Somerset 30.8.18

Slept for 8 hours straight last night.

Summer seems to be ending, the air cooler, the days getting shorter. Transition. It’s been my word of now – of this Summer. When I walk the coast path I love those moments where I come to a point where there is a change: leaving the ferry (one man in a rowing boat) at Weymouth and heading into the green, arriving at the long, slender neck of Portland Bill, leaving the other side of that neck having done Portland to start the winding route around the Fleet, and on and on arriving and leaving and often looking back at Portland growing less and less defined becoming an island and then just an indistinct line. Smaller changes in topography, climbing yet another stile and looking back at a field curving and a wall or hedge following the line or curve of the land and then it’s gone. Also, brief encounters. A few words with a person and then on knowing that I’ll never see them again. The passing of time, the journey ahead and trying to recall those steps that I’ve trod before.

And now a new phase. Said goodbye to Mum in the pouring rain yesterday, her as always making sure she waited on the drive with a yellow Tio Pepe umbrella wearing lipstick and a smile (had she put on lipstick to say goodbye – surely not?). One day soon it may just be her there saying goodbye (Dad had left earlier). The feeling of going away, going back to school never goes away. Then halfway round the M25 the rain stopped and on the A303 I stopped. When I got out the wind was fresh and I could smell the grass of Somerset (straw in Suffolk).

10 years gone. A big phase. I felt – unexpectedly – neutral about it. I kept telling myself shouldn’t I feel happy, proud, sad but I didn’t feel anything particularly strongly. Relief? It does feel strange that 10 years has passed in one continuous way of life. That’s one seventh or eighth of my entire life. Definitely time to move on. And who knows what next week will bring? Less stress let’s hope. Again there’ll be a lot of those things that seem to have become my key words or obsessions of late: novelty, variety, fluidity. Moving from one place to place on a daily basis. Meeting new groups of people in different communities. It could be tricky because I’ll surely never know the kids (or the staff) that I’ll be dealing with but that also is exciting to me.

And the sleep? Well we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m on strict detox this week. I know I’ve said it before. Giving up smoking, I’m convinced, is crucial to making an improvement. Yes, it happened again last Saturday. And the fallout is always timed to happen 48 hours later as my system tries to reboot. Have I said this before? Surely.

Watched ‘Children of a lesser God’ (1986) last night, the film about a teacher for the deaf who tries to persuade a girl to let him teach her to speak and falls in love with her. It’s slightly saccharine but brilliant and won 4 Oscars, one to Marlee Matlin, the girl who is so expressive although she only uses her face – her eyes especially – and her hands throughout. There’s been a lot of chat recently about if there’s a film about someone with a disability then allowing actors with disabilities to fill the role. It was interesting to read that Matlin has been deaf since she was 18 months old. I watched it before with mum when I was at Suffolk College (I haven’t seen it since) and it also made me think of the power of music with a visual story – in this case Bach’s Concerto for 2 violins but also a great synth score by Michael Convertino. Went to bed thinking about love and also sex. Now, there’s a surprise.

In my book I read a quote about the deeply felt mix of emotions felt after ‘heart-felt sex’ and it got me to thinking the last time I felt like that. Has sex become too experimental, fun, pornographic in the last few encounters I’ve had? Yes, but that’s because they weren’t right. There wasn’t that connection. It was – simply- about sex and having fun. Then I cast my mind back to the ‘big’ loves of my life. They were always quite wild too, often instigated by me. Did we have passionate love making? The sort where it’s as if you want to be entwined with, part of that person, where you have an insatiable hunger for that person. A need. In the old days, yes. With G. She was really the first. God, have I become sex obsessed? I enjoy it. I think about it a lot. Man, who doesn’t? Or is it just me?  Yet I still hold onto the same belief in the transformative power of connection, of love, because I have the capacity for it. It goes so deep. This well of love. It is what drives me on. It’s always been my one true ambition.

Reading ‘Barbarian Nights – A Surfing Life’ by William Finnegan about him travelling the world living for surfing. I had one of those book droughts halfway through the Summer where I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to read (it’s so much to do with mood for me – what I’m ‘in the mood for’ at any one time. I see this is as flawed. I should be more experimental). Then this one swept me off my feet. Normally I’ll read anything between 10 and 20 pages before I try and go to sleep but this one I just keep turning: one more…… more. Great exciting, stories sometimes told in a  very straightforward way but at others (when he describes the sea and the waves) poetic and wondrous. He, like me, had religious faith until he was 13. He was catholic but once he was confirmed his parents stepped back and said it was his choice to go to mass at which point he thought what’s all this preparation been for? He turned to the sea for his religion, for his God. An unpredictable, sometimes giving and sometimes intolerant one but always powerful, sublime and in some way beyond our understanding.

This resonates – this transference of faith. I am constantly looking for the sea. Getting into it. Walking along beside it. Attempting to surf in it, sail in it. I get consoled by it. And when I am at peace floating in it, like at Dunwich the other day, my ears submerged listening to the waves moving the pebbles beneath the surface like sand falling through an hourglass, I can’t help but think of the infinite and of death. The same when I dive into the North Sea and all is black going deeper and deeper.

My own confirmation at the age of 14 was a strange affair. It was at my school in the very grand surroundings of the school chapel, dark wood, stained glass, the glow of candlelight. I was stoned. Actually I was quite taken with the whole process. I was still a believer at that time but possibly starting to question: self prescribed sex was a difficult one. I remember feeling guilty about all the salacious thoughts I had often on a daily basis. The man to confirm us was the then Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball, who was very charismatic, a monk, but while I was having my own internal struggles I probably shouldn’t have worried, it turned out he was abusing young monks and boys. He was sent to prison in 2015 on 15 counts of indecent assault. Not me thankfully. The only physical contact I had with him was a kindly hand on the head and an ‘Amen’.

OK, enough about that. It’s 10.30. The 4th test against India is about to start, the sun is shining and time, again, for the path. Sidmouth to Exmouth. The next phase.


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