It’s funny how things pop into the head. Last evening I was in the shower and suddenly thought that the most amazing thing I’ve seen was seeing our son born. Is there a more wonderful sight than witnessing new life ? I then thought about other things which astounded me for good or bad, over the decades.
The three amazing things :
Seeing my son born
Watching Hong Kong come into view for the first time as our ship approached.
Seeing London from 30000ft on my first ever flight.
Three worst things :
Seeing apartheid in action for the first time.
Seeing the poverty of India and Bangladesh.
Being the witness to an accident whereby a young lady was run over by a lorry.
Terrible - 2 incidents.
Sitting on a bus on my way home from school in Belfast when a bomb went off about 100 yards away.
Waiting on a bus with my friend in Belfast when a mortar attack took place on a nearby barracks. Everyone had to lie on the ground. A woman in a house beside the bus stop opened her door and called us in and we crawled commando-style up her front path in into her house.
Wonderful - the first time I held my daughter. She had been rushed into neonatal intensive care after being born prematurely about a week earlier.
Hi Colin, my missus passed away eight years ago after already seven years of physical handicap after an accident compounded with seven years of chemo and operations for various cancers. She was 56. I was there at her side for final breath and although it was incredibly moving it was tinged with a great sense of relief that she was in no more pain.
Weirdly enough I wasn’t grief stricken but more assured that my angel had finally found peace.
Regarding our wedding day, nothing like yours !
Village church in Norfolk, peeing down, she was an hour late cos her mum had forgotten to order a taxi, there was a punch up at the reception in the village hall and the rectory was burgled during the time the vicar and his family attended the reception. Er indoors was as sick as a dog on the Newhaven - Dieppe ferry due to roughish seas at the start of the honeymoon. Apart from that, it was a good day…
Janis was only 51 when she died, she just gave up latterly after two strokes and 3 years being blind and paralysed it was no real life for her, I tried to do my best for her but she knew looking after her at home was not easy.
I took comfort that she was not suffering anymore as well.
Blimey Colin, poor lady. She will have found peace don’t worry.
My one kept going for all those years against normal medical odds. She was half Scottish and a very determined lady. About two weeks before the end and looking very yellow, she had nosebleeds which became worse. One Sunday afternoon she just said « I can’t do this anymore, I want to go now «
I took her to hospital and the latest nosebleed eventually stopped a few hours later. I went to see her in A & E the next morning but had been moved to a ward. We spent four or five days discussing practical things to do with finance etc. When she was satisfied all the practical things had been signed and sorted she asked me call the doctor to start the morphine etc. We said goodbye there and then and about nine days later she passed away very peacefully.
It was very touching but very ´ matter of fact’. It allowed us all to find our own peace.
The most terrible thing-Jonestown, Guyana and the aftermath. A little girl wearing a white dress several sizes too big for her who had clearly lost everything else and may have lost her family. And the survivor who insisted on being shown photographs of the massacre “because I want to be sure I’ll never do anything so stupid again.”
And the best things-driving through Kenya’s National Parks surrounded by magnificent scenery watching wildlife as it was meant to be.
Most terrible thing and the best - all in one 30p tube ride!
Summer 1982, on the Northern line between Leics Sqr and Camden Town after a brilliant sunny Sunday afternoon at the ICA. Shortly after leaving Goodge St the train passes through what seems to be a wall of flame, then stops as someone pulls the communication cord! I was in the front carriage and as it began to fill up with smoke, rushed back and went into the second carriage where people didn’t yet seem to know what had happened, then I went to the connecting door to the third carriage, but was horrified to see a solid wall of fire blocking any further escape. The carriage was filling up with black oily smoke and I laid on the floor with a scarf over my mouth, the sole consolation being the knowledge that I’d pass out before dying. Was also aware that the whole of my life wasn’t passing before my eyes and that it was a bit crap to meet my end on the dirty floor of a 30p tube ride!
As you may have guessed that didn’t happen and (now we’re getting to the best bit!) after about twenty minutes of lying on the floor with breathing getting more and more difficult, suddenly the connecting door opened and a fireman in a breathing mask stepped through and commanded, “Follow me!”
Being the closest to the door, I followed him until he walked into the wall of flame and disappeared! I stopped, but the rest of the passengers were pouring out of the carriage and inadvertently pushed me into the flames and I passed through the wall of fire, which had looked like an inferno, but was actually only a few inches deep - like something one might see in a circus.
Flying in over Sydney with the sun just coming up after 9 years in the UK / France The plane banked over the harbour, the bridge and the Opera House, it was magical!
Whale watching trips in Hervey Bay - just insanely incredible being so close to such huge magnificent beasts!
Gardening (I was just weeding!) in our house on the South coast of NSW (about 1.5 hours south of sydney). Something on the water (we overlooked the Pacific Ocean up on a hill) caught the corner my eye and i stopped to see what it was - thinking it was a little boat but couldn’t see anything. Next thing a whale breeched in the bay. I was just overwhelmed with wonder, how many people get to watch whales while weeding???
Midwifery miracles - delivering my first ever baby nothing can describe the feeling of being the first person to ever touch this new human and bringing it safely into the world. Being involved in a couple of natural twin breech births - scary to watch but amazing and delivering a baby in the caul - magic
Babies who don’t make it, trying to keep it together yourself while helping the families.
The state of some elderly I looked after in old peoples home, life can be very cruel
The following day I had to go to work on the Tube, which was a bit scary, but I made it through the week and was returning home on Friday afternoon, when I suddenly smelt burning in the carriage!
However this time I was a bit more sanguine, not because I was now a hardened veteran of Tube fires, but because we were overground rather than a couple of hundred feet under Totttenham Ct Rd. So, I looked round to see where the smoke was coming from and saw a very tall spindly East African(?) guy in a long, ankle length white robe jumping up and down and trying to beat out the fire in his seat with some sort of fez (in those days you could smoke on the Tube). Just thought, OK I can deal with that on a Friday afternoon…
When I lived in SA, flying back from the UK overnight via CDG to JHB on Air France, in the first row near the tail on the port side where there’s only two seats rather than three and you’ve lots of legroom. You wake up and know from the light streaming in around the blind that it’s dawn in southern Africa. Slide the blind up a bit so as not to attract the attention of the air hostesses and peek through as the plane follows the Zambesi south for a couple of hours and you can see the herd s of elephant and other game going across the mud to the river. It’s sublime and very emotional. I used to think, OK I was born in England, but never ever felt the blood tingling thrill about returning there, that I felt when returning home to Africa.
It’ s about a year since I last left France (for winter sun in S Spain) and I think that returning home now has a very different, far less dramatic emotion, it’s more a sense of returning to a place where although I’ll probably always be a foreigner, it’s not merely home, but a place that I love and can to a reasonable extent understand.
Whale watching from the cliffs at Hermanus on the Cape in the southern hemisphere Spring. It claims to be the best shore-based whale watching in the world, when the entire population of Southern Right whales gather in the bay at Hermanus - it’s an amazing sight - they calve there and then stick around till the calves are strong enough to swim down to the Southern Ocean. I’ve seen people (usually dreadlocky types) climb down fom the cliffs and stroke the whales’ backs.
We used to fly back to the UK from Durban and at that time the change was at either Joburg or Salisbury or both.
At that time SAA were not permitted to fly over certain countries ( due to apartheid) whereas BA could fly more directly via Mombasa etc .The SAA would have to fly via West Africa and Victoria Falls was on the route. That used to be a stunning sight from 30000 ft !!
Ohhh I’d forgotten another flying one, we were dropping altitude into somewhere (Abu Dhabi maybe??)over the middle east to refuel. It was amazing desert everywhere without a single spot of any man made anything when I saw a man on his camel in full robes / head covering, I was only about 16 and was just mesmerised and felt very special to see that as it looked like something that could have easily been seen 2000 years ago!
Enjoyed your post, it brought back two sets of memories:
1 Flying over the Kalahari for the first time and seeing what I later learnt was a bakkie (pick-up truck) driving across a seemingly endless featureless desertscape leaving a huge plume of dust in its wake as it went from nowhere imaginable to nowhere equally unimaginable. Two years later doing a similar drive and thinking back that I was now the driver of the bakkie and I knew exactly where I was going.
2 Early morning winter in the Karoo - a semi-desert area of central S Africa and sitting around waiting for things to warm up so I could remove the frozen rocks from the approach to my installation. Suddenly became aware of another presence in this remote landscape, on the ridge above me was a Xhosa man on horseback - I’d never before seen an African on horseback and to make it even more weird, he was wearing an ankle length army surplus rubberised riding coat and hunting with a bow and arrow!
There was a distant meeting of two worlds - European uni prof trying to intellectualise the intercultural semiotics of this apparent combination of African and Native American, whilst the local was probably thinking bugger, there’s a whitey messing up my hunting.