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Mar 05, 2016

Do the Roses Smell Good?

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Question #12
Rite of Passage Four –First Love–
(1945 to 1949)

Q:

Ambition: Whose example did you want to follow?  If it was a parent, then did you want to do better than they had done?

I made my transition from a child’s allowance to an earned income at the hotel that my parents managed. I worked at a task that needed to be done by someone and that someone had become me.

I scrubbed a public restroom and received both money and a needed dose of humility. I had no illusions about my future as a janitor; what I wanted to be was an Hotelier…like my father…but more so, much more so!

I had caught a glimpse of the then managing director of the Dorchester hotel, in London. I remember him as a tall, elegant man with courtly manners and impeccably dressed. Oh how I yearned to be just like him, even down to the pearl pin in his pale grey silk tie!

In the same way that many a child gets an idea for their future by observing a parent I was quite definite about my career path at fourteen years old. I was also determined to do better than my father.

He did a great job, they both did. Loved by staff and customers and the owners! Who could beat that for achievement…but it wasn’t the best and, for some unknown reason, I wanted to be that person, the person who wins!

So…what about now?

My father never had a driving passion to be the best. I think he understood that it was unlikely since the war had interrupted any truly successful career path. It was enough for him to do a small thing and do it well and he did just that.

I find myself, at this time in my life, asking what might have happened if I had wanted to be more like my father and content with whatever that might have meant rather than always trying to be…better?

I have been a ‘driven’ man almost all my life. I have tried so hard to be…the best. For my “fifteen minutes of fame” I may at least have appeared to be the most successful but at what a cost!

As you read on about my journey and my feelings at the time…you will begin to see this ‘driven-ness’. It was a mix of the fear of failing that had taken root during my early schooling and my willingness to beused in a business that values both proficiency and personality.

I spent my life in hot pursuit of both and, for a great many years, never knowing what it meant to be…at peace.

It’s a peace that I’ve known for the past decade and it’s growing stronger every day.

Pix for March 5 (1)

Ah! but the roses really do smell good!

They only nod their heads when you rush past them!

Take some time dear friends; you may achieve less but actually live more!

P.S This week I read Treena’s poem Can you hear the Spring?

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Feb 27, 2016

The Power of a Childhood Peer Group

Rite of Passage Four –First Love–
From the book ‘Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world’
Question #11 ‘Peer Group’
(1945 – age 11)

Q:

How soon do you recall being concerned about your own peer group’s opinion of you, as an individual?

During my public school years I had been advanced to the senior school because of my height and found myself unable to find a peer group. Everyone else was at least a year older. It wasn’t until I arrived at Michael Hall, the Rudolf Steiner School, that I had the opportunity to relate to my own age group and discover my peers.

This coeducational school had no grade system or exams and even played games without scoring. It was a huge relief after the trauma of my immediate past. I recall being something of an oddity since the other students had, for the most part, been there for 4-5 years, always with Ms. Dawson as the class teacher.
I was, nonetheless, welcomed for who I was, not for what I had left behind. At no time did I ever feel that I had to try to gain approval. The no grades method spilled over into our relationships and meant that nobody was the most popular or best liked; we just didn’t have to compete with each other.

I look back on this treasured time with one profound regret. I wished that I had been able to remain at that school until I graduated…alas this was not to be. My whole life has been a ‘moving feast’, just long enough to find a friend and then to say goodbye, not unlike the life of a military ‘brat’?

I wonder if these short term associations with my peers was to lead me to always be somewhat ‘set apart’ and with very few deep friendships?

ROP 3 caption "class at Michael Hall school" set on left. "There were no marks or grades on papers...."(DONEx3)

Class at Michael Hall school.

So…what about now?

At some point in one’s life the peer group moves from personal to professional.
It’s no longer so much about friendship as respect and not really a matter of hanging out with one another on a day-by-day basis.

In the heat of the battle I was fiercely competitive with those who did what I was trying to do. For the most part I wanted to be better rather than trying to ‘put them down’.

My behavior as the Galloping Gourmet had drawn me into a separate class of ‘gourmet’ than had hitherto been the case. Few, if any, ‘foodie’ has ever jumped over chairs and told shaggy dog stories before cooking a dish from some remote corner of the world.

I know that many of my well-known peers at that time were, to say the least…unimpressed. I didn’t blame them; if I had been in their kitchen clogs I would have felt the same.

Over time, however, I do feel that I have made several deep and lasting friendships with individuals whose professional and personal lives I respect and admire.

That early experience at the non-competitive school has never left me. It was, (and is) such a splendid idea and would solve so many of today’s aggressive contests.

Imagine a world in which we might be at peace with all men. One in which we might consider others as more worthy of attention than ourselves. Utopian? sure, but isn’t that better than simply drowning in the present day alternative?

 

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Feb 20, 2016

Let’s Dare to Compare

Rite of Passage Four –First Love–
From the book ‘Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world’
Question #11 ‘Preoccupation’
(1945 – age 11)

Q:

First love has a way of taking over one’s mind…almost completely. Is this very human Rite of Passage any different today than it was in our past?

I found myself delighted last week that my blog on meeting Treena should coincide with Valentines Day. It was completely unplanned! Today’s blog is just one more like-minded memory from those early days.

I was totally preoccupied with this new sensation. I was in love before I had the slightest idea what that meant. The only evidence of such a possibility was seeing such movies as The Stratton Story, staring June Allyson and Jimmy Stewart, that we went to see at the cinema in East Grinstead (UK). This was way before television and our favorite radio program ‘Dick Barton Special Agent’ contained not the slightest clue about young love.

There was the poet Shelley whose poem ‘Love’s Philosophy’ allowed gentle words to begin to provide some early stirrings of our emotion. “The fountains mingle with the river, and the rivers with the ocean…”

Love’s Philosophy

BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

The fountains mingle with the river

And the rivers with the ocean,

The winds of heaven mix for ever

With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;

All things by a law divine

In one spirit meet and mingle.

Why not I with thine?—

See the mountains kiss high heaven

And the waves clasp one another;

No sister-flower would be forgiven

If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth

And the moonbeams kiss the sea:

What is all this sweet work worth

If thou kiss not me?

 

It was the reading of Shelley and in the holding of hands that I found my greatest and deepest longing; a desire to never ever let her go.

Treena was my first love, she was ten and I was just eleven. I was not her first “boyfriend”; that honor went to Tony Thames from the village of Forest Row. They had written to each other and we took his letters to the local bridge, tore them up and dropped them in the river…

…and I watched Tony float around the bend!

So…what about now?

I watch, with utter amazement, at how the vast flood of often explicit sexual content that targets young people is changing everything!

Birds and bees appear now to be almost laughingly redundant.

June Allyson’s devotion to her “husband” Jimmy Stewart has been replaced by the practical benefits of using condoms.

Oh, I know, I’m now old enough to be expected to huff and puff a bit but I find I’m more likely to groan over this apparent loss of innocence.

If there is one overreaching emotion I have about my early years and the first blush of love it is one of…gratitude.

My life then was without callouses, it was tender and cut adrift from the world about us. It was, in one word…heavenly! But then, in those days, the word heaven had not been hijacked and brought down to the base level of today’s derisive debates between competing political ideologies.

It was like the brush of a young girls hand against mine…ahhhh

Upstreaming,

Graham

P.S. This week I read Treena’s poem “So Be It

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Feb 13, 2016

First Love

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Question #3
Rite of Passage Three –No Longer Alone-

(11-12 years old)

First Love

Q. What do you remember most about the one you first felt the stirrings of attraction?

It has to be the most measurable of all human emotions –the day we first fell in love!

At 8-9 years old I wanted flaxen-haired Sylvia to see me in my new Scout hat –but this was altogether different.

Treena had tight curly black hair. I’m not sure how I described her to my parents at the time because words such as lovely or petite orbeautiful don’t trip easily from an eleven-year-old tongue. Yes, she was all of those superlatives rolled up in one attention getting young woman.

I fell hard. I couldn’t get her out of my mind.

Our hands eventually touched and quite simply I knew that I loved and was being loved.

All of this is sometimes called ‘calf love’ and may, in some cases, be remembered as a pre-hormone discovery that simply and sweetly begins to fade…taken over with stronger, more urgent, teenage passions.

Those early years formed every foundation and every deep relationship I’ve ever had. In one wonderful moment (as I describe in my book) I had become aware of going beyond myself in order to give my full (only child) affection to someone of my own age.

I never once forgot that amazing experience. It did fade for eight years, it did encounter competitive adolescence, but in time that too was vanquished and… Well now, that would we a spoiler wouldn’t it?

So…what about now?

My life is now awash with memories. The first hand experience of day-to-day life with a loved one is now over for me.

Treena began her ‘sleep’ just five days short of our 60th wedding anniversary on September 17, 2015

We were able to love each other right up to her last breath and even then, as I closed her lovely eyes and kissed her brow – I knew, not in a religious way, but deeply in my heart, that what we had shared, for a span of seventy-one years, had not ended and would never do so.

There were moments in our time together when passions raged, when love was wrenching and almost unbearable –beyond the ability to breathe.

No matter the intensity it came full circle back to the holding of eleven-year-old hands…such purity, such discovery, such absolute sweetness that now uplifts my lonely moments.

I do have a pretty long list of regrets when I could have done better but that too has been slowly covered with the “good soil” of wiser choices until they are scarcely even recognized.

I loved, was loved, and continued in that love for all but seventy-one years. I am, in short, a grateful man who shared a good life with an amazing woman…Treena, the love of my life.

G&T

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Feb 06, 2016

Is academic competition a good thing?

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Question #2
Rite of Passage Three –No Longer Alone-

Q. Are all the measurements of achievement really necessary? When marks (grades) and scores are removed, does achievement suffer, or is there a greater sense of self-worth?

I went from a highly regimented British public school (a curious name for a private school) to a Rudolf Steiner school called Michael Hall in Forest Row, Sussex, England.

Rudolf Steiner was a German educator who introduced a number of innovative ideas amongst which was…no marks or grades or position in class, none at all!

The difference this made in my young life was remarkable. I went from fear and failure to full acceptance for just who I was; without being measured or compared to any of my fellow students. I’m actually grinning to myself as I seek out the words to describe how wonderful it was to go to school and delight in learning.

At eleven years old I was placed in Ms. Dawson’s class with other youngsters of my age. They were a friendly lot who, for the most part, had been with Ms. Dawson since they were six and would stay with her until they were sixteen. Imagine, one teacher for ones whole school life. No need for measurement when you are that well known and cared for so consistently.

There were other ‘specialist’ teachers who helped us with other languages, woodworking, gardening and yes…knitting!

Michael Hall was co-educational; both boys and girls took every class –no his or her differentiation was made as to subject interest or proficiency…everyone got to ‘have a go’.

This extraordinary method even influenced the sports field where I introduced the game of Cricket. We didn’t score runs; we bowled and batted our way through lovely afternoons and no team ever won!

Just try tennis where you hit a ball back and forth for a fun half-hour.  It’s like a warm-up before a match that never starts.

I can almost hear the ‘Humph!” of disapproval from the legions of us that have endured competition as a way of “preparing us for the real world” where, like the salmon ‘smolt’ (a young salmon after the parr stage) in my story one either eats or gets eaten!

Surely that is what life is about…a daily contest between winners (1%) and relative losers (the rest of us?)

I was hugely grateful for the relief this brought to my life and my sense of self-worth.

I was happy with who I was in the midst of others who shared in the common joyful purpose of discovery.

So…what about now?

Talk about measurement!

We are told that true success begins in kindergarten, at 4-5 years old, where the games we play can shape us for the real world of even childhood.

Test, test, test…measure, measure, measure…all urged on with the grand prize of winning a scholarship to a great school that will almost guarantee you a favored place in the community of fellow ‘strivers’!

How good to be so measurably “bright” “talented” and “destined for success”.

How challenging to be near the bottom of the class and athletically “clumsy”?

But that’s the way that life is…right?

I like to think that Ms. Dawson’s acceptance of this Pubic School boy and her approval of my interest in trying to understand what she patiently taught us…was what fueled my lifelong pursuit of discoveryand how unimpressed I became of the “ratings” that would measure my later success on television.

I did that show because I loved it and the only opinion that really mattered was my wife Treena’s. Treena, who produced the show, gave me my very own, very private, “grade” for each program.

ROP 27 p.4

ROP 27 p.4

In a rather lovely way, she took over from Ms. Dawson.

You will meet Treena in my next blog. We fell in love at Michael Hall.

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Jan 30, 2016

Abuse and Imagination

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Question #1
Rite of Passage Three –No Longer Alone-

ABUSE AND IMAGINATION  

1944 aged 10-11

Abuse comes in many forms, some more damaging than others. Is it possible that we ‘invent’ in our pain some ‘added’ events that may not have happened? Do these stories help to keep the pain alive?

I am very sure of the abuse I suffered during my early schooling. I know I was beaten on several occasions. But did a fellow student really soap a step and cause an abusive master to fall to his death…or was it just an accident?

Did I, in the company of others, form an “anti-beating up society” that attacked another house that had badly beaten one of ‘ours’ simply because he was Jewish?

These memories are so fresh and real, in my mind, but I have no confirmation other than the pain that surrounds the entire period after so many years. I have used this difficult time to declare it a ‘disaster that impacted many years of my life’

SO…what about now?

I have largely come to the conclusion that a degree of imagination had crept in over the years. I feel that it came on the heels of being a ‘victim’ and that justified my antagonism to institutions that either permit violence or even perpetrate it; as in politically inspired warfare where an entire nation can be manipulated into taking another nation’s lifeblood and feel justified in doing so.

Warfare is still the taking of life and this is what now remains of my early pains. I plan to do no harm in the years I have left but do all I can, in the company of others, to be at peace with all men.

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Jan 23, 2016

Fear of Failure

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world Question #3 Rite of Passage Two -Acquisition- Have you tried as hard as you knew how and still failed, even to the point of being punished unjustly? Later on did you back off rather than lose the “race”? I was nine years old and tall for my age. The […]

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Jan 16, 2016

Distant Dads

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world.
Question #2
Rite of Passage Two -Acquisition-

Q. Did you have only a passing relationship with your dad? How is it now for your son…with you?

Did father know best?

BompaI had a distant dad. He was a man of his time born in the early 1900’s and very British. He was unable to tell me that he loved me, or to show any of his deeper feelings. He was, by no means a dour and withdrawn fellow, in fact he was the perfect genial host, much loved by customers and staff alike in the post war hotel business where he flourished.

My problem lay in his return from serving in Egypt during the war. I was seven at that time and hardly knew him. All I remembered was being sent straight away to Boarding School, which turned out to be a very traumatic experience, one that I blamed on him for the rest of his life.

I had it wrong!

Several years after his death, I discovered that I had not been sent off ‘immediately’. He had been there for my mother and me for two years before that ugly school experience.

He was not to blame after all. I now have real regrets for having been a ‘distant son’, how different it might have been for us both.

As a victim I needed someone to blame and somehow I chose to overlook two whole years of our shared life.

I almost made the same mistake with my son. I was mostly distant by being almost a blur as I galloped about trying to meet hundreds of deadlines, rather than just ‘hang out’ with him and his sisters. I even sent him and his older sister to boarding school! Fortunately this has been forgiven and we are a much warmer and less distant family.

Your story is obviously different from mine but this one thing I know; if there is still time to be reconciled with a distant parent, take a deep breath, tell them you love them and just see what may happen.

Love covers a multitude of sins…it may not be too late!

Upstreaming on purpose!
Graham.

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Jan 09, 2016

Fashion or Food

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world.
Rite of Passage Two –Acquisition-

Q. How about your very first item of clothing and a prized possession that set you apart from others?

Mine was my Scout’s hat and the staff with its nifty rings! I didn’t spend a whole lot of time just sitting and looking at them. My main purpose was to wear the hat and carry the staff and stand on the corner where I knew that my 8 year old playmate Sylvia, with long very blonde hair, would be bound to see me…sooner or later.

It was the first of a whole lifetime of preoccupation with outward appearance and how what I wore might influence others that I so wanted to approve of…me!

Has that changed?

I really wonder sometimes and I’m so glad that I live in a mainly rural area surrounded by nearly 100,000 acres of some of the richest farmland in the world. Somehow moderate fashion statements seem just a wee bit silly…so by and large I seem to fit in. Of one thing I am sure, my wardrobe has been dramatically downsized.

Tie salesmanI have one blue blazer, a very odd green one (and I don’t play golf!) One suit and a whole bunch of ties that are totally redundant around here. I have been given slacks and shirts as presents and a few pullovers (sweaters)…so I have more than enough to be just a wee bit different from day to day.

I need to let some of the extras find their way to someone who could do with a nearly new shirt, or slacks. I doubt they would want a tie?

 

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Dec 19, 2015

LIFE STARTS…WHEN?

Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world.
Rite of Passage One -The Journey Begins-

Question #3

I want this to be about a mix of science and spirituality and NOT about politics!

lint 12-16-15I find myself exposed to far too much posturing for votes and not enough pondering about truth. Those who have ‘extreme views’ on any subject attract attention like lint on a dark suit, I want to engage with those who ponder…and be lint free?

I see myself as a spiritual being having a human experience and in that understanding I wanted to go back over my nearly 82-years and see where I have engaged with life and all its twists and turns.

I have absolutely no memory of the moment I was conceived.
I do, however, have a very active imagination!

I also believe, passionately, that imagination is a gift to be used to add understanding to mystery. It is very clear that I could not possibly have seen my parents at the moment that their sperm and egg became…me?

And yet I sat down to imagine what might have been. All my thoughts about what might have been going on are covered in the book, what is left unsaid is the hugely important issue of when ‘life’ begins.

As a gardener I know that the seeds I saved from last year will germinate in the spring and becomes plants in the summer -to be harvested and consumed with great joy in the summer and fall. The seed meets the earth and its nutrients and away from the light its life begins…that’s a simple mix of science and logic.

In my metaphor the Chinook Salmon’s eggs and the milt have combined under the smooth pebbles in the clear, cold oxygen rich River…and ‘life’ begins.

So, am I somehow different? Do I begin to multiply cell structure until a certain stage of growth is reached…a quickening of the heartbeat…the kick of tiny feet?

I seek no legal understanding with a political agenda, only what might be true. Did my life, as I now know it, begin when all that was needed…met and, in need of nourishment, began to grow?

In my case, as a result of the time taken to imagine, I came away with an experience that has profoundly affected my sense of self-worth. My parents appeared to me as unaware of the moment and even detached from each other emotionally and yet, there was this miracle of new life happening within my mother that was causing great joyful ripples of creative achievement at the moment of my conception and what would lie beyond in my entire life journey.

Who would not feel self-worth at such a point of celebration?

It may even help, just a little, to add a further degree of wonder and awe as we enter into the Christian season that can still ‘ripple with great joy’ at what has happened and will happen from that tiny birth, so long ago.

 

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