Jim Byrne’s Autobiographical Novel

Metal Dog – Long Road Home: An autobiographical novel – or ‘revised personal mythology’ – by Dr Jim Byrne

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~~~
Back-cover3.JPGA new book by Dr Jim Byrne – February 2017: (But please note that the first half of this book was originally published as Volume 1 of Obedience and Revolt – the story of Daniel O’Beeve’s life. But we are now revealing that Daniel O’Beeve was a pseudonym used by Jim Byrne, and that the life of Daniel O’Beeve is [very largely] the life of Jim Byrne, plus one other person, plus visions, dreams and imagination. It is of course a fictionalised story, so none of the characters in this book should be taken to be be any particular real person, living or dead)

 

To get a flavour of what this book is about, please take a look at the following extract:

 Metal Dog – Long Road Home:

A mythical journey through the eye of a needle

The fictionalised memoir of an improbable being

By Jim Byrne

Published by The CreateSpace Platform, in association with the Institute for E-CENT Publications: Hebden Bridge

~~~

Published in 2017, by the Institute for E-CENT Publications; in cooperation with the CreateSpace Publishing Platform

27 Wood End, Keighley Road, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8HJ, UK. Telephone: 01422 843 629

Copyright © 2017 by Jim Byrne.  All rights reserved by the author.

The right of Jim Byrne to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This book was originally published in two volumes, with the title Obedience and Revolt, by Daniel O’Beeve (where Daniel O’Beeve was a pseudonym for Jim Byrne).  Those two volumes are no longer on sale.

Regarding this new edition (Metal Dog – Long Road Home): All Rights Reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

ISBN-13: 978-1542899734 

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jim-portrait-003b

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“Our parents have a powerful effect upon the mental and emotional shape we assume in life.  But we are more deeply marked by the parents we thought we had!”

Micky J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy, (from the Foreword).

~~~

Disclaimer

The characters in this story bear no resemblance to any person living or dead.  And no institution identified in this story is drawn from reality. This story is a ‘personal mythology’ constructed by the author from fragments of interpretive memory, recalled family stories, a handful of family photos, and inferences about where he must have originated in order to account for the journey he has been on throughout his lived experience.

~~~

Foreword to the Definitive Edition (2017)

By Jim Byrne

Setting the scene

To understand the mythical journey of the metal dog in question, you will need some contextual clues.  These were given to me in the form of fragments of inspiration.  I wrote them down exactly as they were dictated by my muse.  Here they are:

The first fragment

This book contains the story of key elements of my life, tangled up with bits of another life, plus dreams, imaginary journeys, visions, and the verbal magic of my muse.

At quite a young age, I decided to write my autobiography – the autobiography of an unknown and unremarkable ‘citizen of the world’.  I made this decision for psycho-therapeutic purposes: to try to understand my own life; to understand the journey I had been on; to heal my broken heart; and to find some map references for the road ahead.

Somewhat earlier, I had been encouraged by two good friends, (J.S. and B.M.), to write down some of the stories of my childhood, which I had previously told to them. I did so, and it was very helpful to me in terms of my emotional health.  I became stronger, and clearer as a result.  J.S. and B.M. liked my story, as did R.T-B. .  (Indeed, B.M. kindly edited the original version of the story of my first eighteen years of life).

However, this story did not have popular appeal, and I wanted to share it with the world, so others could benefit from what I had learned from examining my own childhood.  Therefore, I decided to add some aspects of my adult life, up to the point at which I ‘went clear’: transcended my childhood shackles; and stepped into the trackless void.

But then I made the mistake of splitting the story into two volumes, because it was so very long.  This, I realize now was a huge mistake, since it subjected the poor reader to a volume of difficulty, and no definite resolution at the end.

Therefore, some time ago, I decided to integrate the two volumes into one; to edit and polish it some more; and to add a foreword. (This foreword).

~~~

The second fragment

Both Shakespeare and Dickens had a deep understanding of the importance of a little humour before blinding a king with a stick and abandoning him on a windswept moor; or drawing attention to the comic proportions of the big fat belly of Mr Bumble the Beadle, before obliging Oliver Twist, as a young boy, to (apparently) escape from a rotten life by taking to the open road to ruin.

Following in the footsteps of these two giants of English literature will not be easy, so I won’t try to aim too high. Instead, I’ll simply repeat the corny old Irish joke about the English tourist who gets lost while driving through the Irish countryside. He stops by a farm gate to ask a solitary farmer for directions.  He tells the farmer that he is trying to get to Kilkenny.

The farmer pushes his cap back onto the back of his head, scratches the front of his hair, removes his pipe from his mouth, purses his lips pensively, and looks to the sky for inspiration:

“If I was trying to get to Kilkenny, sir”, he finally decides, “I would not begin from this particular spot!”

Boom, boom!

Of course, the joke, and its genre, is deeply offensive to any conscious being, or caring being, who can smell the vicious hand of imperial image-management in the background.  No empire ever succeeded in invading and dominating any strong people anywhere before first destroying their public image – to prevent popular identification and sympathy – and then, over time, the imperial myth about the conquered people is too often internalized by the victims of oppression, who can ape these caricatures as well as any paid Stage-Irishman. (I will never forget the ugliness of the European caricature of the Native American people, who actually had a most wonderful culture of love of nature, to which we are all now being forced to return, because of the damage done to our fragile planet by European rationality!)

However, as Marx was fond of pointing out, the dominant ideas of any era will be those promoted (self-servingly) by the oppressors and exploiters of the people.

(This particular section of this foreword is an illustration of how not to sell books!)

But I had to tell the corny old Irish joke above because of its strange parallel with the central paradox of my own life, which you have to understand before you set out to read this story.

The paradox is this: If I wanted to get to the stage I have now arrived at in my wonderful, enlightened, liberated life, I would not have begun from the point of my own birth!

Why not?  Because there are no open roads between my birth and the point in space-time that I now occupy.  All the passes were closed, throughout the whole of my life – and not just during the winter months.

So how did I get here?

I got here, like the biblical camel, by passing through the eye of a needle, which opened up – through ‘the grace of god’ so to speak (using a more archaic way of conceptualizing ‘miracles’!) at various points in my unlikely journey of personal development.  And, of course, by ‘god’ I mean the mysterious energy field studied by quantum mechanics. And by ‘miracle’ I mean serendipitous events of near zero probability!

But, remembering the strategies of Shakespeare and Dickens, I now have to deviate slightly to ask this question?  How could a camel ever pass through the eye of a needle?  And the answer is this: Only by developing the wisdom and ingenuity required to remove the elephant which is blocking the pass!

Boom, boom!

~~~

Third fragment

My life began in the Year of the Dog, at the end of the second big military conflagration of the twentieth century.  I was born into a peculiar, three-dimensional kaleidoscopic ball of frightening images, unpleasant sounds, and uncomfortable sensations.

I think I must have been a deeply autistic baby, who could not relate to my mother in the first years of life (but there may be more to it than that!).  I certainly grew into a solemn little boy, who feared (non-consciously, non-linguistically, but intuitively) that his parents were too fragile to bear any requests for love or attention.

For their parts, they were badly damaged by their own cruel parents, who had grown up in a vicious culture of colonial oppression; and they passed much of their damage on to me.

Perhaps that is why I became a doctor of counselling, devoting my days to the emotional rescue of life’s wounded hearts.

It took more than 39 years to make sense of my life: or of my personal mythology. I was perhaps 34 years old – a miserable 34 – when I realized my life is an unfolding drama, driven by non-conscious forces within, interacting with largely uncontrollable forces acting from without.

Using a range of approaches, some of which were inspired by dreams, or by imagination, plus guidance from some inspiring people, I began to analyse my life history; to sift through it; to edit it; and to write it up as a drama.  In the process, I heavily revised the secret scripts, stories, frames and other devices through which I was viewing my life, and which were driving and directing my life (from non-conscious levels of mind). Because of all this work, I came to know ‘my original face’, before my parents gave birth to me.  I became enlightened.  And I found the secret of love!

I wrote down all of this learning in a single volume of fictionalized memoir (the current volume), using the pseudonym of ‘Daniel O’Beeve’.  I keep several copies on the bookcase opposite the coffee table where I see my clients for counselling and psychotherapy.

~~~

Fourth fragment

Jonathan is back again for another counselling session.  He looks tired.  And sad.  I have listened to some of his problems, in the form of little stories, during the previous two sessions we spent together.  The pattern which is emerging is this: Jonathan likes to avoid pain; to escape from reality; to dive into fantasy, or some form of chemical escapism, like booze, or recreational drugs.

“There is no future in escapism!” I told him.

“But if your hand was burning, would you not try to withdraw it from the flame?” he asked me, sensing that he has a powerful argument.

“Of course I would”, I responded.  “But if I was ashamed of being too short – or having skin of the ‘wrong’ colour – I would not try to run away from that fact”, I added. “And nobody can run away from their own personal history!  It’s already happened!”

“I don’t understand your point!” he said, perhaps not wishing to understand me!

“I mean that I would only try to ‘escape’ from those things from which it is realistic to expect to be able to escape; and I would face up to those things from which I cannot realistically escape”.

“And how does that apply to me?” he asked, sullenly.

“You, Jonathan”, I said, “had a horrible childhood; a difficult early adulthood; a dreadful marriage which nearly did you in; and you are determined to sweep all of that under the carpet”.

“Because it’s too painful to look at it!” he retorted angrily, sitting up and leaning towards me with bulging eyes.

“But it’s even more painful to try to hide it under the carpet, in the basement of your mind, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know”, he said, sceptically.  “Is it?”

“Of course it is”, I told him. “Isn’t that why you have to drink to excess; to take dodgy drugs; to engage in risky casual sexual encounters with people you don’t even like; and to squander your life in a flurry of general escapism? Isn’t that why you sleep badly and have terrifying nightmares?”

He looked shocked.  He looked down at the carpet, mouth now hanging open.  He cupped his face in his hands.  He sobbed.  Coughed and spluttered a few times. Sighed deeply.

“You’re right!” he said at last, looking up, and wiping some tears from his eyes and cheeks with the palms of both hands.  “But what else can I do?”

“Write it all down”, I told him.  “Face up to it.  Get it out on the page where you can see it all clearly, digest it, and finish it off”.

“But that would be just too painful”, he objected.  “I tried to do that in the email I sent to you a couple of weeks ago”.

“That was different”, I told him.  “That was verbatim report of bald facts.  What I’m talking about is written at one remove”.

“What do you mean by ‘one remove’,” he asked then.

“I mean: Do it like I did.  Create an alter ego – like my character, Daniel O’Beeve, which I’ve told you about.  Daniel is a lot like me, but he is not precisely me.  When I was writing about Daniel, I did not feel the full force of my concealed emotional pain and trauma all at once.  Rather, it came out in dribs and drabs, which made it more tolerable.  Easier to handle.  Easier to digest”.

Now Jonathan looked interested, or so it seemed to me.  He looked in the eye and created a shape in mid-air:

“So, if I create a character”, he began; “let’s call him Micky Malone.  And I attribute some of my life problems to him, and write about them… Then it won’t hurt so much, but I can still digest the pain I’ve been trying to avoid?” He looked dat me quizzically.

“Yes”, I agreed. “That will work, because it is a form of partial dissociation.  You are not fully involved – though you are involved to some degree!  But that will only work up to a point!”

Now he looked at me doubtfully, losing faith in the project. But I was not going to be put off so easily.

“Beyond that point”, I continued, “you will find it too painful to witness even those slightly distanced, and painful, problems besetting Micky Malone.  And at that point, you will need a second degree of dissociation.  You will need to devise a second level of distancing from the pain”.

“And how am I supposed to do that?” he asked me.

I looked at him, slightly stymied: stalled.  But then I noticed my bookcase.  I stood up and walked over and pulled out a copy of this book – Metal Dog – Long Road Home.

I returned to the coffee table and handed it to him.

“You could study this”, I told him, “and learn from the ways in which I developed various levels and degrees of dissociation, in order to come close to my previously repressed emotional traumas, but not so close that my mind would close down”.

He opened the book, and began to browse through it.

I sat and watched his face.  The clock behind me ticked away loudly, reassuringly – measuring out the magic of time. But I kept my eyes glued to his face – his features.  From time to time, the shadows cleared.  His face brightened.  Perhaps he could feel the possibility of release from suffering rising inside his chest – or so I hoped.

He closed the book after about ten minutes, and looked at me with a peaceful smile. “Okay!” he said, ambiguously.

“Take it away and read it!” I told him.

He stood, turned, walked towards my office door.  As he went out through the door, he smiled back at me!  And I felt the ache in his heart!

“Read it!” I said, smiling back.

~~~

 

Buy your copy of this book here. It is available in eBook format and also in paperback.

Here are the links for the eBook format:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia Amazon Netherlands Amazon Germany
Amazon Italy Amazon India Amazon France
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And what follows are the links for the paperback format:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon Canada
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Amazon Spain Amazon Brazil Amazon Japan

~~~

THE LIFE OF DANIEL O’BEEVE

Chapter 1

It’s only seven o’clock in the evening, and already it’s very dark outside, on this cold and miserable third day of January, 1970.

It’s time for me to go. To go away again.  Alone.  Back to England.  Moving on.  Into another black night.

The dense clouds part, briefly, and the bright, full moon shines down on the glistening surface of the rain-washed, reinforced concrete slabs that make up Limavada Road, in Wattling Town, on the outskirts of Dublin city. The moon disappears again, and the road is plunged into darkness.

I am in the front bedroom of No.84 – the white, pebble-dashed council house in which my father lives; and in which I grew up from the age of ten to eighteen years. This is one of more than ten thousand such houses on this, the biggest housing estate in Western Europe.

I want to know the weather forecast for my journey, so I switch on the little transistor radio at the foot of my bed, but somebody’s changed the station to Radio Caroline.  James Taylor is singing about how he’s seen fire and rain, as have I.  He’s seen lonely days when he could not find a friend.  This is too painful to listen to; so I change to Radio Eireann, where Simon and Garfunkel are singing about how the boxer is laying out his winter clothes, and wishing he was gone – going home.  This is even more poignant for me, and so I switch off.

~~~

It seems I am always going away.  When I was eighteen years old, I left home, on my own, to go to England, to start a new life for myself (or, perhaps, just to escape my old life).  My life at home at that time was miserable.

A few months ago, at the age of twenty-three, after five years of absence, I returned to Dublin, after the disastrous failure of a strike I tried to organize at a sweat-shop factory in Bristol.

Since then I’ve become involved in radical politics.  And I have just left a very painful, short-term relationship with a twenty-one year old woman.

~~~

A few weeks ago, I sat in the National Library of Ireland, in Kildare Street, Dublin, and skimmed through a book (titled, Meditations) by Marcus Aurelius. I was supposed to be reading Karl Marx at the time.  I found a mystifying statement by Marcus, to this effect:

‘This thing that I am, whatever it may be, comprises flesh, and vital spirit, and a governing self’.

I was mystified by this statement, because, although I can find the fleshy ‘me’, I cannot access anything that might be called my ‘spirit’; and I do not seem to be controlled by a ‘governing self’.

I am like a robotic machine – with no ‘soul’; and there is no conscious driver of the bus of my life.

Daniel O’Beeve – who is ‘me’ – is a ‘thing’ that runs on automatic.

~~~

Now I am packing my suitcase – the cardboard one I bought four years ago, when I joined the armed forces, in Birmingham: another of the big mistakes of my short life. I am preparing to depart for London, on my own, with two weeks’ wages in my pocket.

I look under the bed for any soiled socks or underwear, find nothing, stand up, lock my case and turn towards the bedroom door.

I can hear the television booming from the living room downstairs.

I am going away for the last time – not like Cervantes’ character, Don Quixote, to fight a noble cause; or like James Joyce’s alter ego (Stephen Dedalus), to forge the unformed conscience of the Irish race in the smithy of my soul.  At best, I can claim to be going to the heartland of British capitalism to foment a socialist revolution.

At worst, I am simply moving to a less uncomfortable burrow, like a disturbed mole!

~~~

Twenty-three is such a difficult age.  According to the psychological theory developed by Carl Gustav Jung, I have not even reached the middle of my adolescence, which runs from puberty to the age of about forty-five years.

I am too young to be wise, and too old to be directed by others.  So I wander aimlessly through a meaningless, chaotic life.  I am guided by my common sense, such as it is.  Because of the highly inadequate education – or ‘edjumacation’ – that I received at the hands of the Catholic Church; and the lack of much emotional or cultural socialization at home – I am at a loss to know what life is supposed to be about, or how to live it.  My level of emotional intelligence, on a scale of 1-100, is about 17!  I don’t know what I feel, or even if I feel anything – apart from a general, high level of background misery.  I cannot read the moods or intentions of others: apart from anger, which is a signal to get out of their way.

~~~

The booming television noise is caused by my father – my dad – who is almost totally deaf.  I can hear the theme sound of the Twilight Zone booming through the floor below.  He is the only other person in the house.  According to him, my mother recently ran off with a ‘mad Republican’; and nobody knows where she lives.  My rotten brother Tandy, who is almost twenty-two, is living in Blackpool; Walter, who is twenty, is living up the road with his girlfriend, who is pregnant; Terry, nineteen, is out with his girlfriend; Peter, seventeen, is down the country (illegally) driving a vegetable truck for a living, probably under the influence of alcohol; and Minnie, thirteen, could be almost anywhere, living her wild child life, unrestrained by parental control.

So it is going to be relatively painless leaving the house.  I do not have to speak to anybody but my dad, and there’s no real point speaking to him.  He is almost completely deaf; and he keeps his hearing-aid switched off – for reasons only he seems to understand.  If I go in to say goodbye to him, he will pretend to be able to hear me; he will keep the television volume on maximum, so I will not be able to hear his mumbles; and I will have to pretend to be able to understand him.  So, it’s best to avoid all that, and slip out unnoticed.

When Hermann Hesse’s character, Siddhartha left home to seek spiritual enlightenment, he asked his father’s permission; and he waited patiently until he received it.  But I felt no such need.  I’d previously left my father five years ago; and in any case, he had never been connected to me in any meaningful sense of the term.  The bond between us was a bond of ephemeral disregard and misunderstanding.  A detached, cold coexistence in an unfeeling space.

~~~

I’m wearing a warm leather jacket with fur collar, Levi jeans, and strong leather boots.  My head is kept warm by collar-length, thick hair, and a beard that reaches my breastbone. I zip up the jacket, and notice the sensation of the presence of ‘the ugly boy’, a kind of wraith that haunts me, like Arthur Miller’s ‘broken boy’ – a symbol of his life of suffering.  But unlike Arthur Miller, I cannot embrace or kiss my ‘ugly boy’, nor even allow myself to be aware of him for more than a second at a time.  So I zip my jacket and slap my chest, knocking the wind out of him, so he will not impinge too much on my consciousness for quite some time to come.

~~~

I sneak quietly down the stairs, out the front door, pulling it gently behind me.  I am off into the unknown – again!  And this time, I will never return.

~~~

As I walk down the garden path to the gate that leads to the pavement outside, I am shocked at how quiet it is, and how all alone I feel, on a housing estate of ten thousand homes.  But none of them is home to me.

~~~

Interlude:

Dreams and reality often seem to be interchangeable in the confused mental world in which we are now engaged.  Sometimes the story is controlled by Daniel-1, who is positive, hopeful and quite spiritual.  Sometimes it is controlled by Daniel-2, who is negative, depressive and nihilistic.  And sometimes the narration shifts to a neutral third eye in the sky:

As Daniel heads off down the road and turns left, a little, cornflower-blue bear shuffles out of the bushes by the gate, and follows him at a discrete distance.  The bear is wet and cold, and his arms are wrapped around his chest for comfort.  He is about three feet tall, made from some kind of terry-towelling material, with glass eyes and a down-turned, embroidered mouth. 

Behind the little blue bear, a peculiar porthole, about four feet across, opens up in the sky, surrounded by puffy white clouds.  If you look directly into that porthole, you will see a little cobalt-blue alien siting in the middle of an array of desks, looking out. Two bigger aliens – one green and one blue – lie sleeping in their desk chairs.

The little blue alien is furry, like a cat’s fur, with long white hair, draped down both sides of his head. And he has three eyes – one being in the middle of his forehead.  The gold ID-badge which hangs from a chain around his neck reads, ‘Professor Nuveen Valises, Director of Research’.

The little blue professor is fixated on Daniel’s retreating back.  Then Daniel stops by the bus stop and puts down his suitcase to light a cigarette. 

The professor, who can now see Daniel’s face again, looks very sad.  “I’m very worried about Daniel!” he says.

But his two colleagues cannot hear his words, because they are fast asleep.

“I wish I could rescue this poor little Earthling”, says the professor, and then buries his face in his little blue hands.

~~~

Context

This is my story – the story of Daniel O’Beeve – which is also something of a psychological thriller.  It’s a story of some real experiences, which have been fictionalized; and some fictional experiences which are ‘true’! The truth is more important to me than it is to Sophie Hannah.  In her 2015 story about Hercule Poirot’s investigation of a triple murder, Sophie has one of her characters, a Nancy Ducane, make this statement: “It is the job of art to replace unhappy true stories with happier inventions”.[i]

That may be some artists’ idea of the goal of their work, but it is not mine.  It is also very different from the function of psychotherapy.  It is the job of psychotherapy to help the suffering individual to process their unhappy true stories, so that they can disappear! Most human disturbance is caused, it seems, by the attempt to escape from experiencing our unhappy true stories!

That is one of the functions of this present book; both for me and for you. To face up to some facts of life!

When I was a little boy, I loved detective stories.  I think, at that time, I probably thought they were intrinsically interesting and an obvious choice for anybody to read. But that was not the whole story.  In fact, I now believe that I loved detective stories because, at some non-conscious level of mind, I knew that I was going to have to learn how to be a pretty damn good detective if I was ever going to resolve the mystery of my life.

At that time, when I was ten to twelve years old, I didn’t know (consciously) that there was a mystery.  At that time, I did not know that most of my soul was frozen; and that most of my life-potential had been stolen.

I was like the victim of a hit-and-run ‘accident’, who is lying, maimed, on the side of a dark and deserted road; who, in his delirium, begins to fantasize about growing up and becoming a traffic cop; a cop who goes around putting up CCTV cameras on every inch of the public highway, so that, if anybody is ever run over by a drunk driver, they (the victim) will be easy to find; and thus the drunk driver can be identified and brought to justice.

In reading detective stories, I was beginning to learn how to be a good psychoanalyst – by studying Charlie Chan and Hercule Poirot! A good detective wants to know where the body is buried; and a good psychoanalyst wants to know where the truth is buried.

~~~

I want to tell you who I am, and where I’ve been – but for your benefit.  However, first I want to say this:

The human brain-mind, at birth, is like a thousand shards of broken glass, scattered across the night sky.  This fragmented mess – this biochemical soup – is an uncoordinated cacophony of non-conscious feelings: Good and bad; physical and mental; pain and pleasure; love and hate; terror and rage. It takes at least two decades, and sometimes more, to fashion that loose association of electro-chemical elements into a relatively well-functioning committee of sub-personalities; or what we normally call ‘a person’.

The first requirement for success in integrating those myriad elements is to learn a coherent map of life from emotionally intelligent, moral, loving parents.

Because the environmental factors are often inadequate, it frequently proves to be the case that the individual fails to develop even a small fraction of their full potential for loving and living and creative work.

~~~

Background

My psychological development was retarded to dangerous levels of enstupidization by an entire culture of damaged individuals; helped along by a religion of monumental stupidity, inaccuracy, autistic sex-phobia, and general emotional dysfunction; and an ‘edjumacation’ designed to fit me for a lifetime of servitude to any parasite who wanted to exploit me economically.

~~~

When I reached my teens, my Japanese judo teachers tried to teach me a philosophy of life that could save me. It helped a little.  But I was already on the wrong track, and heading in the wrong direction. My map of life was written on the back of a crumpled postage stamp, stuck to the sole of my uncomfortable right shoe.

~~~

“If we do not teach our children about love and why it’s so much healthier than hatred, what will become of them?  If we do not teach them about their journey towards healthy sex-love relationships, in maturity, who will teach them?  And if we do not know enough about love and sex, and relationships, and how to manage our hatred and rage, what hope is there for any of us?”

Micky J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy…

~~~

  1. The journey begins…

Strictly speaking, I should begin this book with these words: My name is Daniel O’Beeve, and this book represents the story of half of my life.  Or, this book represents the first half of the first half of my life.

That would accord this text a certain kind of credibility as a straight-forward autobiography.

But this is not a straightforward autobiography.  It is, instead, an auto-biographical novel; and so it requires a different kind of beginning.  Like this:

The mystery really began with the arrival of the email – if you can call it an email.  I’d been working hard all day, and right into the evening.  I was trying to write up a dream sequence – or was it a daydream sequence? – involving some strange men in a strange landscape.

At last, in total exhaustion, I switched off the computer and began to ‘palm’ my eyes.  I kept my eyes open, and cupped my hands over them – fingers close together – so I could stare into total darkness.  That was a blessed relief.  My eyes were tired and sore.

Suddenly there was a bright flash, which shone through my hands: revealing my black bones, surrounded by pink muscle and flesh.  I was so startled that my hands fell away my eyes.  And there, on the computer screen, was a strange email.  The text was like flickering, blue gas flames; and the background was a kind of mucky cream smog.  Despite the poor contrast between them, I could easily read the message, which said:

From the scratchpad of Professor Nuveen Valises, Head of Research Team, Planet 3EX771.  valises@IFspaceship29.fed

Dateline: 3619 APV

Daniel: You have completed your mission admirably; and so, I thought, had I.  However, I now realize that if you do not write the story of how you did it, my mission will also have failed.  So I must strongly request that you get down to writing up where you have been, and what you have experienced, so we can both rest easy knowing we have completed our historic missions.

What follows is a single sentence summary of the abstract of my report to the Intergalactic Federation:

+We-an hipotiste Daniel’s mirt skurpt anstrazhan toll Daniel valay rasoltav ohum rurlattah ugg gir andluttay im oan positatay oneroot cun higga uppanparon oan dazt vurlt dit zoon moedhuur haast lowershowal-zan wur mit gut wan sexoullarm ditch ihram Faltaar.+

Oh, sorry.  I should have realized… I will have to translate that for you.  When you get down to writing your story, I will send you a full transcript of my report, translated into English. That may help you to fill in some of the blanks.

Good luck!

Nuveen Valises

~~~

The problem with this message, of course, was that the computer was switched off!

~~~

So I switched it back on and was relieved to find that the piece I had been working on was still intact.  This is what it said:

I don’t know if this was a dream, proper, or a daydream.  But I could see the two drab men walking around the mounds of ash and rubbish.  There were three mounds.  The men always walked alone. Sometimes one would walk a figure of eight around the two rubbish mounds on the left; while the other man walked round and round the mound on the right.  Then they would change over.  Every so often they would, inevitably, meet, at the front of the site, in my field of vision. Then they would speak briefly to each other in monotone voices.  They had no news for each other: good or bad.  They bemoaned the nature of existence!

Away to the left, the director of the piece sat all alone on a three-legged stool.  He had a face like a crumpled page of newsprint.  He seemed happy, or satisfied, with the general depressive tone of the scene.

Between me and the mounds of rubbish stood a little boy in short trousers with tousled hair and a short sleeved shirt.  His feet were bare.  He scratched his head constantly.  After a while he spoke to the little white goat, who stood quietly beside him.

“What is the significance of this grim routine?” asked the curious boy.

The goat, of course, made no reply.

“Why has the director made the scene so barren?” he persisted.  “And how has this illusion been perpetrated?”

From the right of the scene, a very tall, dark woman, with long black hair, tied back with a black ribbon, stepped into the frame.

“He has taken away the work that would bind them to sanity!” she tells the curious boy.

“Ah!” said the boy.  “Loss of meaning!”

“Yes”, said the tall woman.  “Meaning and structure, both! But not just the meaning that is derived from work; but also the purpose that is derived from family relationships”. 

“Yes”, said the boy.  “I see.  No partners.  No children!”

“And how could the audience understand what these men are up to unless the director includes something about their childhood?” asks the tall woman, rhetorically.

“Their childhood is that important?” asked the boy.

“Their childhood defines who they are!” said the tall woman.

~~~

Where do these ideas come from? I am plagued by random thoughts and strange visitations!

~~~

Sometimes, when I’m dreaming, I become aware that the feeling of my feet walking along a solid surface is a reality, and that I am walking through a concrete reality and a dreamscape at the same time.  And sometimes, when I am wide awake, and walking through a perfectly normal scene, I realize that I am also progressing through a dream sequence in my mind.

~~~

Professor Valises wants me to write the story of my life; and the tall woman wants me to be aware that my childhood defines who I am.  Who am I to disappoint them?

~~~

Because I’m obviously a male writer, you might expect that I am now going to write about things, and stuff, and systems and patterns.  That there won’t be any emotions, feelings, relationships, tensions, plots and resolutions.  But you’re quite wrong.  Although I begin my life in quite an autistic, male brain state, I end this story in a really quite vivid state of emotional rawness and sensitivity!

~~~

“If you are trapped in the disturbing vines of childhood abuse, search for the words to describe it.  Get it out; write it down; express it!  But do it in places where you feel safe and supported.  Do not expose yourself to more abuse!”

Noreen Jameson, Recovery from Childhood Abuse…

~~~

  1. Easy memories…

Teenage memories are easy.  I have no difficulty remembering that I escaped from the most oppressive school imaginable at the age of fourteen years; that it was less than two weeks before I began my apprenticeship in metal jewellery manufacturing; and two weeks later I joined an amazing judo club in the centre of Dublin city.

My memories of the trainers who came from Japan to teach us are still as clear as an old movie.  Slow-moving, graceful men, with sallow skin, and jet-black, oily hair. Lithe men who acted like peaceful but lethal panthers, smiled like reclusive monks, and taught us their strange culture.  Not just judo and karate; but also aikido (fighting with hands and wrists); kendo (fighting with sticks and/or swords); meditation; tea ceremony; and their philosophy of life.

Their philosophy was simple:

“No fight”.  Translated by an assistant as: Do not be aggressive.  Do not attack your opponent.  Use his or her strength and aggression against them.

“No anger”.  Do not allow your emotions to intrude into your judo play.  This is a game of skill; of consciousness; of alertness.

“No pride”.  Do not be prideful.  Do not inflate your ego.  Be modest. The world is for everybody.  All are equal.  Do not assume more than your fair share of the space; the air; the action.

“No look for trouble”.  Do not fight outside of your club, in your daily life.  Do not seek trouble or conflict.  If confronted by an attacker in the street, choose to run away, as fast as you can, if you can.  If you cannot run away; or they pursue you and attack you; then, without any emotion, disable them; render them powerless to harm you – swiftly and without ceremony.  Then walk away, with no more agitation than if you had just brushed some autumn leaves from your garden path.

~~~

On special occasions we all sat in silence – twenty or so young men aged fourteen to forty – while our Japanese teachers whisked hot, green tea for us, until it was frothy on top.  Then we all sat, crossed legged, with tiny little cups, sipping the tea in silence, and meditated on ‘Big Mind’.

It was stranger than being observed leaving my mother’s uterus by two strange looking aliens, who peered at me through a steerable wormhole in the fabric of intergalactic space-time, and looked so sad about the way I arrived!

~~~

  1. Memories of early childhood…

I want to tell you my story, in full, as quickly and economically as I can.

While stories of the teenage years are easy to recall, stories of infancy are much more difficult: to recall; to reconstruct; to validate.

But it’s not just a problem of memory.

Many great stories remain untold, because the potential author has no voice; no words for the things they have seen and felt.  Some potential stories are stillborn because the potential storyteller gives up on life and quits completely: dying into drugs, alcohol, gambling, ‘business success’, sex addiction, warmongering or ‘gradual suicide’.

Some stories emerge later in the day because a tired and weary wanderer accidentally stumbles across the secret vault in which the truth has been dumped, and locked away, in the ordinary course of a timid, half-lived life.  Such is the source of this story: my story.

~~~

We remember so little of our infancy.  Sometimes nothing.  Sometimes little snatches of sound or feeling, or snippets of imagery.

I don’t know how often my mother sang songs when I was a babe in arms, but one such song did stick in my mind.  This is how it begins:

“It was early, early in the spring

The small birds whistled and sweet did sing,

And changing their notes

From tree to tree

The song they sang was Old Ireland Free”.

It was a sad song.  I didn’t know what the words meant – did not know what “Ireland” was; or what “Free” could be.  I may have had some vague idea what a “bird” was; and a “tree”, perhaps.

But it was a sound of deep, mournful grief, the way she sang it. Even despair.  It bored its way into my heart, like a sick worm, looking for somewhere comfortable to die!  It was like the pain of a thousand years of human suffering, captured for all time in a string of musical notes, deeply intoned by a sad heart.

~~~

What else did I absorb from my mother’s culture?  Perhaps everything!

So if you are to understand my personal story you need to know something of the culture from which my mother emerged – for I almost certainly inherited whatever she had inherited.

This is a modification of the understanding of what the tall woman told the curious boy, above.  It is not just that our childhood defines who we become; but that our family history, our racial history, shapes what is possible for our lives.

~~~

  1. A legend of old Ireland…

Therefore, before I can tell you anything about me and my childhood, I need to give you a broader context.  So, to begin with, let me tell you a legend of old Ireland:

Long, long ago, about 64 generations back – in the season of the Crow – about two full moons before the Festival of Aine (the Moon Goddess) – Doneal McFlynn was walking on the hillside outside the village of Crumble-Baan.  He was wearing a plain green kilt and a sheepskin vest.  His long grey hair was tied in a knot on top of his long, slender head; and his feet were bare.

Evening was closing in, and darkness was descending fast.

Looking down on the village, he could just see the outline of the three concentric circles of round houses in which the entire population lived their communal life.

Though the light was poor, he could still make out the modest campfire of the two boys who were keeping the Night Watch on the opposite hillside.  Suddenly, without warning, a great flare of flame arose in his field of vision, right next to the boys’ campfire.  In his entire lifetime he had never seen this vision, though he had spent decades expecting to see it one day.  The alarm signal.  Invaders have been spotted approaching us.

As quickly as he could, Doneal made his way down to the village, where the men and boys had congregated in the open space at the centre of the inner circle of roundhouses.  They had a huge assortment of wooden clubs, wooden shields, whips, big stones and slingshots, a few axes, and bronze bars with which to beat their opponents.  The two watching boys had arrived sweating and shouting.  They had seen the signal from the next village, at the top of the valley.  So the enemy must be coming from the sea, as they had always expected they would.

~~~

Tor Sorgas was the leader of the raiding party.  He stood at the front of the bigger of the two wooden ships, in metal helmet with nose shield; wearing woollen shirt and trousers, covered by a leather jerkin.  He has ordered the crew on the oars to head for the bay.  They had left their home in the frozen north of Europa three weeks earlier, intent upon plundering a few communities in Scotia and Britannia, but they had been rebuffed at every attempt.  They also failed two landings on the Welsh coast, and now were bound for the east coast of Hibernia.

Tor could not imagine any kind of life other than plundering the wealth of others, especially the mineral wealth of the Britons.  But the livestock and crops of Hibernia would have to do this time.

They had run out of dried fish earlier today, and so they had to succeed with this landing.  To ensure that there was no turning back, they burned their boats on the beach where they landed, and began the trek inland to find some undefended community to plunder.

~~~

Doneal McFlynn, as the village elder, took charge of the massed men and boys, and told them that the gods were on their side.  Nobody had the right to invade their community and disrupt the peace.  Right is mighty, he told them, and then commanded them to follow him into battle.

It was not known in advance how long it would take to locate the enemy, but in the event it involved a two hour march eastwards.

The warriors of Crumble-Baan met the invading army on the fields of Larkow, halfway between the village and the coast.  The men and boys of Crumble-Baan did their war dance, screaming and roaring their anger at the invaders.  This was the tradition of Lenster-Beag: to demonstrate superior moral right by every means available to larynx and arms; and to body movements and facial contortions.

Tor Sorgas had trained his warriors to ignore the behaviour of the enemy, and to look within for the superior claim of the people of Scantavia to the wealth of the world.  The god of war was on their side, and they would prove to be invincible.

The men and boys of Crumble-Baan ran down the hillside towards the invaders, stamping their feet, shouting curses, screaming for them to withdraw and go away.  They were convinced that, at any moment, the invaders would understand that the people of Crumble-Baan had the superior moral stand, and then they would simply run away.

However, the warriors of Tor Sorgas did not flinch until the Hibernians were in close, and then they ripped them apart with their swords, knives, spiked flails and spears.

Only two of the younger boys lived to run away, and report the slaughter to the women of the village.

~~~

The women of Crumble-Baan were heartbroken at the news of the death of their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.  They were beside themselves with grief.

All through the night they cried, beating their chests with their fists; and wailing to Aine for relief from their pain.  And then, about two hours before dawn, a tall woman with long, black hair, tied back with a black ribbon, steps forward.  Her name is Banba Ni Flynn, and she is the physically strongest of the women.  Taking command, she appointed two young women to take the children and babies, and the infirm elders, into the woods to hide.  She then took the group of forty women and older girls out into the fields where they undressed and covered themselves with mud, from forehead to ankles.  Throughout this process they chanted a mesmerizing prayer to Aine.

Then they slaughtered a goat and smeared its blood and guts over their hair and chests.  This was accompanied with screams of ‘vengeance’.

Thereafter, they each broke two tree branches for themselves; one to serve as a club, and the other to strap to their left forearms, with reeds, as a shielding beam, to protect themselves from direct blows by their enemy’s weapons.

Then they knelt on the cold, damp ground, and prayed to Aine, the Moon Goddess, to help them settle the score with their enemies.

And finally, they set off at a brisk pace on the long walk to the battle-ground, which they expected would take at least two hours.

~~~

Tor Sorgas celebrated his victory in his brief battle with the Hibernians by roasting several of the bigger, more muscular, fallen men, over open fires, and eating them.  Then he and his warriors sang some traditional victory songs, and slept well in a large mound of tree branches which they cut down and assembled for protection and warmth.

At dawn, Sorgas awoke and noticed how quiet it was.  It was a kind of sub-zero quietness which roared in his ears, like the distant sound of the sea in a large conch.  Pushing the tree branches back, he stepped out into the morning light.

Looking up at the hillside ahead of him, he saw forty strange animals, like apes, standing perfectly still.  Each one carried a big tree branch like a club.

It was a truly chilling sight, but Tor began to laugh, and called to his men to get up and come look at this strange sight.

The other fifty-five Norsemen emerged from their sleeping shelter and joined in the laughter.

Then the women of Crumble-Baan began to slowly walk down the hillside.  The laughter from the Norsemen continued, with some moments of silence, some giggles; some attempts to intensify the laughter; some faltering; some increasing disquiet.

The women of Crumble-Baan walked slower and slower, now slightly crouching down, with a chilling intensity: clubs at the ready.  The Norsemen took up their positions.  Tor gave the order to prepare their weapons.

As the strange creatures came closer, they began to keen; to express their grief at their great loss, as they picked their way between the fallen bodies of their kinsmen on the open field.

Closer still and the Norsemen began to smell the great stench of stomach bile and the iron and flint of the goat’s blood.

Then the women stopped, and Banba, in a strange tongue, told her sisters that you cannot hope to win your battles by relying upon your moral message affecting your enemies.  You had to be as remorseless as they were.  You had to harden your heart; to forget everything you had learned from the Moon Goddess.

At this point, Banba uttered a great shriek of ‘Revenge!’ and the women and girls of Crumble-Baan set about the Norsemen and did not rest their clubs until there was no longer an intact skull to be seen.

Six women lay dead on the field, alongside fifty-six Norsemen.

~~~

The women and girls stayed on the battle field for two days and two nights.  At first they bathed themselves in the blood of the killers of their menfolk.  Then, with their bare hands and some sticks, they dug holes to bury their dead men and boys.  They lay on the graves, keening and crying.

At the end of this period, Banba called them together and spoke to them:

“From this day forward, let there be no more charity”, she ordered.  “No more compassion; no more kindness; and no more forgiveness.  Let you heart be like flint, and your face like a locked door”.

Finally, they collected up the weapons and shields of the fallen Norsemen, and then they walked slowly homewards to their man-less households.

~~~

Over time, the women of Crumble-Baan found new men to join their community, from the surrounding district; but they retained control.

They raised their children to be merciless fighters.

The people of Crumble-Baan became an indomitable people, because of their harshness, until – 9 generations later – the Anglo-Normans came and broke their spirits. In a matter of days they went from being a matriarchal communist community to the flogged serfs of an Anglo-Norman warlord: the self-styled nobleman, Ralf, The Earl of Swafford – a murderous psychopath with a ‘king’s warrant’ – which meant ‘permission to plunder, rape and pillage’.

He kidnapped one out of every ten men, women and children in the village, and kept them in the woods above the river, guarded by his most murderous men; and threatened to gouge out the eyes, and roast alive, one man, woman and child for every act of rebellion or insurrection that was undertaken by any member of the village community.

(His great, great grand-father had developed this strategy, one hundred years earlier, in the subjugation of the Britons of Swafford County. On his deathbed, the old man asked for forgiveness for the torture, murder, rape and general abuse of thousands of ordinary Britons).

Now, in total defeat, the people of Crumble-Baan were harsh and broken.  Bitter and unforgiving.  And they passed that down to their offspring.

~~~

“The cruellest thing that can be said of the people of Crumble Baan is this: They enslaved themselves!  They enslaved themselves by putting the survival of 10% ahead of the dignity of 100%.  Very bad arithmetic!  Of course, they were outwitted by the evil terrorism of the Earl of Swafford – but it took them at least eight hundred years to build up the courage for seven brave men, and a few dozen male and female followers, to occupy the General Post Office and other strategic buildings in Dublin, in April 1916, which brought the British military occupation to its knees within five years”. (Page 102).

Micky J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy…

~~~

  1. Subsequent history…

In 1798, inspired by the American and French revolutions, the people of Crumble-Baan, now renamed Crumble village, joined the United Irishmen’s revolt, only to be crushed once more by the English army of occupation. (The English army of occupation, of course, being an agent of the English ruling class, and not an expression of the will of the English people, which had been just a cruelly crushed by the Normans, one hundred years before the Irish).

~~~

In 1845, half the population of Crumble either died of famine, or left for America: many dying at sea.

~~~

In 1848, following the wave of revolutions across Europe, the Pope of Rome, who had been the titular head of feudal Europe for centuries, identified this year as the crucial point in history to attempt to roll back the march of Protestant capitalism, and to restore Catholic feudalism across the continent of Europe.  His plan was to unite the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish peoples against the English, Dutch, and East Prussians; and the Protestant cantons of Switzerland.  For this purpose, a large body of well-educated priests was sent to Ireland, to take control of the mind of the Irish people and to fashion it into a weapon to use in the attack on England.

Those priests were guilt-ridden about sex.  Some of them naively believed it was possible to repress the human sex urge and to live a celibate life, without any consequences.  Some others were innocent, repressed homosexuals, who were denied any kind of social life, because they did not wish to marry and reproduce.

They all soon found out that nature is so much more powerful than human will!  And their repressed sexuality came out in all kinds of distorted ways.

Nuns and priests turned to each other for heterosexual and homosexual pleasures. Many priests took advantage of their most vulnerable parishioners, including children.  (Of course, some of those priests – and bishops – had been evil paedophiles all along, who signed up for the mission because they wanted to locate themselves in roles where they could prey upon children.)

These priests, and nuns, and bishops, and teaching brothers, each with their own (guilt-driven) reason to deny human sexuality, spread their (official, public) dread of sex among the people of Crumble, along with the crazy story of Redemption by Christ’s Crucifixion!

And in denying the legitimacy of sex between men and women, they inevitably denied the value or importance of love between men and women.  Men and women were to be kept far apart from each other. Catholic churches had a male and female section, to prevent the emergence of lust during the weekly celebration of mass (or church gathering)!

~~~

The people of Crumble-Baan were my ancestors! Forged in the fires of insecurity, feudal conflict, and intense grief; the violence of colonial warfare, oppression, lawless victimization, degradation, starvation, and casual death.  And finally, used in a cynical political war of the worlds, in which primitive fear of sex would be one of the main building blocks! In the process, love was crushed out of them.  ‘Love’ became the dirtiest of dirty words!  It was so dirty, it was never uttered.

~~~

Irish Catholicism – as far as I could tell, from my childhood experience – was about hatred and bile!  And as a child, I was bathed in that hatred and bile. The most visible signs being violent parents; violent sister; violent teachers; and violent school peers.  It was in the air that I breathed.

Of course, hatred and violence and bile produce, as their inevitable corollaries, fear and loathing; and unprincipled obedience.

It was not until I arrived in England, at the age of eighteen years, that I heard the expression: “God is Love!”

I think I laughed at that idea, when first I heard it.  At the very least I would have been mystified by this bizarre oxymoron.

I had grown up with the God of Retribution; the God of Hell Fire; the God of Anger.  I had the Fear of God beaten into me, at home and in school.

God, for me, was like Attila the Hun: with magic powers, and nuclear weapons; and a bad temper.

 

~~~

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~~~

Chapter 2

“The Brothers of Christ produced ten generations of boys and men who could neither think nor feel.  They were crippled leftovers from the failed feudal revolt against British capitalism”.

Micky J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy

~~~

  1. A waking nightmare…

The beeping alarm dragged me out of a strange black and silver landscape of caves and hills, in which I was haunted by memories of something I’d lost.  I was frantically searching for something precious.  But I could not begin to find it until I knew what it was.  And I could not remember what it had been.

Beep, beep, beep…..

I awake; slam the beeping alarm off; and swing my legs out of bed.  It hasn’t rained for weeks, and the temperature, in the run-up to ‘Christmas’ is above eighty-five degrees by lunchtime.  It’s already over seventy degrees, and it’s barely seven o’clock in the morning.  Yellow light streams in through the windows of my three-room apartment.

Although it was almost Christmas ‘back home’ (wherever that was: the UK? or Ireland?) there seemed to be endless Chinese celebrations going on all over Bangkok.  We were still in the year of the Horse; and the year of the Goat would not begin until early February 1979. I’d consulted a traditional Chinese healer in Bangkok, and he’d told me that the year of the Goat would be a major turning point in my life.  He said my world would crack and fall asunder; only to be rebuilt in a better form.  And the symbol for the moment of change would be the arrival of the Goat.  I can’t wait!

At the moment it’s Chinese Thanksgiving, which is the Thais’ winter solstice celebration, involving ancestor worship at its core, but lots of eating of spicy foods seemed to be the main evidence that the celebrations are in full flow.

  1. Minor health problems…

I look down at the red hives on my legs and arms.  Fucking bedbugs.  I cross the bedroom and pick up the big black Bakelite phone, tap the internal call button repeatedly, and speak to the apartment block manager, telling him the new mattress is no better than the previous one – ‘I’m still covered in bedbug bites’ – and ask that he get me a new mattress by the end of today. (At this point, I knew nothing of the possibility of stress-induced allergic reactions!)

Then I open the fridge and look in.  Nothing appeals to me, so I remove by tee-shirt and put on a pair of swimming trunks and flip-flops; cross to the entrance hall; and out onto the patio, where I am struck by the glaring sun and the roar of the traffic from Tunun Praddipat, a couple of hundred yards away. I turn right and walk down to the swimming pool.

There are already two Thai families – two mothers and fathers and four children – and the fat American from apartment number four – in the shallow end of the pool, chatting amiably.  I walk to the deep end, where the blinding yellow sparkles of sunlight bounce off the rippled surface of the pale blue chlorinated water.  I climb down the steps, and, clinging to the ladder rail, float out on my back.  This is one way to cool down; one way to wake up; and one way to try to soothe my burning hives.  I can’t swim, but I have learned how to float on my back.

My head is thumping, as usual, and my neck and shoulders are cold and stiff.

It’s a lot cooler at the moment than it was in June, when I arrived in this exotic city, with plans to make a reputation and perhaps a small fortune at the same time.  I was trading on my creative ability to suggest timely economic and technological innovations for rural development. The Royal Thai government was urgently investing in anything that would wean the poor peasant farmers of the Northeast Region from the Lao and Cambodian communists who repeatedly infiltrated the militarized Land Settlement Projects. (The paradox, of course, was that I probably hated the American Empire more than did the Cambodians. Laos or Vietnamese!  Because I knew the mercenary reasons the American state, on behalf of American corporations, had gone into Vietnam with tons of bombs and burning napalm, and killed thousands and thousands of innocent civilians.)

In the past couple of days, the humidity has dropped to about 60% which, for the Thais is very comfortable; but when it’s combined with such high temperatures, it does not suit the pale, European skin, and it’s very much outside of our comfort zone.  My pale and sensitive skin is particularly uncomfortable in such hot and sweaty conditions.

  1. The cultural context…

As I lie in the pool, trying to clear my head, and cool my hives, I can smell the riot of odours of Thai cooking from the countless cooking stalls in the streets that surround Blue Lotus Apartments – the gated community where I’ve lived for the past two months.  Overall the aroma of Thai food is pleasant and rich, though at its core is that rotten, fermented fishy smell of Pla ra.  I could also pick out the diluted stink of Pad sa Tor (which I had often tried as a hangover remedy); though it was pretty heavily covered by the whole gamut of sweet and spicy herbs that Thais love so much.  But at least those food odours tended to mask the clouds of car exhaust fumes that drifted in from Praddipat Road, as the early morning traffic roar, which would last all day, began to howl in earnest.

Out of the pool, I walk to the shower at the end, wash the chlorine off with some local soap; walk back to my apartment, bowing to the Thais in the pool, and to the spirit house in the small plot in front of my door.  Back inside, I get dressed.

Today is the big day for feedback on my presentation to the Director of the Department of Public Works, on my Northeast Village Technology and Rural Economy proposal.  For this purpose, I don my bitter chocolate, linen safari suit with the pale beige stripe: short sleeved, open-necked, waisted, and with flared trousers.  I have had my long hair cut back to collar length, and my beard trimmed.  I want to wear sandals, to keep my body temperature down, but that would not be acceptable attire for a government office in Bangkok. So I reluctantly put on a pair of Barrett’s two-tone shoes, dark tan and beige, that match the business suit.

  1. A breakfast of two parts…

Out on the street, outside my apartment compound, there are three tuk-tuks (or sam lor).  These are three-wheeled, motorized rickshaws, built as a covered scooter – the big brothers of the Indian baby-taxi. Their drivers are patiently waiting for customers to come along.  I catch the eye of one driver who’s driven me before, and beckon him over.  He turns his sam lor and drives over. Meanwhile, the aroma of the nearest food stall has stimulated my appetite, so I ask my driver to wait while I have a bowl of Kuai-tiao nam soup with noodles and pork-balls, from one of my favourite street-sellers. It takes me just three minutes to eat it, and then I get into the sam lor, and the driver takes me up to the Dorchester Hotel, near Saphan Kwai, where I order breakfast.

I had lived in the Dorchester for about two months, until I ran out of money, about eight or nine weeks back.  Although I am an accredited consultant with the UN, I am on a payment by results contract; which means that, until I bring in some project funding, I cannot claim my consultancy fees.  It’s very expensive living in Bangkok, and also funding my own field trips and consultancy reports.

Before I lived in the Dorchester, I’d lived in a low-rent apartment that was subsidized by Christian Aid, for use by missionaries and Christian Aid field workers.  I was evicted when some neighbours complained of the sounds coming from my room every time Juliet came to visit, during my first few weeks in Bangkok.  It was unfortunate that the floor was a kind of hard, glossy resinous concrete, which squealed and screeched when the iron-frame bed was forced down hard on its bare metal legs.  I suppose it took the other residents a few weeks to figure out what was going on, and they then decided that making love in the afternoon was sinful.

Now I was back in the basement restaurant of the Dorchester, in search of the second part of my breakfast, and also to meet Juliet to plan and prepare for our visit to the Department of Public Works.  The purpose of this visit, as I said, was to get feedback on our presentation, made last month, to the Director, the Minister, and the senior funding teams from the US Agency for Overseas Development (USAOD), the United Nations Program for Development (UNPFD), and the Dutch government’s development agency (DGDA).

It was always dark and cool in the Yim Huai Heng restaurant, because it was below ground level and therefore had no windows.  The lighting was old French wall lamps; the décor was dark; and the carpet was so dark it was hard to discern the maroon background that I guessed would be visible in broad daylight.

I sat at my usual table near the door and looked at the menu.  It contained no concessions to the English language, apart from the Romanization of the Thai words.  I had learned to stick to the Khao phat, for breakfast and lunch: which in most good restaurants contained fried rice topped with nam pla phrik (which is chillies in fish sauce).  The other ingredients tended to vary, but often included lime or lemon, cucumber or coconut, and, more often than not, spring onions.  (Nobody in Bangkok ate or supplied bacon and eggs; or toast and marmalade.  And it was almost impossible to get good quality coffee, since iced tea [‘cha yen’] was the drink of choice in that city.  Such cultural deprivation!)

My Khao phat arrived, with a strong smell of lemon grass and ginger; along with a big jug of freshly brewed, strong iced tea – like masala tea with coconut milk, crushed ice and tons of sugar.  I got stuck into the rice, with a fork in my right hand, while pouring the iced tea with my left.  The tea, when well made, in reputable establishments, was almost as strong as coffee, and I slurped a couple of mouthfuls back, in an effort to wake myself up fully. But the cognitive boost was less than half that of a good American coffee.

  1. Juliet arrives…

The cha yen was not all for me, as Juliet was due to arrive soon.  She normally had black coffee in the morning, at home, (and on Mondays, Wednesdays and some Fridays, I joined her there for coffee and toast). But today she was due to meet me here at 8.15, so we could prepare for our meeting at 9.00am at the Department of Public Works.  The iced tea was a poor compensation for the lack of her preferred home-percolated American coffee.

I heard her three-inch stilettos hit the marble floor in the entrance hall above, and checked my watch.  Bang on time.

I heard her march steadily down the stairs: click, clack, click.  I was filled with sadness and gladness, in a mixture acidic enough to burn right through my heart.

She was dressed in a tight, black, Thai silk suit: jacket and pencil line skirt, with a long slit up the right thigh.  Her long, blond hair was tied back in a big gold hair slide; and she was wearing her big, red-framed specs.  She was dressed to kill for a crucial business meeting.

She looked around the restaurant, saw no expats were present, apart from me, and kissed me on the lips. She whispered “Sugar lips!” as she pulled away.  Sitting down, she pushed her cup towards me for some cha yen, while pulling some documents from her briefcase.

Placing the papers on the table in front of her, she stared at me, examining my eyes.  “Morning, honey?” she said, interrogatively, looking at me questioningly.  She could see that I was still low; hung over; depressed and deflated.

Fishing in her bag she found the little silver box of speed pills (ephedrine and caffeine), and pulled two out for me.  I washed them down with a mouthful of the tea.  Hopefully, within a few minutes, they would neutralize the tranquillizers that I took last night, and the Thai grass that I smoked at bedtime.

“What’s the running order?” I ask her.

She looks at the documents from the DPW.  “Kun Wicheet will speak for the Department.  The USAOD representative will respond.  We will be asked to accept or reject the offer”.

“Is that all?” I asked.

“That’s it!”

“No detail on what the offer is likely to be?”

“No”.

We had made a pitch for half a million US dollars over a two-year period, to set up a pilot project in Ubon Ratchatani.  That would then be reviewed, and a decision made about the future years.

“What do you expect?” I asked her then.

“This is a standard format”, she said.  “It could mean a funding offer; or it could be an offer to review additional proposals; or to submit additional argumentation or supporting evidence, etc.  Impossible to say if they’ve found any funds for us, at this stage”.

~~~

  1. Getting down to work…

In the air-conditioned taxi on the way to the DPW directorate, I am at last able to cool down.  The soreness of my hives is receding slowly. The restaurant had been too warm, and the street outside, as we came out, was so hot and humid, that my armpits were wet by the time we were locked inside the icy-cool interior of the cab.  Of course, some of my sweating could have been due to the tension I felt about another rejection of our project proposal, and another few weeks of brainstorming, researching, writing and making presentations.

The taxi whizzed through the crowded streets between Saphan Kwai and Rama VI Road, where most of the main government offices were located.  This journey always struck me as a mad conflation of rush-hour traffic in summer-time Manhattan and a congregation of exotic peacocks strutting and pushing along the pavements.

The taxi arrived ten minutes early, and we paid ‘waiting time’ to stay in the cool interior until we had just four minutes in hand, and then we headed into the DPW building at number 218.

We were both quite tense as we marched up the stairs and into the director’s office.

~~~

Kun Wicheet, the director – a pleasantly fat Chinese-looking Thai – was seated regally behind his eight-foot desk.  In front of him, seated on a semi-circle of comfortable, well-upholstered chairs, were Len Hogan, the USAOD representative for the Northeast; Sjoerd Leenstra, from UNPFD; and Bernhard Hendriks, from the Dutch DGDA.

The director stood up and shook our hands, and indicated where to sit.

He then made a statement about the excellence of our economic and technological development proposal.  Len Hogan explained how they had evaluated our proposal in the field, back in their office, and also in Washington, and that they were pleased to recommend to Congress the disbursement of 500,000 US dollars per year for the next three years to make this project a success.

Leenstra was also full of praise, and said they would pick up the cost of local support services; and Hendriks said the Dutch government would be pleased to pay all salaries involved.

This was six times what we’d asked for, and then some!

Juliet thanked them for their feedback, and steered the conversation in the direction of when and where the funds would be disbursed.  The short answer was that a decision on start dates would be made in Washington, and it was likely to be early in the New Year; possibly late January or early February.

The room was aglow with a celebratory mood.

Everybody expected this to be a great breakthrough for the people of the Northeast; and to help keep the commies at bay!

We all shook hands and dispersed.

~~~

  1. Celebrations in the context of defeat…

Juliet and I walked briskly back down the stairs to the sound of her clicking heels, and the squeak of my soft soles; out into the hot street; and into the first air-conditioned cab we could find.

Once inside, she screamed with pleasure at our victory.  I laughed and cheered.  After six months of hard work, we had been vindicated; we had succeeded; we had made it.  Once the money was through, I could submit my bill for forty thousand pounds of consultancy fees for the developmental phase.

We asked the driver to take us to the Dorchester Hotel.  It would be safer to use the hot-sheet floor – the third floor was exclusively bookable by the hour – instead of risking being seen entering my apartment at Blue Lotus Apartments (or Red Rose Court, where Juliet lived with her husband, Bart) for a celebratory roll in the hay. Juliet, who was sitting on my left, took my left hand, clamped my index and middle fingers together, stuck them in her mouth and moistened them; then pushed my hand up her skirt, which had a deep, accommodating side split, inside her panties, and into her warm, wet vagina.

This was a strange, new bonobo-like celebration ritual that was unknown to me.  Ten years earlier, I would have been deliriously happy to be so wanted by a woman: so passionately desired.  Two years ago I was ecstatic about being wanted by this woman.  But that was then and this is now.  And in this moment of double victory, I realized my total defeat.

~~~

“Adultery, like all other forms of evil, begins with a sense that ‘this is a great idea’; a great advantage; pure benefit; total pleasure.  But as it progresses, the messy and painful bits mount up.  In the end, the dominant sense is that ‘this is a rotten situation’; a great disadvantage; pure loss; total pain.  The devil seems to have all the best tunes, but they quickly rot down into intolerable tones of suffering”.

Sheikh Exal Rambini, Metaphysical Thoughts

~~~

Rewind six or eight weeks.  Juliet and I run along the platform with light luggage, and board the overnight train from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station to Ubon Ratchatani, near the borders with both Laos and Cambodia; leaving at 8.00pm and arriving at 10.00am the next day.

We have a sleeping compartment, which means we can have our evening meal in our private room, and get to bed by 9.00pm.

By 10.00pm we’ve made love, and I’ve left the lower berth, and moved to my place on the top berth.  I can hear her crying softly below.  She wants me to stay in her berth with her.  I cannot do that, which might seem strange given how strongly I am drawn to her, physically and emotionally.  To understand my behaviour, you need to know some background.

~~~

Six weeks earlier, when I was still living in the Dorchester, I awoke early on Monday morning, after a boring weekend.  Juliet always spends her weekends with Bart, her husband, in Red Rose Court.  He leaves for work around 7.00am on Monday mornings.  I usually work at their apartment, with Juliet, on Mondays and Wednesdays, (and occasionally on Fridays), arriving around 8.00am. Juliet and I normally begin with coffee and toast, and then review our action plans and work on our project designs, project proposals, and so on.  We normally manage to avoid too much sexual distraction from this work – but by no means always.

Anyway, on this particular Monday, I went down to the restaurant, had a bowl of Khao phat; and then took a sam lor to Red Rose Court.  I punched the pass code into the keypad at the gate; waved to Kun Ying Yufarit, the glamorous and elegantly dressed Thai manager, who was in the estate manager’s office, inside the gate; walked along the path that led past the first grey, reinforced concrete block, and up the stairs in the centre of the second block, to the first apartment on the first floor.

A huge blue crested lizard was on the wall by the top of the apartment’s red door.  As I approached the door, it expanded its throat and made an agitated chirping sound, in what seemed to me to be a threatening way, but I screwed up my courage and leaned in to rap my knuckles on the door. I then got a bigger shock. Instead of seeing Juliet’s smiling face, Bart opened the door, with a very serious facial expression.  I thought – Oh, no!  This is it!

He waved me inside, and told me he’d taken Juliet to hospital on Sunday, after he found her rolled up in a ball on the kitchen floor.  He was very concerned about her, and she was kept in for tests.

Bart was very worried about Juliet.

While he was making coffee, and going into too much detail about the procedures they were running at the expat clinic, to try to find out what was wrong with Juliet, I was thinking of the strange coincidence.  Two or three weeks ago, Juliet told me Bart had been whisked into the expat clinic for tests for unexplained abdominal pain.

And about two weeks before that, when Juliet and I had been working on a new report, I had asked her if she had any painkillers for a bad headache.  She said, “Yes, upstairs, in my beside-table”.

So I ran up the broad, polished oak staircase, into her bedroom, and opened her top drawer; but could not see any pill boxes, because a large, pale blue letter was spread across the top of the drawer contents.  I picked it up to look for the painkillers, and noticed it was Bart’s handwriting.  But that was very strange, because the salutation line said, “Dear Juliet”.

Why would Bart write to his wife, with whom he shared a bed?

That was the mystery that caused me to breach their right to privacy by reading the letter.  The bottom line was this: Bart was very unhappy because Juliet was only supposed to ‘mess around’ with other men, as he ‘messed around’ with other women; but Juliet had broken the rules by ‘falling in love with Daniel!’

Shit! What a mess.

~~~

  1. Finding a way out…

I was now involved in a marriage in meltdown, because Juliet had fallen in love with me.  Bart must want to kill me!  Hence his stomach aches.  He has most likely been arguing with Juliet, or wanting to row with her, all of the time, hence the resort to writing to each other – total breakdown of spoken communication – and hence her intense stomach aches.

And who is the cause of all this?  Me!

~~~

“Do not seek to possess another person’s marriage partner.  For, if the roots of illicit sexual cravings are not uprooted, then great suffering will arise, over and over again”.

Sheikh Exal Rambini, Metaphysical Thoughts…

~~~

Bart’s lips are moving as he hands me the big cup of strong coffee.  He looks very depressed.  As he speaks, I speak over him:

“I’ll leave!” I say.  I just blurt it out.  I didn’t know I was going to say anything remotely like that.

“I’ll go back to England”, I say, reassuringly, “and leave you and Juliet in peace”.

Bart smiles, and looks at me with genuine bemusement; and perhaps affection.

“You’d do that?” he asks, with a look of great relief on his bearded face.

“Male solidarity”, I say, thinking back to when my wife, Ramira, had an affair, just three to four years ago.  If only her lover, Kevin, had had a sense of male solidarity, he would have gone away and left us to sort our marital problems out for ourselves.  (That was what I thought then, but in time I would come to realize that Ramira’s affair was a symptom of something deeply wrong with our marriage, and not to do with the availability of other men).

But I was totally surprising myself with this male solidarity with Bart.  I don’t know where the words, or the idea, came from. I didn’t ever expect that I would say anything like this.

Bart immediately offered me his hand, and we shook on it.  It was now a deal!

In some ways, Juliet was the best thing that had ever happened to me, though it was of course stressful for me, being involved in somebody else’s marriage.  And I was so much her captive, emotionally and practically.  Once I arrived in Bangkok, a few days after Juliet and Bart had arrived, all of us transferring from Bangladesh, she had taken my passport “for safe keeping”, and locked it in their wall-safe; and it was clear she would never give it back if she thought she would lose me in the process.

But now I had a plan.  I thought we had a reasonable chance of getting funding for a project beginning in the New Year; and I felt sure I could persuade her to give me my passport, so I could go back to England for Christmas, thus saving a lot of local expenditure of non-existent funds!

“I’ll go home for Christmas”, I told him then, “but I won’t come back in the New Year!”

“But don’t tell Juliet that!” he said.

“That’s right”, I said.  “It’s our secret”.

“Male solidarity”, he said, offering me his handshake once more.

~~~

  1. Implementing the plan…

Once we got confirmation of our three year funding, subject to approval by Washington, there were only a few days left to Christmas.  I told Juliet – right after we’d made love in room 306, at the Dorchester, on the day we got the good news – I would like to go home for a couple of weeks, until the funding had been disbursed, to save money; and that I would return with Jasper, our third team member, as soon as the funding was released; and then we could get down to work.

She didn’t suspect a thing, and so she didn’t resist the need to hand over my passport.

~~~

I went to Red Rose Court before eight o’clock on the morning of Christmas Eve, and Juliet and Bart offered me some red wine, and we smoked a couple of joints of Thai grass.  And Juliet passed me a couple of strong tranquilizers.

Juliet was upset about my leaving, even for just a couple of weeks, and it showed.  Bart was clearly upset that she was so upset about losing me for a while; though he must have also been reassured that at least he was getting rid of me as a love rival for all time!

Bart drove all three of us to the airport for my ten o’clock flight.

Saying goodbye was very stressful, as Juliet and I tearfully embraced and kissed each other under the semi-watchful eye of her husband.

Somehow I checked in my luggage and made my way to the departure lounge, semi-blinded by tears that stung and hurt my eyes.  Eventually, after about an hour of waiting, I boarded the 737 plane.  I sat in my seat, half drunk, high as a kite, relieved to have escaped, and undone by the feelings of grief at the loss of Juliet.

My mind was frozen; my heart was like a big lump of painful rock in my chest; my hands trembled; big fat tears erupted involuntarily from my eyes, though I resisted them with all my might.  I felt like screaming.

I was going ‘home’? Or leaving ‘home’?  Or moving in confusing circles?

I was finally, irredeemably and totally lost!

~~~

  1. Running on auto…

The big, cool, silent plane travelled via Bangladesh, Doha and Frankfurt, for about fourteen hours.  However, because of the time gap between Bangkok and London, I flew into Heathrow at three o’clock on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1978.

The sun was shining like a June day.  The fields were green and welcoming in a way that rice fields could never touch me.

I took a taxi from Heathrow to Jasper’s parents’ home in Oxford; where I went to bed for three days.  I got up for the main meals, at lunchtime and evening; but mostly I slept.  I was sleeping off the withdrawal from the speed, tranquillizers, booze, hash, opium and grass; and the heartache at losing Juliet, as well as the relief at getting rid of Bart from my list of nightmares.

~~~

I slept and snoozed; sat around eating or watching television; and so the Christmas and New Year celebrations passed me by.

~~~

On 2nd January 1979, just after lunchtime, I took the double headed ragdoll from my suitcase and headed into the centre of Oxford.  I was going to see my ex-wife, Ramira, to say ‘season’s greetings’ and to give her the doll for the twins that she conceived towards the end of our married life together.  We still didn’t know who the father of the twins might be, since she was having sexual relations with me and Kevin Thompson when she became pregnant.

I rang the doorbell of the duplex flat we had lived in on Eastern Avenue, and Ramira opened the door.  She coolly invited me in. It was nice to see her, in a perverse kind of way; though I had very mixed feelings towards her.  We went up the stairs and into the living room, and there was Kevin, parked on the sofa that I had bought; and his big fat belly was pointing at the ceiling, and he still had that characteristic, silly, manipulative grin on his too-open face.

We exchanged greetings; I told them what I’d been up to in Bangladesh and Thailand, in terms of the nature of my work, the climate, etc.  Nothing too personal.

I then handed over the doll which I’d bought in the duty-free shop in Bangkok.  It was meant for the twins.  It was a doll made up of two bodies – two torsos with heads and arms – with no legs, and they were stitched together at the waist.  They had a shared skirt.  When one head was exposed to view, the other was concealed under the skirt, and vice versa.  One face was black and the other white.  If it was symbolic of something about our dreadfully confused situation, I could not think what that might be.

We ran out of things to say to each other, and we went downstairs to the exit.  As I was leaving, I glanced in through the downstairs window and saw the twins climbing out of their cots, after their afternoon naps.  I was captivated by their little faces.  These could have been my kids.  Cute little three-year-old girls.

“I think you’d better go!” said Kevin, in a gruff voice, suggesting a slight hint of threat.  No ‘male solidarity’ here.

~~~

  1. As bad as could be…

I walked out of Eastern Avenue and down the Botley Road to the café where I used to go to kill time, when Ramira and I first split up.  I ordered a coffee and some toast, and went to the juke box on the wall.  I selected the same song I used to play all that time ago; just over three years now:

“I’m not in love”, sang 10 CC, “So don’t forget it.  It’s just a silly phase I’m going through”.

I sat down and tackled my coffee and toast.  I felt as raw as any piece of meat ever could.  My heart was aching and my guts were knotted.  My eyes were moist and hurting.  But was it for the twins?  For a life that could have been?  For the faithless Ramira, to whom I had been married for six years?  For my loss of Juliet, who had been my lover for two years?  Or was there somebody else hidden behind all these possibilities?  Somebody who had been there from the very beginning? Somebody who had marked me for life!

The juke box fell silent, and I finished eating my toast.

Echoes from the past invaded my mind:

“How I wish;

How I wish you were here”.

These words came from a Pink Floyd album that I was into around the time that Ramira and I split.

Oh, how I wish you were here, I told myself.  If only I knew who you were.  And if only I knew how to connect!

I swigged off my coffee and stepped out into the grey afternoon rain. As I turned left to walk back up Botley road, I looked up at the rainy sky and saw three aliens staring at me.  (I swear to god!) About thirty feet ahead of me, at an angle of about forty-five degrees, there was a strange circle of fluffy cloud; and in the middle a kind of porthole.  And through that porthole I could see three bizarre aliens, sitting at a desk, staring at me.  (They seemed slightly familiar, like figures from some vague dream or nightmare that I have suppressed!)

The one in the middle was tiny, about the size of a human child of ten or eleven years of age, with a blue furry face, a third eye in his forehead, and long white hair like a judge’s wig. (A voice in my head said: Professor Valises!  But that meant nothing to me – at that time!) To his right was a larger being, about the same size as an adult human.  S/he (?) had a green head like a cross between a lizard and a sheep. And on the left of the blue midget was a giant, about one and a half times the size of a big human male, with a blue head which reminded me of a mixture of fox and dolphin, with slimy blue skin.  I could only see their shoulders and heads: and the giant fox-dolphin was wearing a military-style uniform.  They seemed to be looking into our world through a hole surrounded by a wispy circle of fluffy cloud.  They were peering directly at me through this strange hole in the sky.

“Mierdaz!” exclaimed the little blue furry one, pointing straight ahead. “He can see us!  Switch the viewer! Switch the viewer!”

The green sheep-lizard-lady leaned forward and I heard a loud click. They all disappeared.

I looked all around me.  Everything seems normal now. But I suspect they’re still there, watching me!

~~~

I haven’t smoked any Thai grass since Christmas Eve.  I haven’t had any speed or tranquillizers since then either.  And I only had one glass of white wine, to wash down the dry turkey, on Christmas day; more than a week ago.  So why am I seeing things now?

Perhaps this is just withdrawal symptoms?  Or have I finally lost my marbles completely?  Gone totally bananas, and lost the plot!

~~~

Buy your copy of this book here. It is available in eBook format and also in paperback.

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~~~

Chapter 3

“Life is difficult for all human beings – but it is particularly difficult for children.  Children are born without a roadmap of the world, and they have to construct their own from the clues they pick up from their parents.  Some parents make it almost impossible for their children to reach a reasonable understanding of the nature of the world”.

Mickey J. Moran, A Very Peculiar Tragedy. (Page 8).

~~~

  1. Nothing to be cheerful about…

Several miles inland from the coastal road that runs up the eastern seaboard of the Irish Free State, two deep, wooded valleys cut across each other at right angles, forming crossroads at the confluence of two rivers.  Cattle drovers from the surrounding countryside have been passing through here for hundreds of years – two days before the cattle market in Dubh Linn (or Black Pool) – or, later, Dub’lin – on a weekly basis.  Hence the existence of the hotel and four public houses in a community of less than one thousand people.

The people of Crumble are a dour lot.  ‘Nothing to be cheerful about round here!’ is a common sentiment.  The local farms are small, subsistence affairs, of about three to five acres each; on the periphery of a huge estate that is still owned by English landlords.  And it’s hard to eke out a living.  There’s not much cattle farming in this particular village through which so many cattle are herded.  Local people grow their own vegetables, raise chickens or turkeys, keep a few pigs; and go to the market some miles away once each week to buy what they do not grow, and to trade the surpluses that they have grown.  They travel to the market in their pony-traps or donkey-carts, and then mill around a big open field of dried earth upon which selling stalls are erected.  Everybody dresses in black, or colours which cannot easily be distinguished from black.

There is no electricity or gas supply in the village; and the local school only covers the primary level of education.  It’s a very basic kind of life for people who do not count for anything with the national government.

On Sundays the locals go to their separate churches – the Catholic chapel and the Protestant church.  The women and men all wear black hats.  The women can keep their hats on during services, but the men must take theirs off.  This is one of God’s rules.

The Protestants and Catholics look askance at each other, when they encounter each other, but manage to muddle along in their separate social and economic grooves.

  1. One night…

But right now, night has fallen on this warm day in July, 1946, and the streets are in total darkness.  The moon is obscured by clouds.  The four streetlamps, which burn oil, are unlit – one in the middle of each of the small streets.   They are unlit by tradition; a tradition which began at the request of the British government, because the German bombers could use the lights in Ireland to locate themselves over England, between 1941 and 1944. ‘You’d have to be very close to see four street lamps in Crumble’, was the local response when it was announced that the government had agreed with the British that we would follow a blackout, after the bombing of North Strand in Dublin, three years earlier, which local republican rumours claimed had been the result of Dubliners leaving their lights on to help the bombers.  But now, two years after the end of the war in Europe, the lights were still out, because the local parish council had very little money to pay for oil, and this was one way of cutting costs.

So the streets and the surrounding buildings are in total darkness; as they have been for the past five years.

Apart from the pubs, the hotel, two churches and a farm shop, the streets are lined with small, two-storey houses which are whitewashed, with green or yellow or black or white front doors.

In the Haymakers’ Inn, which is the main Catholic pub used by small farmers, the small bar room is full.  Six grey men in dark and dusty farm clothes and flat caps are sitting along the poorly illuminated wooden bar, mainly with leather-patched elbows on the bar, small briar pipes in mouths, puffing black shag smoke into the yellowed ceiling.  Another dozen or so are sitting glumly around the little round tables.

Their faces are flickering patches of black and yellow, illuminated by the oil lamps which are located on the bar; by the entrance door; and behind the bar.  Whole areas of the room are in total darkness.

The room is full of smoke from the pipe smokers, and the acrid smell of the small turf fire, which has been burning gently in the corner since about nine o’clock, when the heat went out of the evening.  The flames of the fire add an orange glow to the flickering lights that illuminate the closed faces of the customers.

Nobody speaks, and you can hear their rasping breaths, shallow and rhythmical, with occasional gurgles of saliva in the bowls of their pipes, which signals the need to spit in one of the spittoons on the floor, and then scrape out the pipe and refill it; relight it; and continue the satisfied sucking of a loved object.  (To love an object is okay in this culture.  To love a person? Mortal Sin!)

Rough work hands reach repeatedly for glasses of black stout, take a slug, sigh with pleasure; lips smack with satisfaction; and glasses are replaced gently, quietly on the bar.  Because of the strange illumination, the scene looks like it was painted by one of the Dutch Masters – perhaps Rembrandt or Flinck – without the fancy garments and hats.

The bald-headed, red-faced barkeeper washes and dries glasses, then pulls an occasional pint of black stout, which takes several minutes to settle down into a drinkable form, as the thick, creamy head shrinks from three inches to about one inch.  This requires some assistance, so he scrapes some of the thick froth out of each glass into a receptacle beneath the bar. Throughout all these processes, he keeps his distance from the customers at all times.

Requests for serving are more like grunts and codes than statements or questions.  No eye contact is made by anybody with anyone else.  It looks and feels as if there is an unwritten agreement that this place is for the efficient buying and drinking of black stout, followed by silent departure.

~~~

  1. Darkness is where the demons dwell…

The Cullen Boys, as they are known, are in the middle of the bar – two big, strapping farmhands.  They see that the barkeeper is sidling towards the left end of the bar, as the clock ticks up to eleven o’clock – and they know what will happen next.  In unison, they drain their glasses, pull the peaks of their flat caps down in their eyes, tap their pipes into the ash trays on the bar, and push the empty pipes into the top pockets of their worn coats. Then they stand up and swivel towards the door.  As they do so, the barkeeper picks up a small leather mallet and strikes the bar once.  As the Cullen boys turn to leave the bar, the remaining men drain their glasses, grunt or burp, turn like toy soldiers and follow the Cullen boys out into the street.

Sean and Padraig Cullen have left their big black bicycles outside the front of the pub, on top of the others, for a quick escape.  They had already removed their bicycle clips when they arrived, because the hill home is too steep to cycle.  As they wheel their bicycles away, now, they hear two or three men behind them grunt farewells, or say goodnight.

It’s only about fifty yards to the end of the street – five small houses and a small Catholic chapel – where the boys, no longer deserving of the name, as they are in their late thirties, turn sharp right and enter onto the steep hill homewards.  At this point they both switch on their bicycle lamps.  They are not cowards, but they believe that it could be dangerous to walk up this hill in the total darkness because there are big, waterlogged ditches on both sides of the road, and at least one or two drunks have drowned in them over the decades.

They also believe in demons and the devil, and they know that darkness is where they dwell.  This is the point at which they normally begin to whistle – token whistling; little incomplete attempts at a tune; which is not so much an expression of culture as it is of panic.

Here, on the dark road home, the devil runs the show.  When dawn comes, the freshly washed priests and vicars will emerge from their hiding places; the devil will withdraw, and god will reclaim the day.

The boys have a few miles to walk before they get to the Cullen farm, where they will collapse into bed together, in a bed shared with two younger brothers, and out of which they will be hauled by Old Man Cullen about four o’clock in the morning, to prepare to milk the herd – the Cullens’ being one of the few cattle farms in the area.

So they trudge off up the hill, side by side, pushing their heavy bicycles in silence.  The moon emerges to illuminate their journey for a couple of minutes, and then is obscured again by cloud cover; only to emerge again two minutes later.

As they turned the gentle bend between Dennehey’s turkey farm and the Flynn’s run-down homestead, where the gradient of the hill steepens significantly, a cloud passed over the moon, and they were plunged into deeper darkness.  Immediately after this point, they were stopped in their tracks by a loud scream.  They looked at each other in terror.  Could this be it?  The demonic confrontation they had long expected?

Silence!

They recovered their composure and walked on, gasping as they pushed their great black bicycles up the steep incline.

As they got closer to the gate of Flynn’s farm – on the right of the road -they heard it again; this time louder; and this time it was clearly a woman in distress.  She was shouting and screaming now; wailing and protesting.

As they reached the gate, they wondered what it could mean.  By the gate, they could remember the spot where Old Man Flynn’s Model-A Ford had stood, on the side of the road, inches from the ditch.  This was the car in which he died, after weeks of using it as his home, in the coldest winter they had known, locked into a mound of snow.  They had no idea why Old Man Flynn had taken to living in his car.  There were rumours of ‘interfering with’ children; but they had no idea what that actually meant.  The phrase, ‘interfering with’, was like a blow to the guts, a painful grasping at the heart, a fear of falling into a big black pit.  It had no images attached to it, and no descriptors.  It was one of the night terrors of Catholic childhood.

Because of this confusion about why Old Man Flynn had died the way he did, they did not consider stopping to see if anybody needed their help.  It was none of their business.  They were not citizens of a Grecian democracy.  They were pawns in a plot that had not been explained to them!

They walked on!

~~~

  1. A difficult birth…

Inside the Flynn’s farmhouse all was not well.  Neeve, the twenty year old daughter, had come home to her mother’s place to give birth to her second child.  The girls who slept in the big bedroom to the right of the front door had been sent to stay with various aunties, and Neeve had the room to herself.  Birth was a secret process, and the less the children knew about it the better!  Neeve had arrived the day before she was due to give birth, and lounged around, waiting.  She was not expecting to be detained for very long, because her first child, Caitlin, had ‘slipped out like an oiled pea’ after thirty minutes of labour.

She arrived before lunchtime yesterday, and her waters finally broke during breakfast today; and she was hurried off to the side room by the midwife in attendance.  But now, tonight, she has been in labour for sixteen hours – and she is in a state of exhaustion and despair. The midwife, Mrs Meehan, had to send for Old Nurse Sweeny, because she was at her wits end.  She had tried everything she knew to get this girl to deliver her second baby, but nothing worked.  Although she ordered her to push, to shove, to breathe, to squat on the bed and bear down, nothing worked.  And now the girl had become hysterical, thinking this unbearable pain could never be dislodged from her unmentionable parts.

The girl’s mother, Old Mrs Flynn – as distinct from the younger Mrs Flynns who were married to her older boys – was agitated, as she went from room to room trying to distract herself from the screams and curses of her daughter.

Several of Neeve’s older brothers and sisters, along with a couple of aunts, sat around the big room to the left of the front door, waiting for the event to be over, so they could get on with their lives.  All the younger children were upstairs, under orders to go to sleep – but how could they with such a racket going on downstairs?

Nurse Sweeny had prepared a concoction of herbs, and forced the girl to drink it.  This was followed by wild evacuations of the bowels, for which no advanced planning had been made, and then by much urination, but the head of the baby remained intractably, if visibly, lodged in the poor girl’s dilated uterus.

Old Nurse Sweeny went to the next room and talked to Old Mrs Flynn, and tried to persuade her that a doctor would have to be called, as they had exhausted all their know-how, and were at their wit’s end.  It looked like Neeve and the baby might die, if a doctor was not called urgently.

But Old Mrs Flynn shook her head and pushed the nurse away, insisting, regrettably, that she definitely could not, under any circumstance, afford to pay a doctor.

~~~

  1. An innocent goat…

The next few hours were a nightmare for everybody.  All the children who were in bed upstairs were distressed by the wild screaming.  The girl’s husband, Owen, was in shock, sitting by the fire staring into ash and embers.

Now Neeve just wailed, weakly, from time to time, like a dying animal; and then fell into brief unconsciousness.  Wailed and cried.  Sobbed.  Temporary silence.  Then she would rouse up and bash her head against the headboard and shout, Jazis, Jazis, Jazis Christ! Will somebody kill me, please!

Somewhere after two o’clock in the morning, the goat, tied up in the barn, next to the delivery room, began to respond to Neeve’s screams with its own bleats.

The goat-bleating was unnerving everybody, and Old Mrs Flynn paced up and down, brushing the tangle of fuzzy grey hair out of her eyes.  She was not a woman who knew much about self-restraint.

“Mother of God”, she intoned, after the goat had bleated more than a dozen times, in tandem with Neeve’s screams.  “I’ll kill that goat if it doesn’t stop!”  Her wrinkled face, like an ancient Native American who had been dehydrated for a decade, was more tense and angry than normal, which was saying something.

But the goat was nowhere near finished, and continued to bleat and blah, every time the girl cried out.

Finally, Old Mrs Flynn lost control, picked up a big, thick tree-branch from the pile of firewood by the open fire; went out, slamming the door behind her; yanked open the creaking barn door and obviously struck the goat a heavy blow.  Instead of quieting the beast, this had the effect of producing a wild shriek, following which Neeve began to cry, “Oh God help me!  God help me!  God help me!”

The goat screamed; the stick thudded again and again; the girl cried out; the goat screamed; the stick thudded, over and over and over.

Finally, silence reigned, inside and outside the house. An uncomfortable silence of a type the children of this family knew in their bones.

Old Mrs Flynn re-entered the house and chased some children off the stairs – children who had been attracted by the commotion and come down to see what the unholy row was about.  She followed them upstairs and screamed at the kids who were talking loudly among themselves about what was going on.  The big, blood-stained stick whacked the mattress through the blankets, rags and coats which covered them.  Unlike the unfortunate goat, however, the kids knew to deliver immediate obedience and silence.  They did not wish to die.  One strike on the bedclothes and silence reigned.

An uncomfortable peace descended upon the house, broken only by Neeve’s occasional returns to consciousness, during which she cried and screamed, and pleaded for a merciful death!

~~~

  1. The god of small mercies…

At precisely four o’clock, in the dead of night – according to Old Nurse Sweeny, who had been sleeping on and off by the delivery bed – an angel of the lord arrived and pulled the child effortlessly from the woman’s womb, sliding it gently onto the bloody, wet, and soiled sheets of the bed.

It was a miracle, they all agreed, as the more energetic ones who had stayed up spilled into the room.  What a big head, they all agreed.  Nobody had ever seen such a big head on a new-born baby, and especially a baby with such a small, skinny body.

The midwives washed and dried the distraught Neeve, as she sobbed and moaned.  Then they washed the baby, and wrapped it in a new towel.  Slowly they approached the exhausted mother, and Old Nurse Sweeny began to move the baby towards her, for Neeve to take.  Suddenly, without warning, Neeve’s left arm began to arc upwards from her chest, and her big flat hand assumed the slapping position, as she took aim at the baby’s little body.  Nurse Sweeny pulled the baby back in the nick of time, and Neeve’s big flat hand arced downwards and hit the floorboards with a thud.

“Take that animal away from me!” Neeve bellowed; a look of black hatred on her contorted face.  “Get it out!  Get rid of it!  Kill it! Get it out of this room!”

Having exhausted herself with this demonstration of rejection and disgust, Neeve fell back on the pillows, closed her tearful eyes, and rubbed the wet hair off her face as she fell into a deep sleep.

Old Nurse Sweeny took the baby out of the room, and sent for a wet nurse to provide it with some breast milk.

As a result, I escaped certain death, in those first few moments of my life on earth!

~~~

Interlude

Let me give you a rest break here.  That was a difficult birth; and as I’ve said before, I am not a sadist; and I do not wish to overload you with distress.

So let us take a break by noting that, just as the Cullen boys decided it was none of their business, and moved on up the hill, a strange swishing noise announced the arrival of a ring of white cloud, about four feet in diameter, which inserted itself through the wall of the right hand room, like a periscope seeking information from beyond.

It is said that there was some UFO activity around the cottage that night, and that this had been going on for some time.  Some have even suggested that aliens were observing the Flynn farm.

“How likely is that?” scoffed old Sam Oliver.  “There must be more interesting parts of the cosmos that need investigating than old Mrs Flynn’s rundown farm”.

His small crowd of cronies laughed heartily.

~~~

  1. A strange visitation…

A circle of wispy cloud, about four feet across, had inserted itself through the wall of the right-hand room, hours before the birth occurred.

Two strange-looking aliens are peering into the room at the various goings on.

“This doesn’t look very hopeful”, says the big yellow one – identified as Inspector Sappakawa.  His face looks like a cross between a dog and a frog.  His body is more humanoid; six feet tall, and about 150 pounds from webbed hands to webbed feet.

“They certainly don’t behave like advanced life-forms, right enough”, says Kapatain Suttee Mala. 

Suttee Mala is a little, blue, furry creature, with three fingers on each hand, three eyes, including one in the middle of his forehead, and a little ball of orange, frizzy hair in the middle of his head, about the size of a tennis ball. He’s Sappakawa’s research assistant, and not a particularly helpful one.

“That’s not really the problem”, says Sappakawa. “They don’t have to be advanced.  They just have to provide us with a way into understanding them, and I’m not sure we have enough to go on here”.

“So that’s the end of our mission then”, says Suttee Mala.

“Why would you say that?” asks the inspector. 

“Well.  We got nowhere in the place south of Berlin, after observing the Baumgärtner family for four trimastruls[ii].  We got nowhere in the place west of Paris.  We flopped in the village north of Madrid; and in the hamlet east of London.  And here we are, south of Dublin, and it’s not looking good, as you say!”

Sappakawa rolled his eyes in despair.  At least Suttee Mala has kept him company for the past four years – as they sit, day after day, in a spaceship in the outer Balaffian asteroid belt, staring at an invasive viewing screen.  From Berlin to Wicklow, Suttee Mala has kept him company; though the quality of that company leaves much to be desired.

“Get Professor Valises on the turling portette”, said Sappakawa, crossly.

Suttee Mala walks across the room and sits in front of the big komputa screen, and connects some plugs and sockets on a control panel.  Then he turns some knobs, and pulls a couple of levers. The screen hums and buzzes, and an older blue, furry face appears on the screen.

“Valises”, says this older, blue man, with long white hair like a judge’s wig.

“Professoré!” says Suttee Mala.  “Inspector Sappakawa wishes to confer with you”.

“Connect us!” says the professor.

The screen flickers and splits in two.  The yellow dog-frog face of Inspector Sappakawa appears alongside the little blue professor with the three piercing eyes.

“Hail, professor”, says the inspector. 

“Hail”, says the professor.  “What news?”

“It’s almost as bad as London, but not quite!”

“So tell me the good news”, says the professor.

“A baby boy has just been born into a very violent family.  The mother tried to knock him from the midwife’s arms, and she has totally rejected him.  He’s been given to a wet nurse to take care of him, and it’s not clear if his mother will ever accept him.”

“And that’s the good news?!” says the professor, shocked.

“Well, here’s my thinking”, says Sappakawa.  “If he is rejected he may live or die.  If he dies, our mission here is over.  I will feel obliged to quit.  But if he lives, we have two possibilities.  One: He may be adopted by the wet nurse, or somebody else, in which case we can follow him to monitor whether his rejection at birth is registered by him; and if it is registered, did it function as a lifetime script, such as ‘Do not exist!’, or ‘Self-destruct: you are not wanted!’.”

“And the second possibility?” asks the impatient professor.

“Secondly: His mother may relent and take him back, and raise him.  If this happens, does she inflict the family violence upon him, and how does this affect his psychological journey?  Does she add to the script (‘do not exist’) any additional script injunctions which we can monitor”.

“This is not good, Inspector Sappakawa”, says the professor. “It’s beginning to look as if I will be retiring as a total failure, having spent more than one hundred earth years discovering absolutely nothing about any psychological principle whatsoever!”

“I’m so sorry, Professoré”, says Sappakawa. “I will redouble my efforts.  I will do my best for you.  I promise!”

The screen goes blank.  The professor has pulled a cable out of a socket on his own desk.  He is feeling dejected and annoyed by the ongoing frustrations, and the apparent failure of his mission.

~~~

  1. One year later…

Inspector Sappakawa continues to monitor the situation with the O’Beeve family.  He sends regular reports to Professor Valises, in which he tries to sound as positive and hopeful as he can.  He reports on the following developments:

Neeve, Owen and Caitlin return to their farm and get on with their lives as before.  They leave Daniel with Neeve’s sister, Tara.  Tara is married to Terry O’Leary, the blacksmith in Crumble, and Neeve intends for Daniel to be kept by Tara and Terry.

However, three months later, Neeve experiences a deep, postnatal depression, and the doctor tells her it’s probably grief at the loss of her son.  After several days struggling with this idea, Neeve decides she wants Daniel back; goes to her sister Tara with this news; there’s a big fight, and Neeve has to snatch Daniel and run with him to the pony and trap in which Owen is waiting, and Owen has to wrestle with Tara to prevent her grabbing Daniel out of Neeve’s hands.

Owen loses the farm; has to work for a mad landlord who bullwhips him. He then finds work in the city as a gardener; and so, when Daniel is nine months old, the family moves to Cocklestown, on the fringes of Dublin city.

When Daniel is twelve months old, Inspector Sappakawa spots something really interesting; reports it to Professor Valises; and professor Valises writes a new research proposal.

~~~

Just when Professor Valises thinks his career is over – depressing and dis-appointing him – he gets the call that tells him his project on Planet 3EX771 (or Earth) has been approved.  Quite suddenly, he’s got a credible research plan; and a reasonable chance of making a significant contribution to the Intergalactic Federation’s understanding of human psychology:

Professor Nuveen Valises rubs his little blue face with his multidextrous, three-fingered hands, and stares at the folder on his little desk.  He’s coming to the end of a one-hundred hour shift, and he’s feeling tired but excited.  Outside the window of his intergalactic exploration starship, two smaller ships are approaching.  These will be the two psychologists who had been assigned to his new project.

He presses the button on his chest which reverses his wheels, and then turns the knob which swivels him around to face the komputa screen behind him.  He does not think of himself as being wheelchair bound, because his wheels had been fitted as prostheses when he had his unfortunate accident during the final year of his doctoral research on the neuronal structures of the Koblar people from the planet Abalasina. (He hadn’t realized that the gas they were pumping was highly explosive, and he created a spark by striking two rocks together!)

For most of his career, he’s been researching the brain structures of all of the different sub-species of homo pulvexis, pove ligarto, and cabasis ovinus. These were the only kinds of sentient beings with enlarged brains in the known universe – until recently, when Homo sapiens were discovered.  And the only paltry thing that he had ever been able to demonstrate, in his entire post-doctoral research career, is that all of the advanced sentient beings in the known universe can be divided into two types: those whose whole life is dictated by their genes, hormones, and other chemicals, which cannot be altered by environmental factors; and those whose whole life is dictated by the culture into which they are born, which cannot be predicted from their genes, hormones and electro-chemical analysis.

But now, in his one hundred and fiftieth year, just at the point where he was due to retire, a disappointed member of the Klimmantz race, he was suddenly back in business.  His chief research assistant, Kalata, had been experimenting with a directable wormhole technology, and she had accidentally focussed in upon a strange blue-green planet in the Nove quadrant of the Palatine galaxy.  She referred some of her observations, of life on Planet 3EX771, to Professor Valises, who quickly concluded that something very strange was happening on this planet.  Against all expectations, it seemed that the environment was shaping the genes of the subjects they observed.  That genes and environment interacted in completely unpredictable ways.

This discovery led Professor Valises to write a research proposal, which resulted in Inspector Sappakawa and his assistant, Suttee Mala, being sent to planet 3EX771 (Earth), to try to firm up a research proposal, which would be directed by the Professoré, supported by a small team of psychologists.

~~~

The two approaching spaceships have now disappeared from his view, and the professor can hear the great hisses of gas discharged by the docking process, fifteen stories above his head.  He is so excited it feels as if the seven-chamber mechanical pump in his chest will burst with glee.

~~~

  1. The first meeting of the team…

Professor Valises wheels himself up to his desk.

Opposite him sit the two psychologists assigned to his new and exciting project on Planet 3EX771. 

The first is a female, and her name is Dr Kabitza Kala, from the planet Zupulus.  She wears a silver foil jumpsuit, with black insignia. She is 33 years old, a graduate of one of the best psychology programs on Zupulus, and renowned for her diligent post-doctoral observational studies of the Pitmios people from the Sparsee asteroid belt.  She has the typical Zupulian head-shape; like a cross between a lizard and a sheep; green, wrinkly skin, with little nobbles of yellow fur on the top of her head, between her up-pointing ears.  Her eyes are watchful and intelligent; and she has a pleasant smile.

The second is Ober-Kolonel Mitta Balaga, from the planet Rosdinat.  He is 79 years old, and just about halfway through his career. He’s dressed in a green military tunic with rows of medals and badges; and black leather trousers and black leather boots. He has been assigned by the Ministry of Social Regulation.  His involvement is mandated by the governments of those Federation members who live on planets where life is dictated by the environment.  Military control of their environment ensures peaceful existence for the people.  Mitta-Balaga has a doctorate in military uses of social psychology.  He has the cobalt blue skin of the peoples of the third quadrant, of a similar hue to Professor Valises, but Mitta-Balaga is from the giant-like Stuarmint race, with dolphin-smooth skin; while Prof Valises is from the diminutive Klimmantz race, with its equally cobalt blue skin which is more like teddy-bear fur.  Mitta-Balaga’s head is like a cross between a blue fox and a dolphin, though without the protruding snout; more flattened.  But his ears are like typical fox ears.

~~~

“Welcome to the start of an exciting project”, says the professor, greeting his high-powered new associates.  He smiles engagingly at them, using two of his eyes, while his third eye, in his blue furry forehead, is scanning their curriculum vitae, which lie on the little desk before him.

“I have been assigned to lead this mission,” he continues, “which I hope and believe could result in a major breakthrough in our understanding of those cultures derived from what we think of as homo sapiens. I have my own idea what we may learn from studying these 3EX771 people”, he continues, excitedly, “but I think we will have our job cut out to make sense of this new, indeterminate interaction of social pressures and body-mind materials: including genes, hormones, and elfa badalla. And part of our mission is to determine to what degree these people may be governed by non-conscious life scripts”. 

For a moment, the professor looked confused; disoriented.  Then he recovered himself, and said: “I’m assuming, of course, that they do have some elfa badalla!”

~~~

Interjection:

Was it just a dream?  Or a daydream? A small boy… crawling on the ground…

The curious-looking boy, who would turn out to be also a curious boy, crawled out from under one thousand years of ash and debris caused by the crushing of his people under a regime of intense exploitation and abuse.

He had some questions to ask.  He wanted to know how this could have happened.  How a small number of cruel and wealthy individuals could completely and utterly dominate the mass of the people. 

He wanted to know how justice had been disregarded and dumped.  How the concept of fairness had been suppressed.  He wanted answers, but he didn’t know where to begin.

~~~

  1. Emotions and small boys…

Emotions are like a far distant continent to many boys, especially boys with an extreme male brain, which I think I had at the beginning of my life.  Over the years I have migrated considerably towards the centre ground, between the extreme male and the extreme female brain.

~~~

In writing my autobiography, I had to use various techniques to get hold of some of the earliest memories.  And some of the emotions were very strange and convoluted and painful.  Therefore, I had to find ways to approach that pain which would allow me to grasp it and communicate it.

I was like a messenger without a language until I was given an image, in therapy work with Athena, about my childhood – a strange phenomenon: a little blue bear.  I began to work with the idea of this Blue Bear, and to see where and how it blended with my feelings and sensations.  The nature and function of the little blue bear is not at all clear to me, even now, six years after writing this part of my autobiography.  I also do not understand what the little white goat is all about.  It emerged in a dream, and seems to have a life of its own.  Even the sound – ‘goat’ – has an activating effect upon my nervous system.  As if I was somehow related to ‘goat-ness’: or wired up to feel an affinity with goats.

…end of extract!

 

~~~

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~~~

Footnotes

[i] Sophie Hanna (2015) The Monogram Murders – The new Hercule Poirot Mystery.  London: Harper.  Page 191.

[ii] An Intergalactic Federation ‘trimastrul’ is roughly equal to 3.25 Earth months; so four trimastruls is equal to 13 months; and 13 months is the standard accounting period for research projects.

~~~

Metal Dog – Long Road Home, by Dr Jim Byrne

 

~~~

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~~~

POSTSCRIPT BY JIM BYRNE

Full-cover4.JPG

Introduction
front-cover7Suppose you were a member of a race of advanced, human-like beings, in a remote region of our galaxy, and you knew that your home planet was going to explode tomorrow, and that there was a spaceship leaving for Earth which had one place left on it for a child of yours who would survive and grow up and reproduce on planet Earth.  And suppose you had a little daughter, aged six months, who had a chance to go on that spaceship, and you had a choice of three different families who would adopt her, on planet Earth.  Would you not be very particular about which family she went to?

If you are wise, and caring, and reasonably well informed, you would want her to go to the best, most caring, and most moral, most loving, and most well-provisioned family possible.

Isn’t that true?

And the reason you would want that outcome is this: At some level you know that childhood experiences mark us indelibly for the whole of the rest of our lives.

If your little daughter was to have a set of negative, or traumatic experiences growing up, that would disadvantage her, most likely for the whole of the rest of her life – unless she worked very hard to overcome her difficulties, including going into therapy.  But the marks would always be there, even if some of the distortion of her personality is healed, or corrected; and even if much of the pain is relieved.

Early childhood experience is formative.  It shapes our personalities, and our life possibilities.

jim-portrait-003bWe are born into a world in which a story, or mythology, is already being discussed, and taught, and reinforced.  We learn to see ourselves through the lenses provided by that story or mythology.  And if those lenses tell us that we have to accept a tiny space in the world, a small role, with little personal power, and few resources, and no right to think big, or to create a vision of a better tomorrow, then we are doomed to live that life-script – unless and until we wake up.

But waking is just be the beginning. We then have to struggle against our conditioning; to insist that we will not walk the road we have been thrown onto; that we will hold out for a better path, which leads to a better destination.  And that kind of ‘holding out’ requires a lot of courage; vision; determination; self-confidence; grit; and high frustration tolerance.

This is why the circumstances of our birth are so very important, and why every moral government should work diligently to ensure increasingly equal birth circumstances for all the children for whom they are responsible.  All the children of all social groups.

To ignore this need for an equal start in life is to doom the majority of children to a life of suffering and distortion and deprivation.

~~~

Background

I (Jim Byrne) was born into circumstances of extreme economic and cultural deprivation. I was subjected to ‘an educational process’ which was designed to prevent me from ever being able to think for myself.  I was indoctrinated into a system of sexual repression and class stratification which is anti-human.  And I was so confused about the ‘nature of reality’ that it took me decades to make sense of myself and my life.

I have now written the story of the first 39 years of my life, which is in the form of an autobiographical novel (or revised personal mythology), informed by various strands of psychology and philosophy.

Like most humans, I began this project with a problem.  We tend to repress all of our difficult memories out of conscious awareness.  And it is very difficult to dig them up and piece them together again.  This process is painful, but it is also curative.  Non-conscious memories tend to control our current moods, emotions and behaviours.  Once we make them conscious, we can digest them, reform them, and transcend them!

So I wrote the story of my humble origins in rural Ireland; the problem of being a poor, country boy (or virtual ‘hillbilly’) in a city school; the story of my (dysfunctional) relationship with my mother (and father); the story of my poor relationship with my older sister; my story of early working life; political involvement; military service; overseas work experience; love triangles; relationship breakups; mental confusion; stress management problems; and on and on.  I had to work very hard to access all those repressed memories; and to glue them together with bits of creative imagination; dream sequences; inferences; guesswork; and extrapolation from psychological theories and philosophical insights.

Apart from being my (very helpful, therapeutic, and self-healing) personal mythology, it is also an engaging story of a journey through life which is unlike any that I have ever encountered in novels, movies or TV dramas.  It is a unique kind of experience.  I hope you will give it a try, and that you enjoy it.

~~~

Why bother reading this story?

People who have read earlier versions of this text have found it to be informative, educational, entertaining and inspiring.

It is also a good model for other people to follow in learning how to tackle the problem of how to write their own autobiography, for therapeutic or artistic purposes.

And, to the degree that you can identify with the main character, my alter ego – Daniel O’Beeve – you might also get in touch with some of your own buried grief and anger and stunted growth, and digest it, complete it, and transcend it!

 

~~~

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~~~