About 60Km from Toledo are these wonderful windmills. Similar to those described in Cervantes ‘Don Quixote’. These have been restored faithful to the original designs. Worth the detour, just for the view.
Families are the best. No, really. They successfully, effortlessly, solve the Jungian psyche’s yearning for a balanced state of consciousness and unconsciousness. And, financially, it costs (unless you have teenagers) nothing.
Within family groups fathers have possibly the most misunderstood roles. Now I don’t want to get into mean-level parenting differences between men and women, or indeed anything that would agitate the fairer sex. But, men play a hugely differentiated role. And do it rather well.
In social situations, sports teams, even politics: father figures arise, indeed are thrust into prominence and are revered by followers. Gandhi, Churchill, even Pat Morita (in Karate Kid) are revered in their own sphere of influence. Not just as great politicians or even leaders or sportsmen, but as a reliable safe pair of hands who can set an example, mentor younger people, give reasoned advice and just “do the right thing”.
Norrie was an unlikely candidate for such a role. Indeed he was supremely clever, articulate, an understated fencing coach and left handed. (A big plus!). He was also cantankerous, outspoken, irreverent, profane, a ‘ladies man’ (in a charming, old school way) and had a propensity to become ‘tired and emotional’ as Victorians were wont to say.
Our team had been in financial turmoil, falling membership and riven with apathy. Norrie showed up and things seemed to change almost immediately.
Now I’m not suggesting he was some sort of Clarence Odbody out of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, but he was somehow other-worldly. Mephistophelean goatee, sartorially acceptable and a pipe-smoker. Well, it did it for the team. Through a fug of pipe-smoke, beery breath and Rabelaisian encouragement, a motley collection of disinterested individuals began to have belief in their ability. Competitions beckoned. Wins began to accumulate. Notice was taken.
All this time, the time when bonding was strongest, Norrie’s own abilities were waning. Messy divorce took it’s toll. As did redundancy. Still the performances improved, the place was happier. Norrie’s own difficulties were masked, and at that point we didn’t concern ourselves. Well you don’t, do you? Norrie was travelling his Jungian middle passage completely unconsciously. As unaware of impeding crisis as we were. Norrie’s life crises were as meaningless to his team in the throws of youth and adolescence, as they were to his own self. Still he surprised us. captaining winning teams, and becoming the first local fencer to represent Scotland in the veteran category aged sixty. Just as Mr Jung asserts that we can only despair as the ageing Lothario paddles his canoe into the sunset with his twenty something girl; only the Lothario is blind to the fact he’s heading for rapids downstream. In Norrie’s case the toll of social, personal and economic upheaval he suffered led to a marked escalation in his own destructive behaviours. He never saw the rapids coming; neither did we.
People need parents. Not just the nurturing, the care, the safety they provide. They need a psychological shield which provides imagined protection from ‘the next life’. Once parents are gone, then as it goes, you’re bumped up the queue. Norrie provided this protection for the team. As long as he was there, no one else had to step up. Take responsibility. Even care. His own individuation was hampered by lack of self-care and commitment to his friends. Steadily, as his powers waned, the team produced more International recognition, medals, honours.
Then he stopped coming.
And like families do when the parental figure departs, the club slowly but inexorably began to drift apart. And at any reunions, just like families do, the old stories would be recited verbatim. Like Norse sagas: terrifying, yet with a strange longing even though everyone knows them all.
Yet this particular saga would have been incomplete without finding out what had become of him. The successful club he mentored has long since ceased to exist. The individuals, too, often no longer in touch with each other. Creating their own mysteries as they stride forth towards that day where their lifetime watersheds begin. But Norrie?
Now in council sheltered care, and in his mid-eighties, I found him as sharp as ever. Not misty-eyed for the ‘old days’. More a sanguine reality for his present state. Still getting about unaided, he asked if I’d care to meet again soon and perhaps go out.
I agreed, of course.
Families are best. Each and every family you belong to.
Retrospect can be a cloudy lens.
The modern day Ozzie Osborne is regarded as a kind of fluffy, benign, Uncle Fester. Crumbling British rock stars trade their bus passes for multi millions on the American tour circus and pot-bellied fans spend their children’s inheritance on tickets and merchandise. All seemingly oblivious now, to the edgy past and general shenanigans of their rocky-excessive pasts. Cloudy lens indeed!
I was never a rockery type per se. Well most people I knew fancied themselves as some sort of misunderstood intellectual, so I shuffled over to that particular camp. Saves a lot of explaining, and you don’t need trendy clothes!
However in the tortured Venn diagrams that link humanity together, I found myself at an intersection with a rock God.
In Venn speak: A ∩ B
Harry ∩ Bruce Dickinson out of Iron Maiden
It must be around twenty five years ago, before the days when such a chance encounter would have led to a million tweets and FB selfies. Back then it led to people actually talking to each other.
Bruce was a very accomplished fencer and competed, when time and schedule allowed in various tournaments. This, as you may have guessed, was our Venn intersection. Though this was not some World Grade A in Berlin or Madrid, but an Open tournament in Largs, Scotland. Still, you take your fame where you can. Our team were one short for an event so Jim, my mate, asked Bruce Dickinson if he’d step into the breach. The first and only time The Iron maiden frontman was ever at a loose end! Bruce thought about it and for a second was genuinely interested.
“Sorry,” he said remembering something vaguely important, “got a concert in Paris later and we fly out of Prestwick in two hours”.
As excuses go this was a good one. So without a team event we headed for the shower. Jim, Bruce and me.
There are ageing rockers, and then there is Bruce Dickinson. Erudite, well-spoken, talented and personable. Totally charming in a very English way, and so very unlike most of his peers. He bade us farewell, and we wished him well for the concert.
Bruce turned towards Paris as Jim and myself went to the post-tournament bar.
Retrospect was about to get cloudy.
Everyone has their driving beats. ACDC, Coldplay, done-to-death rock lists. Stuff that makes your journey more road trip than supermarket trip. Gyms are way different.
As a gym newbie I thought I’d rip some tunes, and rip myself muscles to particular songs. Sorted. Well, in my head anyway. But I wasn’t exercising my head unfortunately.
I now realise that you can’t have a gym playlist. Not in the gyms I go to. The tunes have to be able to drown out the background gym musak, typically 1Direction or R&B, interspersed with ads for teen makeup or no-win-no-fee solicitors. Anyhoo, I digress.
What tends to happen between my headphones stays there, so I’m not gonna bore you to death with my ten favourite ab-cruncher tracks, or how many chest-press reps I can get to a particular Calvin Harris mash-up. My playlists are like my bank PIN. If I tell you: I have to kill you. The lists are probably similar to others in that once tracks are in, than they tend to stay there. Which led to my first major gym indiscretion.
Thus, content to secret myself away in my little world of music I finished my workout. Odd tracks I hadn’t heard for years were blasting out. Like the “AudioDJ” app on the MP3 player had found an old box of albums under the stairs and was discovering ageing bands for the first time.
I decided, three more sets of ten reps on the chest press and AWAY!
I got up to go change, when “AudioDJ” dusted off Bee Gees “Staying Alive”. Only when I was half way back along the gym, I realised I was doing “The Walk”. All I needed was the can of paint! Two women were watching me from their exercise bikes. The more I tried to walk normally; the more I couldn’t. I was surprised they didn’t applaud as I exited.
“Good workout?” asked the guy in the changing room, referring to my very red face.
“Yeah, sort of” I replied. Unsure if he’d seen me too.
Mental note, and my wholesome advice to all gym users. Review cringe worthy tracks and delete!
I’m a newcomer to the gym. Mature, but new to it. And do you notice the infinitive is always used with ‘gym’? It’s that important. Even I do it now. After a month. My free month at the start of my membership. Well it’s actually six weeks, but that’s not for here.
I thought, well, the gym-guy shows you the ropes and all the machines and you just get on with it. He did. And I did.
But it’s more complicated than that. It’s the other gym folks, and importantly how you fit in to it all. And the more you try to fit in: the more you become one of the outgroups. Oh yeah, I’m gonna ‘minimal group paradigm’ myself here as one of the normal, good guy types. And why not?! I wouldn’t associate with any of the ones below. Trust me.
Gyms provide sprays and paper towels. Use them! Why do some guys (always male) think it’s ok to sweat buckets over a machine, than leave their ghostly imprint in rancid perspiration for someone else to clean. haven’t they heard of PVL Staphylococcal strains! Yuk.
Not as ‘yuk’ however as the odd types (male again) who think it’s de rigeur to spit in the drink fountain. Surreptitiously, so they think no one notices, then have a drink. ALWAYS bring your own drinks. Just do it! (Ah, so that’s what Nike meant!)
Machine hoggers. You know them. Either sex, sit on the bikes/machine/treadmill chat to mates, watch the TV, generally preen. You know them? They know themselves! Stop it right now.
Now this next category of outgroup is a particular bane of mine. Young females who ask the attendants to change TV channels to some dire music one. Think “4 Music”. Then get the guy to crank up the volume………and leave the gym five minutes later. The reason most peeps wear headphones in the gym is to muffle the sound of the crappy TV music channels. Gym bosses think on!
Arrrgh! That’s enough already. Gym politics? I’m really not interested, and don’t get me started on gym shower politics!
Museu Colecção Berardo in Belem, Lisbon is a fantastic (free!) museum which seems totally out of place in this historic quarter. It’s a belter of a gallery with stunning views from the roof and the usual comfort facilities.
Exhibitions change frequently, and it’s a great adjunct to the other attractions in the area.