Monday, August 26, 2013

Just the Tip of a Story.

About twenty years ago, when I was a mere foundling in the pub and hotel trade, I came across a man who it has taken me the intervening two decades to understand.

'Mac' was a concrete engineer staying as a long-term resident at the hotel in which I had started working as a young barman. He was a truly enigmatic man whose physical stature was only equalled by the magnificence of his 'Charles Bronson' moustache. I never knew his surname then, but neither did I know the surname of any of his colleagues as their company was paying the bill. Mac and I chatted a lot because he didn't spend that much time with the other guys - this was not through any problems with the other men, Mac was just a more quietly lifestyled man, and also he was the only Scotsman within an otherwise Irish group. We chatted through many a quiet evening whilst the other crew members were either pissed and in bed or carousing about town.

Mac taught me a lot of things, the first being an idiosyncratic method of lacing my Doc Martens to allow more ankle movement and simplify boot removal in case of injury. I still lace my boots in that pattern to this day. He also told me that he had been a military man, starting as an Engineer and then being seconded to the Royal Marines. He had wonderful stories of both triumph and disaster that made me as an eighteen-year-old become almost 'a moth to the flame' in curiosity. One of the finest of his many stories was how he came to lose his two front teeth (he wore false ones attached to a dental plate).

As I remember regarding the dental story, Mac said: "We were going for a long range night drop. "It was jumping from about five thousand feet with 'chutes that would glide us for about four miles. "Y'know it still works the same as WWII - you drop your pack on a line and, once it lands, it retards your descent. "Sadly, my pack and line got stuck under a farm gate." - That more than explains the lack of front teeth. There are so many other recounted stories than I could not possibly have time to go into here, they are inspiring and, at the same time, almost unbelievable.

Mac and the rest of the concrete team eventually finished their works and left the hotel, but for years I had nagging doubts about what he had described - it was too extreme, too fanciful.

Twenty Years Later:

I was idly watching Channel Five (or the like) and came across a documentary about the Iranian Embassy siege in London during May of 1980. I was confronted on screen by an instantly recognisable moustachioed Scot named 'Mac' who had broken silence after twenty-five years. The documentary was short but I saw the longer version later in the week. It became clear that not only was he involved, he was a team leader, and he was 'that man' that blew open the doors on the first floor balcony of the Iranian Embassy live on TV.

I realised that I had been serving one of history's most visually iconic British servicemen pints of Tennent's Extra for nine months and didn't even recognise him without the balaclava, assault suit, and full face respirator... I'll give up my dreams of becoming a detective.

Having come to know the facts, I decided to look up the name I now knew: John McAleese. I was too late to try to catch up. He died of a heart attack in 2011 some short months after his son was killed in Afghanistan.

Although I'm not well informed as to the intricacies of military and governmental policy I'll unlace my boots with both fond and fine memories of a damned good man.

(Staff Sgt. John McAleese, MM. 1949 - 2011)

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Quarterlight Goodbye

A filmless camera opened its shutter - closed.

I knew I'd see her again.

Her backwards look with pain at parting.

I knew I'd see her again.

Her backwards look with pain now departing.

Gone. Never to see her sweet face again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Something for Nothing

Someone said to me earlier that "classical music is boring" and that they "only like things that immediately grab" them. The person involved seems to lack the concept of 'proactive immersion' in an experience.

It's not possible to stand in front of a painting and say: "Go on, entertain me." (Well, it is possible, but you'd come across as a bit of a knob.) For any form of music, literature, dance, visual art or any other medium, only some parts may grab you. But the imperative is that you should try to grab what you don't immediately 'get'.

Personal 'truth' in art, science and faith are all the same in that they are only currently currently held hypotheses that are waiting to be improved upon or disproved. Engaging with, and asking questions of, what we don't fully understand is the only way forward, and also the only chance of personal development.

I wish I'd asked the person in question if they'd cook a special meal, put it on a plate, and wait for it to jump into their mouth.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Once, She held my heart
in her hand.

That Hand which promised
a letter not received.

Getting home.
Door stuck on junk...

...and I'm free
until tomorrow.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Alphabetical Twittelation

Twenty-six consecutive tweets to keep me amused. It was actually quite hard to do without making anything up.

ll my ideas for wasting a Sunday afternoon seem to have dried up. :o(>

@matt-fwyalchen - 15:06 20/02/11

eer does taste better on a Sunday afternoon than it does at any other juncture of the week. Fact.

@matt-fwyalchen - 15:14 20/02/11

ritically, sport is exactly like life: you can do everything perfectly correctly and still not 'get the girl'. @'withheld'

@matt-fwyalchen - 15:26 20/02/11

amn right! If you completely counter another team you are just giving them 'carte blanche' to have their preferred tactics. @'withheld'

@matt-fwyalchen - 15:35 20/02/11

very time I do the Sunday Times crossword it stumps me with two clues which I look at an hour later, get immediately, and feel stupid.

@matt-fwyalchen - 15:59 20/02/11

rench mustard does not go with roast beef. #justsaying

@matt-fwyalchen - 16:06 20/02/11

ravy + jeans = washing powder + white, cuboid whirry thing in the kitchen.

@matt-fwyalchen - 16:15 20/02/11

orseradish sauce has arrived. The day is saved. Hurrah! Hurrah! And thrice, hurrah!!

@matt-fwyalchen - 16:17 20/02/11

think the 'UK Pushchairs in Pubs Society' should be outlawed. They hunt in packs.

@matt-fwyalchen - 16:50 20/02/11

oyous news! I've just seen a chav walk into a lamppost. Praise be to the Great Arbiter!

@matt-fwyalchen - 16:56 20/02/11

ids should not be carted round as an accessory (baggage) to their parents' lifestyle choices. That's all I have to say. @'withheld'

@matt-fwyalchen - 17:04 20/02/11

ifestyle is (of course) a personal choice. I was agreeing with you. Take a pushchair round 18 holes of golf?! @'withheld'

@matt-fwyalchen - 17:20 20/02/11

ust remember to put the washing on tonight or it'll end up like the time I found myself with one clean sock.

@matt-fwyalchen - 17:40 20/02/11

ow 4 washing loads puts me in my place! I quite like this time of year though. The smell of fresh washing on toasty radiators. @'withheld'

@matt-fwyalchen - 17:50 20/02/11

ff to make myself look human for Monday. My stubble is currently shaming several of the local privets!

@matt-fwyalchen - 18:08 20/02/11

erhaps secateurs will do the job?!

@matt-fwyalchen - 18:11 20/02/11

uiche it is for supper, then. Half price in Spar. I do like a good quitch almost as much as a good cwtch.

@matt-fwyalchen - 18:20 20/02/11

eal men MAKE quiche!! (I just don't have time tonight.) @'withheld'

@matt-fwyalchen - 18:28 20/02/11

eriously, now 'Jus-Rol' do a good shortcrust, I make loads. Surely he can chop cheese, onion and bacon and whisk eggs?! @'withheld'

@matt-fwyalchen - 18:41 20/02/11

oo true, Gareth. Too true. @'withheld'

@matt-fwyalchen - 18:43 20/02/11

nder International Law, and in a Citzens Arrest kind of way, can gobby yoofs be slung 'neath the most convenient local bough?

@matt-fwyalchen - 18:59 20/02/11

egans are safe then! @'withheld' @'withheld'

@matt-fwyalchen - 19:04 20/02/11

hy don't satsumas have zips? *Bathes eye.*

@matt-fwyalchen - 19:31 20/02/11

-ratable bawdiness in form of song coming over my back wall from the pub beer garden tonight. Anyone got a 'Greek Fire' recipe to hand?

@matt-fwyalchen - 19:37 20/02/11

es, I'll admit it! I have been very bored and had a lot of time on my hands this afternoon. I apologise now for either verbosity or spamming.

@matt-fwyalchen - 19:41 20/02/11

ounds and egad! I seem to have run out of letters! If this makes no sense, check my blog.

@matt-fwyalchen - 20:50 20/02/11

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Separated From Animals

"Don't worry yourself, Snap!" Dad said. "They're only dumb animals and can't think for themselves. Just look at what they do! They're always fighting, ripping up their beds and leaving the mess all over the place."

Looking for an excuse to stop and think, I picked up the nearest 'useful thing' and combed his hair. "Couldn't we train them and make them useful?" I usefully suggested. "Sorry, Son. Many have tried but all they do is just grunt, sniff and go on doing what beasts do. They don't understand language so we can't help them, and the messiness of the fallen trees will continue. You see, my Son, that is what separates us orang-utans from animals. Sleep now, Snap."

(A touch of 'The Great Orang-utangle' that I currently have on the back burner. And yes, I do have a copyright draft.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Richard of York

There are seven colours in a rainbow, right? Wrong. It contains every colour we can see. The same holds true for most things in life: science, music, personality, art, sexuality, politics and favoured combinations of pizza toppings. But we take each subject and impose the restricted colours of the rainbow onto them - those "boxes" that I hate.

Taking those "boxes" to that previous list: chemistry, Romantic, self-confident, Pre-Raphaelite, intuitive, Liberal with extra pepperoni and anchovies. That may be the recipe for my perfect woman, but it's also an example of not understanding any of the subjects.

Q.) Where, within biochemistry, does pure biology end and pure chemistry begin?

A.) Nowhere.

Q.) When, in music, does Classical turn to Romantic?

A.) It doesn't. I can cite examples of both in a 50 year window.

The examples go on and on: Picasso (nuff said), heterosexual/bisexual/homosexual, Liberal/Social Democrat, capers/olives/spicy chicken.

These are all just words that filter out some of the colours that we would be able to see if we were not conditioned by classification. I have never in my life met an extrovert who is not also an introvert. I have never in my life come across an introvert who is incapable of fa├žade. Everything and everyone we experience is unique and cannot be described exactly. Each experience is, by definition, a step into the future.

Of course we need these "marker words" in order to both properly navigate and describe the world we live in. But they are not words in impenetrable "boxes"; they are markers on the axles of cogs.