SPIT IT OUT

SPIT IT OUT

Wednesdays were both the worst and best of days. September 1974, my brother just four months dead and buried. I coped with brittle dark humour, trying to roll with the heavy swell of emotions as they broke and crashed around me.

Wednesday morning, the worst straight off the bat, Assembley followed by double latin. Double Latin, never was there a phrase which could evoke so much anguish. It was not just that the language was dead and dusty, but the fact that the old crippled teacher, Miss Morton, was totally devoid of humour and lacked the ability to make the dry texts remotely interesting. She would have us stand up with a verse of Homer and expect us to be able to extemporise a translation without the aid of a dictionary. We were kids from working class backgrounds, not the little rich day pupils and boarders that she had been used to, we had not the Latin gleaned from Prep school, we had only learnt how to run away from bullies, and not had the first inkling of how to conjugate verbs in English let alone Latin, French or Spanish…

I was however quite good at getting the drift of what the verse was about, and so I would translate it but with a twist… I would try to include as much sexual innuendo and bawdiness into the translation as I could without evoking Miss Morton’s wrath.

On this day I had managed to translate that the hero had been pricked by thorns as he went through the undergrowth. This I was able to translate into a wonderfully gay allusion, where his friend had pulled out his prick…The class erupted in laughter and Miss Morton looked up from her copy of the Iliad, trying to ascertain why the class were laughing, she hadn’t caught the smutty translation as it was mostly accurate, but slowly my words began to sink into her innocent mind, to be fair I don’t think she had ever seen a prick, and none of the Grammar school girls would have ever made such a lewd comment.

It was a picture in slow motion stop action film making, she slowly reddened from the neck up to her ears. She began to splutter as she tried to get the words out…

“come on Miss, spit it out..”

The words gurgled up from the depths of her being and she screamed,

“DALE BECK GET OUT OF MY CLASSROOM!”

I shuffled off to my bag and shouldered it as I made my way to the door. She limped across the classroom after me and caught me outside the door, she grabbed me by the arm pulled me around and slapped me hard across the face.

“If you’re brother was anything like you, I’m glad he’s dead!!”

Just let that sink in a moment, my brother a 10 year old had been hung from a tree when the rope swing got tangled around his neck. Just four months had elasped since his death, I was still in turmoil, but tried to hide the tears that welled twenty times a day. I was so shocked I was lost for a response.

I turned on my heels and walked out of the school.

My Mom took me back into school at lunchtime and accompanied me into my tutor’s room. She told me to tell him what the witch had said to me. I told him. He denied that she had said it.

“So you think I’m lying?”

“No I don’t mean that, obviously she was upset, she finds you difficult to cope with, you will have to try to meet her half way.”

I did meet her half-way. As I said at the start Wednesday’s were the best and worst of days. The best was double games in the afternoon, where I could play rugby and football… So my means of meeting her half-way? I wouldn’t come in until the afternoon on a Wednesday. An arrangement which suited us both just fine. And lasted until the next term when I dropped Latin after three horrible years and took up Spanish instead.

School was such a formative experience.

DALE M

THE RIBBON ROAD

RIBBON ROAD

So long to the ribbon road, which connects me to forty years of travelling like a top, spinning effortless from A road to B road and back again, and I can’t think of a journey but your last journey, and I wasn’t even there…

So much the for the fools errand of driving break neck across the country from Inverness to Penzance, just because the booking clerks thought it was funny to send me from one end of the island to the other.

So long to the phone calls at 8 in the evening telling me I had to be in Oban by 10 am and then do a twelve hour shift. A ten hour drive into the back of beyond, losing 40 years in that journey heading back from 2002 to 1962… no sign of life just a remembrance of the past… A world out of step with the march of time.

Good riddance to the jouneys with unknown workmates that I wouldn’t trust with my dinner money and yet had to trust them not to drop the beam we were fitting on my head or worse.

Let’s not forget the Store Managers who were literally fucking mental… Managers that hid stock so that it wouldn’t be inventoried and then bringing them out at the last moment just as we had finished the job.

Tata to the staff who claimed they knew how to work to line drawing and then proved they patently did not, so that I had to redo all their useless efforts.

Goodbye to the fifteen years of living in the grottiest guest houses, either alone in an attic for days on end, or else the horror of sharing a room with someone you didn’t know or trust, afraid you may be murdered in your bed because you had given them a task they didn’t like.

Yes the open road is such a thrill to drive dog-tired for 300 miles after a twelve hour shift. Slapping your own face just to stop the urge to fall asleep as your passing a Stobbard lorry, or worse a Polish driver who thinks its ok to pull into your lane as you are driving passed him.

Farewell the hours sat in the middle of nowhere, inching forward on the motorway whilst listening to travel news telling you there is a tale-back of eight miles, and you are going nowhere fast.

Left with thanks the decades of my childrens lives that I missed, the school plays, the football games I missed…

People think that there is a majesty in travelling endlessly up and down the highways and bye-ways of this sceptic isle. The space in my head where the maps of every town, city and village and every intersection of the motorways of our blessed homeland occupies, could be filled with something more useful, just say for example, a method of earning a living which didn’t require me to travel 2000 miles a week… That would be a space I would happily occupy.

Yes, goodbye to all that. The ribbon road has been forever cut. I will stay at home, and hone the horns of my regret.

Dale M

KAMAKURA

KAMAKURA

Pure love, pure earth and stillness,

Sitting on a rock beside the shore,

The movement outside turns to stone,

Inside all his hum dried,

an incantation.

The years flicker like light,

strung out in between wave and particle…

here lies the Tao,

the Universe in microcosm,

The stiller the mind,

the faster you understand,

Movement lies in synergy

internal peace external velocity.

And in the true Union,

heart and soul entwined,

Two become one

creating the holy trinity,

You, me and Us.

The firmament is rent asunder,

when this holy trinity becomes one again.

The you and us lost forever,

The Me searches for a new reality…

But even as still as that rock beside the sea,

I have lost the art of conjuring.

My fingers weak with rhuematism

no longer obey the old rules…

And frustration denies the required stillness.

My Tau flickers out of sight and mind.

Dale M

MARKS TO PROVE IT

MARKS TO PROVE IT

Cold with the vapid wafts of February mist, the sort you know will slowly disappear to give off the super bright sunshine, faintly reminiscent of the summer.

8 o’clock and my friends have left ahead of me as I was only half way through my breakfast bowl of rice krispies. Alone, I fancied I could get lost in the mist and avoid the dangers of school. Of course, even as my mind built these crystal castles, my belligerent feet marched me towards the school. Having found myself at Friday Acre, the gates of the school obvious in plain sight before me, My feet resolutely strode forward to meet the gaggle of mates in the centre of the playground. As I approached the gang fell silent, I was the topic of their conversation, was the unblinkered certainty I reached. My friend Shaun, sidled up to me and whispered the gossip in my ear.

“Your for it, Mrs. Weston’s daughter has been saying you have defaced school equipment, and that your going to get the cane.”

Mrs. Weston was my class teacher and her busy body daughter was a couple of years ahead and a prefect. She didn’t like me, she told her Mom, that I cheeked her, which I did, and her Mom was thus turned against me.

As the bell rang and we formed lines in the pavement, to be brought inside by each class’s form teacher, I saw the older girls looking at me and laughing.

To be honest, I could not begin to understand why I might be for it… Defacing school property? What did that even mean? I had no idea… Didn’t sound very good either way.

We made our way into the temporary classrooms, that seemed to be in every school in those days, to my knowledge the temporary classrooms lasted at least thirty years, so not that temporary by all accounts.

We sat in our neat little rows, and waited as mrs.Weston read the register. I was quite high on the list as my surname begins with a B. As she called my name and I answered, a smirk went across her face. Maybe I was really for it…

The litany of names came and went and yet still no sign was given as to what my misdemeanour might be. I thought back to the walk in the mist and wished fervently I’d obeyed my mind and not my feet.

We were led out to the main assembly room, stroke Gym, as the walls were housing pull out ropes ladders etc. This ritual, Dull lessons from the Bible followed by the Lord’s Prayer and desultory renditions of All things bright and beautiful, and then school notices. I was not mentioned… Maybe I wasn’t for it? Usually the dreaded Headmaster loved to punish our miscreant behaviour, so if I was not hauled out in front of the school, maybe the rumour was false. As we shuffled out in a respective class groups, a feeling of relief washed across me. I looked at Shaun and smiled, he shrugged, maybe the bitch had been spreading false rumours.

We got back into our classroom and a hush fell upon us as Mrs.Weston stood statuesque in front of the blackboard. She reached across to her desk and picked up a blue school notebook, it was muddy and wet, and pages seemed to be torn. I gulped. I knew that notebook. It was my Maths book. I had really loved maths in those early days of school, much better at Maths than at reading and writing. I enjoyed answering the puzzles so much that I had took the book home with me and completed all of the problems. On the way back to school with the maths book completed I suddenly thought what if I got into trouble for having completed all of my maths book. I lost my bottle and decided to throw it down the drain on the way to school, out of sight out of mind…

Someone must have seen me deposit it in the drain and had retrieved it just to get me into trouble. The world is so injust! A big ugly gnarled finger pointed at me and ordered me to the front of the classroom.

I now stood in front of the class, beetroot red and fuming that my deceit had been so easily discovered.

She bent me over the front desk and delivered six of the best. In fairness, her trevails were weak compared to the dreaded Headmaster, and through my arse cheek smarted, no blood had been drawn, and the red weals were fast to disappear. It was the fact that I was humiliated in front of the whole class which smarted. There were girls in our class that I had a crush on, and I felt I would never live this down.

So there you have it I was punished for doing school work in my own time, just because I enjoyed doing it, and the fact I had tried to hide the evidence of this, spoke volumes about the strict regime and our mistrust of the teachers.

At that stage I was bottom of the grades, being in the 1C, then 2C, but by the third year I was Moved into the B stream, and in the final year I was held back in the B stream because the A stream was already over-sized. I was the only boy in the B stream to be made into a Prefect.

In the first two years of Senior School I was in the top three across the year in most subjects.

After that life took a turn for the worst… But that is a whole other story.

Dale M

JOY OF JOYS

JOY OF JOYS

Joy of joys,

That little hand slipped into yours,

That sweet trust which can never be broken,

Granddad will protect me,

just as he protected my Mom,

and Granddad is so blessed,

To feel that love and trust,

A feeling missed since his little girl,

Had become a woman and mother,

A man can have no greater love,

Than that of his female offspring,

an unbroken vow,

To protect them forever.

My boys grow strong and big,

and eschew the safety of Dad,

but their love is evident in other ways,

Like broad oaks they grow…

But my little girl will need me forever,

at least this is a valid reason to keep going…

Dale M