Kicking Apples and Attachment to Thoughts

My boys and I play this game on the Crab & Winkle path in the autumn, when the crab apples fall from the trees. The game involves kicking an apple so that it stays on the path. The combination of narrow path and odd shaped apples means that more than one kick is a “win” and more than two, the world championship!

Anyway. We’ve played this game since the boys were toddling, and it’s become such a part of our autumn walks that I will often play this game when I’m … hem … walking on my own.

So, yesterday, I’m walking home via the path and see an apple, and give it a boot. Rubbish! Straight into the ditch. Although I’m completely alone, my ridiculous male pride cannot allow this to be the defining apple-kicking effort of my day, so I look for another apple.

There are none on the path, but I see a collection of them just to the side. I focus on a particularly green one, slightly bigger than the others. “Ultimate redemption if this stays on,” I say to myself.

I give it a boot, and inadvertently all the others, too.

The apple I’m focusing on shoots onto the path, and incredibly rolls dead straight. I haven’t noticed all the other apples because I’m only focused on MY apple. It rolls on and on, it’s amazing. I am the ultimate champion of the w-

And the apple rolls off the path.

Yes, I’m a 48 year old man with two children and my own business, but here I am crestfallen, as I watch an apple roll off a path.

I walk on, disappointed in myself. And then I stop.

Ahead of me on the path are two OTHER apples from the group I’d kicked. I’d been so focused on “my” apple that I didn’t see these two … stay on the path.

At that moment, something dawned on me. We can get so attached to one idea. One idea about ourselves and how we should be, or what we should do; one idea about who he is or she is, or they are; one idea about what’s right and what’s wrong…

And that’s OK.

But in our fixation on that one idea, how often do we miss other ideas; other ideas that just might be more useful?

It made me think.

What about you? How many apples are on your path, right now, that you just have not seen?
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Remembrance Sunday and Not Knowing When

So, we’re dressed as British soldiers and the Assistant Director is explaining the scene.

“It’s June 1940,” he begins, “The Germans have pushed British forces back to the North coast of France. Churchill has a plan to rescue as many as possible from Dunkirk – but he needs a decoy. You represent the 5,000 British and French soldiers at Calais, and you are that decoy. 200,000 men will be saved from Dunkirk. You, the soldiers at Calais, will be sacrificed so that can happen. The scene we’re filming today represents the moments after you’ve been told you will be sacrificed – and that you’re all going to die.”

OK, he’s a film director and he was trying to create a mood, so the precise historical accuracy regarding dates, numbers and general facts wasn’t that important to the him. But those words, “You’re all going to die.”  kept coming back to me throughout the day.

And it was a long “throughout”. We ate early and then just hung around waiting in the cold. We waited. The the day dragged on. We waited and waited, and the bantering started, and then got tedious, and gradually we lost the high-spirits because it was really cold now and the cold began to bite under our thermals; and then the hunger started, and we hadn’t had a tea-break for ages, and it was taking so fricken long, ffs, how long can it take to shoot one scene?

And all the while, somewhere in the back of our minds, we knew, eventually, we’d wrap, and have that tea, and change out of those damp clothes, and get into that warm car … and EVENTUALLY we’d be home in the comfort of our own beds.

All the while, we knew we weren’t going to die.

A few of us realised this as we stood there grumbling in the dark cold of that Remembrance Sunday. We had a moment of insight, you might say. Yes, some of us noticed and couldn’t ignore the discrepancy between our safe whining, and the thousands of boys, younger than most of us on set, who had sat on the hills of Calais in 1940, knowing they weren’t going home.

Strange, and maybe it’s just my interpretation, but the whinging did seem to dampen right down after that.

What does this all mean? Nothing. And everything. But this one thought hit me: We are all going to die. Maybe the greatest luxury we have is not knowing when.

Why the Hell Would I Do That?

“And that’s not all she told me,” said Ellie.

“No?” I said.

“No.”

“Go on, then,” I said.

“She said you sit watching the window. She said you watch the window like you’re looking out of it, but she doesn’t think you are.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes, really,” said Ellie. “She said she thinks you’re watching a reflection.”

“Watching a reflection?” I said. “Why the hell would I be watching some girl in a reflection? Why the hell would I do that?”

Ellie looked at me for a moment. “I don’t know,” she said, “maybe you’re just watching the traffic.”

From the collection, Little Flame and Other Endings, available here: Little Flame on Amazon

Little Flame

My new cooker was delivered today, but I had to send it back. I needed a new cooker because the old one had little pictures of flames around the knobs for turning the gas up and down.

Emily was at my house making dinner. She put a pot on the cooker and left the gas way up on big flame. Things would always burn on big flame.

“No, no,” I said, “you have to put it on little flame, otherwise it’ll burn.”

Emily stood there looking at me and I remember the exact shade of her hair and the little pout she had on her lips. Then she was smiling and putting her arms around me. “Little flame,” she said. “Oh, you are priceless.”

It’s difficult to use a cooker that has pictures of little flames and you call them little flames, and you know this makes someone love you because it’s innocent and you. In the end I couldn’t go near the damn thing. All I could see were the little flames and I could hear Emily saying, “You are priceless,” and holding on to me as though we were branded into each other.

When it came the new cooker didn’t have pictures of flames. It just had a zero for when the gas is off and a nine for when you want to burn things.

Little Flame and Other Endings, is available now on Amazon!

Little Flame on Amazon!