On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion

For far too long I have been working, albeit intermittently, on a title called, ‘On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion’

This book-to-be, (I shall complete and publish it… one day), is full of recollections, personal views, my ‘sideways look’ on life, friendships, and society.

The contents of this book are loosely stitched together, taking place during a fictitious road trip. The following chapter is one which starts as I enter Scotland.

Enjoy.

Outdoors

I have just crossed the border.

The sign said, “Welcome to Scotland.”

In all truth, the change is unnoticeable at first; but as the miles disappear and the number of people dwindle, the changes begin to reveal themselves.

Scotland is significantly different to England, not only on a political level and in a geographical sense, but of spiritual connotation.

Scotland retains many of its ancient origins, its Celtic traditions. It is far more natural, raw, and autochthonous.

Like many wild places, the character of the environment harks to our latent memory. It stirs within us feelings and dreams which lay dormant, subdued, smothered, covered, and repressed by our modern world of steel, glass, concrete, and unnatural plastics.

Fleeting half-thoughts, mists of the long-forgotten, stir within the recesses of our brains, our subconscious, and subliminal minds. Sights, smells, senses peak as we feel, and see much the same as our ancestors did a millennium before.

This is genetic memory stimulated. This is where tales of déjà vu are born, this is where life is re-lived, echoes replaying like an old record crackling to life.

It is this very ancientness of wilderness, of wide-open space, of freedom and memory, I was now passing through, which took my wandering mind to my childhood, my outside childhood.

You see, when I was a child, I spent most of my time ‘outside’.

Maybe, I am just of ‘that’ generation? possibly the last generation whose young lives were honed and shaped by the playing fields and parks, the waste grounds and streams, the woodlands, the scrapheaps, the dumps, and all the inaccessible, and off-limit areas, in which we played and adventured.

Areas now considered far too dangerous by the health and safety ‘police’; they who insist on secure fencing, notices, warning signs, and patrols to protect, not the children, but the pockets of the wealthy landowners, or the coffers of the local councils, and multi-conglomerates from litigation.

The second ‘concern’ is of abduction, and paedophiles.

No longer are parents comfortable in allowing their young to venture unrestricted into the great playgrounds of ‘outdoors’ unsupervised.

Which is not only a great shame, but an indicative reflection of our so-called civilised society.

I believe this loss of freedom, the forced imposition of restriction is detrimental to the well-being and development of our current, and future crop of children.

The actual risk of attack, according to recent statistics, is no higher than when I was a young boy. The years of the two-thousands are no more dangerous than those of the sixties.

The difference is the media, who are no longer satisfied by reporting events, they now have a penchant for sensationalising everything, to speculate and hypothesise.

They find extraordinary pundits to postulate and theorise.

It is this current trend of media frenzy, the over-dramatisation, the addition above facts, of overstatement and embellishment, which lends itself to the social hysteria, and collective knee-jerk reaction of fear.

It is they who created the ‘me too’ society.

A society where everyone is no one, unless they are a ‘me too’. Unless they stand and claim their fifteen minutes of fame… well, of media hype, or internet trending moments.

Now, to be ‘normal’, to be well balanced, happy, fit, healthy, and not claim you are a ‘me too’, is considered ‘weird’ or ‘strange’, or both.

If that is you, perhaps you need help?

Serious help?

Now, I have no wish to see any harm come to anybody, child, or adult, but consideration for facts and freedoms should take precedence over fear and speculation.

Children playing will, at times, harm themselves. It is an inevitable fact. It is risk; a part of growing, of learning, of development, and should not be eliminated from a child’s life experience.

As I have said, I was an ‘outside’ child and youth. I climbed trees, waded in icy cold streams looking for sticklebacks and newts.

I was one who found the high heaps of scrap metal, waiting to be turned into pig-iron, a fascinating source of props for make-believe play.

Derelict buildings were castles or forts, woodlands, great forests, where battles were fought with sticks and shields, (often found on those scrapheaps).

The hedgerows, or parcels of wasteland housed our secret dens.

We lived in a world unseen and unknown by ‘the others’, those strange creatures who are known as adults.

Our world was only accessible to the few, the chosen young of few years life.

I have many images and memories of my childhood pass through my mind this morning, and never, not in a single instance was it raining.

Snow yes, ice yes, wind, puddles, sun… yes.

But never rained.

It never rained when I was a young boy.

Never, not once, at least not when I was playing.

I can recall looking out from my bedroom window on a rainy evening, watching cars passing by, windscreen wipers flicking and rain spraying from the wheels in their wake, hanging in the air, a faint mist swirling in the light wind.

I recall my father, who was balding, saying the rain made his head itch, as we walked to the local shop from my grandmother’s house.

I have a memory of sitting in the warmth of a bus with my mother. I was drawing doodles with my fingers in the condensation on the windowpane as the rain lashed down, and the thunder crashed above.

But it never rained when I played outside.

I know this is simply my memory being selective, choosing to falsify my recall, to enhance my fond recollections, but I kind of like that.

I prefer remembering my childhood being this way, however inaccurate; after all, these are my memories, mine alone.

I might tell you about them, explain what I experienced, but I cannot share them with you, not unless you can enter my mind and see what I saw, feel what I felt, smell what I smelt.

Going ‘out to play’ with my friends was not always a straightforward affair.

First, I would call at their homes. Either they were in, but often they, like me, were ‘out’.

There were days when I would walk miles searching for my friends.

Back then, we had to travel to find one another.

We had no phones, no means of instant communication, so we made vague arrangements to meet at a location, or a choice of two… maybe three.

These are the places where we looked first.

Sometimes we would find one another immediately, on other occasions we would have to hunt around.

If my friends were not where they said they may be, I then searched our usual haunts, the places we would gather, where we generally hung out.

This too, was all part of being from the ‘outside’ generation.

I have I plethora of wonderful, and fond memories of ‘playing out’ during those halcyon days of my childhood.

Which brings me to this though:

What memories will the young children of today hold?

Will this new generation have anything substantial to recall of their childhoods as they age?

I know many who seem to live their lives absorbed in a netherworld, a semi-cyborg existence of Playboxgaming, and i-texting, of cyber friends, and avatar existence; rarely seeing the natural light of the sun.

How many shall never smell the primaeval scent of ancient heather carried on the breeze, or hear the screech of a wild eagle echo from the mountains?

How many will never truly venture ‘outdoors’?

I wonder, and I fear.


Paul White is a multi-genre author of fiction, semi-fiction, and non-fictional works.

His books range from Children’s stories to tales of Crime and Violence, from true accounts of those who live in the worlds War Zones, to recording the humorous social history of Royal Naval Life.

Stories of Heartache and Lost Love stand alongside episodes of Psychological Terror, and the plain absurd.

The common denominator which runs through many of Paul’s works, is the most important matter of all, the Human Condition; that of Life, of Love, Happiness, Laughter, Anger, Anguish, Fear, Hope, Uncertainty, Pain, and Loss.

​​​Paul is an ardent independent traveller and globetrotter, a nature lover, and supporter of ecological and wildlife preservation.

He says he has a “warped sense of humour, is a lover good food, good wine, and great company.”

You can visit his website here, http://bit.ly/paulswebsite


Hluhluwe Umfolozi, feeding lions and a rather intangible abstract notion.

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©PaulWhite

I was asked recently, by Francis de Aguilar, a writer friend, what first caused me to “Become interested in African wildlife.

 

A simple question.

I told him it was after visiting South Africa, particularly the time I spent in the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve. 

However, Francis’s question stayed in my mind; although I answered him, it left a nagging doubt in my mind I was wrong.

I was wrong.

After pondering for a few days, the truth unravelled itself. I now knew the correct answer.

My interest in Africa and its diverse multitude of wildlife was first stoked by reading the novels of Wilbur Smith.

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©PaulWhite

Back in the early seventies, I picked up a rather dog-eared and worn copy of ‘When the Lion Feeds’, which I devoured within two days. I followed that book by purchasing ‘The Dark of the Sun’, again read within a few days.

I was about sixteen years old and, for the first time, ‘hooked’ on a particular author.

I read all of Wilbur Smith’s books up to the 1991 publication of ‘Elephant Song’. My favourite book, (excluding any of the ‘Courtney or Ballantyne Novels’) must be ‘Eagle in the Sky’…or ‘Cry Wolf’…or ‘A Sparrow Falls’….or…

But I digress.

 

The real answer to the question posed to me by Francis is; it was reading these books when I was a young man that stimulated my imagination, made me think about the heat, the vastness, the veld, the bush and, of course, the animals of Africa.

For years, I carried my imaginings of the world Wilbur Smith planted in my head with his words, until one day I had the opportunity to visit Africa myself.

I was not disappointed.

The continent is mind-bogglingly vast. The scenery, the smell, the sun, the animals, the people, everything exceeded my expectations, bettered those imaginings I held onto for so long.

This I find is something rare; very few places ever exceed our own imaginative conceptions.

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©PaulWhite

I have returned to Africa many times, to different areas, different countries within this vast dark continent.

You may have heard it said, “Africa captures, not only your heart but soul and once you have been, you can never really leave.”

These are some of the most honest words ever spoken.

I am here now, but part of me will forever remain in Africa.

Now, being a writer, I cannot leave an article like this with just one conclusion when I know there are always several stories to be told about everything.

Therefore, I would like you to also consider this, from Wilbur Smith’s point of view, or maybe, it is just my own interpretation of what I think his view may, or could, be.

Who knows? But I’ll write my thoughts out anyway.

I wonder if dear old Wilbur thought of me when he wrote his first novel?

I don’t mean me as an individual, as a single person but as a conceptual being. I wonder if Wilbur thought he may influence some young man, somewhere in the world, to fall in love with Africa as he typed out his very first paragraph of ‘When the Lion Feeds’ way back in the early 1960’s. (The book was first published in 1964).

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©PaulWhite

Then, my thoughts ask the very same question of myself.

Do I have an image, a conceptual ‘personage’ in my mind who may, one day, be influenced by my own work, by my writings, by the tiny little black shapes, these strange runes of ink I scattered across countless pages?

The answer is yes, I do have such a notion, albeit a rather intangible abstract.

Which leaves you to ask yourself the same, do you?

Think about it carefully, do you?

If you would like to take part in making my rather intangible abstract notion a reality, then please start by reading ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’ a collection of thought-provoking stories which are not quite as you may think they may be…

Just click the cover image.  WtIPV1small

Thank you, Paul.