“This isolation – it’s driving me up the wall…” So some seem to complain during this strange time of what’s called ‘Lockdown’ while others relish the opportunity to be free of the world and its crass stupidity. What makes the difference? Would I find myself halfway up a wall, I wonder, if I were stuck in a two-room flat with somebody I didn’t much like instead of being here surrounded by garden & roaring trees, with paths that disappear round corners, and a friend who cares for me?

Of course I know very well that it could all be a New World Order conspiracy to keep us all under lock & key and simultaneously reduce the surplus population while they finish off taking over the world, but the desperate, the criminal Right, Johnson aping the monster Churchill, those who make profits from the work of Wage Slaves, the plain ignorant egged on by the mad media, are all mounting a campaign to end the Lockdown. There are anti-lockdown parties & demonstrations attended by crazy fools who seem to want to prove their immunity, while to avoid the Plague – let’s not give it a fancy scientific name but call it what it is – a Global Plague – it strikes me that, it’s sound policy to keep one’s distance.

in the Co-op
steering clear of people
who steer clear of me

Though I have braved the Outside once or twice, I’ve hardly been beyond the gate at the top of the drive for seven or eight weeks – not even to look at the river. Even less than before, I do not know what day of the week it is – the artificial distinctions to do with time have completely ceased having their slender hold on me. With a bit of poking and shifting of stones the rock gardens are blooming nicely in the unaccustomed sun and all the surrounding trees, with May gales, are roaring into leaf. A bullfinch insists on making its single silly tweet, woodpigeons & chaffinches, egrets & herons, share our isolated space. The gulls go up the river at daybreak and back in the evening as they’ve done for thousands of years.

Today is the 6th day of May 2020. On this day in 1956 – sixty-four years ago – at this moment in the afternoon, I was on a train journey to Preston, Lancashire, to submit myself innocently without complaint, since it got me out of my uncongenial daily money task, to so-called ‘National Service’. Except for knowing that I had to keep ‘shit’ from going up my rifle barrel – a mysterious idea planted in me by John Manning who had started being a soldier before me (how could you possibly gets poos up your rifle?) I knew nothing about what was in store for me; it seemed like the start of a sort of holiday. During the course of the next two years I am quite certain that I did nothing for the Nation (an abstraction therefore meaningless anyway) but the experience did a great deal for me. There was an initial phase of marching, firing rifle & bren gun, and night manoeuvres during which you just had to become more of a machine than usual. Oh, where are you now, Corporal Fury? – who always pretended to live up to his name… “Pick those feet up or I’ll tear yer arm out and beat you to death with the soggy end!” Serjeant Cary will be long dead for certain and the buildings to the right of Fulwood Barracks square (for bashing) are demolished… After the first ten weeks, I entered into twenty months of what amounted paradoxically to glorious freedom, first at Wilton Park, near Beaconsfield then in Cove, Farnborough, Hampshire. Many men who underwent the experience of pretending to serve Queen & Country (abstractions – how they haunt the mind) found it a life-shattering time but I made it all up as a warm kind of story for myself. Invent the world before it has a chance to invent you – long-time principle…

Of course, up to the age of 18, the world had tried desperately to invent me and in some respects had succeeded; after all there I was that afternoon, sunny, just like today, on my willing way to join the Queen’s Military Machine – it was just something you did when you got past your eighteenth birthday. But I think that even then I had adopted the position of mere observer – as in a dream, it was all happening to somebody other than myself, indifferent onlooker, Having-escaped-drudgery-I, Going-on-a-train-journey-into the unknown-I, Being-committed-I, Feeling-detached-I, Being-absent-I, Having-a-small-sense-of-excitement-I, Reading-Wells’-Short-History-of-the-World-I, all overseen by what I would now call Meta-I – the ‘I’ that can slip back 64 years and pick up from where it left off with each & every memory.

Though the world carried on with its damned efforts to invent me afterwards (and succeeded in small but sometimes catastrophic ways – no getting away from it, old man) I did begin to build up a barrier against it in an other-than-conscious kind of way which has served me well ever since. For a start, coming to understand that the Military Machine is utterly absurd and life-irrelevant, I emerged from those two years a committed pacifist and shortly afterwards decided to be an anarcho-socialist; if somebody tells me what to do I might conform to the request but the result will always be different from what they imagined they’d intended. And, given the free time, I began to read in earnest.

I find it extraordinary that in this time of Global Plague reports suggest that people are only just discovering books! Discovering books! There’s a thing! I realised long ago that my dear dead friend Ed Percival’s description of me as a ‘chain reader’ had accurately defined me for fifty years: when I’m reading one book I’m already deciding what to read next.

The act of ‘Reading on a Summer Lawn’ has been an annual delight all that time; these last few weeks having been like summers of long ago (sunny from beginning to end) I’ve been doing just that, currently not having to think about an author to read next but just continuing to take a book from my large collection of JBPriestley’s works – novels, essays & reflections – which I have been storing up for years.

I’m currently reading Margin Released which is, JBP emphasises, not an autobiography but an account of fifty years focusing on his literary life from 1910 when he was 16 to 1960. There’s much wisdom that’s both so relevant to the world as it is now as well as to my own life that it keeps on prompting parallel thoughts:-

There are many parts of the world, far too many, where a square meal is a marvel; to people who have nothing a little of anything can seem a shining bonus; but when we have reached the level of living most of us know in the West, we should tell ourselves, defying the advertisers, that nobody is having the wonderful time we are encouraged to imagine. Even to those smiling couples for ever being served cocktails and canapés by air hostesses, life is just going on. We change its quality from within ourselves, not by going somewhere and buying something. But now we spend billions encouraging illusions and stoking up envy, and most of them would be better spent providing a square meal and a whole shirt on some other continent where want is real and needs no advertisement.

Still applies… When will people wake up? Imagine the plight of those stuck in refugee camps at this time. Unimaginable horror.

Perhaps the only advertisement that ever really fascinated me was one I saw during these … years; it was in a newspaper, quite small, plainly worded, without any suggestion of glamour, and it was for a forester. Do not ask me now why I thought then I could be happy as a forester.

JBP applied for a job as forester to escape the drudgery of working in a wool merchant office but didn’t get it. And the parallel for me? After quitting the Army, when I was passing the time being paid for being a Civil Servant in an Income Tax Office every day and hating it, I fancied a job in the Milk Marketing Board I saw advertised in the Eastern Daily Press – I saw myself whistling down country lanes early in the morning to collect milk churns from trailers parked at field gates, stopping to look at hills and woodland vistas, being Richard Jefferies, driving through little villages, intent on spending the rest of the day writing great poems after dumping the churns at some central collection point – but of course I couldn’t drive and had no intention of learning how to… End of an idle dream, one of many to come.

The first few pages into Margin Released reminded me of much to do with my own past, especially today when sixty-four years ago in Preston at around 4.30 in the afternoon on a similar sort of day I was carting the new me in a kitbag across Fulwood Barracks square to a dormitory that no longer exists except in my mind.

I didn’t know this at the time but it seems that Fulwood Barracks was the last and largest of a chain of barracks built in the North West in the wake of the Chartist riots of the 1830’s. They were obviously still afraid of a mob insurrection because they wouldn’t let me cycle round the square when I visited the place sometime in the early nineties and saw that the buildings on the right had gone. And the Loyal Regiment is no more.

The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) (until 1921 known as the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment) was a line infantry regiment of the British Army that was in existence from 1881 to 1970. In 1970, the regiment was amalgamated with the Lancashire Regiment to form the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment which was, in 2006, amalgamated with the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and the King’s Regiment (Liverpool and Manchester) to form the Duke of Lancaster Regiment (King’s, Lancashire and Border). (Wikipedia)

Me, being Loyal

So much of JBP’s life overlaps mine & so many of his ideas chime with me.

He left school early as I did – though most of my fellows seemed undeterred, it just didn’t seem possible that I could be a university student. It seemed as remote as Christminster was for Jude. Though I didn’t think it at the time, I was just a humble little learning machine; the headmaster, ‘Percy’ Rundle, thought otherwise and was disappointed when I left school, but my father, a humble fellow too, could only think that I should follow him into the Civil Service which I did till 1961, shifting to being a bank clerk of sorts till 1964. Strange decade that still haunts me.

Sometime in in the early 1970’s I saw PWRundle’s name in the Times Educational Supplement and wrote to him; he replied to say that he was glad I had ‘joined the ranks of the pedagogues…’

Like JBP, ‘…I have a reputation for energy & [what he calls] fertility: I have written a great deal because I have always had ideas for work to lure me on. Not that these ideas were good; many were indifferent, some terrible, but I have never been without them…’ But a rejection slip from Time & Tide when I was sixteen gave me the more or less permanent cast of mind that there was no point sending anything I wrote anywhere. With that attitude, even if I’d had his genius, I couldn’t possibly be the least bit like JBP who had enormous outward stickability. My own stickability is inwardly dedicated – I have always done things to suit myself. On the other hand, to the subjects I did like at Kingston Grammar School, like him, I brought ‘…a great deal that I discovered for myself outside school…’

JBP says he was ‘self-confident’. I don’t quite know what that means; did I have a state of mind that could be called that? I was not at all out-going; my mother invented me as ‘shy’, a label that dangled from me till I did a successful NLP reframe in 1991 – I should have taken full account of the moment when Mike Rustin described me as a ‘listener’ way back in the fifties! I always acted for myself, never thinking about consequences or ambition or anything like that. But I certainly was ‘confident’ that things just happened, you went from one thing to another – you could not possibly drift along in any other way. At the National Service Medical, thinking that it would be like going back to school and give me time to study for A Levels and a degree, I signed on for the Royal Army Education Corps without realising that it meant becoming a teacher but in eight splendid weeks in Wilton Park near Beaconsfield I was ‘trained’ to become a professional educator of sorts. My first practice lesson which I was given half-an-hour to plan was to teach ‘parts of speech’. I started by making a ‘speech’ – something like this: “Crikey! After eight weeks, I am quickly going to be what I think will be a good teacher and when I’ve finished talking in the way I’m going to you’ll find out why…” (interjection, preposition, pronoun, adverb, verb, adjective, noun, conjunction) Then I analysed the parts of my speech with reference to the labels and got the class to construct similar sentences for themselves; if I had to teach the same topic today I probably wouldn’t approach it much differently…

Accommodation was in warm & homely huts; I can’t remember where the teaching happened but I do remember the leafiness of the place that great summer of 1956 before I went to Farnborough.

It would have satisfied my usual feeling for the Spirit of Place if I’d known the history of Wilton Park when I was there. I have no recollection of it, but the house, known as the ‘White House’ because of its striking plastered exterior, was a fine Georgian Palladian mansion seven bays wide by three floors high built in 1779 by Josais Du Pré, a former Governor of Madras. It passed down through the Du Pré generations quietly sitting in the beautiful parkland I did know, till it was demolished in 1968 to be replaced by the tallest building in Buckinghamshire – a nasty15-storey War Officers’ accommodation block which I was horrified to see when I cycled there on some long journey in the 1990’s. It has in turn been demolished!

The War Office acquired Wilton Park before the War. Nissen huts were built for staff of other ranks. From 1943 high ranking prisoners, among them Marshall Messe, Field-Marshalls von Rundstedt, Busch and Rudolph Hess, were housed in a compound comprising low, flat-roofed brick and concrete cells.

At the end of 1945, what I knew as ‘Camp 300’ was taken over by the Foreign Office and became a centre for the ‘de-Nazification’ of Prisoners Of War.

Then there was ‘Camp 20’, a single storey building that after the war was named ‘Shean Block’ for some reason. It housed ‘IS9’ Military Intelligence School – for providing information to escapees and keeping tabs on important prisoners of war.

All WW2 buildings on the site have now been demolished.

When I was in Wilton Park for those few months which seemed a lifetime, it was always a little mystery why there was a Camp 20 (where they stored the rifles we might need in case of attack) and no camps 1-19 and why there was a Camp 300 (where they kept the rifle bolts carefully labelled to correspond with individual rifles) and no discernible Camps 21-299. In the event of an IRA attack which was deemed imminent somebody on guard duty was detailed to run to Camp 20 to get the rifles and match the bolts up to prepare them to fire at the enemy.

It’s all now an ‘Executive Housing Estate’. The builders said: ‘Wilton Park is set to become a highly desirable new residential destination’… Their vision for Wilton Park was to create ‘…a well-connected private estate set in a rural landscape, with a welcoming public park at its heart for the benefit of local residents and for those who choose to make their home in this remarkable location…’ They said it would be a ‘…traditional ‘English country estate’ with existing mature trees retained, open grassland and wildflower meadows providing an attractive and tranquil parkland…’ All that’s left of the past is a road called Dupre [no accent] Crescent.

Why have I bothered to research Wilton Park after all these years? Because whenever I go back down my time-line I see/hear/feel/smell/taste more or less exactly what I did in moments in my past. I walk the leafiness of Camp 300 for example back to the sleeping quarters among its trees. It causes a certain nostalgic dismay when I find that a place no longer exists in the way feel it should. I have noted that others are unable to locate the NOW of THEN so my obsession may seem somewhat crazy. Something in me is always stuck in past images waiting to develop in some way different from how things have in fact turned out. I often wonder what I’m going to be when I grow up.

Anyway, having accidentally risen quickly to the rank of Serjeant in the RAEC in Wilton Park, when I got to 9TRRE Southwood Camp, Cove, near (now itself a housing estate), I rubbed shoulders with people who imagined themselves to be in ‘authority’, one or two of whom I have described as ‘salt of the earth’ (just misguided) but some of them I discovered (objectively) to be complete idiots, though I would never have allowed myself to say so at the time or even think it. While early on I had chosen to be subservient to people I thought of as ‘in authority’, the army experience helped me at least to guard myself against subservience – and I continue to have what I regard as a healthy disrespect for anybody who sets themselves up as (let’s say) a ‘superior know-it-all’.

After the army, without thinking about it, without grasping the opportunity for a radical break, I drifted back into the drudgery of an Income Tax Office in Bermondsey, then Sutton, Surrey; the two years which should have released me into something completely different sailed away like some well-sealed floppy space vehicle into the beyond of Beyond. Then there were five years out of time.

However I did become something different; the ‘I’ that had no real inclination to make something definite out of life, just drifting, started to fancy the idea of being a full-time teacher. I never thought of myself as ‘having a career’ – one of the boxes people seem happy to dump themselves in to bolster a frail identity. But I came to identify myself as doing a bit of teaching from time to time and whenever Being-a-teacher-I came across what it regarded as a ‘good idea’ it was invaded by a virtual question of which it was not at all aware at the time – ‘how can I frame this or that idea in order to be able to teach it so it makes sense to other people?’ It has served me well.

JBPriestley says of his father who was a teacher ‘…whatever he knew – and he knew a lot – he had to teach…’ which was something JBP did in his own way; the BBC talks in WW2, lecturing tours in America and so on.

His father trained as a teacher in the 1880’s at a time when Education was seen as ‘…a prize, a jewel, not a modern convenience laid on like hot & cold water. He belonged to a generation that believed we could educate ourselves out of muddle & wretchedness & black despair into the sunlight forever…’ Ten years after I left school that’s how it was for me!

In 1964 I was lucky enough to go to James Graham College of Education in Farnley, half way between Leeds & Bradford, where I think the tutors still had JBP’s father’s view of things pedagogic. After readings from RSPeters, we were set tasks which were clearly designed to have us thinking about crucial questions like – Does education exist to fit people into society or to help them to change it? Of course I was firmly of the latter point of view; what other angle could there possibly be? I got good marks for my essay on the subject! Likewise for the one on the subject of the nature of The Educated Man (or Person as we’d say nowadays) which still says what I think now.

Now, of course, the site where I came into my own is a housing estate. Conversion to Housing Estates seems to have followed me around!

Writing around the same time as I was at James Graham, JBP says: ‘…Most of the demands for more & more education I have read these last few years do not suggest anybody is worrying about our civilisation and the sort of minds at work on it, but only about competing for bigger & cheaper bombs & rockets, faster jets, cars that have telephones and electric shoe cleaners…’ Maybe I was among the very last group of trainee teachers to be offered the scope to make up their own minds about the point of Education – certainly very few people with ‘power’ these days would want young teachers asking such stupid questions when it’s clear that Education is about preparing young people for working life – which they are hellbent on extending into life till you drop.

In the middle section of Margin Released, JBP has an account of his WW1 experience and narrow misses. On convalescence in Rutland he wrote ‘…everything that happened to me around that time was both absurd and dreamlike, not in any world I could take seriously…’ words that precisely described my ‘National Service’ two years! And my distraction from real life as a desk-tied quill-driver (as Conrad described office slavery). And it aptly describes Plague Lockdown time!

When Bertie, my cat, came in last night I said to him, “Had a good day then?”

He said, “Yes, thank you, Colin…”

I said, “What did you do?”

He said with a gruff voice that I can’t imitate, “I went for a walk round The Forest, poked around in the pond for a bit and then read one of your books…”

I said, “Was it a good book?”

He said, “Yes, it was quite mice…”

The dream I was I was in the middle of finished there. I woke up laughing at my own joke.

It is reported that people are having more dreams during Plaguetime…

16 thoughts on “PLAGUETIME 3 (RIATOP)

  1. This is a lovely tale for a what day is it morning.

    I know what day it isn’t which is Friday when I have to submit the FCA return for my husband who is still “a desk-tied quill-driver.” What a fantastic name for it, so much more polite than the one I apply to such activities.

    Anyway, back to your storey. In itself a distraction from the above. The above being something I probably should have stopped doing at least 7 years ago, but probably should never have been involved in at all.

    Anyway, back to your storey. By the way – I am with you over the idiotic stance that our “government” “led” by Boris de Pfeffel have taken, of course the R value will go up again and we’ll all have to start all over again. I have never in all my life, witnessed such callous and careless ineptitude. The assumption that we are all stupid children is abhorrent. There is phrase abroad which is Cummings Eugenics – we realise of course this is his way of solving the care “problem.” The “problem” is simply that they don’t care.

    Anyway, back to your storey. On may the 6th of May 64 years ago, I was 8 years old and happily roller skating around the green opposite our house in Oxford or else down the hill that was covered in deliciously smooth tarmac. Hardly anyone had a motor vehicle where I lived, and so it was safe to do that as it was for my Brother to hurtle down it in his trolley… When I wasn’t doing that or ballet lessons or piano lessons, I was going to school being taught by ex-forces teachers who became teachers because they could, because there was a shortage after the war, rather than because they had any passion for it. of felt it to be a calling. Colin you are so obviously a born teacher, and I am ever grateful for it. (even though we also recognise that you are lots else besides).

    Anyway, back to your storey.

    It fascinates me as to why or how, we might find ourselves attracted to certain people through their writing, when we have no chance of actually meeting them, which inevitably means that we construct a storey about them that suits us. Do we find things to have in common because we want in some way to be like them or to be thought of as like them (perhaps). Or perhaps it is that we find something kindred, something like us rather than the other way around, thereby affirming our own way of being.

    What is it that initially draws us in? does it happen with both fiction and non-fiction (if indeed there is a difference). Since non-fiction might be regarded as an invention of the authors mind – how is it that despite that, the inner workings of the author are none-the less revealed. I’m guessing that it will be how they use language that reveals them, the words, revealing the sort of vocabulary they can draw upon, how they use the words, the tone they use, which perhaps reveals they way they think, or the level and breadth of education they might have had (or not).

    Or is it that having been once drawn in by the writing, we go meta and find out “about” the author and are pleased when we find things we have in common, and having found things in common this sometimes leads us to feel somehow aligned, particularly with someone of note – why is it important to us to feel that, what is the purpose?

    I have no idea – well I do, but it’s only my idea of why, arrived at by looking in at me, so it may not apply to anyone else at all.

    With such a breadth of reading as you have exposed yourself to over your lifetime, there are patterns that emerge out of the effects of your reading, and other life experiences and they always comeback with the same underlying theme. A willingness, or drive to share your summations, combining this with that, with other people that they might also think about this and that and so contribute to your well of ideas.

    From where I sit, it is this you have in common with all the many people you quote from time to time, a thirst to share your opinions/knowledge/writing with other people. Yet not for your own ends, but in order to stimulate other people to think. Acting like an intellectual cattle prod.

    But still it fascinates me from where that originates, is it at your magnetic centre for instance? Meaning perhaps that more or less everything you share, involves “teaching” in some way, whether you intend it that way or not. Thank you – my own perspectives have been squeezed, moulded, expanded, extruded to become wider yet more focussed and more informed over the past number of years. (I use that phrase because I have lost track of when precisely our first interaction took place – even though I remember the actual verbal interaction).

    Anyway, back to your storey… well actually no – distraction and indulgence reigned in to return to the task of number crunching for “a desk-tied quill-driver.”

    Enjoy your reading on the lawn – although I do notice that it is actually in a directors chair – hee hee.

    Thanks once again.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pat and Colin – I’m so envious of the two of you, being able to recall with such precision where you were and what you were doing on the 6th of May, 1956!!! Other than knowing that I must have been alive (having been born in 1949), and that I must have been living with my family in a walk-up apartment in Brooklyn, New York, NY (as it was October 1956 when we moved into our own house in Queens, New York), I remember so few details about any of the events from my early years. What remains is mostly just a hazy blur of memory fragments 😦
    Thanks to you both for sharing your memories and your observations …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tom
      I was reminded of an exercise that is presented in the chapter The Art of Stalking amongst the pages of the book The Teachings of Don Carlos by Victor Sanchez. It suggested a recapitulation – rather a long process of remembering a list of events in your past, ‘special’ breathing exercises and then building yourself a wooden box… I did the remembering of the list of events sometime in the 1980’s. It is a useful way of constructing a timeline that maybe corresponds with Colin’s bubbles.
      1) select areas of your life 2) divide areas into elements 3) divide elements into stages 4) divide each stage into specific events
      Areas can be: houses in which I have lived, love relationships, my family, my friends, my work, educational establishments etc
      Areas give you a cross section through time – your entire existence without details ( I guess like you started to do)
      Elements within the areas: if you are looking at houses I have lived in begin with your current house and go back from there to your first house.
      Stages within an element: for example in the houses I have lived area take the one you are living in now and go back in time from this moment – writing a list sitting at this window, being confined to house, finished building the extension……. back to arriving in your present house for the first time (it is suggested that there should be between 5 and 10 stages). Then take the house before that and repeat doing the same until you arrive at the first house you lived in.
      Events within a stage: still using the example of the ‘houses area’ and using the stage ‘writing a list sitting in this window’ name the events from the first eg decide on format to write my list, read about recapitulation, write my response to Colin and Pat, read Colin’s blog entry, awoke from deep sleep.

      It is suggested that the list should form a square of 4 columns: Column 1 name of the area, 2 the elements of the area, 3 the stages of the elements, 4 the events that took place in each stage. It is also suggested that you should finish each column before going onto the next. It is an exercising in stalking not based on analysis but on direct observation – no speculation or reflection and including all painful or shameful facts.

      Thanks for bringing this to my mind I might repeat this myself!

      I remember last time I did it it really provoked memories that I had ‘forgotten about’.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment in such detail. Very considerate of you! While I’m not likely to undertake this exercise just now, perhaps I will someday in the future. I’ll remember to return here to consult your directions if/when I do. In the meantime, all good wishes for your own prospective repeating of the exercise.


      2. Glad you think it will be useful for you. I think it can be completed, with the suggested 5-10 entries, over a period of time as you make time for it. Thanks for the good wishes Simon Blundell

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Simon!
        I’ve done a quick sprint/saunter down the houses I know you’ve lived in or known about (including 62 Elmstead Gardens!) and when I arrive back in Malvern with all the good things from the past associated with them in my conceptual knapsack it feels like a really good journey.
        I’ve also been wandering back through all the gardens I’ve created out of bare patches of dust & mud – six of them since 1962 – thinking about all the earth & rocks I’ve shifted. Arriving back here I realise how they were all done as a kind of celebration of my father’s passion for gardening.

        It’s very useful to go back down a Time Line with the aim of seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/tasting whatever comes up in relation to a specific image or idea. All the houses you’ve lived in, as you point out, all the gardens you might have made, collecting up together all the really outstanding things you’ve done, reminding yourself of all the seminal texts that have made you the person you were… and so on. Tom & I have just discovered how we were both capitivated by Eric Fromm’s ‘Fear of Freedom’…

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Hi Colin
        I woke this morning thinking about your reply with trains running through my head 🙂 I began to collect all the associated memories of trains probably beginning with the time you walked me down, what I remember to be, the fantastically wide and long set of steps down to the platform in Leeds Station. ‘Look son’ I recall you saying ‘look at the steam coming from under the wheels’ as we were dwarfed by locomotive waiting for departure.
        Probably shortly after there was the journey from Leeds to Luton hiding the cat from the conductor. I have yet to fill in times in between but there was the time, as an 18 year old, when a beautiful woman who I was sitting next to asked me to let her get up so that she could lean out of the carriage window to see the sunset. She explained when she returned that she always made a point of stopping to watch the sun setting wherever she was in the world.
        Did you write down the conceptual knapsack contents you made of houses I have known or was it a thought journey?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah but Tom, what you don’t know (up ’til now) is that May 6th was my close friend Ricky’s 8th Birthday and she had been given a pair of Roller Skates. That meant we could both skate rather than her borrowing the skates that I had been given some 7 months previously. My abiding memory is skating together whilst singing Catch A Falling Star by Perry Como. I wonder if she remembers that?

    So for me there are snatches of memories, nothing Like Colin’s ability to know precisely what was happening at any point in time it appears.

    Other than these occasional moments, most of the rest of “time” is a blur to me too, the May the 6th coincidence – was just happenstance.

    This could expand into a whole piece about how we store time – whether through or in as in Time Line Theory. Colin might pick it up.

    I trust you enjoyed Breakfast Colin. x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You mean like knowing what I was doing and where I was at 12 midday on the 20th August 1955 – getting out of a train at Semley station in the sunshine for my very first holiday on my own 🙂

      The station (for Shaftesbury in Dorset) was closed by bloody Beeching. Excuse the swear-word – it slips off the tongue so easily with ‘allitrition’s artful aid’ (Mr Polly).

      Ever since I can remember (at least back to the evening of 3rd October 1940 around 8pm – in bed looking at the ever-changing multi-coloured patterns I could see in the darkness (indication of the onset of measles which happened next day) I have been in the habit of saying to myself, “I shall remember this moment for the rest of my life…” Lest anybody imagines that I can recall every second of my life, let me say that I exaggerate for effect! My birthday is the 4th October. But the Semley station recollection is real enough and it’s fixed only because I’ve used it so often when teaching stuff about MEMORY as an abstraction.

      As a result of my mantra, I can remember tons of ‘moments’ though without being able to date them precisely. They are great for producing haiku.

      walking across
      the long valley – popping
      Himalayan balsam

      I shall always remember 15th March 2020 because it was the last time I ventured into the Big Outside to hear my grandaughter’s piano trio playing a remarkable recital in Norwich! But I can’t remember what I did last Sunday. Of course, most of my life is a blur. However, since Pat has incited me, we’ve both had the valuable experience of NLP ‘time-lining’ and know that when you lay out a notional line on the floor you can trot down it marking off the years, months, days to see/hear/feel all sorts of things you thought you’d forgotten.

      I know that one can ‘store time’ through association with places, people, music (ah, 1954 the summer of Beethoven’s 9th – I played it till the grooves wore out), smell & taste (ah, Proust who I took to Samarkand in 1995 – I wrote a poem about it)…

      In the long ago when I taught prospective teachers how to teach (oh, the arrogance!) I used to say that there’s no such THING as memory. One should talk about the seeming event as a verb rather than a noun – remembering as a reconstructive process. Learners should therefore be taught to attach multiple strings of connections to things they want to remember so that they can pull them in like kites when needed. I got the concept from a brilliant book called, strangely, MEMORY by IMLHunter which I see I acquired in 1966. I always found it extraordinary that some people I taught couldn’t go back beyond the age of 20 – so then the question was about how we choose to forget…

      Yes, I enjoyed breakfast, Pat, but I still believe that they’re intent on taking this heaven-sent opportunity to reduce the surplus population – the shift of cognitive position had no effect on my belief as it often seems to do. Johnson wrote about the need to control population growth in 2007.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha yes I fear you are correct to maintain this particular belief. The rest is lovely stuff Colin – I recently re-read Time Line & The basis of Personality.

    I seem to recall that through time people could not walk the time line in an in-time manor because all their time line does not go through them and they tend to form a more general gestalt of memory because all their time and memory is in front of them – rather than being able to associate into a particular one?

    Such fun!

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    1. That’s right, Pat! You remind me (I’d forgotten till this very moment!) that I used to run an exercise I learned from my NLP training which preceded working on a time line since one had to take into account the fact that people store time in ways that don’t necessarily fit the idea of ‘going back down your time-line’. One character I recall very well had been sent on my ‘Time Management’ course because he was so useless at ‘managing time’ – unreliable as a manager, he was all over the place with it…

      The exercise pre-supposes that we store time spatially. When asked to point to where they ‘store time’ most people point to their ‘future’ as being more or less in front of them (it varies very subtly and significantly) and their ‘past’ gets pointed to behind them (again subtle variations one can work with). This particular chap pointed to his future right in front of him; when I asked him to point to his past he again pointed in front of him… I said, “I thought that’s where your future is…” He replied, “Yes, but my past is a bit beyond the future…” No wonder his management of ‘time’ was a bit dodgy! It’s then possible to begin to help people physically shift their notions of the spatial distribution of time – I could easily see in his face the mental chaos the attempts to do this caused this chap & by the end of the day he’d only shifted his habitual allocation of time bubbles a bit. At least he saw the problem.

      One has to be so careful with all this. For a start never to make the assumption that we’re all the same! (As though WE would!) When I did the exercise for myself in training, I found that my future was not a line but that there was a kind of enormous invisible perspex sheet going through me left to right and the future in front of me consisted of many pathways into the far distance while my past was a huge collection of little polystyrene balls jostling for attention and rubbing against the perspex sheet; to investigate the past all I had to do was pull them out like catching fish with rod & line. Tad James, the architect of time-line therapy, who happened to be running the exercise, told me this was all wrong, I couldn’t have multiple futures and my past was clearly ‘all balls’. I didn’t fit the theory. Valuable lesson – I’ve always made the theory fit me! How one stores time is how one stores time.

      The really interesting thing is that though I’ve never felt the need to tweak my storage system fundamentally it has tweaked itself: over the thirty years since I identified my scheme of things, the future has ceased having multiple pathways – there are just one or two left for me and they don’t stretch that far into the future for obvious reasons! And I’ve fished a lot of little balls out from the past for inspection – they contribute to my writing-life.

      It may be just as Tad James said, though…

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  5. This makes absolute sense to me, your having determined to remember everything means perhaps that your memories are individually wrapped! Also several different pathways – of course, you had multiple choices of what path you might take – some have fallen away since, for one reason or another but all remain in front of you.

    There are always people that don’t “fit” NLP exercises, or any other exercise – but I believe there is a phrase around having the requisite variety of approaches available and flexibility of thinking.

    I guess when Time-Line is your baby so to speak, (but please let’s never forget Wyatt Woodsmall’s contribution) it might be quite hard to countenance that it cannot be generalised.

    The words Future – Present and Past – as used in this context are all abstractions no?

    The future in this context is simply a concept for what might or could happen, at some point in time beyond now. What is relevant in how it’s used in classic Time-Line exercise is to be able to have some way of imagining some point in Time that is beyond where we are presently, where something different to what has happened or what does happen, can manifest. Or/ And a way of pin pointing something that has already happened, as “being” somewhere other than in the present.

    As you say Colin – take the exercise and make it fit the person – NOT the other way around.

    As for memory – from yours before – “remembering as a reconstructive process. Learners should therefore be taught to attach multiple strings of connections to things they want to remember so that they can pull them in like kites when needed.”

    Memory is reconstructive – our brain pulls bits and pieces from here and there and makes the “memory” to fit the current context. We don’t have a wheelbarrow for them – they happen in a number of different parts of our brain.

    Our brains can imagine all sorts of things including conceptualising time as place. How that might happen is down to the individual. as you say how one stores time is how one stores time.

    As one of my tutors often said when we were working in triads – “Work with what is in front of you – right now”

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    1. Ah! Wyatt Woodsmall! I’ve seen him operate twice. His delivery contained so many Gurdjieffian concepts! I said to him at a coffee break, “Are you a follower of Gurdjieff?” He just smiled – quite right! I’m not a very good Gurdjieffian – you’re supposed not to let on… I found him delighful though I don’t know of his contribution to time-lining…

      In one session, he set us up for doing something which, from my point of view, required Multiple-I’s to unpack it; but I have to admit to being a bit disappointed that he didn’t seem to know of the idea. I found myself working with a woman who thought working with many ‘I’s was a whizz – we kept it to ourselves!

      Quite right! Past/Present/Future all human inventions and abstractions. I think that time-line work turns what has us entertaining the concepts into real action. Your paragraph on that is lovely!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. In the Book – Time Line Therapy and the Basis of Personality – to give the book it’s title. The Authors are Tad James and Wyatt Woodsmall – they seem to have developed Time Line together, as the book is largely transcribed from joint training seminars. Wyatt often gets left out. He is a canny old fox and I have a colleague who did a Trainer Training with him and found it life changing. Wyatt was who developed Meta Programmes, and credits them with similarity to Jung’s personality types.

    Perhaps Wyatt has learned about multiple I’s since your encounter, or perhaps he knew and didn’t want to disclose that he knew, in a training environment. Who knows, I find it surprising though.

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yesterday I had an email from Jim Craik who lives in Los Angeles and whom I’ve known since the mid-sixties. I happened to mention the word ‘Beaconsfield’ in a email I sent him and he sent me something he’d written which modified my whole feeling about what it was to be in Wilton Park all those years ago – the place will never be the same again because my mate Jim was there a few years before I was! And it seems to take our friendship back another four years – time bending. Here’s what he sent!


    I was just a few weeks away from going off to Berlin to spend a year or so listening to Soviet Tank Commanders and fighter pilots talking to each other. Instead it was banishment back to Holding Troop.

    Eight months previously, after a gruesome course learning Morse Code I had been selected to take a course in Russian at the Army School of Education at Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. Every 6 months 20 soldiers from the entire British Army were sent on this course and I was picked to represent the Royal Corps of Signals.

    When I got there I discovered that, because it was the Depot of the Royal Army Education Corps, it was like being back at Basic Training all over again, but without the 4 am reveille and obstacle course. All the NCOs were from the Welsh Guards and fiercely and loudly enforced their standards of dress and behaviour. The morning parade each day was like Trooping the Colour. The Sergeant-Major had better eyesight than a Golden Eagle and could spot an unfastened button from 800 yards. I had never shaved until one morning at inspection he asked me (loudly from behind my left ear) when was the last time I had shaved. Never, I replied. The earth shook (7.3 at least on the Richter scale). I was marched off the parade ground escorted by 2 corporals who showed me how to use a razor.

    Because we were trained soldiers, language students had to do guard duty at nights and weekends occasionally, maybe once a month. Armed with a short stick and a torch which always needed new batteries and could only ever manage a very faint glow, we had to guard the main office buildings from a possible midnight attack from the IRA. Beaconsfield was actually an RCG .. a Regional Centre of Government. In case of nuclear war the government and important folk would rush there and go down to an underground bunker protected by 20 foot thick concrete walls. We had to patrol the passageway between the blast wall and the administrative and training buildings. Could be very scary. Owls would whoosh through and …. Yaaaaaah. I used to go to my hut and lie on my bed for an hour. Thank goodness the USSR didn’t declare war on my watch and the IRA stayed away.

    The course was good though. We had a British Major Parker who boringly taught classes in Russian grammar (cases, declensions, tenses, precise pronunciations) and civilian “White Russian” lecturers who taught us in small groups how to actually speak the language colloquially and to sing Red Army songs. No dancing though.

    One weekend after 8 months of the 9 month course I visited my parents. I told my father how hard it was to be treated like a recruit when I had been in the army so long. The next morning my mother wrote to her MP (Member of Parliament) complaining that she “did not bring up her son to spend time cleaning toilets for other soldiers.” Unfortunately her MP was Harold Watkinson, the Minister for War, and so enquiries were made immediately from The War Office in Whitehall, to the School of Languages. I was taken out of class and marched to the Commanding Officer who told me that I was a trouble maker and had failed an exam (they had to INVENT a pass mark for a recent test just so that I could fail it) and would be sent back to the Signals Depot immediately.

    No Berlin for me.

    There was a really funny incident on my journey … at Kings Cross Station there are tunnels from the Underground to the main railway station.. As I was trundling along with all my FSMO stuff, (Full Service Marching Order) thick greatcoat (Signals was considered a cavalry regiment so greatcoats came down to the ankles and weighed a ton) ammunition pouches, small pack, large pack, and kit bag up on top of it all, I heard a voice behind me … “I’ll give you 5 bob (5 shillings) for the lot, john, just dump it down right now. Go on. FIVE BOB, fink about it!!!”

    Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya!
    (A line from a famous Red Army patriotic song)

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