Sunday, 26 April 2015

God is a DJ

Sherborne Abbey, Dorset.  Easter Saturday 2015.

I have always liked churches and I am not averse to a 10 minute nap on a pew. Some folk call it meditation.  The calm is welcoming.

I couldn’t get into the Abbey on Easter Saturday, except during a hymn on the half hour and that was 40 minutes away.

Dejected, I read Poem of the Month for April 2015 displayed at the entrance. It read:

The prayer stool:
I leave aside my shoes , my ambition:
Undo my watch, my timetable:
Take off my glasses, my views:
Undip my pen, my work:
Put down my keys, my security:
To be alone with you, the only true God.

It made me wonder who my true God was.

Ten years ago I was a RYA (Royal Yachting Association) instructor skippering a 42ft yacht leaving Dartmouth on passage to Guernsey with five students, as you do.   It was a 14 hour trip, crossing shipping lanes and entering Guernsey through the northern channel with treacherous seas and dangerous rocks.  

As I left the entrance to the river Dart I saw a rope hanging over the side of the boat and quickly jumped to retrieve it before it became entangled on the propeller.  I still had a good turn of speed.  Safely retrieved I slid back into the cockpit my head brushing the corner of the canopy.   I turned to my crew and smiled, they didn’t smile back; blood spattered down my face.

A simple inspection saw a severe gash and I had no alternative but to turn around and return to port.  Leaving my crew disappointed (they had paid £750 each for a weeklong trip to Guernsey, Jersey and Brittany) I made my way to Dartmouth hospital.

The nurse sat me down, looked at the wound and took out a form to complete; name, address etc… She then looked at me and said “Religion?

“Church of Elland Road” I replied.

She looked at me somewhat perplexed and said “I am not sure I have heard of that one”

“What, you have never heard their most famous hymn, ‘Glory, glory, Leeds United, they’re the best team in the land’. They were very big in the 70s but are somewhat in decline now.  Jesus went by the name of Don Reevie and the disciples had names like Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles and Norman, bites your leg off, Hunter’ “

She sighed, looked at the ceiling and wrote something down.

At the age of 44, I visited a psychiatrist in Harley Street, London. (I first saw him at 28 but that’s for later)  He assured me I was sane and sensible and everything he said seemed to make total sense.  In my search for self I asked him who he thought God was.

“Alex Ferguson” was his reply.  Now, this man is insane how he can possibly help me!

I later saw him on the day Alex Ferguson stepped down as manager of Manchester United.  He was in shock, knowing there would be turbulent times ahead.  Maybe I should become a therapist and help him. Now there’s a thought.

I returned to the boat with 8 stitches, left for Guernsey some 6 hours after my intended departure.  Anyone that knows about tides and currents will also know that leaving 6 hours later makes the passage into Guernsey all  the more difficult and perilous.  It also meant that by the time I arrived in St Peter Port I had been awake for almost 24 hours, very stressed but alive.  

However, my crew were happy and I had avoided a £3,750 refund, something I had never accounted for when setting up a sailing school. I once had five crew in the Azores demanding they, or the skipper leaves.  'Jesus Christ!'  The skipper left and I flew out replacements. When I was naughty, as a child, my mother used to say 'Jesus will pay you back,' .  He did, that incident alone cost £5,000 in flights and compensation.

A few months later I was at the O2 arena, London leaping up and down like a pogo stick along with 17,000 others listening to a band.  The song went like this:

This is my church
This is where I heal my hurt
It is a natural grace
Of watching young life shape
It’s in minor keys
Solutions and remedies
Enemies become friends
When bitterness ends
This is my church

This is my church
This is where I heal my hurt
It is in the world I become
Content in the hum
Between voice and drum
It’s in change
The poetic justice of cause and effect
Respect, love, compassion
This is my church
This is where I heal my hurt
For tonight god is a DJ
This is my church

Which band?  Answers on a postcard, please.

And the point I am making is:

May your God go with you.

Have a good week


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Fatal Silence.

Why do so many men over forty kill themselves?

BBC News 13th April 2015

’A hundred men die a week. It is more prevalent than at any time in the last 14 years and men are four times more likely to end their own lives than women’.

Hang on, that means a man in the UK commits suicide every half hour.  Surely not!

Well I didn’t as I am writing this blog.  It did cross my mind at 44; before spending two years on Prozac, but that’s for later.

Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.  (Wikipedia)

His thesis states that there are five layers to our needs as human beings. It also tells us that the 1 to 5 order cannot be circumvented i.e. It is a progression and can only take place in the prescribed order. Even the rich and famous fall foul of the rules when they forget or believe they don’t need to, eat, sleep and breathe.

If I look at each layer in turn:

1: Biological Needs

• Breathing
• Drinking
• Eating
• Excreting
• Sleeping
• Sex

If these basic needs are not met then the body is unable to function sufficiently to consider any other needs.

Well I breathe, I don't drink enough water, eat far too much curry, bowel movements could be better, sleep is generally good and sex I discovered when abused by a babysitter aged 9.  That’s for later.

In my opinion, of one of these needs is the biggest source of violence and destruction in the world today.  Even terrorists are promised 16 virgins in heaven! That’s also for later.

2: Safety Needs

With our biological needs met,or we perceive they have been, safety needs will then take over and dominate our behaviour. While historically safety needs meant shelter and protection from danger, nowadays these needs have more to do with ones yearning for an orderly and predictable world.

Before we forget it, we live in a western society where relatively speaking our safety needs are adequately met and we are not primarily concerned with survival.

Our modern safety and security needs tend to include:

• Personal security from crime; I have been burgled eleven times (once before I had unpacked a day after moving) and three times whist in bed asleep.  We even had a babysitter sexually assaulted whist we were at the cinema. At one point last week I had two policemen standing over me as they had been advised I was about to commit a crime..  That's definitely for later.

• Financial security; How much is enough?  A question I ask myself a lot at the moment.

• Health and well being; Two knee operations, one shoulder, one ruptured achilles, a vitreous haemorrhage and more hydrocortisone than I can count.  All on my left side!  I played on the right wing for Harlequins and had six years of impact all on the left.

• Safety against accidents/illness and the adverse impacts; From the list above you can see I didn’t have a good start in the adverse impact department. Pneumonia at Christmas was a new one however.

3: Social Needs

Assuming that both needs 1 and 2 have been satisfactorily met then we can start to focus on our social needs. At this point we become social beings; friendship, intimacy, marriage and the role of a supportive and communicative family come to the forefront.

All human beings need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance and it often comes from a social grouping. You may join social groups such as clubs, office drinks, religious groups, professional organisations, sport teams.

Social beings have a need to love and be loved.  When our social needs are not met we become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety and even clinical depression. This need to belong sometimes takes over our biological and safety needs thereby putting these needs at risk of not being adequately served. Nowadays social networking sites are taking over to such an extent that youngsters are loosing the ability to socialise. Its easier to text than to talk.

Men (and I am one) often struggle to obtain a sense a truly belonging and hide their true feelings. Football, rugby, golf, cars, work, music and pub jokes create a false security. Money worries only make matters worse.

Men do not talk about their emotions, hence the title of my blog ‘Fatal Silence’.

4: Esteem Needs

We all have a need to be respected and to respect others. We all engage ourselves to gain self-esteem and self-respect and will involve ourselves in activities that give us a sense of contribution and a feeling of acceptance and self-value. This can be a profession, a sport or hobby. If we have an imbalance at this level we will lose our self-esteem and may even develop inferiority complexes. If we have low self-esteem it may search out respect from others through seeking fame, glory or even notoriety.

Imbalances in this area can manifest itself in everything from depression to self-destruction, drugs and the like. It goes part way to explain how a young man can fly a plane into a mountain!

I can resonate with many of the above.  Can you?

5: Growth Needs

It is at this point we can start to look inside ourselves and ask; what is it all about?
The wisdom of eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Chinese medicine have addressed this problem for many centuries. It is only the last hundred years that we have in western society taken notice of our needs for personal growth.

I went to Hawaii to study tantric sex, as you do.

And the point I am making is;

Are you meeting your needs or; neglecting them to meet the demands of others?

Have a good week.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Panic Attacks

January 2009. Boarding Cunards Queen Victoria leaving Southampton for New York

The goddess drove me to the cruise ship terminal in Southampton as I had decided the only way to write this story was to make it part of an adventure. So off I went, all alone, on a big scary ship.  As I placed my hand luggage on the security scanner I started to shake, more on the inside than the outside.  I felt hot, my chest was beating and I felt dizzy. Shit I am having a panic attack.  I walk through the scanner and as my hand luggage pops out of the scanner it is taken to a desk and I am beckoned over.   

They search my bag.  I smile; my heart is trying to explode, sweat is running down my armpits and my legs are weak.

At last I am free. I to rush to my steerage class cabin, lie down on the bed and use my panic attack abdominal breathing technique to calm down.  My acupuncturist says rubbing the soles of your feet on the ground whilst sat stimulates a reduction in anxiety also, but I hadn't met her at this point. Panic Attacks have been a feature of my life from an early age.

My first recollection of such an attack was at the age of 8.  We lived in a council house in Featherstone West Yorkshire.  A small mining town with a population of 15,000 famous for its Rugby team which had won many honours against the giants of the game.  My father was captain of the team.  This particular evening my dad was out.

I was watching telly with my two younger brothers in bed asleep.  My mother, heavily pregnant was somewhere.

‘Colin’ she shouted ‘quick get the phone number from the mantelpiece, go next door (we didn't have a phone) and call the midwife.  I am going into labour’.  

Shit I am alive, I felt my heart beating in my chest for the first time ever, my knees felt weak and I couldn't breathe.  I ran, found a scrappy piece of paper and ran next door.  ‘Can I please use your phone my mum is having a baby’   I dialled the number only to get the answer 'Yorkshire Imperial Metals'; my dad’s factory.  'My mum’s having a baby' I screamed. 'Sorry son I can’t help your dads not here' came back.  Why the neighbours did nothing at this point I do not know to this day.

Panic, home where my mother is now on the bed saying 'please help I need the midwife'.  No other number.  The doctors, I know where it is.   I ran half a mile, banged on the door and yelled ‘help my mother is having a baby'.  

A woman came back with me, no car, we ran all the way back.  The woman said 'boil the kettle and wait outside the door'.  I remember thinking this must all be my fault and should 8 year old's really be boiling kettles.

At approximately 10pm that evening my sister Mandy was born. 

Two weeks before sailing I had sat with Mandy  while she had chemotherapy following the spreading of her breast cancer.

And the point I am making is:

If you are going to take 2 grams of weed away with you it’s best not left in your hand luggage, no matter how well hidden.

Have a good week.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Sex, Drugs and … Rugby

Five hundred miles last week. Dewsbury of all places!  It has an amazing open air market, more like a bazaar. There is also a wonderful, if architecture is your thing,  Victorian shopping arcade.  Cool.  The week ended in the mosh pit at a Skunk Anansie concert in Brixton, as you do.

Driving home on Sunday reminded me of a life changing weekend some forty odd years ago.

I discovered the power of sex, drugs and rugby on a cold, wintry weekend in February 1967. I was at the tender age of 14. I was living in Yorkshire and attending Normanton Grammar School where I had become something of a good rugby player or rather, a bloody good rugby player.  I had received a letter the previous week advising me that I had been picked to play in the final England under 15’s school boy trial at the Chepstow Army Apprentices College.   The college was infact located in Beachley which although on the welsh  side of the River Seven, was in fact still part of England – no doubt England's way  of keeping a foothold in Wales.

Enclosed in the letter was a return train ticket. I think it was probably the first time I had travelled alone, so I was quite excited as I boarded the train in Pontefract.  I remember peering out of the window and feeling a sense of freedom and excitement.  I still love sitting on a long train journey taking in the life outside.  Little did I know 40 years later I would be looking out of the window of the Orient Express on its inaugural trip to Eastern Europe.  That’s for later.

Back in Chepstow the next day I found myself playing on this weird rugby pitch directly underneath the M4 motorway.   I played well and later that evening we all gathered together, nervously waiting to hear the news.   Oh those magic words:

“No 8 to play against Wales at Twickenham: Colin Lambert.”

 I just remember feeling complete elation.  I suppose it was my ego.  I felt like a king, like a million dollars. That evening, we had all been invited to the officer’s mess for a disco. So, high on my selection for England, off I went.  Prior to now, I had not drunk any alcohol at all. That evening, someone handed me a glass of cider which was so enjoyable that I had another glass and wow, my head was spinning.   I was high on two powerful drugs - alcohol and ego!
And to top it all, there was a yummy, sexy looking girl on the dance floor (I later discovered she was the daughter of the commanding officer of the base).  So here I was on the dance floor with this attractive girl, I’m drunk for the first time in my life and I have got this other little celebration going on in my head.   At that moment life felt pretty good. Later I walked the daughter home and at her front door she ‘kissed’ me for what seemed an eternity.   I remember walking back to the dormitory of 30 beds or so and I remember climbing onto my bed and feeling totally on top of the world.   I had discovered the heady combination of sex, drugs and rock and roll or rugby in my case.

It is hardly surprising my new drug SDR; sex, drugs (alcohol was mine) and rugby, steered my navigation through life for the following 15 years.

And the point I am making is; put down the phone, paper or laptop and look out of the train window.  It’s surprising how what you see brightens your day.

Have a good week.