A couple of years ago, I was driving and weaving my way through the nearby city of Preston with my dad, and causually asked him why he didn’t move us here as a family.
Many years previous, just after I’d turned eleven, my father got a job at British Aerospace in Warton, with Preston being the closest city. Somehow it made sense to move us to another city and let me and my sister grow up there.
He told me that after looking around the surrounding towns and villages, he’d taken to Lytham St. Annes – a small coastal town past Warton, much quieter than the hustle and bustle of my home city of Leeds.
It was a decision of my father’s that had a huge effect on my life. and was one I remember looking on with great excitement, despite leaving all my friends and extended family behind. Had he decided on Preston, or any other town then indeed my life would have been much different. I would have never met my friends I’d grown so close to, never worked at my second home the pub that dominated my life for so long, or maybe never have took the direction of art and design as a career. I can honestly say I’m grateful my dad took us to the small coastal resort. So big of an effect it has had on my life, that even some family members back in Leeds are contemplating making the move here from across the country.
And this is what happens with each and every of us. Not only are we living our lives through the decisions we make (hopefully making sensible correct ones), but we’re also buffeted around by the constant actions of others, floating around an ocean of consequences. Some decisions enrich us, enabling bright, smooth sailing, some cause minor ripples, giving us small stresses and worries, whilst others can cause giant tsunamis, threatening to overturn and sink our entire existance.
Each day a myriad of decisions blow around us and at times it can feel like we’re at their chaotic mercy. If we’re not careful we can lose control and be buffeted around helplessly. But a ship can only be sunk if the water is allowed inside. And it’s in these difficult times that we must remember that ultimately it’s us as a person that decides how we react to such events.
If someone decides to fire you from your job one day, how do you react?
If someone breaks your heart, how do you react?
If someone does you wrong, how do you react?
If someone attacks you, how do you react?
If someone lies to you, how do you react?
If someone steals from you, how do you react?
And so on…
Without controlling our emotions, and flying off the handle, it’s easy to be swept up in toxic negativity. And more times than not, this itself will lead to even more disaster.
This is evident in the movie American History X, we see this when the imprisoned, and humiliated anger, hate-filled neo nazi Derek is confronted with a line from his former teacher – “Has anything you‘ve done made your life better?” It’s the truth Derek needed to hear to finally let go of all the rage that has dominated his life.
If we calm ourselves, think deeply about how we are to react, and come from a place of control, then not only do we calm the waters around us more rapidly, but we display a strength of character that steers our lives to a brighter outcome.
Obviously this can be hard, as we are all only human, but if we are consciously aware that we do have control, then we find the calmness comes much quicker. Fighting a storm with a storm does not improve anybody’s life. Better to silence the maelstrom, and deal with issues effectively.
The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters is an incredible book that delves way further into this.
So how to we retain control?
We’re all different, and clearly some things that work for some people won’t work for others. For me meditation helped a lot during my turbulant years after my redundancy. It helped calmed the angry voices chattering in my mind and allowed me to look at things clearly, and with a positive attitude. Also without the chatter, fresh ideas would surface and come to me, giving me clarity and affirming that things were always meant to be this way.
So if tomorrow you wake up and are hit with a big bombshell as a result of someone else’s life decisions, just take a deep breath, count to ten, punch a pillow if you have to, remain focused, and deal calmly with the issue.
As James Allen once said –
“The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.”
Today is the day I stop saying ‘One Day.’
One Day will never come.
So tonight after finally dragging myself away from my work, I found myself propping up the bar of one of my local pubs, regaling my pal Craig of all the incendents and amusing events of this particular watering hole. Drunken mishaps, large scale parties, fancy dress nights, charity events, and even (now comical) brawls. I say all of this because I had once worked at this pub, and the nightclub it rested upon for over eight years on and off.
In recent years St Annes had seen a sorrowful decline in its nightlife, with bars, restaurants, and nightclubs sadly shutting up one after another. Gone was the absolutely rammed establishment I stepped foot into on my first shift almost twenty years ago; now replaced by either a few hardcore lifers, restaurant workers who had just finished their shift, or temporary party goers – having a swift drink before venturing onwards to either Blackpool or Lytham.
My good friend, and practically brother Danny would always say ‘Make memories’, and those words indeed rang out loud in my head tonight loud and clear. Suddenly it dawned on me that I owed most of my life to this establishment. 90% of my current friends, relationships I’d had, and even relationships of my friends, had originated from me starting at that pub. I feel my mother getting me that job in 2000 was the most pivotel event in my life. How very different my life may have been without having ever worked there. And yet now it was sad to see that place so empty.
As we grow older do we reminisce more and more until our cherished memories either fade progressively, until we have distorted them beyond recognition? Or held them so dearly the time inevitably comes when we have nobody left to remember them with?
Do we attempt to replicate those memories, hopeful that the good times will never end? Or do we grow, and develop new sets of recollections? I guess this all depends on whether such memories are good or bad. Embrace or destroy them?
We can always keep photos, and indeed these helped me colour the tales I spoke of tonight (I need to remind myself to print more of these out!). Even things like Facebook bring up our comings and goings year upon year.
Reading the ‘Seth Speaks’ books, I’m forever hopeful that when we die, we can select a memory at will, as if a DVD from the shelf, and replay it exactly as it happened. Could you lose yourself though, forever looping through happy times?
Perhaps this a little too deep for the early hours of Saturday morning as I sip at my black coffee. Or maybe it’s a stark reminder that nothing lasts forever.
As meloncholy this post has become, I’m determined to end it on a positive note.
The fact we can make great memories, or even remember amazing ones, is truly a gift. We should treasure this fact, because why we may not know our true purpose on this Earth, we can at least have a great time along the way.
And if you ever find yourself in an empty bar, sadly remembering the great times you had there, find gratitude in the fact that they indeed happened.
Life is meant to be lived, and if you have great memories, rest assured you’re doing just that.
‘Oh my dear girl,’ she grinned. ‘There’ll be no trying about it. Your journey ends here. Time to die.’
Slowly but surely getting there! Deep into Hell now.
I’ll be making a map for this soon, but because it’s based off 17th/18th century Hungary, Romania and Transylvania, a lot of research will be required.
Chapter 12 can be downloaded here.
DISCLAIMER: As always this tale is a first draft. It’s unchecked, unedited, and is pretty much as raw as I can type. Hence why it’s free. So no pointing out mistakes please! Cheers!
Going to my sister’s and spending time with my amazing nephew and nieces who are aged five and four – it’s incredible what imaginations a child possesses. Enthusiastically telling me all manner of tales try to fathom where they got these stories from.
But it’s something we all remember growing up. Playing make-believe and acting out a veritable range of characters, from warriors to pirates, wizards to nurses and doctors. It’s easy to see how imagination can lead to some stories taking on lives of their own, and as young kids get older these tales can develop into legends and myths; some becoming quite sinister in nature.
Pretty much every town and city has its urban legends. Usually involving some shadowy figure that lurks on the outskirts, that nobody has seen, but everybody knows a friend of a friend who has.
This is where an urban legend of my old school comes in.
Growing up on the outer edges of Leeds, my middle school was a pretty small one, yet it backed on to an area of land known locally as The Valley. The land itself, approximately a few miles squared had playing fields, hills, a train track running through it, and a small lake. The land was surrounded by housing estates as well as an old hospital. As young pupils, we were only allowed to venture on either during PE, cross country running, or a close part of it during breaks and lunchtime.
No offence to anyone from the area, but the Valley did seem to attract some undesirables. I remember joyriders trying to run us all down on our Sports Day – the teachers pushing us all back before the kids in the car crashed into a tree. Back then, this didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. It already had an eerie feel to it growing up, and indeed a girl in the year above me (I was 9 or 10 at this point) was found raped and murdered at the far end of the Valley not long before we moved to St. Annes.
That tragic event was after this urban legend took place. Like I said, my school was a small one, and in each year of only two classes I had either my sister or a close cousin in it. My sister would tell me of The Black Scarecrow and White Scarecrow who had lurked around the Valley, chasing children and adults they came across. Apparently one dressed all in white with a black cross on him, and the other wore all black with a white cross on him (although my sister doesn’t recall the crosses part). Now whilst sounding like some distant members of a certain white supremacist group, this tale actually scared little 9 year old me when I went on those fields.
Not only content with terrorising people passing through the Valley, but one apparently hung himself from a tree in front of some children, whilst the other doused himself in petrol and set himself alight on the same area of land. A white cross was carved and painted into the tree where one of the Scarecrows swung dead.
To this day I can recall that tree, and I’m 90% sure it exists. My sister agrees too.
Today I asked my cousins and sister about the myth and what they recalled of it.
Now speaking to them years later, it appears the source might have been revealed.
My eldest cousin Wayne says back when he was a pupil at the school he and three friends were allowed to do what they wanted one afternoon and they asked to do cross country. They were told they could go, but only if they went in a group. Whilst coming down part of the Valley known as the Black Hill, a scruffy man came from the bushes brandishing what they thought was a shotgun. All four ran away but one girl fell and twisted her ankle, forcing the others to carry her as the man pursued. Reaching the school, they went straight to the headmaster who quickly gathered a few other teachers and went searching the Valley. Wayne recalls the headmaster’s face dropping when they told him and how he reacted so fast that it felt like they were in real danger.
Soon word of the incident spread, and rumours of a man from one of the estates who hated children circulated. Another rumour was that he lived under the old hospital. Eventually other kids claimed they had saw the man, some even being attacked, and he was now being described as a scarecrow – possibly due to a recent showing of Children of the Corn.
More rumours of attacks ensured but nothing was ever proved.
Looking back, I can’t pinpoint when I was originally told the stories, but I do remember looking out on to the Valley from the school during one stormy day and feeling very creeped out.
It’s bizarre how some memories stick with you.
I guess I’ll never find out just how much of the tale is real, or if the only incident was my cousin running away from the scruffy man.
Regardless of this, I’ll continue to listen to the enthusiastic story telling of my nephew and nieces. I only hope their tales are a little less gory and sinister.
On saying this, my niece Darcie revels in the fact her name means ‘Dark’ so maybe I’ll have some dark tellings to pen from them one day.
And now for something quite off track that I’m used to writing. 😀
Unbeknownst to most people I know, the concept and notion of love is something that dominates quite a lot of my life, and even drives me to work, write, and paint. Even though I rarely talk about it.
Fuelled by an unhealthy obsession of 80’s movies, old Disney films and power ballads, I think I have beliefs about love that many would consider unrealistic.
I’ve used the idea of a perfect romance as a kind of muse in all my workings. And even though it’s not quite obvious when reading my writings (especially with some of the gorier work!), a simple scratch of the surface will show it’s subtle undertones of love.
In my screenplay of Last Battle, the protagonist’s only drive was to return to his wife and child, willing to go head first against the armies of Hell in the name of love. And likewise in the same tale, I penned about a couple – one controlled by Heaven, one unwillingly controlled by Hell desperately fighting it out amid the fires of the underworld, trying to understand what has become of them. Another character fights in the belief that his long lost love can still see him, and uses this notion to give him courage.
With Tapestry of Fates I wanted to build up the story and characters own paths within the wars in the first book, before helping them to understand there’s more to life than just fighting in the second book, which of course leads to some romantic interventions, in turn causing the subsequent battles against E-Clipse to become more desperate and heartfelt.
This is route I’m planning with Fallen Tears also, as the twins near the source of the vampiric reign, I want to introduce a kind of romantic spanner in the works without altering the book as a whole.
So why is it that a bloke writing so much about love has remained single for quite a few years now (insert wise crack here about not being able to get a girlfriend)? I’ve been on dates after all, and that’s something I do enjoy greatly, but that could be because I love getting to know new people.
It’s no secret that I’m quite an emotional fella. Not in the crying sense, but as in deeply feeling everything around me. I hate nothing more than seeing people upset and would move mountains to make people happy. Sometimes being overly emphatic can be seen as a weakness, as it’s a trait easily exploited.
I guess I can only say that I don’t yearn for just a simple coupling, sleeping around, or jumping in and settling down with the first person that shows interest. Like my stories, I want meaning to develop before anything else.
Rather I feel I have an eye open for that perfect romance I like to write about; a chivalrous, all-consuming, soul-burning love that many believe doesn’t exist.
And does that kind of love exist? I feel I’ve seen enough evidence in this world to believe so.
Do I believe it’ll come to me? Maybe. Maybe not.
Does it make a fussy bastard? Some might even say I’ve not right to be fussy! 😀 But it’s something I won’t try to force, not sell my soul to achieve.
Whilst I’ve seen how true love can create Heaven for some, I’ve also seen it create misery in others. There’s nothing worse than regret, and living beside someone for mere convenience without any affection is one of the biggest in life.
Perhaps I even put off the idea of becoming fully involved with someone as the muse of love is such a powerful working drive for me. At times in the past I’d even use the thought of a some particular girl in order to push forward my work. But now I think it’s more of the notion itself that helps spurn my creativity.
It’s a surprise to read that Napoleon Hill wrote a similar idea in his book Think and Grow Rich – a chapter called “The Mystery of Sex Transmutation” that was removed in the early editions, with it being seen as too risque for the audiences of the 1930’s. Basically it describes that many of the successful businessmen at the time turned their desires of sex into a powerful drive that spurned them to work hard.
So whilst I’ve rambled on over one of the most boring blog utterings I’ve ever posted, whilst simultaneously giving my mother a heart attack about the possible lack of grandchildren, I wonder how I’ll end this in a suitable way.
One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in fiction is J.K.Rowling’s Severus Snape. Whilst we all spent many books and movies believing Snape was a cold-hearted, wicked man with a terrible agenda, the saddest part came when we learned the truth about his love for Harry’s mother, gently hinted at in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
“Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.”
As tragic as this story arc is, it’s the semblance I adore. And the willingness to sacrifice himself even for his love’s offspring is pretty much as deep as you can get.