

For Kenya – I fear we’ve left our souls in the spilt blood of your soil, yet our bones are still inexplicably walking.

I would bury myself in your soil where I belong.

Opher 1.9.2017

Africa is where humans evolved. I have an affinity for that red soil – to walk the Olduvai Gorge where the fossil bones litter the ground. Once Africa teemed with life. Once we roamed there freely hunting that bounty. Now we are spread across the planet in our billions, nature is on the run and our old ways are no more.

Poetry – Calling Time on the Past

Calling Time on the Past

Travelling cross-country on a train

Past old factories and warehouses,

Relics from a past age,

Looking forlorn, drab and neglected,

In disrepair.

Yesterday’s dreams tarnished with time,

Clinging on desperately for grim life.

The drab brick discoloured and faded,

Adorned with soot and graffiti,

Amidst debris and litter,

Festooned with razor-wire –

No longer the hope of the future,

Now ageing limpets

Adhering to an eroding rock

And knowing

That a big storm is already on its way.

There is no profit sufficient to restore their glory.

They are left hanging on,

And on, and on, and on,

On a wish.

Displaced by robots and cheap labour abroad,

Yet still with full carparks of workers cars.

Workers who are disgruntled,

Ever settling for less,

Keep an anxious eye on an approaching exit;

To the days when weeds and shards of glass

Will displace the clatter of machinery and chatter.

Time to move on.

Time to invent the new.

Time to seek a different way.

Time to leave the past behind.

Time to learn new skills.

For the old ways are busy dying.

Time…time…..time…..time…….

Maybe in time to re-emerge as skeletons?

To reassume a splendour of archaeological delight?

Broken walls stark against a sunset sky

Rich in nostalgia for an age gone by

Made majestic again by time?

1.2.2017

Calling Time on the Past

I wrote this poem while travelling by train across Britain from Hull to Manchester. I was catching a flight to Australia to begin a journey that would take me through Java, Borneo, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Vietnam, India, the Middle East and home.

There was excitement in the air and sadness too. I was looking at the slowly decaying heartland of British manufacturing. I was also looking back through strata of ruins at past eras when the mines and mills ruled but are now completely gone.

I was living in Brexit Britain still clinging to the ideas of the past when Empire ruled and wealth flowed in to fill the coffers of the rich and provide employment for the exploited poor.

Times change.

I had Trump’s words ringing in my ears – how he was going to restore those decaying American industries – the coal, oil and steel – to do away with renewables and deny the future.

Times change.

Was America diving back, like Britain, into the past instead of forging ahead?

I felt it was time to call time on the past and embrace the new before we become left behind.

I had an image of those forlorn factories re-emerging at some later stage to become objects of beauty, in much the same way our broken castles, abbeys and mills have done, their ugliness transformed.

Time is change. There is no going back.

Poetry – What we stood for

What we stood for

There is resilience.

There is determination.

There is skill.

There’s a sense of justice.

Tolerance

And ‘trouble at mill’.

Industrial revolution,

The enlightenment,

And Trade Unions too;

Scientific discovery,

Evolutionary theory,

And a benevolence or two.

Individuality

With revolutionary style,

Education for the masses

And going the extra mile.

Fighting for a worker’s rights

With intelligence and guile.

Forcing through new laws

To create fairness in the trial.

So much we owe

To so many in the past.

Still more to do

To make their efforts last.

Opher 11.12.2015

What we stand for

The freedoms we have, the standards we enjoy, have been well fought for with blood, thought and bravery. Nothing is given lightly and the freedoms and standard are rapidly eroded.

We are paid with sops while the top table dine on swallows’ eggs.

The inequality that runs the world is creating poverty, war and disease. It is time we stopped electing psychopaths and began to look at a fairer way of running things.

This inequality breeds fundamental madness.

In order to look into the future it is best to have a firm knowledge of the past.

Britain has achieved much but there is still much worth fighting for. The world is in a mess.

The planet is being trashed. Wild-life is being decimated. There is mass migration due to fascism, fundamentalism, climate change, overpopulation and war.

Who’s shouting? I can’t hear you?

Patriotism – Proud to be British???

Patriotism – Proud to be British???

I am British.

So why do I feel so torn about my heritage, so conflicted?

Am I not proud to be British? To be the descendant of people from a tiny island who went forth to conquer the world and create the greatest Empire the world has ever seen?

At one time the British Empire ruled most of the globe. Our Kings and Queens ruled over the USA, Canada, Indonesia, The Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, India, Pakistan, the Caribbean and the Falklands.

We were the supreme world power.

Yet, was this a good thing?

Was this anything to do with my kin?

I think not.

My people did not rule or create an empire. Neither did we benefit.

The empire was created by the establishment – the aristocracy and wealthy traders. They raised armies and navies and went forth to invade, capture and plunder. They set up companies to use indigenous people as cheap labour in order to harvest, mine and manufacture the goods that made them richer.

The wealth poured back from the empire but it did not find its way to the likes of us. We were every bit as abused as those indigenous people abroad.

My people were the poor working people. We were the ones pressganged into the navy, used as cannon fodder in the conquering armies, exploited at home in mines, factories and shipyards.

We lived in poverty and slums while the establishment built great mansions, with fancy carriages, banquets, balls, fine clothes and servants.

The empire was not of our doing, neither was it of benefit to the likes of us. Its foundation was based on racism, arrogance and superiority. It spawned slavery, greed, exploitation and division. It was based on might, force, violence and cruelty. It subjugated and controlled.

Am I supposed to feel proud about this?

No. I refuse.

I refuse to own this empire or take delight in its accomplishments.

But I am proud to be British.

I am proud of the working people who stood up against this establishment and fought for justice and freedom, for rights and fair conditions.

I am proud of the ones who fought for the right to vote, for fair government, fair pay, fair work conditions.

None of it was easily forthcoming.

It took time for men like me to be given the vote. It took even longer for women to be afforded the same.

It took blood and guts.

We formed unions, struck and starved, marched and were massacred, just so that we could be afforded fair pay and good work conditions. We fought for a better, fairer society and it had to be wrested by struggle and loss of life from the hands of the establishment.

So I am proud of those brave women and men and the sacrifices they made. I’m proud to be descended from them.

I look around at this society we have fought for. It is still not as good as it should be. There is still injustice and gross inequality, exploitation and slavery. I look at the wealthy becoming wealthier while people like me slave on zero-hours contracts for poverty wages.

There is still much that needs addressing.

So when it comes to patriotism I think it’s a con-trick.

I’m not going to wave my flag for the Queen or celebrate battles and empire.

I will stand up for the Diggers, for the Chartists and the victims of Peterloo.

They make me proud to be British.

Rome by day – some photos

There is so much to see in Rome – starting with the art treasures in the Vatican. While representing some of the poorest people in the world the Catholic Church accumulated a huge wealth of treasures and art. One wonders why?

Apart from the Vatican it seems that every corner has an architectural joy, a historical gem or sculpture.

Jersey – Fortresses, Rocky cliffs, Rocky coves, Stone circles and wildlife – photos

Jersey has so much beauty and interest packed into a small area. The history is fascinating. You can see neolithic stone circles, fortresses from the Dark Ages and Second World War fortifications – all next to each other. The natural beauty is immense.

Plus you can get good beer and excellent seafood.