Monday Night Reflection: Logan

Apologies to those who haven’t seen the film, this will no doubt have a spoiler in it. This is not a film review, instead, Logan, like other fictional works became a mirror in which I could see myself more clearly. Great writing, great story telling, whatever the medium talks intimately to its audience, the very best covertly seduces the audience by first entertaining, and by that means lowers their defences so that the piece can speak to those who are willing to listen.

Some films and works are overt in their message, there are self-consciously preaching and reaching for a reaction and response. Usually they achieve their goal of an Oscar nomination or two, or perhaps the equivalent “art-house” recognition that they were born to seek. However, in my mind, the greatest achievement is to talk and embed a thought in something covertly from the Christian allegory of Wall-E to the crushing grief and loss woven into the fabric of Rocky Balboa, such writing is able to stop us dead in our tracks and cut through all our defences precisely because it hides in plain sight while we sought distraction from our lives and struggles.

And so we meet Logan, the once indestructible Logan, the anti-hero for the ages, moody and broody, reluctant but the first into battle for the right cause, driving a Limo at a 4th rate stripper bar. This Logan has a limp, is clearly old and sick. Our Hero has fallen. When we met Logan he was drinking and fighting in a bar for money, running away, this Logan is working to support and care for his old friend Charles Xavier, drinking to hide from the past. The once brilliant mind now dying with dementia, and Caliban literally hiding from the light, like Logan seeking redemption that he cannot find.

The world has changed, Logan and his kind have become  irrelevant and forgotten, their lives passed into mythology and fairy-tales for children and disenchanted youth. Our protagonists are haunted by their failures, hurts and the death of those they loved, they no longer have a place and are simply waiting out their days till death will release them from their suffering. Logan self-medicating, Caliban obsessing and Charles losing his battle with demntia, needing to medicate himself to keep others safe.

If I were twenty, thirty even these would be characters and perhaps little more than back story giving depth to what is to come. I would perhaps focus on the emerging and the new, but I am forty-five. I have lost loved ones, I have made mistakes I cannot change and I carry regrets. Like Logan, I am no longer indestructible, my body has let me down and broken, my place in the world was taken and I am left slightly irrelevant without a place in a world I no longer really want to be part of. Like Logan, I want to pass peacefully, without incident or drama through the days and I am tempted to self-medicate away the pain both physical and emotional. I am not alone, this is the basis of the rather dismissed mid-life crisis, where you realise you have less years left (statistically) than you have lived, where people get sick, they die and you know why people wear sunglasses at winter funerals. And, while many are peaking in their career, many of us never peaked, never had much of a career and see that their time is passing, perhaps past.

It is not all gloomy and black, of course, there are things to celebrate in life, however, those are fragile. Many of us have had those stripped away through no fault of our own, hard work rewarded by being laid off because we were top of a pay grade. We have achieved what we were told was the best thing to achieve and it is nothing at all. The curse of self awareness. The Power-Rangers Movie or Cars 3,  I don’t get to take my children, while other parents will complain and see this a chore, we squander the gifts too easily, and when they are gone we regret we did not cherish them more.

And so Logan is a reflection of us, we see our lives in the characters or we see nothing. If you see nothing then I am slightly envious, because while there are only elements of crossover with these ultimately fictional characters, they are some of the most painful elements of my life. I have tried to hide away and drink, as well as drug my way through life because it hurt to much to face reality. I am keenly aware that as a choice these are on my shelf and while they are not “go-to” so much as they once were, they are preferred ingredients.

Part of me is happy to pass gently and relatively quickly to a state or irrelevance, I have lost faith in a world where I have never felt at home. I have never felt of a place, and the places I feel most connected to I have only visited a handful of times and never lived. I am disconnected completely from any sort of family and have never wanted any connection, when their lives crossed I felt no affinity or desire to foster relationship. Their concerns and focus alien, and their drama’s and big deals seemed irrelevant and trivial compared to what matters. The tie of blood no bond at all. And so it is with the world, I see hate and suspicion growing with an agenda with which I want no part. Not even discussion, because that assumes they are legitimately objects for consideration, and in my world they are not. #notmyworld perhaps?

I have to walk in this world, despite my intense desire to be apart and away. I find myself dragged in and helping others against my better instincts, and I am no hero. I hope simply that what has happened to me can stop someone going where I have gone and feeling what I have felt.

Leave the storehouse of regrets untouched and gathering dust.

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Poetry Corner: The Captain and Jack

Poetry Corner: The Captain and Jack

The Captain and Jack are gone

Cheaper, rougher whores are what it takes

The mixer shrinks and the ice it melts

The fog no longer dims the lights

 

The empty bottles of my dynasty,

Recycled like my stories of glory days

The bitter taste of regret

Diluted with bourbon or rum till I forget

 

My hand it shakes, my gait unsteady

No longer call it pain, useless cliché

Existence once called life

Time and tide fading away

 

Another day, and breath I steal

Each one I take I cannot return

No redemption for wages earned

Sleep no friend or welcome rest

 

 

Thinking Out Loud : Swimming Gala

It is not that often I like to go back to my childhood and specific incidents within it. I feel that they are done with and that now I have largely accepted what was faulty with it and done my best to move on and be practical in dealing with the here and now. I am unlikely to end up in the same situation now I am an adult and so often there is limited information that I can directly apply.

However, the Butlins’ swimming gala is an event that maintains relevance in my adult life. As a kid I loved swimming, and looking back I was actually not that bad either, it is entirely possible I could have been quite good. I never found out because my mother never wanted what would have gone with my success. I swam at the Harrow and Wealdstone Club, but I never made it to the group which did competitions. Eventually unable to move up I quit. My parents let me, and I later found out, my mother had asked that I not be put up so I would not become eligible for full coaching with the early starts and travel to comps all over the country that could involve. They obliged. I was allowed to enter the club gala by way of the qualification process. You swam in your chosen stroke and distance and if you set a time you were in. Of course, it was all racing group kids. I had a go and I was in. On the night I arrived, got changed and sat and waited till my race. As an adult, I realise that all the competitors were warming up in a pool. They appeared and it was my heat; to go to the next round all I knew was that it was first 2 and then the fastest 2 losers after that. No idea what was going on, I got ready for the backstroke, I had practised a little on racing turns and dives, but I hadn’t had any coaching. In fact, it was a surprise that I was there.

I was third in my heat and I went home. I got changed alone, no one said a word, no one else in the place. I went home, no special tea. Nothing changed and I went to school the next day. The only recognition was the older kid who swam for the club saying didn’t expect to see you last night. Later I would find out I was the third fastest loser as well as 3rd in my heat, missing both by the usual fractions. This was years later and I had given up swimming by then. I was a loser, I didn’t get past the first round, I had been stupid to think any different. Of course as an adult I realise that I was 17th out of 56, and the only one who hadn’t been coached to race, and that it was quite possible that I had been faster than some of those had they been in slower heats as I had no idea of the standard of who I was against.

So I guess I was an okay swimmer really. My parents went to this holiday camp, I can remember it wasn’t much of a holiday, I was forced to do kids club stuff, which as the fat kid I hated, it was nothing I was good at. The highlight was getting a BMX for a morning (all my pocket money to hire it) and having a go on the ramps they had. Part of the week was swimming; I was looking forward to it because at least I could swim. The day came and as per usual we were split into teams, and then horror of horrors, I was given butterfly because I had made the mistake of saying I could do all the strokes. I was a backstroker, that was my only chance of not being embarrassed, I was in my trunks by the pool, the parents were there, I wanted to run, but I felt entirely trapped. It was only Wednesday, so I couldn’t run because there was the rest of the week to survive, and of course, I couldn’t embarrass my parents either, that wasn’t worth it.

The time came, we all trotted out for the one length butterfly race, completely exposed as the fat kid I looked around at the athletic bodies of every kid around me. I am sure they weren’t all athletic but they definitely were not fat like me. I guessed we would be gone in the water and I could sneak out while the winners got all the attention. I tried not to notice them limber up and did everything I could to try not to draw attention to myself. I just looked down my lane at the goal, the end, over, sneak off as there was a break after for lunch. I dived and I swam for my life, in the water all I could do was concentrate on my worst stroke, just absorbed in the movement until the wall, it was over. I immediately went to get out the pool fast, when I looked back. The lane either side of me was just over half way. In fact, no one was even close. I had beaten the entire field by the best part of 12.5meters or half a length of 25  metres in that pool. I got out, got a certificate, some stickers and my mum took a photo.

That was it, I went for lunch, the well done lasted from the pool to lunchtime and I put my certificate away and the stickers with it. The holiday continued. Nothing changed, it wasn’t mentioned, I got my well done, there was a photo, that was it. For many years I have looked at that photo of the beaming proud “fat kid” who had finally won something. I saw his top abdominal muscles, his shoulders developed from the thousands of lengths, his legs chunky from the miles cycling to and from the local pool to swim for hours in peace alone. I didn’t see a fat kid; I realise no one saw a fat kid, I realise the looks on those parents was not at the fat kid who was woefully out of his depth but at the swimmer who was about to win by a mile and disappoint their child. To me those stares were telling me I shouldn’t be there, and I was right, I had no right being in a holiday camp swimming gala, I looked like a competitive swimmer, I thought it was because I was the fat one.

My swimming life was instructive as a child because it taught me that I was a loser and that winning didn’t change anything. Success didn’t change life, I had a job, I had 2 jobs, I paid keep, I did well at school, so I should, I won something, it was a nothing event at nowhere, I failed at the Club competition, what did I expect? The looks of the parents confirmed that I was fat too. I hated school, swimming was not the way out, success in the world was not the route to happiness either. I grew up wanting to hear the words “well done”, wanting a bit of fuss and wanting my success to change something, even it that was just picking what I had for tea.

As an adult, I ended up in a relationship just like that of my childhood and so I never strove with everything I had to be a success because there would always be people better than me, and any temporary win would not change the fact that I was a loser and not a successful person. The belief that I was the person I had been told I was and was treated like informed how I made my way through life. At work, I would work hard and try to do well, and find myself sacked the first mistake I made. It did not take long for me to try and be in the middle unnoticed. At school I worked just hard enough to stay out of big trouble, I wanted to be somewhere else, the teachers made it clear I wasn’t good at school stuff and the odd time I poured all I had into something it came back with the same grades as when I didn’t. Leave fatty alone was my life. I had a great overhand right that helped with the latter.

As an adult I was, for so many years, that little boy trying to get by, trying to be happy without someone noticing it. Being happy only lasted till someone noticed and then it would be taken away. Success was something you kept to yourself, it was only yours, no one cared, no one even wanted to know. It wasn’t healthy. I know now how terribly debilitating it all was, it was no wonder I was plagued by crippling depression and that in an abusive relationship anxiety came to paralyse me. Now I preach that other people’s picture of you is only real if you make it that way, that you celebrate success and learn that you can succeed and to not accept external definitions or measures of what success is. You can set a world record and come third, see the achievement for what it is, not the definition someone else gives it.

So I look at those swimming Galas and learn; I did what was never expected of me, I was able to be the real deal when I had no encouragement, no coaching, no help and definite obstruction so why can I not be the real deal now. I may not be the best in the world, but someone will be and if I never aim to be I never stand a chance of being that someone. Most of all I look at that little boy and I realise that he was petrified, he was terrified, he felt like running away every second till that whistle blew to start those races, and that while he felt like he did not belong, that he was an alien in the land of others, that little boy stood there anyway. And more than that, that frightened little boy stepped up and did good, he did really good.

Poetry Corner: Open Letter

Poetry Corner: Open Letter

There is a bed for you in my house
Always was and always will be
You are my son, my boy
I don’t know you like I once did
Your mum made sure of that
I’m sorry I don’t know so much
What picture to put on your wall,
Or duvet cover on your bed
Not your favourite colour
Or what you put between bread
16 is 3 years away, then you choose
I want to know so much
Who you’ve become and want to be
I want to listen, hopes and dreams,
Future romances, hear it all
But I need you to listen
Hear with wisdom way beyond your years
To assess the man sat holding back tears
Look me in the eye and see, find truth, believe
Meet you and let you assess
My past, my present and my legacy
I breathe in the hope you will not walk away
Take my hopes, my dreams, ….
I hear your voice and see your face,
So close but all those miles away
And I die a little as sunset fades,
Hope struggles to last the day
Stays alive my force of will
I wonder will that day come to be
Time will tell me, it may break me too
You grow from boy to man unseen
I had plans for you, for this, everything
I pray my body decides to last
To become your friend,
And havoc once more we bring!
With Love Your Father, … Me.

Thinking Out Loud: Not Working?

Am I not working anymore? I’ve been ill for 5 months, and without really paying it attention my paid employment stopped, I am no longer on volunteer rosters, my earnings and my contribution are gone.

On the one hand, I have my new business venture, which has a small amount of money in the bank that it earned, I have ideas for how it can develop that are building on the lessons learned so far, and I have a concept of what is next in the intermediate future. The issue is that my skill strengths and the businesses easiest directions generate very poor revenues. Or as proved with one item, no revenue at all. This is a creative business, it sells what I create (sold some cranberry apricot, raspberry and cassis sauce at Christmas for example), or items I get in new (like some children’s books that are moving too slowly). It an outlet not for buying and selling per-se but to try and monetise what I love to do.

It’s a follow your passion enterprise and the money will follow venture. The slow start is, therefore, in part because I am way less than 100%. However, the truth is creating things people want to buy is harder than it looks when it never even looked easy.

I am at sea, the area that has been 18 years of my life I have effectively walked away from. In a deliberate sense now, but also in recent years as I have let the profession and industry move and I have no longer decided to move with it. As with anything people want the latest and loudest, the newest methods and jargon, while I have stuck with what works, what is proven and have insisted on testing out new methodologies for effectiveness before widespread deployment on any sort of scale. I am also not young and have experience, not an armful of “qualifications” which while educational are not always indicators of ability, theory and practice are somewhat different to what you learn in a classroom.

I thought about entering the journalistic side of the game, but I have no credentials there and to move sideways to different aspect is a lot of work to stay in a business that I no longer want to be part of because of what has happened and how it has changed. It is rather like starting off playing 5-a-side and ending up playing beach volleyball, it doesn’t feel like the same game.

Which is a development I saw coming, the trend year on year was not encouraging, and money was leaving, sadly reskilling and moving was not something I was able to do, and I am not even sure what I would reskill as. I have skills, I have toolkit skills, deployable skills that are cross-sectorial too. I am always learning, and love to learn, I am learning things I enjoy and what I enjoy and have gotten good at ha hard to turn into an income without me being a different person to who I am, and doing business in a way I am not happy with. It was always going to be time to walk away, and I am very happy with that.

The question is what next? The answer is, I have no idea. My business was never intended to be a big income generator, more of a supportive trickle to allow me to create and have the time to do it. Getting ill changed the landscape.

I am self-employed, and an expert at something I no longer want to do and I am unhappy doing as it is now. Looking to move I find no qualifications and no experience, it is worse than when I started because after getting a job at 13 I had experience in what I was getting a job in or had a qualification that showed I could do the job I was after. Sometimes even both. The answer to the question, what I have I done lately is, apart from what I don’t want to do, nothing much in a formal sense, nothing much at all.

I am thinking, what next for Mr Mouse. In the immediate term Mr Mouse here is going to keep on creating, keep on mastering the craft and skill of things he wants to do, learn new things that he is interested in. This is back to my youth where I would plug away at what I was doing until things opened up, time brings a small change, working at something is still slowly moving me forward. Plus outside the formal work and even the creative stuff I do, I have a hobby life, and in that, I have decided that 2017 I will pour the time (and effort plus) I am not using up doing the paid stuff into that. The reward of this, while not money, will be experience, travel and lasting achievement and those I value highly.

Poetry Corner: Supermarket Aisle

Poetry Corner: Supermarket Aisle

You stand looking so very glum
With your wife looking at pillows
No idea how lucky you are

Stood with your wife of oh so many years
Life blessed you to grow old together
Why do you squander the happiness?

Trample on the gift with no regard
Some of you sit in cars and wait
Time lost you will regret one day

Wasted togetherness, wasted years
How many would take your place?
Smiling deep inside, their mum or bride

The moment that never was is lost
I hope you never remember
That way you may never cry

At the time wasted in supermarket aisles
Where you grimaced and moaned
You made it bad just to make it home

What did you do? Did you make it good?
Or did you sit and complain the day away?
Refusing to smile, crush her spirit too

I want to be old, perhaps older than you
With my wife wrapped up warm and going grey
But I’ll stand, smile and cherish that supermarket aisle