Terrorism Europe

Terrorism Europe.

ISIS ParisThe last year has seen a marked increase in the number of deaths caused by terrorism in Western Europe.  The last spike was in 2004, when the commuter network in Spain was attacked which resulted in Spain withdrawing from the coalition invading Iraq and Afghanistan.  Since the end of World War II, Europe has had a fair share of terrorist attacks.  Between 1970 and 1994 terrorist attacks in Europe were  more commonplace.  Organisations such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) to Spain’s Basque separatists and other extremist political groups would regularly conduct attacks, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries; some carefully targeted, others more opportunistic.  The one thing they had in common was that the ‘terrorist’ would try to remain undiscovered and definitely more alive.

However, now there is one striking difference.  The current threat posed by Islamic extremism, be it Al-Qaeda (AQ) or the self styled Islamic State (ISIS) has added a new dimension to terrorism within Europe.  One that may have significant consequences to the relative peace that has endured for so long.

This is (possibly) one of the most controversial posts that I have ever written.  To read more, visit my site here.

Change

Change is easy to promise yourself, I know, I’ve done it hundreds of times since my injury.  The hardest part is actually doing the deed especially when you are in complete agony and you just want to curl up and die.  I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve just wanted to die, to be free of the pain, the misery and the memories that haunt me.  I’m not saying this lightly.  I’ve fallen down the pit of depression so many times, tried to crawl out only to be kicked in the teeth and fallen lower than before.

I’ll warn you now that this post sounds like the irritating whining of a selfish, woe-is-me weakling, which it is.  A friend once told me that pain is weakness leaving the body.  I have a lot of weakness!  I’ve given fair warning and read at your own mental peril!

Whilst I was in Headley Court the psychiatrist told me to start a journal in order for me to articulate my feelings in writing.  It didn’t take long for me to get bored writing, “Hurting and pissed off”.  The psychiatrist had a go at me and said I wasn’t trying, I asked him how hard he wanted me to try?  “Express your feelings” he told me.  “I have” I told him back.  Needless to say, that conversation didn’t get very far and neither did my ‘articulation of my feelings’.  As I mentioned in the first part, I’m not very good at showing my feelings.

Once again, the full story can be read at http://www.sothisisreality.com or click this link

What Happens….?

What happens when the silence comes?  The moment that you no longer have any more words to say.  All the words that have come before are all that can be said.  What happens then?

What happens when there is nothing left to do?  All you could have done has been done.  There is no more to do.  It’s all been done.  It’s achieved nothing.  Anything else is superfluous and pointless, an exercise in futility?

What happens when you no longer want to move?  Movement brings more pain, more tears and achieves little.  You don’t go anywhere and you don’t want to go anywhere.  You want to stay still and remain that way.

What happens when the anger that fired you has gone?  When the fire that ignited every time you felt the pain has finally been extinguished by the futility of it all.  All that is left is the empty, hollow, cold space that it once occupied.  The fire is gone and with it the power to try and overcome the obstacles.

What happens when the belief you had has gone?  The once seemingly indefatigable essence of yourself has slowly petered out, chipped away by the constant failures and defeats.  The optimism constantly battered into submission; twisted and warped, it’s now a feeling of pointlessness and negativity.

What happens when everyone that supported you have drifted into indifference?  Their avoidance of what is replaced by what was; surreal and imagined, contact avoided and then ceasing altogether.  The pillar of support crumbling into dust and drifting on the wind.

The sweet temptation of nothingness beckons like the sirens of lore; the promise of no pain, no anguish and no more failures unimaginable and yet a thing of daydreams and tormented sleep.  To be free of everything, to shed all human frailties and weaknesses.  To be free of a tormented lifelessness and mere existence.

What happens then?

You dig deep.  Then you dig deeper.  You dig until you reach the beating heart of your existence.  You hold it and nurture it as if you would a dieing tree, it’s deep roots resisting the disease and drawing life into it’s core.  You open your eyes to the pain and suffering of those dear to you and feed off their love, their prayers and their hope.  You fuel the fire in your core until it begins to grow, its light slowly banishing the darkness and the doubts.  You find the beauty in a leaf and emulate its struggle just to stay on the tree.  You are that leaf and the tree is everything and everyone that loves you.

Unrequited?

This post has been sitting, unpublished for some time.  I recently had another look at it and tweeked it a little because of some spelling errors, but it is one I never intended to publish.  It is a very personal article that I didn’t want to share and, even now, I wonder about the decision.  It was written when I was very depressed and in pain.  I was thinking about past events and wrote this.  I may remove it as I have done to other posts that were written while I was depressed.  It may sound strange, but these were my thoughts while I was in a dark place…. Thank you.

Have you ever regretted something that has happened to you?

Have you ever sat and dwelt on someone?  Someone from your past that you never quite got over?  A certain someone that is always in the back of your mind?

Recently, I have.  I never was one for introspection.  I never had the time.  My life was a constant roller-coaster of events and deployments.  I didn’t have time to think about things that had happened to me, unless it was work related.  I never really thought about anything, seriously, unless it was work.  For me, my work was everything.  It defined my life, it defined who I was and my attitude toward anything personal.  In short, I didn’t really have time for a personal life.  It got in the way.

I was thinking about someone I had met.  To this day, I have no idea how the events that lead to our meeting were set in motion.  It was a flook.  Our own personal situations happened to coincide and we were thrown toward the inevitable meeting.  That’s not to say that either one of us could have changed our minds and our paths would never have crossed.  But we didn’t and they did.  It was something unique and yet sublime.

Although I try not to dwell too much in my past, this woman keeps popping up.  I think the reason is because there was no proper conclusion to our brief relationship.  The actual relationship wasn’t brief, but the time we spent together was.  As I sit here and type this, I keep thinking that it was too brief.  We didn’t have time to get to know each other on a deeply personal level but what I did learn is that I wanted to spend more time with her.  Time I didn’t have and, to my regret, time that was more important to my job.  My work came first, everything else was subject to availability!

It’s easy to sit back and think, ‘Well, I should have done it differently’.  Life doesn’t work like that.  That would be far too easy and, to be honest, far too boring.  One of the things that makes our lives interesting is the fact that we cannot predict what will happen and how our choices will affect our lives.  Sometimes (or as it appears to me, more often than not) our choices lead to life changing events that have a permanent and negative impact on our lives.  Sometimes people are fortunate in that their choices have lead to happiness and contentment (and sometimes the lottery!).  We just don’t know how our own choices will affect our lives in the years that follow.

I can still picture the first meeting.  To say I was nervous would be an understatement.  Sitting in a cafe, drinking our tea or coffee, our conversation was slightly forced.  I was shocked by how young she looked and how beautiful she was.  Never one to be vain, for the first time I became very conscious of my own appearance.  I haven’t looked young since I was about nineteen.  To any passer-by, I must have looked like a dirty old man!  Our conversation was non-consequential, it was small talk but what was taking place in the background was deeper.  The way she looked at me and her seemingly harmless touches on my hand are still vivid in my memory and my hands still feel the cool caress of her fingers.  For the first time in my life, my brain went into neutral and my heart took over.

I have never been a romantic.  I don’t think I could be even if I tried.  My brother is the lady-killer in our family, his good looks and charm have stood him in good stead in that department.  My mother once commented that I didn’t have a heart, just a lump of ice.  Admittedly, I brought that on myself, as I said, I never had time for romance.  However, with this woman everything felt different.  I don’t believe in fate or whatever, but I couldn’t help wondering how this wonderful thing had happened to me.

As the moments passed and events progressed, I became more enthralled in the spell she had apparently woven around me.  Our every moment was magical,  The time we spent together will forever be etched on my soul.  Our passion was unbound yet delicate.  I remember once, as she was sleeping and breathing gently that I had this crazy notion of wanting part of her.  I changed the rhythm of my breath so that as she breathed out, I breathed in.  The sensation was indescribable.  That simple act had the same effect as alcohol and I became giddy by the sensation.  As I think back on it, it does sound a little weird but at the time it was something beyond words.

No good thing lasts forever.  Not in my life.  In the end, I left her.  Work called and as ever, I was it’s loyal hound.  I will admit, that for the first time I actually resisted the call, not wanting the break the spell that was woven around us.  I failed and went back to my comfort zone.  That’s not to say that I didn’t think about her.  To the contrary, she occupied my mind making it very difficult for me to concentrate on work.  Eventually, though, with the enchantment of being near her broken, my life returned to normal.  Time passes and memories fade and with them, the emotions that come with them.  It’s a natural reaction otherwise the world would be populated by people who would not be able to concentrate on anything.  For me it wasn’t easy.  It took time but, maybe fortunately, that time was shortened by the work I did.

A long time has passed now.  We still keep in touch, to some degree.  She has moved on with her life and my life has all but ended.  She is vibrant and still full of life.  I am broken and old, my life drained by my injury.  I do have the memories, though and I can still feel her cool touch on my skin.

Father – Part Two

As much as I love my father, he has his faults, like anyone.  Unfortunately, his faults have had profound affects on the lives of others.

For as long as I can remember, my father has been an alcoholic.  It’s something that he denies but it is clear to everyone that knows him.  He’s not as bad as he used to be, but alcoholism is not something that you can have one day and not another.  His refusal to admit that he has a problem with alcohol has lead to numerous arguments in our house and the looser tends to be my long suffering mother.

He is also a bully.  In his prime, he was a big man and strong.  Now he is older and no longer as robust as he used to be, he uses words to bully people into thinking his way.  I don’t think being a Yorkshireman helps as they are known for being stubborn.  After he has had a drink or three, he occasionally reverts to his bullying persona, resulting in my mother being upset or doing anything in order to calm him down.  It usually ends with my father getting into a sulk and going to bed.  It’s been something my mother has had to live with for nearly 45 years and recently lead to her heart failing.  She nearly died because of the stress my father had constantly heaped upon her.

So, my father has his faults, but so does everyone.  His faults shaped the way I am.  I do not drink alcohol.  Something that was a constant item of amusement during my time in the army.  All soldiers drink.  Well, I didn’t and it just didn’t seem right.  I hate drunks.  I hate being around someone who is drunk.  Many years ago, my girlfriend turned up at my room, drunk after a night out.  I kicked her out, showing no sympathy at all for her delicate condition and the fact that she felt sick.  I just didn’t want the stink in my room.  Harsh, isn’t it.

After he kicked me out, I didn’t speak to him for several years.  I just didn’t want to know him.  I was free of him at last.  It wasn’t until I had completed my training in the Army that we began to speak to each other again, but it was guarded and just cordial.  I still felt the resentment for what he had done, but time had blunted it enough for me to re-establish contact.  Not only that, my mother had pleaded with me, asking me to speak to my father as he was making her life miserable.  I relented but it wouldn’t be for too long.

My father is ill.  Having survived three heart attacks and a stroke, he is on medication that is vital for his well-being.  The doctors had said that he wouldn’t live past 10 years after his heart attacks.  That was over 30 years ago and he is still going strong.  However, in 2000, after being notified that his brother was seriously ill, he decided to drive up to Yorkshire and see his brother in hospital.  He was drunk when he decided to drive and he forgot the tablets that were vital for his health.

I received a phone call from my very distressed mother.  She had noticed that he hadn’t taken his tablets and was worrying about my father.  I decided to drive to my parents house, pick up his tablets and then drive to the hospital in Yorkshire, where my father was.  All the way up my mind was thinking about what he had done and I got angrier and angrier.  When I finally got to the hospital and found my father, I gave him his pills and rather harsh piece of my mind.  I told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was irresponsible, dangerous, selfish and a drunk.  I also told him that unless he grew up and accepted these facts and did something to change them, I didn’t want to know him anymore.  As far as I was concerned, I didn’t have a father.  I didn’t give him an opportunity to respond as I had turned away and left the hospital and preparing for my long drive home.

If I thought that my words would have any effect on my father, I was gravely mistaken.  He wasn’t going to change, even when his life depended on it.  He adopted his usual stubborn position and even blamed my mother for my behaviour and the subsequent refusal to acknowledge him.  He continued to do whatever he wanted and when he got drunk he would snipe at my mother, blaming her for all his problems.  I can’t imagine the stress my mother was under or how she continued to stay calm while her drunken husband bullied and insulted her.

Although I was ignoring my father, I would continue to visit my mother and try to calm her.  My visits were few and far between as I was constantly being deployed.  During that period I was deployed to Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and finally Iraq.  Upon my return to the UK I would visit my mother, reassure her that I was ok and listen to her while she unloaded her problems.  My deployments didn’t help matters as she was worried every time I went away.  In the end, I wouldn’t tell her about my shorter deployments in order to relieve her of some of the worry.

I think that it was upon my return from Iraq that my father apologised to me.  I had driven up (I think I was on my motorbike at the time) to see my mother after I had got back to the UK.  The tour in Iraq had been a little difficult for me, I had been injured and seen several of my friends killed in a suicide attack.  When I got to my parent’s house it was late and my father was in bed.  My mother was always happy to see me and we were sat in the lounge chatting when my father appeared.  He was standing there and crying.  I had only seen my father cry when his mother had died in 1978.  He came to me and hugged me, crying and apologising at the same time.  I was dumbfounded and confused.  I didn’t know what to do.  My anger for this man evaporated and I found myself trying to calm him down.

We have never mentioned that day since.

We got along fine for several years.  When I was about, my father would abstain from drinking as he knew my feelings on the subject and he tried to behave better.  We weren’t close but we were on speaking terms.

It wasn’t until I suffered my spinal injury that things changed.  For the first time I actually saw a man who showed genuine concern for me.  Not only had my accident affected him but my mother had suffered heart failure and then a stroke.  All of a sudden, I think he was made aware of the mortality of those he loved but had repressed the emotions.  I think that this period was a kick up the backside for my father.

He hasn’t changed but he is trying.  Maybe a little too late but better late than never.  My father and I grew closer than we had ever been.  For the first time in my life he came to visit me at home.  By this time I was barely able to move, in a lot of pain and on enough opiates to make the drug addicts in the entire country happy for days.  During these visits we would talk, compare experiences and have a laugh and joke.  We grew closer and closer.  He did have a drink in the evening during the meal that both my mother and father had prepared during the day, but it wasn’t to excess.  I accepted that he needed a drink and relaxed my rather obsessive view on alcohol.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we call each other ever day without fail.  We are close and we share a laugh and a joke, but I haven’t forgotten what he has done and what he still does.  I do still hold him in contempt because of the past.  It’s so deeply rooted that I can’t just shake it off.  Maybe in time my feelings will change, but I doubt it.

I only have one father.  He is old, ill and has numerous faults.  He can make my mother’s life miserable when he drinks too much, but otherwise, they are getting along better than ever.  We speak every day, comparing pain and discomfort while at the same time ridiculing each other for being so weak.  He is the man that raised me, provided for me and made me excel academically.  He never stopped loving me even though I had my falling out with him.  He was worried when I was deployed and relieved when I returned home safely.  He was the one that consoled my mother while she was worrying about me and the one praying to God when she nearly died.  He is the man that tries to make a small part of my long, boring days a little more bearable.

He is my one and only father and despite his faults I love and cherish him.  One day I may even respect him, but until then, what we have is good enough.

Father – Part One

With Father’s Day fast approaching (for another year), I started thinking about my dad.  I call him dad, not father although I will refer to him as my father throughout this post and the subsequent ones.  I thought I would break them down to manageable chunks, just so you don’t get bored.

Every morning, usually like clockwork, my father phones me to see how I am doing.  I say my father but he constantly denies it, almost as much as I tell him he can’t be my father.  We then go on to insulting each other, indispersed with comments, views and assessments of current affairs.  For an outsider listening in, it would sound like a bizarre conversation.  It certainly doesn’t sound like a conversation between a father and his son who care for each other.  The conversation lasts, on average, forty minutes, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.  It all depends on how I am feeling that day.

The phone calls started after my accident.  My father and I never used to have this kind of rapport, it’s only recent.  I will only speak to him in the morning, never in the afternoon or evenings.  Although we have a laugh and a joke during our morning conversations and, considering our very tempestuous history, I love him as much as any son could love his father, my affection does not extend past the morning.

My father and I have a complicated relationship.

My father was in the Army, something he was proud of.  He comes from Yorkshire and is proud of that too.  As a soldier and a Yorkshireman, he was as open to new ideas as a bigot living in Bigotsville.  That is to say, he wasn’t!

As their first child, I was spoilt.  On the other end of the scale, my younger brother, although loved and cared for, was not given the same amount of attention.  There was a price for this, though.  I was expected to excel at everything I did.  If I did not get straight ‘A’s on my reports from school, I would pay the price and that price tended to be painful.  My brother, on the other hand, could get ‘D’s and ‘E’s and my parents wouldn’t bat an eyelid, commenting that he wasn’t as academic as I was.  My father was very ‘Victorian’ in his views.  I was his son, my brother was my mother’s son.  Strange, I know, but in his mind, I was the heir and my brother was someone to keep me company whilst I grew up.

Obviously this was very unfair to my brother but he didn’t seem to care.  He was what people would call a loving child.  He was generous and helpful.  He adored both my mother and father and never once begrudged the fact that I got everything I asked for and he didn’t (apart from birthdays and Christmas – he always got everything he wanted then).  It wasn’t that my parents were mean to him, not in the slightest.  He just wasn’t me.  As he grew up and became aware of this, he started to change his opinion.  Naturally.

As for me, I was considered selfish.  I wasn’t a giving child and I wonder if this was one of the consequences of being pushed too hard.  Although I found school pretty easy, I resented the fact that I had to get good grades and my brother didn’t.  I resented the way I was punished if I didn’t attain the grades he expected from me.  In the end, I resented a lot of things.  I think that my rebellious nature was to be expected and it all came to a head when I was eighteen.  My father and I had a massive argument.  He was drunk and I was itching for a reason to beat him.  In the end, he kicked me out onto the streets with only the clothes on my back.

That began the contempt I felt for him.  The contempt that still exists to this day.