What is life? What’s it all about? We are conceived, then nine months later we’re born. If all goes well we live for seventy plus years then we die. Life places all kinds of obstacles in our way, or should that read fate, or maybe chance, I don’t know for sure. The one thing I know for certain is that life is a gamble at best.
I remember vividly to this day when I was four, sixty years ago now, standing up in front of a chair leaning on its seat, reading out loud to my parents from an illustrated book of bible stories. With the billions of thoughts and everyday experiences I’ve had since then, I wonder why I still retain that particular memory. Thinking about it, it is my earliest.
When I went to school, the one thing I loved more than anything was the written word. Practically every subject that wasn’t directly related to it meant absolutely nothing to me. Mathematics and any science based subject in all their many forms, was just so much gobbledegook to me. Exams terrified me to the point where I literally froze, unable to even contemplate the first question. When the time came for me to sit with all the others for whatever exam was put in front of us, the best I could do was write my name at the top of the paper, unless I was required to write an essay.
I left high school without graduating having contracted pneumonia before the last set of exams – School Certificate. Once I had recovered, I volunteered for military service in the navy, glad to be rid of school. Great I thought, at least I’ll get to see some of the world. Yes I did, but at what cost to myself? It was not one of the brightest decisions I’ve made, thinking about it now. All of the bullying, bad language and enforced discipline, which according to the military mind is designed to make a man of you (whatever that means) which every recruit endures, changes you of that there is no doubt. Far from making me an extrovert, it had the reverse effect. Time spent in warzones added to that inevitable change as well. After military service, the only jobs open to me were dead end ones, as I had no qualifications.
Right up to present day, the only thing that kept me sane was whatever book I held in my hands. No matter what crap job I did, I always knew that when I got home I could lose myself in that book.
I’m not a religious person in any way shape or form. When your early years are spent in a high church school as mine were, you either become a believer, or like me at age seven, you see through the hypocrisy of it all.
All your life you work for someone else, being paid peanuts in exchange for long hours of mindless toil, gaining nothing worthwhile for yourself, until society decides you are no longer wanted. Millions of people still cling to the delusion of ‘job satisfaction.’ Why they persist in believing they are indispensable to their employer eludes me. I once believed I was until I found myself unemployed in my fifties.
Increasingly these days the age at which people are shoved onto the scrapheap is heading inexorably downward towards forty. At my age I have become one of the forgotten millions living on the breadline with nothing to look forward to but the end of my mortality. But at least I still have the written word to exercise and entertain my mind. No amount of meddling in my life by the establishment can ever take that away from me. I was made homeless once, I may be again, but so long as I have a book to read, I know I’m alright. Why didn’t I do something with my love of words then? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s easy to be knowledgeable after the fact.
One other thing I do know for certain is that life is a cruel master.