Zen & the Art of Paragliding
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
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
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.
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
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 -
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.
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