Jim Byrne’s Autobiographical Novel

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

Copyright (c), Jim Byrne, 2016-2018

Can a badly crushed human mind be restored through ‘automatic resetting’?

Not according to Earth psychology.  But Professor Valises, a little blue, furry psychologist from the Klimmantz race, has discovered an ectoplasmic complement of DNA, called elfa badalla, which can store the history and potentials of ancient ancestral models; and this can be substituted for DNA in an existential crisis of extreme proportions.

front-cover7Elfa badalla is the only hope for Daniel O’Beeve, the little Earthling who is being studied by Professor Valises’ intergalactic research team.  The Professor cannot intervene in Daniel’s life.  He just watches and keeps records.  And we get to see how Daniel engages with ancestral myths and psychosocial challenges, as he heads off into an uncertain future.  This is the story of a crushed little Irish boy, from a desensitized family, which emerged from a virtually dehumanized clan, which had been in a form of bondage since 1014.

Daniel’s wounds include physical cowardice; insecure attachment to others; lack of emotional intelligence; paranoid personality adaptation; lack of social skill; and virtual autism.  But he has something pushing him forward; perhaps even tugging him along; resisting the undertow of his history; and drawing him out onto a strange and lonely road to a ‘home’ he has never known… He does not have a name for it, but Professor Valises calls it ‘hope’!

Metal Dog – Long Road Home is the story of a real human being in a real social tragedy.  It has to be read to be believed! It’s available at Amazon outlets, all over the world:

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~~~

Extract from Notebook No. 81:

Copyright (c), Jim Byrne, 2018

~~~

My name is Daniel – Danny – Dan – depending on the time of day, or month, or year; or who you are; or what is going on in my life.

My father was Owen O’Beeve, a physically small, crushed, Irish peasant farmer.

In terms of Chinese astrology, I was born in the Year of the Dog, at the end of the Second World War; in a tiny village in rural Ireland.  To be precise, I was born a Metal Dog.  And the Metal Dog is both untrusting in others, and sometimes actively distrustful of them, by nature; but also extremely persistent in pursuing goals.

My mother rejected me at birth; and that set me on a very troubled trajectory through my little life.  I was thereafter even less trusting than the average Metal Dog.

My father lost his land when I was one year old.  He was robbed by the local bank, who essentially stole his land for their own profit!

He had to go to work, as a farm hand, for a vicious landlord, who bullwhipped him.  My father could not fight back, so he passed this cruelty on to his children, by whipping us for the least transgression of his rigid Catholic rules.

I never achieved a sense of trust in my parents; I had an avoidant attachment style in all potential relationships, with neighbours, relatives, school ‘peers’ ( I had no peers!); and I proved to have a passive-avoidant personality which marked my adult life.

In other words, I was a royal screwball!  A complete loner.  Autistic, emotionally unintelligent, and lost in a dark, emotional swamp in the bowels of my mind.

For me, every day looked bleak, and life seemed to be an imposition, an endurance race; which I did not think I could ever complete!

What are the chances of a royal screwball like me finding a path through life which is happy, healthy and enjoyable; productive; and constructive?  Not very high, I hear you say.  And you’re right.

But I got a break.  I found a way – in theory – to weave a reasonable life for myself out of the bits and scraps that life threw to me.  Because I was a Metal Dog, I worked diligently to build a bridge out of the hell into which I had been born.

But what did I have to build it with? Not much, at first, except my imagination; and my persistence.

But I got two big breaks:

Firstly, I was chosen – strangely, insanely – by an intergalactic research team, led by a Professor Valises, to be the subject of their study of human emotional responsiveness to social shaping.

Secondly, I had some strange dreams, involving various archetypal characters – like the little blue bear; the little white goat; the curious boy; the tall woman; and Sheikh Exal Rambini.

I took those strange elements, and, like a carpet -weaving apprentice who has not had a mentor, I began to patch it all together to see if I could build a bridge to a saner world.  Did I make it?  Only you can judge!

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~~~

Extract from Notebook No. 73: The psychology of autobiographical writing…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, February 2018

~~~

Humans are feeling beings, who live inside of socially agreed stories.  We are born sensitive and vulnerable.  If we are unlucky, we become calloused and incapable of feeling.  I have somehow recaptured my ability to feel; and I explore that in my writing.  Here is an example:

Further insights into the life of Daniel O’Beeve…

Awakening before dawn, I slip out of my warm bed into a cold, dark bedroom, leaving my wife sleeping quietly. I have the trite thought in mind – which I sometimes have uttered – that ‘writers are people who write’.  But that is clearly wrong, or so it seems to me this morning – this middle of the night.  Writers, it now seems, are people who are moved to write – obliged to write – have no choice but to write.  It is a compulsion, like the urge to eat when hungry, or sleep when tired.  The urge comes from nowhere, or nowhere conscious, and overpowers us.  For the forces that move us are far more powerful than are we.  In the bathroom, the cold water on my hands drags up a memory of childhood – and not a happy one.  I flinch backwards from the tap.

Somewhere across the road, above the treeline, near the twin barns, a screech is heard.  An owl?  A small rodent announcing its capture in the claws of a predator?  Life is full of surprises!

These forces arise within us, insisting that they be allowed to find a voice through us – through our existence; our journey; and our story about that journey. My feet seem to glide across the bathroom lino, as if by magic – like a water boatman – a tiny insect – skimming the cool surface of a still pond.

~~~

Sometimes we stumble across a line of prose or poetry in our heads, which moves us to tears.  It comes through us, but not from us – like a child loaned to us by life, for sixteen years, only to be snatched away again and handed to the world beyond our doors.

In the kitchen, I find a pen and some paper.  A powerful force has seized my heart, and obliged me to write the story of my strange little life.  But the form in which the story arises within me makes it bigger and more important than the life of one little country boy – Daniel O’Beeve – who began his social existence, outside his repressive family home, in a forbidding little school on the outskirts of Dublin city, in the autumn of 1949.

Sometimes we gag on a word or phrase which carries so much anguish that we dare not utter it, even on paper.  We step back into an ordinary state of mind and refuse to serve the muses, whose motives we never understand.  Fragments of disturbing dream states hang around me like the rags of a raddled tramp.

This is the story of The Outsider – the human reject – lost in a sea of indifference.  This is the human tragedy of loveless existence, seeking salvation on the public stage. Like a mendicant sinner, wearing sackcloth and ashes, I stand by the huge doorway of a medieval church, at the very heart of a complacent world, longing to be spotted as the pure golden soul of the human spirit.  Up above the tree line, a huge luminous moon hangs low above the horizon.  A solitary truck splashes along the main road on a journey about which I know nothing.  A drunken couple are heard off in the distance, making their way home, perhaps from a party.

People come and go, slipping past me as though I did not exist; sleep-walking through their often pointless and aimless lives; seeking certainty and security in a world that has the long-term viability of a soap bubble.

~~~

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~~~

Childhood is a nightmare, and most people are born into a world in which the ‘deck’ is stacked against them (to use a card game analogy).  Some people are more damaged by their formative experiences than others, and the question is, how can they recover from those kinds of early disadvantages.

This story follows the central character – Daniel O’Beeve – for a period of forty years – from a horrible beginning, through some floundering attempts to find a road out of hell.  Here is a brief extract from around the age of ten or eleven years (though he was more like a seven year old, in terms of his autism and lack of social or emotional intelligence).

Daniel’s family were evicted from their home by the Little Sisters of Mercy (Yes!) and had to beg for rehousing by Dublin Corporation.  After some time, they were allocated to a rented corporation house in an under-construction housing estate – which become the biggest in Europe.  Because of this forced home move, they also had to change schools.  Daniel narrates his own life experience, like this:

5. Changing schools…

Caitlin and I and the younger children could no longer go to the school in Cocklestown, because we no longer lived there. We were split up, allocated to different schools. Owen and Neeve had to apply for Caitlin and me to go to Black Abbot National School, in Dublin city, at the end of a long bus journey. The younger children were to go to a brand new school that had just opened in Wattling Town – the Robin’s Nest Junior School – a few roads from our new corporation house.

The Black Abbot National School was split in two: the boys’ school, where I would go, and the girls’ school, for Caitlin. My school had a reputation for mostly big, angry male teachers, including the head teacher. The Robin’s Nest Junior School, and Caitlin’s school, were said to have mainly nice, gentle women teachers, including the head teacher. Caitlin, however, did not agree.

~~~

It took until the middle of October to get all the school arrangements made, and then Caitlin and I had to be taken by Neeve to the bus stop for the Black Abbot School buses, which stopped four roads from where we now lived.

There was an unruly queue of boys, and a more orderly queue of girls, when we arrived at the bus stop, and Neeve handed both of us two pence each to pay our return fares, saying, “You’ll have to find your own way to this stop tomorrow morning. Do you think you can do that?”

She asked Caitlin this question, because she was the oldest. “Yes,” said Caitlin.

Neeve then stood well back from the bus queues, with the younger children in the pram and on it, and standing by it, holding one side, as usual.

“Make sure you keep your tickets for the return journey,” she called to us, as we made our ways to our separate queues.

A moment later I turned to look at Neeve, and saw her moving away from me, pushing the big carriage pram back home. It was too early for her to take the younger children to their new school. My body temperature dropped to freezing, and my feet began to tingle strangely. I was all alone.

It was like joining a zoo. All kinds of little furry animals jostled each other on the bus queue and forced their way on to the back platform of the bus. The conductor, a small, grey-haired man, was struggling to issue tickets as quickly as children handed him their two pence. But some kids were trying to distract him so their friends could ‘bunk on’, or sneak on behind the conductor, without paying.

Once on the bus there was a deafening noise of children shouting and squabbling and screaming at each other, and yelling out of the bus windows. “Hey, poker hole” was what many of them seemed to be shouting, at somebody, or anybody, or nobody, outside. I couldn’t imagine what that meant. Poker hole? Months later I realized they were saying ‘Hey, Pogue ma hone’, which is Irish Gaelic meaning, ‘Hey, kiss my arse!’ The wild boys of Wattling Town were taking on the world.

I sat by a window and tried to make myself invisible. It wasn’t long before my pockets were searched, and my blue pencil stolen. I didn’t mind. It could have been worse.

The bus set off on its thirty-minute journey into the city, passing places I’d never seen before. This was my first bus journey without Neeve, and I was scared. It was probably only the second bus journey I’d taken in my whole life.

  1. Into the city…

We passed areas with big grey buildings, some like castles; some which were older and smaller and painted all kinds of bright colours, with signs over the top. Shops: roads and roads of shops. Then there was a picture house with shops on both sides, then a theatre with shops. The buildings went on and on, mile after mile.  Sometimes traffic lights loomed up here and there and stopped our progress for a while; and at others times we were stopped by a traffic-directing policeman with a big, white baton and white gloves. At other times, people ran across the road in front of the bus, slowing us down.

At one street corner a strange man, aged about forty or forty-five, jumped on to the platform of the bus, aimed his index finger into the lower cabin of the bus, and said, in a loud voice, “Bang-bang, bang-bang!”

All the children pointed their index fingers at him and shouted, “Bang-bang!”

The man then did the same with the upstairs cabin, and the children responded the same way.

During this process, some of the children said excitedly to each other, “Hey, it’s Bang-bang!  It really is Bang-bang!  We’ll be able to tell everyone we saw Bang-bang.”

At the next junction, Bang-bang jumped off and ran across the road to mount a bus going in the opposite direction.  Where was he going?  Why was he behaving like this?  I was very confused by his behaviour.

~~~

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~~~

Finally, after a long and frightening journey, we arrived in what seemed to be the centre of the city. There was a policeman on traffic-directing duty. He held up a big white baton to the bus driver, and our bus stopped. He waved his baton at traffic in the street to the right, and dozens of bicycles and cars and buses came flooding out.

While we were parked at this junction, some of the wild boys with their heads stuck out the windows began to chant, “Brass buttons, blue coat, you look like a nanny goat!”  They’d then laugh and begin the chant again. “Brass buttons, blue coat, you look like a nanny goat!”

This was obviously meant as an insult to the policeman on traffic duty. But policemen were supposed to be respected. I couldn’t understand why those boys were insulting the policeman.

After a while the policeman waved his baton at our bus driver and we turned right up a street – the sign said Charles Street – up past rows of shops and a big grey church, then we turned right into the grounds of the Black Abbot National School.

The school was in the background, a very high and wide red-brick building. Two big gates broke up the long front wall, like the gates at castle drawbridges, with metal strips nailed to them at various heights with big metal studs.

~~~

  1. A vision of hell…

Above one of those gates, engraved in a slab of stone, were the words: Girls’ Entrance. And above the other: Boys’ Entrance.

There were a few men in grey suits of different shapes and shades, and some women in dark overcoats, waiting for the buses to arrive. As the children piled off the buses, they were split into the girls’ and boys’ zones. A few big men directed the boys to go to the boys’ entrance. There was a little door in the right leaf of the big doors, called a wicket gate, and the first boy turned a knob and stepped inside. The others followed. There was a man standing outside the wicket gate, and one inside, perhaps to stop any boys escaping once they had gone in.

As I passed through this wicket gate, I saw that I was entering a huge concrete yard with walls on three sides, and a three-storey red-brick building on the left. (Years later, as I recalled this scene, it seemed more like a prison yard than an educational establishment).

The yard was full of perhaps two hundred boys aged eight to eleven, running in all directions, throwing balls at each other, kicking balls, playing marbles on the ground, fighting, and so on.

There were at least three serious fights going on, with boys milling around the fighters shouting, “Fight, fight, fight!” Some older boys were pushing smaller boys over and then running away. The ground was covered with a thin layer of water, some caused by rain, and some that was running out of the boys’ latrine building. Every time a boy ran across the yard, he threw up a spray of muddy water in his wake. I felt like I had entered hell.

~~~

The little blue bear was up on the roof, over in the corner, above several parked bikes. He was pressed up hard against the wall. His eyes were cast skywards. A metal band surrounded his waist, and held him fast to the wall. His arms were also inside the metal band. He had no room for movement.

~~~

I stood in a corner of the Black Abbot’s schoolyard and looked on in horror at the scene before my eyes. Boys were practising their cruelty on each other. They seemed insensitive to the pain they were causing. There were only three classes of boys: the bullies, the bullied, and those who vacillated between these two roles.

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~~~

  1. Resuming my ‘edjumacation’…

When I had been in this ‘playground’ for some time, bells began to clang. Men walked along open terraces, corridors, high up in the building, ringing handheld bells, and a very stern little man, with tufts of black hair sticking out in all directions, came into the playground clanging his brass bell in unison with the others.

Boys began to run in all directions, and to form into orderly lines, facing the school building. I didn’t know what to do, because it was my first day, even though it was the sixth week of the new school term. A man approached me and asked my name. I almost said Ma-ish-Ma-inger, but caught myself in time and said, “Daniel O’Beeve, sir.” He consulted a list and told me which line to join, and said to hurry up. I ran to the line and joined the end.

~~~

A teacher collected us and we marched up two flights of iron stairs, along a dusty and musty wooden corridor, with lots of little cracks and holes in the floor, and into a big, cold classroom. The landing floors and the classroom floors were the same: dusty, bare floorboards with big gaps here and there, like mouse holes. The boards creaked as we walked. The building seemed to be very old.

At the front of the class stood a man of medium height with a single tuft of grey hair in the middle of his head, which stuck up and forwards.  He was watching every boy as we entered, and he had a disgusted look on his face, which was very round, fat and pale. He was wearing a checked orange-and-brown tweed suit, and the most highly polished reddish-brown shoes I’d ever seen. They were so shiny they could be used by mice as shaving mirrors. His tie didn’t hang down but looked like the propeller of a spitfire. In the top left-hand corner of the long blackboard, at the front of the class, he had written his name in yellow chalk: Mr O’Bombula, MA.

“Sit down and shut up”, ordered O’Bombula.  “Silence, or I will begin to clatter the noise makers.  And you know it won’t be nice when I begin to clatter you, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir” chorused the boys.

He then began to read out all the boys’ names from the register, as they noisily unpacked their school bags, and loaded jotters and pencils and pens into their desks. I kept my schoolbag under my desk and watched for clues as to what to do. “Daniel O’Beeve?” said the teacher.

“On shoh!” I responded.

“What?” said the startled O’Bombula.

“On shoh!” I said, repeating the Gaelic announcement that I was present.

“Can’t you speak English?” he demanded, peering over the top of his reading glasses.

“Yes sir.”

“Then let me hear you say ‘Present’,” he commanded.

“Present, sir.”

“Just say ‘present’, O’Beeve. No need to call me sir every minute.”

Next, O’Bombula told us to stand up for morning prayers. We said one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be to the Father. We then made the sign of the cross on our upper bodies. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

“Remain standing,” roared O’Bombula, as he walked to a cupboard and opened it with one of a large number of keys he had on a big ring.

Mr O’Bombula then removed and unfurled a wide roll of white paper, which contained several pages on which he had written musical notes and words. The words were not in English. The heading was something like ‘Salve Regina’ (Hail Holy Queen). He hung this from the wide blackboard and turned to face the class. Then he produced a thin stick, tapped his desk, and held the stick and his left hand in line with where his whiskers would have ended if he’d had big whiskers. In fact his round face was clean shaven and, apart from his blue chin, very pale indeed.

He then hummed a note. “Mmmmmmmmm.”

As he swung his hands and the stick downwards, the boys began to sing. I had to join in as well as I could. Because the words were all foreign (Latin) I had to guess at how to pronounce them, and how the tune was supposed to go. Therefore I ran about one beat behind everybody else, and O’Bombula looked at me with obvious annoyance. The song meandered along, until it got to the line which included ‘Benedictum fructum ventris tui’, and some boys at the back of the class began to titter, and then, right on cue, their version came out as ‘Benedictum FUCK DEM ventris tui’. And at the words ‘fuck dem’, the volume of the singing went up hugely, as the wildest boys in the room put their hearts and souls into this very bad phrase. They sang the F-word with gusto. O’Bombula blushed at this point, but the singing continued to its cacophonous end. It seemed he was resigned to a certain degree of lack of control over the behaviour of his class.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-Men!”

~~~

…end of extract.

~~~

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~~~

A small, sensitive boy is born into a barren and cruel world.  His parents are far from ‘good enough’, because their parents were damaged by colonial occupation and social inequality, and gender inequality.  In the normal course of events, he will live a short, brutish life of disappointment, pain and drudgery.  His life will be pointless and unfulfilled.  He will serve as a means to an end for somebody who needs his ‘hands’ to make a profit…  But fate steps in… A strange accident of history knocks the kaleidoscope on which his destiny is written…

This is the story of Daniel O’Beeve.  A boy who should never have been heard of.  Who should have lived and died in the shadow of ‘his betters’.  But something went very badly wrong, from the point of view of the history makers…

~~~
Back-cover3.JPGA 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

~~~

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 

~~~

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.

~~~

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~~~

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.

~~~

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.

(But I do try to introduce some lighter moments to counterbalance the ‘grim reality’!)

~~~

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 at 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.

~~~

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~~~

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.

~~~

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~~~

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’! …

…end of extract…

~~~

New extract…

A legend of old Ireland…

…, 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.

…End of extract…

~~~

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~~~

(Bangkok, December 1978)

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.

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~~~

  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.

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~~~

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.

…End of extract…

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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.

…end of extract…

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~~~

  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.

…end of extract…

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~~~

  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!

~~~

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~~~

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”.

…end of extract…

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~~~

~~~

~~~

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 (Tee), 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.

~~~

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~~~

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.  Not to say moving!

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!  You might find a way to climb out of the vale of tears in which you have been stuck.

~~~

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~~~

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