Scar Tissue.

I have an innate built in mechanism to deal with emotional upset and distress, stemming predominately from when my Mother passed away when I was thirteen years old. I was never given any proper counselling for it, and at that age, that important developmental period of my life, I had to swallow and hold in all the grief, confusion and loss that the experience involved. Looking back (and hindsight is a fantastic way of understanding where things started to go wrong, alas no use for the present), it was the most single transformative event of my life, the main thing I believe that caused my life to go so tragically wrong in my later years. To try to understand some reasons why I failed in my later secondary school years in terms of not passing my end of school exams (just achieving mediocre grades apart from English Literature – the only subject I passed with any distinction) and from going off the rails during those last several school years, I must begin to look back at the lack of support I experienced when my Mother died. I did go off the rails, I did become a rebellious teenager listening to Rock music, drinking and suchlike, I had an awkward relationship with my Father who probably never understood me (and myself not understanding or probably respecting the grief he was still going through), and so on. Fundamentally, I ended up not resitting my exams and went to work, ending up being ‘encouraged’ to leave home at seventeen and moving into a large town, away from the village and peers I grew up with, having to make new friends in the place I moved to; the beginning of the bedsit years had its inauguration in September 1988.

And so I struggled. For a highly sensitive teenager to have to learn how to do his washing, pay his own bills, cope with having so limited money (I was working on a Government Youth Training Scheme in Catering at that time – and that was low wages), plus suffering the pain of not having anyone in my Family to talk to when I finished work, then it was a very tough, very lonely time. I never finished my apprenticeship in Catering as I could not afford to live on the wages it paid, and the other reason was suffering from eczema. I started work in a Factory afterwards, and yet I still found it hard and tough going on my own even with a small increase in pay. The Samaritans were involved with me at one point between the ages of eighteen and nineteen years old because I had become so depressed living on my own in a pokey, sparsely furnished bedsit and having no meaningful existence apart from going to work and living off, for example, cheese on toast for the majority of the time. A very dreary existence. It was only in later years, towards my twentieth birthday that I changed employment to a much more positive office based job and became acquainted with some really interesting people – those dreary, single unshaded lightbulb days faded fast. Lady luck came a calling, and that I believe changed my fortunes back then. Or at least it started to form a much more individual identity to base my own personal liberty and ethos around; less Metal, more Grunge and correspondingly social issues, please. Identity Politics were the rule. A pure Generation X’er, coming from that screwed up past to want to try and change the world, and back then it was a true ‘rags-to-riches’ story – there was much that was good about me I personally and vehemently believe when I look back, albeit with scar tissue.

However, I still struggled. I still had issues within my makeup that had become so deep and hidden and swallowed into my soul, that on occasion would plague me, like some outbreak of fever whose illness would occasionally burst through the defense mechanisms that I had learnt to build around my hardened, but still sensitive heart, stemming from shutting out heartache, pain and rejection. Big huge, barbed wire defenses. As I grew older, this time living with my partner (later to be my wife), life turned slowly into normality; less the radical, freedom and rock-music loving youth – the one who wanted to change the world – more now into a responsible adult. Knowing about my adoption as my Mother never held that information from me (she told me when I was quite young), my late twenties seemed like a good time to uncover who my natural parents were. There are rules about making contact and when I found out various organisations that dealt with this, the law stated that a period of counselling is required before you make contact. I did all of this, I remained within the guidelines, but when the first letter came from my natural Mother, then all the emotions broke loose, ripping asunder the pandoras box where they had laid dormant for such a long time. It was not a quick process, it took me quite sometime to find her, but find her I eventually did. Terms that come into my mind as I write this tonight are: confusion (I still had the bond with my adopted Mother in my subconscious); love (hence confusion) and elation (hence love). Still, even over fifteen years after finding her, it is very difficult to write this up, to put this onto paper, to explain the most intense emotional ‘fuck up’ I ever had to experience. And all those stories about how good some reunions are, the ones that mess up are hardly discussed, or at least feeling the initial excitement of discovery, the bad tales just do not register. I digress. It screwed so much with my emotions – my mind, feelings and long forgotten things came rushing to the forefront of my life; I felt confused about my relationship with my adopted family, feelings about my Mother dying, age-old issues resurfaced with a staggering intensity that smashed through my old defenses, throwing them aside as a whirlwind would blow away a hastily constructed shelter. I felt emotionally ravaged, torn asunder in feelings of severe emotional intensity. I ended up having a serious breakdown from this crazy period of my life, and that really is all I can say about it, or at least all I wish to publish on wordpress at this time. Looking back (again hindsight is wonderful), my partner pulled me back together, and about a year or so afterwards, I married her and had children. Fin.

I believe that this existence, this life we lead whomever we may be, whatever our social circumstances, either makes us or breaks us, and there is the famous adage that ‘whatever does not kill you makes you stronger’. This so much is true. When I do look back at the things that went wrong with paths I chose, or were chosen for me (or highly encouraged), and the fact that I survived some incredibly rough treatment on occasion, then it made me a much more thoughtful, intense and mentally stronger person; the gift of being able to express some of these emotions on a literal level is something I am grateful for because I felt, with the intensity of living through such difficult situations, I needed to write to find closure, to come to terms with issues. Also, despite the initial feelings of joy and euphoria on finding my natural Mother, I do not think I am such a good advert for adoption organisations; it went wrong for me so I truthfully should not endorse the tracing and finding of your natural parents. If you have a stable relationship with your adopted parents, if you have a secure life, if you are emotionally strong, then go ahead and satisfy your curiosity. If on the other hand you are slightly worried in any way for whatever reasons, then give it a lot of thought. Who will it be affecting? Will it damage your relationship with the family that chose and loved you? And make sure you get the counselling beforehand. I am not sure if the law has changed since the late 1990’s, but that was a requirement before any information about your adoption details were handed over, and rightly so.

To conclude this rather confusing (it seems) post, then I think my character has been formed through struggle. Life has made me what I am today. The power and intensity of life-experiences gave me a hardened shell, and much more tougher skin than I ever believed I could have had when I was that sensitive kid from the South Wales Valleys. I most certainly have frayed edges, but I have an inner strength that has kept me together for all these years, an inner determination to prove the naysayers wrong about my character, to counteract deceit against my person. Even the shock of becoming homeless after my marriage ended never killed me, but it certainly has probably caused a more permanent and deeply emotional scar than anything else I have been through – and that truly is saying something.

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Love pt.II (deux)

The night lay outside your open window,
the sounds of the city were letting themselves be known;
the revelry of intoxicated traffic,
adorned with occasional sirens urgently, wantonly calling,
whilst you both lay naked on the bed,
lights off, allowing the street-lights to send their halo-
their electronic, ethereal glow –
through the panes of your window,
trying to illume all that lay inside.

You were laying naked with your woman,
your limbs entwined around each others natural states;
touching each other sensitively, finding the secret places,
as if each of your bodies had been mapped before –
you each knew where your fingers should go,
could go, did go…

Finding the warm, wet, moist circle;
exploring tentatively, lovingly, gently-
probing the initial discovery with a thrill,
the thrill being met with a low, sensual, moan.
She reciprocates; her fingers grip your sex,
and both in unison, as if predetermined,
you lips touch –
gently at first, then the deepest passion takes control…

From both your deepest desires you met;
your bodies start to crave each other,
your sex slowly, but with an urgent purpose,
enters into your lover.
You fill her with a passion, a longing;
a deep rooted enchantment,
something both your souls feel from deep within…

That these memories, this recollection,
this time – was twenty years ago,
makes this time glorious, nostalgic;
but it leaves your soul feeling so forlorn,
so lost on a distant shore,
as if waiting for some vessel to rescue you…

‘Changes’

I grew up living in a detached house, an old Station Masters house for the Train Station that used to service the village we lived in, a product of the old days of Industrialisation, the village bearing witness to the growth of the coal mining and steel production centres of South Wales, leading to more and better ways of transportation to take these goods down the valley and eventually to port. The village my parents moved to and where I spent my childhood was a junction between the end of two valleys, where two rivers fed into each other; one route came from the north and another west, both leading from the Industrial heartlands of the Ebbw and Sirhowy valleys, places where coal was mined and steel furnaced. The relics of Industrialisation littered this small village and its surrounds, in terms of both remains from old mines and also chronicling the rapid growth of industry and better and more advanced transportation techniques; we had a canal, railways and later on they built a bypass though the village as all the old train stations had long since fallen into disrepair and ruin, the canal overgrown and neglected. In many ways the whole area was like a living history book; you did not have to walk far to witness the relics of Industrialisation where I lived, from cordoned off old air shafts servicing the old, long gone coal pits, to a communal grave in a field recording a coal mine disaster of the 1860’s – the area contained such a rich source of the past.

Nothing really showed the evolution of our society more so than the place I grew up. The remains of two-hundred and forty or so years, from the early beginnings of Industrialisation to our modern society is recorded in the hills of my childhood; from slag heaps now landscaped and covered with foliage, with really nothing to remind you that these irregular humps once came from the bowels of the earth, to mobile phone masts allowing wireless communication looking like something from a science fiction film of the 1960’s – two-hundred years of history, from an industrial past into a technological future grace the landscape, and all this change stemming really from the past twenty or so years, and especially the last decade. How fast have we progressed compared to the relative slow period of change experienced since the beginnings of Industrialisation from the late eighteenth century onwards? In the space of ten years, roughly, most households are now connected to high speed internet and use mobile devices – a true communications revolution in no uncertain terms along with the free availability of knowledge and a wide variety of different news sources from the internet have never ever been easier to access. Two-hundred years ago, or not even one-hundred years ago, this was the realm of fiction; probably inconceivable even for those times. One-hundred years ago HG Wells wrote The Time Machine, but would he have predicted today?

I noticed that two years ago on this blog I made my first post, a work that I created for a Creative Writing course I was studying, writing about what I remembered from my childhood, or at least the most prominent memories of growing up. Its strange when you think about your childhood that you usually remember sunny days, no? I do, but I also remember the rain on school days, or more specifically, the days I didn’t like going. My memories of growing up were happy ones and the area we lived in was quiet and pleasant, full of wildlife and animals, freight trains on a regular basis, etc.

It maybe also why I have such a love for history, as it was all around me, from finding the old green bottles with the glass ball in the neck in our back garden, to seeing the remains of old railway tracks that used to belong to the old pit, the whole area was an industrial-archaeologists paradise, but today most of this has been cleared away to make room for ‘the new’, or at least that’s how it was several years ago when I last visited. I think it is important to remember our past and preserve as much as we are feasibly able to, so future generations can look back and see how we lived all those years ago.

‘Has the moon lost her memories?’

Memories have a habit of resurfacing on experiencing things, such as smells, sounds, pictures and so on, that we are subjected to on a daily basis. All these small little events that happen day by day for instance can send you back decades to when you remember it as but a mere child. Those hastily grasped recalls through the maze of your memory can cause you to shudder as they send their brief but shocking kick into your consciousness. It appears sometimes as if your memories are stored up within a vault, each contained within their own little safety deposit box with those small little daily remembrances being their own personal keys into the vault of your personal depths, the museum of your life.

And our memories are the most defining thing about us, being formed from our experiences throughout the path of a lifetime. A life’s journey forms you, makes you what you are, becomes you even. What type of personality you develop probably is made, formed, set into stone from your early years as a child, the love you receive from your parents being a very fundamental aspect, a character forming one. No one can really rupture these formative years however, even though some may try hard to belittle them, to plainly forget what you once were. Those early memories are timeless, never to be forgot, a most treasured possession.
As we travel through life, as the years pass by offering new experiences, we accumulate both knowledge and possessions, a material reminder of our lives. What I believe to be most sacred however, in the time I have lived, is memory. Material items and possessions come and go, but nothing can replace your childhood memories, nothing at all. This is not to say that possessions have no importance, on the contrary, they are most certainly fundamental too. But to me, my childhood recollections are like gold dust, something so valuable, so treasured, that their memory is invaluable, a priceless artefact buried deep within the sands of time – their archaeologist being relived incidents that occur throughout your life.

We all are subjected to life’s hard knocks at some stage in our lives, and I suppose how we deal with them really depends on how tough we are. It is easy to fall to pieces over harsh, unjust, wrongful treatment, and, I expect many people do. I believe it is a true test of Faith whether we succumb to these discriminatory occurrences, maybe dealt by an unlucky deck of the playing cards of life, or maybe something working deliberately against you, and that Faith could be either a belief in a higher authority, God if you like, or even a strong conviction of who and what you were prior to this treatment.

I write this now, at a stage in my life where I have been dealt a bad hand. I suppose I write to keep myself relatively intact, but I believe, or at least I sincerely hope, that we are all strong enough to overcome the difficulties presented to us in life. In my case, my difficulties arose I believe because I had a pretty traumatic childhood, loosing my Mother when I was just a young teenager. My Mother was everything to me, my whole world, the one parent who guided me, taught me, read books to me as a child, loved me unconditionally as her son. She showed me love and warmth; she made me feel that I was such a special, special child. Loosing her when I was just a mere thirteen year old boy had an effect upon me that really, when I search deep within myself and look back, totally ruptured my life – and still has an effect on me to this day that is so profound in its significance that there rarely is a moment that goes by that I do not think of her.

Again, these are memories, and to me they are relived through daily events, their safety deposit boxes searching for the key that sets them free. Sometimes these keys are old photos, pictures now faded through the passage of the years, images that expose a time of happiness and joy; faded, certainly, but never ever forgot, cemented into memory for all of eternity, or at least your time here on this Earth. Memories that I believe that are so vital to your soul, sanity and existence.

A poem about the early days…

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Such an indescribable feeling,
a warmth radiating outwards from the core,
expelling any vestiges of remaining chill;
like the sun at the dawn of spring
melting away the shimmering, icy, silky cobwebs of a past winter.

And it was during those years of youth,
(It seems like a different age now – how time can alter)
during the relentless march of those late spring days
– breaking through to summer
that I remember the teacher one Friday afternoon
as the sun blazed through the window,
acknowledging the feeling we had,
for I guess I was not singular in its effect,
praising its beauty, its charm,
– the sunlight
– the warmth
causing a blossoming of feelings
For her.

For her only,
that’s how it was back in the halcyon days
– of innocence
– of inexperience
days of long summer nights –
made all the more vivid,
colourful
through longing,
through euphoric thoughts of what might be,
of what might have been.

And it would leave me enchanted,
intoxicated with its desire
with a potency which would fill the soul
becoming enraptured
carried away,
through its beauty,
and its charm.

Memories of Innocence.

I remember looking out of my bedroom window, which was situated in a south-westerly direction, onto the large, sloping roof of the blue club directly opposite me, separated between our house and two railtracks which led to the mines and the steel works of the industrial heartland of the Ebbw Valley. Many trains would come during the course of the day, laden with the produce of work and others returning empty to be filled up once again. Directly above the blue clubs gigantic roof you could see the hill top of Machen Mountain, with its slag heaps looking like some spawn of the loch ness monster with its irregular humps of slag taken from the earth of the old pits of Risca colliery. The mountain slopes were decorated with trees, and you could pinpoint clearings through the foliage where roads coiled their way up to the television mast at the top of the mountain.

To the right of the looming roof of the club, you could see down into the village itself and the crossroads which gave the village its name. Crosskeys was a junction where both the Sirhowy and the Ebbw Valleys joined, and were fed along into one straight route south. It was quite a busy junction with traffic lights controlling the passage of traffic and pedestrians. Groups of youths would be seen hanging around nearby, wasting away the hours of the day with boredom. Directly above the crossroads rose Mynydd Lan, with its old slate quarry gouged into its side like some obscene wound, in memory of its industrial heritage. This mountain however contained the remains of a forest fire and few trees remained on its side. From my window you could see directly up the Sirhowy valley, which then disappeared from view as two sides of the valley closed in together, shutting it out of sight. Of course this direct view up the western side of the valley was put into perspective by the rows upon rows of the roofs of terraced houses, again symbolic of 19th Century Industrialisation.

The main memory of the sight outside of my window was that it was always sunny, with swallows and swifts swooping around and landing directly on top of the blue club roof for a chatter and rest. I remember their migratory patterns towards the end of Summer whereby they would fly and swoop in a great formation and land on roofs to rejoin one another and then they would fly again, all the time gathering new friends and then finally fly and not come back, gone away to their new climes as our winter approached. And it was a peaceful memory as well, having lots of friends, lots to do and a loving and caring family. I distinctly remember the long drawn out summer evenings, the sun slowly resting into the west behind the valley hills, its twilight glow casting long, red, shadows across the tops of the terraced roofs, creating a serene, calm mood. Often I would just lie on my bed reading a book or just playing, watching the birds or the people cross the road. It was, in a single expressive word, contentment.

Our house was the old station masters house in Crosskeys, which used to be part of the old train station with only the station masters house remaining as a relic of bygone days. It was a big house, with a garden the size of a small allotment which was completely wild and overgrown. Towards the rear of the garden we had our own miniature tropics – a small rise covered with Chinese bamboo–like shoots which were just an incredible weed which you could not get rid of even though you would try and dig up the roots. My Sister and I, with friends, would spend whole days building dens here in different parts and having fights and so on. The house was situated in between two train tracks; the one track led to the Ebbw Vale Steelworks – a single track – not much traffic, and the other track, a double track, would lead to the coal mines of Abercarn and Oakdale. This was a busy track, and occasionally we would see the odd passenger train come up which would excite us, but it was mainly a freight track for coal and steel.

Our garden was, as I stated, very big. There was a shed near the bottom which had, in its previous years, been used as stables. In fact, during my adolescence, I remember very frequently finding the occasional horseshoe as well as old bottles in the garden and when I would dig to any serious intent – the old green type of bottle with a glass ball in the neck. I guess this would have to be something to do with it being near a train station. I also have fond memories exploring and finding all the wildlife in the garden, the many many caterpillars, ladybirds and a whole host of bugs and suchlike, this was probably because the garden was so unkempt and quite wild which allowed for a whole array of creatures to run rampant. I also remember my Mums strawberrys amd herb garden and my (usual) failed attempts at trying to grow my own radishes and so on. They never seemed to take off which was a great shame.

Then there were the trees; the biggest was a great big sycamore situated right in the centre of the back garden which was moved from the front of the house by my Dad and other family members. My Sister wanted a tree house built in it, but that never came about, but we had fun climbing the other trees in the garden though.

All in all, I have very fond memories of growing up in that big house in Crosskeys.