Zen & the Art of Paragliding

paraglider - by my daughter
paraglider - by my daughter

This is not a hub...

...about Zen or Paragliding. It's not about Art either, though I think my daughter's pencil sketch certainly qualifies.


But if Robert Pirsig can write 700-plus pages on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance without dwelling long on either, then perhaps I too can be allowed to indulge myself by shamelessly plagiarising his title. And Robert - if you're reading this (as if!) it's a great book. Pity about Lila though. Bad day?

Here's where it all began

the yellow dot - the back garden
the yellow dot - the back garden | Source

Early days

You stand on the lawn holding the windfall apple between your feet. Taking care not to split it, you press the garden cane clean through it, a couple of inches into the ground. Using the cane as a slingshot, you launch the apple with all your might. High over the trees and the garden wall. Over the old warehouses and beyond, to land out of sight. Possibly in the harbour. Maybe even across the water in North Harbour Street. Who cares - the fun is in the flight, not the landing. You fire another, and another. When you run out of windfalls, you shake the tree.

When the policeman turns up he doesn't believe a kid can throw apples 200 yards so you have to give him a lesson in how it's done. He's a quick learner and a fit young guy, so his first attempt goes like a rocket. But his round-arm technique doesn't give enough elevation and his apple smashes itself to a pulp against the warehouse wall. Shocked at the raw power of this weaponry, he confiscates your cane and cycles off with it over his shoulder, to practise at home. If he'd only looked in the shed, he'd have found your air rifle and the World War One bayonet. And fifty more canes.

- o -

When folk say "a stone's throw from the sea" they usually mean a shortish drive of about half an hour. But my parent's house, in Ayr, South-West Scotland was no more than 400 yards from the beach and quite literally, an apple's throw from the harbour. It was a pretty ideal place to grow up, with decent schools, friends, sports grounds, books, seagulls and a radiogram.

Dad couldn't get enthusiastic about gardening without a new toy, so he bought a flamethrower. This roared like a dragon and burned all the weeds and not a few rose bushes too. When there was nothing left to burn, Dad turned his attention to the yard broom. I don't think he knew I was watching. The dragon made short work of the stiff bristles. - Why did you set fire to the brush, Dad? He was a nimble thinker. - To dry it. It worked too. I had to give him that.

When you're seventeen you buy a classic guitar while on holiday in Andorra. You practise for about thirty eight years with some minor successes along the way, in music festivals and suchlike. But never quite manage Recuerdos de l'Alhambra from beginning to end without faltering. So you keep practising.

When you've more or less done it with schools, apples and flamethrowers you go to Glasgow University to set it all to numbers.

A place to learn

Glasgow University
Glasgow University | Source

It's strange how you can leave home without knowing you've done it. Glasgow's only thirty miles from Ayr but, though I didn't realise it at the time, it was the start of my travels. Nearly forty years later, I'm still travelling. I went to Glasgow to study Physics, which I did, but spent a lot of my time in student television and playing in bands. I got my degree but never worked directly in the field. Instead, I joined the BBC and set off to London. Before I went, though, I met my wife to be, who still is, after thirty-one years.

- 20 years later -

I left the BBC. I'd had a ball, but it was time to go, for two reasons. First, though I'd had a varied career in operations, engineering, lecturing and training management, I didn't like the idea of giving my whole working life to one employer. Second, they'd asked me to nominate a member of my department for redundancy. But they were all good guys and dedicated, so I nominated myself instead and buggered off. (It's a technical term meaning I hadn't a clue what I was going to do next).

By this time, we were living in Great Malvern, in the West Midlands. My wife was well settled in a local school and our son and daughter were old enough not to need me around all the time. Malvern's a great little town, but not rich in Broadcasters, so I started looking further afield. Much further, as it transpired.

still young in jo'burg
still young in jo'burg | Source
playing flute in mumbai
playing flute in mumbai | Source
welcoming the sun, anywhere
welcoming the sun, anywhere | Source
to end as dust in dubai
to end as dust in dubai | Source

The life of a wanderer

'The Life of a Wanderer' is in fact the title of Edward Lear's autobiography. Edward Lear, who gave us The Owl and the Pussycat, The Courtship of the Yonghy Bonghy Bo and The Dong with the Luminous Nose. I'll never leave a legacy like his, but it was when I started my serious travels that I also started writing poetry, or at least, working on my poetry, because I'd written sporadically for years.

How pleasant to know Dave McClure
whose writing is quirky and quaint.
Some say that all Scotsmen are dour
but this one most certainly ain't.

His head is the size of a planet.
His brain is as small as a pea.
He once had a budgie called Janet
and fed it on crumpets and tea.

His nose is inclined to the starboard.
His eyes are of opaline hue.
He likes to sit down by the harbour,
delights in the maritime view.

I'll spare you the rest of that one. It's a pastiche of Lear's own 'How pleasant to know Mr. Lear'. The great thing about poetry, for a wanderer, is that you can pick it up when you have time and drop it when you haven't. It's all about dedication and taste. The same is not true of playing an instrument. In music, you never stand still. When you stop practising, you get worse, by the day. Sad, but true.

- o -

Sometimes you see strange things. Once, the sun, some trees and a broken window conspired to project this haunting image on the wall. I stared at it till it yielded to the clouds, pondered its deep meaning, then went out and had three jars.

- o -

Sometimes you go where you have to. For a few months I had to live in the strange salmon pink building on the right, Dubai's Panorama Hotel. So strange a place, I was soon calling it the Paranormal Hotel because of the weird goings-on there, especially in the bar. So weird, I decided to commit it to a blog and to this end I signed up on Blogspot, as Paraglider. When I came to Hubpages, I'd originally hoped my hubs might drive some traffic to the blog, but now I'm looking at it the other way round. I'm finding more and more that the blog format is too limiting for the sort of stuff I want to write. Hubs lend themselves better to my type of extended ramble. I even wrote one about said Paranormal Hotel - Be Very Afraid

doha night life
doha night life | Source

So, you wind up in Doha, Qatar, home of the clapped out American school bus and the mock-Venetian shopping malls, the sandstorms, traffic jams and searing heat, and you ask yourself - why? Well, why not! Life is good.

And even as I write this, I have something to look forward to. Today is special. Not because the World Financial Markets are entering meltdown. Not because I've made my first million on Adsense. But because it's the New Moon, heralding the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid ul Fitr. After a dry month, the bars in Doha reopen. In half an hour from now. You'll excuse me if I don't finish this Hu

- o -

Sea Child

I shall return alone and let the tide,
risen again, embrace you for its own.
You are the boy who numbered clouds as friends,
saw soldiers in the waves, tigers in spray.

Awakened by the sea, you need not sleep
again in one who cloistered you so long,
prisoner to a promise unfulfilled.
Your sad ordeal is over; here is peace.

I am the coat of mail that you put on
to face a harder world at childhood's end.
Colleagues invented me. I called them friends
at your expense, you had to hide away.

Here is a place for you to gaze and play.
See how the sunlight gleams on Greenan sands
where once you left small footprints. Only you
can find their path again. My child, goodbye.

More by this Author

Comments 60 comments

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, very poetic and philosophical. It seems your take on life is similar to that of Omar Khayam.

I know this wasn't the point of the apple throwing episode, but do you agree that confiscating weapons is useless? Anything can be a weapon, so why bother? 


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Aya - I am a great fan of Omar Khayam. There's no shortage of wisdom in the Rubaiyat. Confiscating weapons is useless, yes. Thanks!

Ntathu 8 years ago

Paraglide, what a rich life you have ..and what a joyful way to share your good firtune and blessings. I love the poetical insights and mixture of political wit. A good combination. Keep on wriitng and sharing your bliss! Ntathu. Your daughter's sketch definitely qualifies this as an "art" article! Well done her!

Chef Jeff profile image

Chef Jeff 8 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

Do you know of Larkhall? That's where my Scottish ancestors came from before they moved to Glasgow, and finally the U.S.

hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 8 years ago from Oregon, USA

wow nice sketch!!! I am going to show it to my daughter, also a budding artist.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Ntathu - thank you. Looking back, I think I have been lucky in many ways. It doesn't always seem that way at the time of course, but that's life!

Hi Jeff - I know where Larkhall is, a little outside Glasgow, but I've never had any call to go there as it's not on the way to anywhere I'd be going, like home or Edinburgh.

Thanks hot dorkage. She's a primary teacher now, so the drawing ability comes in very handy.

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

Very interesting life you lead paraglider. It must be fascinating to have traveled the world as you have. Glad to see you were nominated as the Hubber of the week. Congrats!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks SweetiePie - sometimes it's tiring too, but when I finally decide to hang up my boots at least I'll have a fund of tales to bore my grandchildren with!

Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 8 years ago from Hong Kong

Thanks for the nice piece. I'm glad your avatar is not really you, even though he was kind of cool. I'm also glad to have found your other articles and your interview.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

This Hub is a work of art.  Textually, visually.  It has layers of now, then, and the in-between, as well as poetry and narration.  To me, it is a celebration of the child who does not lose its literal perception and acceptance of that perception as it grows to adulthood.

You know the elevator speech?  Summarize your accomplishments in a 2-minute delivery?  That is no easy task.  What you wrote here is a breathtakingly simple yet complex autobiography.  And that you include your daughter's sketch of you, breathtaking as well.

Thank you.

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

Honestly I thought you could not have been older than 40 before I read this hub. That is wonderful you have grandchildren and I am sure they will appreciate your stories when they get older. My grandpa has complained for years that I was the only one who wanted to listen to his stories, but now my cousins are beginning to show more interest as they are adults.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Benson - thanks for the read. Are you still working in Hongkong? That's a place I'd like to visit some day.

Sally - lovely comment, thank you. Maybe the secret, if there is one, is never to let your work define you in your own eyes. There's so much more to life.

Sweetie Pie - one grandchild so far, but plenty time, I hope :)

Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon

I'm an Irish gypsy, at heart, living in central Oregon. I understand the need to keep moving.

(is never to let your work define you in your own eyes. There's so much more to life.) I think the secret is to define your work around who you are, then it never feels like work, but play all the time.

ColdWarBaby 8 years ago

Simply beautiful. nuf said.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Karen & CWB - thank you for the read and comments. I have a feeling that I'll be 'on the road' for another five years or so, then I'll be travelled out, but who knows.

Lazur profile image

Lazur 8 years ago from Netherlands

I moved a lot of times myself , but only in this little country:D And hoping to move again soon, but just to settle. ;)

Your daughter did a great job with he pencil by the way:)

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Lazur - your little country has a lot of variety. And you're still a sweet young thing - plenty time ;)

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Your daughter is a very talented artist. I enjoyed reading your philosophical hub and was moved by the "Sea Child" poem. I remember as a young teen, poetry that had to do with the sea would bring me a sense of peace. You sure live an interesting life!

starcatchinfo profile image

starcatchinfo 8 years ago



marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

Very interesting...astonishing life, excellent drawing-- wow!! talented family! =))

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

VioletSun - Doha is also a sea port (on the Arabian Gulf), which is good because I hate being landlocked.

Starcatchinfo - thanks for the read.

Marisue - thanks also :) I feel the Doha chapter is coming to an end. Next year, who knows where.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

F--- you write well. That opening story about the cane and the cop was pure joy and a testimony to how much great writing you've obviously read and internalized. Just wow, dude.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks SB. By the way, it works just as well with small potatoes. If you've never tried it, have a go. You'll impress yourself. Cut the cane to about 2 feet long, 2'6" max. Any longer and it flexes too much. Shorter and you start to lose velocity.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

Dude, you're talking to the kid who grew up in the country fancying himself a medieval warrior but with access to modern tools. LOL. I made a ballista out of the left over rebar from when they put in our swimming pool (recurved toy of death) and could shoot copper brazing rods (the long ones) so far into a giant Eucalyptus tree you couldn't get them back out. LOL. I was so with you on this story you have no idea. lol

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Why am I not surprised! Kids need to be allowed to find these things for themselves. It's called 'playing outdoors'. Do you think it will ever catch on?

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

Why would you want your kids to go outside and discover leverage on their own, or to reinvent outdated siege craft when they can play video games and have much more glorious representations of both on the tv screen with no thought or effort on your kids part?  Sheesh, Para, what kind of parent are you?

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

The kind who was careful to tell his son only to fire the potatoes over the common and not over the town ;)

countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

Great verse from Bhagvad Gita. Btw nice hub about your life's experiences and wisdom. I read the "The prophet" by khalil gibran which I also gave me a so much insight into different aspects like friendship, love, children....

I was under the impression you were a para glider until I read this hub.....hehe

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Countywomen - thanks! Not a real paraglider, but the name seems to have stuck :)

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 8 years ago from United States

I'm impressed, great hub!

pylos26 profile image

pylos26 8 years ago from America

thanks... again...paraglider...pylos

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Jerilee and Pylos - thanks both!

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

Para great whimsical philosophical hub. I really enjoy your writing and the SABC T-shirt. Your young face is vaguely familiar. Perhaps I met you during your Johannesburg sojourn. I spent many years in the newspaper and publishing world.

Somehow The installation of a sophisticated telex based system in the Argus group in around 1974 which was similiar to the one in the SABC rings a little bell somewhere (or maybe not)!

At any rate great hub imminently readable and enjoyable!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

sixtyorso - thanks. I didn't see very much of Jo'burg when there. Too much work to do. I remember the Lion Park and a Codfather restaurant, and the Sandton Mall. A few other places downtown, but I couldn't name them.

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

Al places where I have been known to hangout! But that was another life another lifetime.

thequestfortruth 8 years ago

nice mix of words and thoughts and art. as a paraglider pilot myself i will have to watch out for more on that. i was going to write a thing years ago - the tao of paragliding, about not exerting ego on natural forces, maybe i will here some time

warms alex

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Alex - It's an honour to hear from a real paraglider. The nearest I've ever got is a couple of sessions (with an instructor) in a glider. Thanks for the read.

Prosehag profile image

Prosehag 7 years ago from Central Savannah Riparian Area of Gawga

I'm all agog! I love Scotland. I think it is like Arizona with water (except for the accompanying damp which AZ does NOT have). Thank you for sharing your life and interests in poetry, and the poems. You should write a book. I'll look for more.

People paraglide a lot in AZ, because of the wind and the vistas and the great jumping off places... I once ALMOST jumped out of an aircraft with a pacachute, but woke on the scheduled morning with a horrendous neck cramp, which was probably psychosomatic, but nevertheless, the desire was there, though I did not reschedule... I do appreciate the metaphor however. Do you dream of flying?

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Prosehag - Arizona is quite a lot warmer than Scotland, where we specialise in sea winds and horizontal rain! Thanks for the read :)

prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

hi Paraglider,

I am really impressed by your wit, mixing poetry and philosophy. You are a wanderer, and you are welll grounded in your own belief. I always think that men who plays guitar are deep thinkers (except those who are into rock).Hmmm, what a nice life you have, plus your daughter is an artist too..

I nejoyed reading this, nice way of sharing a life....a good life indeed..

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Pretydarkhorse - I think you play guitar too? Or do you only sing when someone else plays, or in karaoke? Thanks for the visit :)

prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

hi Dave! Now I know your name, Yes I play it but I am not an expert, just starting to learn, my brother used to teach me how to play it, but then he passed away last year. I would learn it sooner, it has been my promise to myself to have time for it. Yes, I also sing in karaoke bars, I always scare the machine to spew out high mark for me lol....good day, Maita

casil126 profile image

casil126 6 years ago

very nice, great hub

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks casil!

Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Paraglider, I like your stuff. Have you written an autobiography? I did at sixty (am 74 now) Gave a copy to each of my three now well and truly growup children, they can hand on to the grand kids.

Born in Scotland, eh? I'm London born. Though I spent time in Devon, Northhamptonshire and Lancashire as an evacuee during the war.

Keep up the hubs. They're good.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Tom - no autobiography yet, but maybe when I retire and finally go home, I'll think about it. Tusitala? I guess you're a fellow Stevenson fan - there's an inspiration to follow!

eilander1542011 profile image

eilander1542011 6 years ago from Everywhere

A fellow transient soul! I am glad to hear or rather read that you are fulfilling a destiny of sorts for yourself. Too many people I have spoken with about the vast travels they would like to have done in their lives and never did. Worse still are those who look forward to a life of exploration but will not allow themselves to escape the monotony to follow their dreams. Touche to you Paraglider. This hub has gained my interest in your vibrations and I look forward to delving deeper into your pages.

If you find yourself in the mood for the views of a transient like yourself, though younger in development, look into my hubs. I think you might enjoy them.

PEACE to you.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

eilander - Thank you for visiting. I will certainly look at your offerings tomorrow. tonight it's getting late, here in the (cultural) desert.

Christopher Price profile image

Christopher Price 6 years ago from Vermont, USA


Stumbling about Hubpages I am so often disappointed with the meager content and poor quality of the writing.

I am so happy to have discovered you!

This was a marvelous introduction, (although I have read a couple of your later hubs), your humor and joy for life are apparent. I am anxious for more.

Your poem Sea Child is wonderful, wistful. I will return to enjoy it again.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Christopher - Hubpages does have a core community of writers, but we are outnumbered by affiliate marketers. Or should that be marketeers? Who knows - who cares? It's all stuff (and nonsense!) Thanks for the visit :)

Old Pete profile image

Old Pete 6 years ago from Brighton UK

We have been on very different journeys, but I could really relate to your childhood picture of apples and the local bobby! Four of us had been 'scrumping' apples from a local orchard and were caught by the local policeman who insisted that we threw all of the apples over a fence that we knew we couldn't climb. He knew all of us by name (those were the days!) and simply suggested that if he caught us again he would tell our parents!

Like you I have found the blog format too restrictive (but for somewhat different reasons). I've now overcome this to some extent by manipulating the dates of posts so that the most significant posts (not necessarily the most recent) always show in the current month.

HubPages has a very different approach and actively discourages duplication even from one's own blogs but I can't see any alternative. Can you see any way in which I could improve my profile?

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Pete - the local bobby is a thing of the past, sadly. I've kept the blog going, for fun, but don't still have high hopes of it getting a lot of traffic, unlike the 300,000+ views I've had here.

I had a look at your profile page and generally it seems fine. Profiles become interesting when there are more hubs cycling through them, I think.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

Please bore us along with your grandchildren - after you hang up your boots, that is.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Well, RedElf - out here, my boots are more like sandals, as even the winters are hottish, but sooner or later I do intend to work less and scribble more ;)

Jesus was a hippy profile image

Jesus was a hippy 5 years ago from United Kingdom

And I thought you were a paraglider in the aviatory sense...

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

No - purely virtual :)

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

Enjoyed your Zen and autobiography, did check out your blog, strange place you're working in, sorry they've removed the water fountains and replaced them with vending machines, that really sucks. Progress is not pretty. Thanks for being so entertaining. Cheers!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Yes, progress can be a mixed blessing ;-)

itakins profile image

itakins 4 years ago from Irl

What a fascinating ramble - a thoroughly enjoyable read,I must say.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 4 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks itakins - and it's all true :)

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