Doing triple salchows off the railings and crossing crocodile infested rivers…

Doing triple salchows off the railings and crossing crocodile infested rivers…

Some kids have a certain cheekiness that I am a little jealous of, even if one or two sometimes take it too far. I was never so bold as the little man in my featured image and while the old fogey in me says, isn’t he very bold’ there is another old fogey in me cracking up at his cheek and admiring his confidence. Some people get that knocked out of them all too early in life. Perhaps my greatest life achievement was making it past the age of ten without doing myself some serious damage. On reflection, while I was hardly the most wild child, I took risks which were to say the least, worthy of a sharp sucking of air through the teeth or at the very least a girding of one’s loins.

Window breaking seemed to play a bigger part in my life than it really should have. My neighbour, my brother and my cousin were all responsible for breaking our windows, demonstrating with a varying degree of failure their lack of sporting prowess. A golf Ball, a stone and a football, all managed to get me in trouble at the hands of others. ME! Just because I was the only child left to face my mother when the damage was done. I never broke even one window in our house, but I was the one who ended up ‘waiting until my father got home.’

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Mind you, I did break a massive collection of car windows, parked out the back of the local police station when I was eight, but that was an entirely different story involving two rather large policemen, a peeing in my little boy short trousers, and the biggest scare of my young life. I was just an innocent you understand, but listen, like I said- that’s a whole other story.

I was a good boy really, for the most part – usually. We played games that were… well let’s just say, maybe not the type of games I would have let my kids play for fear of losing them young. They were different times. I walked the plank – literally, and at a fair height off the ground. My buddy and I used to stand at the back of our garden shed’s roof– a large, single-story, flat roof affair, and race across the roof to jump off and see who could land furthest away. I walked every metal railings I could, trying to execute a triple salchow on dismount. How I still have an intact set of testicles I really don’t know.

One of our favourite games was to build a fort at the end of our garden, using whatever scrap we could, and there was always plenty of that to find about the place in those days. We built it as solid as possible then one of us – the designated lone cavalry soldier, would hide inside shooting at the others who were of course Apache, as they tried to belly crawl through the scrub to attack. They would be shot many times but there were rules.

No one could just run straight at the fort, getting shot that way was just something you couldn’t come back from. Zig zagging from one piece of cover to another was fine. You could get winged, in fact for effect it was almost expected if not preferable, to dramatically spin out of a gunshot when hit in the arm. A good belly crawl, especially if you could go so slow so as to remain unnoticed until the last minute, was always a winner. Bear in mind, the lone soldier in the fort would only have limited visibility through one hole to shoot, and we generally tried to roof the fort even though that was technically not a fort. But the roof did have a very particular function.

Capture

You see, once the stand-off had lasted long enough and we had expended our energy fantasising about being part of a great wild west if not highly politically incorrect adventure, the attacking injuns would inevitable jump on top of the fort roof, to try and collapse the entire structure on top of the boy inside. Now I know it sounds cruel and dangerous, but this wasn’t some form of intricate abuse targeting one lad. We all took turns inside and that was strangely enough, the preferred place to be. The soldier you see, was the goodie and the injuns the baddies. In some twisted logic that only we understood in that exact time and place, there was a cost to playing the coveted role of goodie and some payoff for being the baddie. The goodie got to risk having his head caved in beneath the collapsing fort to and the baddies, got to cave it in. Trust me it made sense at the time.

While we played out such gentlemanly games, we learned lots and lots of things about life. We established rules, developed strategies of fairness and tethered natural boyish aggression within the ‘safe’ confines of our play. We never overstepped the mark and really didn’t want to hurt each other and we rarely did, despite the barbarity of some of our games.

But perhaps the biggest danger was from the less obvious risks we took. Playing where we were banned from, fording giant puddles 60 feet wide at the back of the local cinema, pretending it was the crocodile infested Zambezi river, or rolling in the grass in the local grasslands we called ‘The California Hills’ despite the fact they were deep in the heart of suburban Dublin, were all things that could lead to a torn item of clothing or perhaps,ruining a good pair of shorts through staining when falling into the muddy waters of the Zambezi. There, truly lay the greatest danger.

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For in a time when money was scarce, we didn’t understand the pressure that our parents, particularly our mothers faced in trying to make ends meet, for they were the true keepers of the books. While I thought nothing of destroying a jumper (sweater for my American friends), my mother would go through me for a shortcut if it was unrepairable. I remember wearing my sisters socks to school because I had destroyed my last pair of clean ones traversing the Niagara falls on a tight rope when I was seven. No one knew I was wearing them except for my mother and I but OH, the humiliation! I don’t even want to go near the day I had no fresh underwear!… I said…let’s not go there!

So you can imagine that given the importance of not destroying our clothes, the day I had an accident at school, life became somewhat immersive. I was six years old and things became a little loose in the digestive department. Back then we had no phones at home and my teacher couldn’t contact our house directly. I lived about a mile from school so the lovely Ms O’Sullivan, sent me home with a chaperone who lived on the same road as me – so I wouldn’t get lost. While I was only six and we had one major and multiple minor roads to cross, those were different times, so it was quite acceptable to send a sick little mite like me home from school. Back then married women were not allowed to work in Ireland (I know WTF!) Well my God what a trauma.

Half way home my bowels took control and began to decide that what was inside my tiny little tummy, simply had to come out via the rear exit.. on an express train. Bear in mind I was wearing shorts, so I knew that if I couldn’t hold back nature, then the whole world would know my shame. It was one thing to be touching cloth, an entirely different shenanigan to be risking a veritable public shaming.

In panic, I skirted through the relative quiet of the church grounds, clenching like my life depended on it, no other thought in my little head but to get home to my mammy. I schooched through the church grounds and out the side gate, leggin’ it up the access lane at the back of the shops. The lane was always empty so no one could see me and I had to keep stopping to grab myself (my little bottom to be exact) in order to try and stop the inevitable deluge.

From the end of the lane to my house was a 4oo yard dash onto the main street and around the corner. It would be busy, filled with bescarfed women doing their daily shop as they were wont to do back in the day. If only I could hold it together for just another three or so minutes, I was sure I could make it home.

Ten yards before the end of the lane my world fell apart. I couldn’t stop it. Looking back I don’t know how I managed to make it that far. I was so tiny. I felt the explosive burst and the warmth of my shame instantly ran down the back of my legs. My chaperone grabbed his nose, called me a name and simply abandoned me for fear of association with the mess I had become. I wanted to cry, but I was stranded and alone, still having to face stepping out from the privacy of the laneway, into the busy street to make it to my house. There was no way to do this without the world witnessing the horror of me. I felt the moist sludge gather at the back of my left sock which had rolled down to my ankle. The smell was horrendous and I welled up.

I recall grabbing my mop of blonde hair at the front of my head with both hands and tugging at it, angry with myself for not being able to control what was of course beyond the control of a six year old boy. But it didn’t matter I still felt angry and devastated.

I stood there for a few moments and then from somewhere found the strength to carry on. I stepped out onto the street and turned left. The main road was just yards ahead and there was a steady stream of passers-by, so I gulped down the lump in my throat, wiped away the tear that threatened at the corner of my eye, and with my skinny little shoulders back, strode like a mighty, devastated colossus into the fray.

I kind of knew that I couldn’t do it, even though I was doing it as the thought crossed my mind. My little heart was frantically thumping in my chest and I could hear it in my ears. With every step, more of the mess that was my humiliation seeped slowly from the back of my shorts and down my little boy legs. But then I saw my mother. Like a miracle vision there she was and being my mother, she could pick me out from fifty yards. She knew my every dimple, the shape of my head, the shimmy of my walk and she stopped dead in her tracks, knowing full well I shouldn’t be standing there at this time of day. I registered the puzzlement of her face but her face… it broke my resolve and the tears exploded in relief. My saviour, my blessed relief.. I ran to her crying, not caring that the world could see me now for she would take that all away.

 She swept me up in her arms not expecting her favourite coat to be destroyed in the process but on registering the problem, not caring. I doubt I ever cried so hard and she carried me home without a word. She was the real giant in my life. She made everything better. She clipped my little arse for hanging with boys who broke our windows, or for ruining my Sunday shoes. But she loved me when and how it mattered and carried me on her shoulders when she stood by my side. She was fearless, she was mighty and I thought of her today for no particular reason, a long lost, kind and wonderful soul, I hope I carry her tide with me, I hope I shine for her in her absence…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1
Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

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Rubbing shoulders with monsters…

Rubbing shoulders with monsters…

Sorrow is its own master. It galvanises all the sources of pain waiting in the wings to create the perfect storm, leaving you undone. It is as ruthless as it is all consuming. There is seldom an easy route to safety and like any mighty storm, the only way past it is through it.

My own nature is to be melancholic but I have always found ways to disguise this to the world. Perhaps my only true reveal is in my writing. It shouldn’t have surprised me (but it did) when my heart stopped a few years back, I recognised what was happening and instead of the oft purported life flashing by, for me I was overwhelmed only with sadness. I felt the burden of all the sorrow that would befall the loved ones I was leaving behind. I came back from the light, a tad darker perhaps.

I guess the true mastery of sorrow is its ability to render one helpless. My darker days are well camouflaged. I have learned that while I cannot win the battles every time, I will see my way out the other side. Perhaps that is the key.   But I am absolutely helpless in the face of other’s sorrow for that, I cannot fix. I am like a dried sponge. My shell feels hard but once you wet it with so much as a single tear drop, I begin to absorb all the pain I see. It does little to help the ones in most need. The sorrow around us is perhaps the sorrow that leaves us most helpless for it is a battle we cannot fight by proxy.

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There are none so strong they cannot be felled by crises of the heart. There can be none I suspect, not touched at some time in their life by the pain of heart break. But sadness sidles in from many places. It can haunt us from our past, linger in the creases of our mind, tether us to another us and leave us strangled by its grip.

Sometimes it is a darkness in and of itself that needs no inspiration, a conflation of something and nothing that can mean everything in the moment. Whether it takes us down in a single sweep, or drags at our coat tails holding us back, its greatest trick is making us believe it is majestic and invincible, an acrid, putrid, loathsome emotion, an ocean that we drown in if we forget to swim.

I can only speak for me. I am still at sea. Sometimes, I barely have time to catch my breath before the next wave, but I have learned to take shelter through the worst of it. There is no one immune from the hidden darkness that walks among us every day. It rubs shoulders with us as it smiles back the monster within, sometimes perhaps a word away from disintegration. It wears makeup and shoes, a suit or a pair of jeans. It wears its heart on its sleeve, but then covers it up so no one else can see it.

The salt of tears feeds the monster. The gulp of pain as you swallow it down, only encourages the beast. The solitude of belief, the cause of so much grief in the simple premise that you are alone, is the mastery of this creature, it’s dominating feature is it becomes our teacher. We learn to be subdued by its weight, until all too late we learn it can be defeated.

I have no mastery of the art. I do battle. I win, I lose, but most importantly I choose. Sometimes the choices I make are wrong. I am no savant. I can neither offer advice nor consolation for all sorrow is truly felt in the isolation of our own hearts, but I can offer that which I know to be true for me, for what it’s worth.

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Inside my head, when I am alone in my thoughts, I am only who I choose to be. I am not bettered by the darkest of my inklings and even when it feels like I may someday be overwhelmed by the force of my melancholia, I choose so not to lose. I choose to be better than the darkness. I choose to take a bite from my elephant, just that one bite at a time bite, to alight from the traps my dark old soul has set for me. Eating my big old monster, one bite at a time, even if I know I may never finish the gargantuan feast set out on my table, is enough to let the light in, enough at least for me. It sets me free, even if only for a while, but there in the sunlight again, I know I will smile again and that begins a whole new journey.

Today I don’t feel much like smiling. I have a tear on my eye and a tear in my heart but, that’s the part I know is not forever. The master of my sorrows it turns out – is me. But I am a master in training only. I just have to practice some more to get it right, to be the ringmaster of my own delight, so I am readied for the fight, ready for the night of my day, ready to take the worst out of my best. Heavy the heart in the chest, but I know the sun is always waiting. Tomorrow will be bright again. Sometimes the return of your smile may be a bit further away, you just have to remember it’s coming… I just smile on the outside while I’m waiting…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1
Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

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We fade to grey

We fade to grey

A reblog as Joan turns 94 today

Maxpower's Blog

On the release of Darkly Wood II this week I thought this appropriate to reblog for my cover girl who will be 92 this May

The beautiful girl on the cover of my latest book is my partner’s mother Joan. Affectionately known to all as Jomammy, she was 21 when this photo was taken on Dollymount strand in Dublin in 1946. This week Jomammy turns 90. What a wonderful achievement to have lived so long and to still be, for the most part independent.

Her upcoming birthday made me consider how she has become invisible to so many people in so many situations. Many people ignore her as though she doesn’t exist. Her failing hearing does not help, as it makes it difficult to have a conversation with her sometimes. I say difficult not impossible and it doesn’t excuse people for not making the effort. Sometimes she repeats stories that…

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