APRIL 2013 – Newsletter #8


Sitting by the side of the road in the pouring rain I can hear Cathy laughing. But worse than that, much worse, is the fact I can hear the words “I told you so” coming through loud and clear. Damn and triple damn. Nothing beats being confronted with her seer-like inevitability in the truth of past words.

Staring at a now defunct Bertha who has decided to eat her clutch on the very day we have been reunited, her voice rings in my ears. Damn, damn, and damn again. Is that woman ever wrong? After all, she’d told me. Oh yes she had, and many times before in fact. Across the years her warnings about ‘old’ bikes breaking down had reminded me, dare I say reprimanded me, about all such things. Yet here I am now staring at my – just bought back – defunct 22 year old bike.

Looking up I see the night sky with its perpetual rain falling from the coldness. Both start to penetrate as I sit on the pavement wondering about fate and grief strewn roads. At times like this you can only ever begin to wonder when things will start to go right. And tonight isn’t that time. Not here. Not now.

The red paintwork shines from the street lights as my mind projects past places and people onto its surfaces. Roads and experiences appear with memories of good times, bad times, and all shades in between flickering on the long familiar lines indelibly stamped into the both of us. Meanwhile cars stream past in their hurry to be somewhere else.

In times gone by breaking down across the world always involved a certainty somebody would stop. Once that happened, as it always did, then would begin comical language pantomimes in order to explain whatever the problem was; from charging systems to starters, from blown exhausts and oil leaks to wiring problems. Here the only company I have is the rain and the loneliness; neither are about to end any time soon.

As I meander through such thoughts others start to slowly appear, creeping into my mental space as a welcome intrusion against the building melancholy I can feel. The familiar laughter in my head slowly changes into something different, something else. It becomes a smile. And it is a big smile, an understanding smile; indeed it seems such a humorous and rueful smile that soon it is mirrored on my own face as I sit looking at it. It is the same one I know and fell in love with so many years ago. Then suddenly, for some reason, I understand. She’s forgiven me.

As I had sat berating myself for my actions it came to me she would accept the need to, just this once, turn back time. After a lifetime of never living backwards, of never going back to where I had been, I now find myself breaking my own rules by buying Bertha again. Damn what am I doing? You fool. You idiot. You’re looking for something you can never have. Her.

I know, I know, but……..

Sitting in the cold and pouring rain the image of that smile is so strong it spreads through me with warmth, taking me to another place where the world is right and makes sense. In that existence, that difference, that altered state, the hours begin to tick by in their passing, waiting for a truck to take two back to where three had once set out another life-time ago. Home.

As I look deeper into the smile I soon realise something else. Strange as it may seem, I can hear it. It’s funny what the image of a smile can do as the rain continues to bounce noisily off my helmet as the two sounds begin to compete. Sitting still in those sounds and images, my world subtly alters, is nudged onto a different path, a different trajectory, changing in a heartbeat to become something else, somewhere else. Suddenly no longer do I sit here alone in the rain and the dark. For when somebody smiles at you, everything changes in your world.

The sense of cold and tiredness begin to recede into the distance as the hassles and problems melt away in the face of that growing image and sound in my mind. Clinging on to it, no longer do I find myself alone on a wet pavement with a broken down, just reunited, Bertha. Staring at that smile in its entirety, I find myself immune from the harsh coldness and wet, from the inconvenience of broken machinery and all such trivial frustrations. For surely are they trivial things as everything will work out. It always does. All you have to do is to be strong enough to wait.

I know those words ‘strong enough to wait’ as soon as they enter my mind. The sounds of them circulate and resound inside my head in their familiarity. I know them well as she had told me those very same words many times over recent history; always assuring me that times do get better in a way that she knew all too well. It’s the way it is.

As I sit within that smiling image the hours drift past until our journey home can begin again. I know it will at some point, I just have to wait. But for now, let me stay in that smile for a little longer please. For you see there is a magic here and I don’t want to lose it. Please. Just for a little while longer. I’ll be good, very good. Cross my heart and hope to die…………

The breakdown truck eventually turns up hours later and the spell is broken as the bright glare of the headlights sweep across me, dissipating my images into the nearby darkness of the night. Sadness and a deep sense of melancholy envelop me as they slip away, fading back into the recesses of my mind. Suddenly I am acutely aware of the cold and wet; intensely so. Trying to stand, my body betrays its age and reactions to the hours that have all too briefly passed sitting still, so still, in case the experience is shattered by movement, any movement at all.

Please. No. Don’t go…..stay…..

With hazard lights flashing, a tired driver jumps down onto the road and his silent messages expect a haranguing at the long, long, rain soaked delay which had passed within my own internal warmth. He looks puzzled when his profuse apology is met with:

“It’s ok. It’s only time. And I have plenty of it.”

Shaking his head against the rain, he straps Bertha down onto the trailer and the white lines of our eventual onward movement pass by with the wet noise beating against the windshield as his life is recounted.

Telling me of his love of cars, the years of driving motorways, of working long hours because he can, the time and miles just float by. Being on his own, with no one to go home to, no one to share his life with, he works long hours and falls asleep on couches watching late night TV, anything at all really to fill the hours. Just like me.

In that place, both his and mine, we know time is very different and does not operate in the way that it once did within the usual world of familiar certainties. You see, for time to have any meaning there has to be a purpose to it. It is an essential ingredient which, once removed, reduces what is left merely to something that passes; like a breeze which is here and then gone, leaving nothing of value in its wake.

When you do have that sense of purpose however, there is something magical in its sharing with another person. It is the relevance of that loss of reason that strikes at the very heart of people’s existence as it takes all from within you; removing it, erasing what should have, or might have been. What is left behind consists of only the constant whispering losses of all your hopes and dreams which have unexpectedly gone. It happens so completely, so suddenly, that it leaves a vastness inside you which echoes with profound sadness.

Over time people talk of rediscovery, of somehow finding purpose again from within the ashes of the past and the bleakness of the future. In that search between those two places, it has to embody all that you were, or all that you might be, in some distant future which you can neither see nor understand. Involving statements of new beginnings of something, somewhere along the line you call your life, it finds you waiting within days where time still exists. That part, at least, is true.

For you see the clock still turns, the sun still rises and sets in long familiar ways, even the cuckoo clock inhabiting our house still loudly and diligently announces the passing of the hours. The passing is also evident on the wall calendar showing different numbers and changing months so you can be sure time is passing. In this way everything continues going on around you with people still laughing and smiling but, for you, there is no real meaning at all really. People tell me it isthis way, will feel this way, will be this way, for some ‘time’. And so we return to an artificial construct. Time. And its passing. Like a breeze. Leaving you untouched.

The wise people amongst us tell me that when you have this sense of drifting you have to hammer ‘something’ into shape to extract meaning from the ‘time’ that you are no longer engaging in. You don’t know what that ‘something’ is you’re supposed to find, merely that it exists somewhere and you have to find it at some point. Only then, it seems, do people reappear from where they stand staring into the broken mirrors of their lives.

This too is what she had once described to me of her ‘before Bernard’ time. For you see she knew intimately these feelings in the same intense way that they now inhabit me; where a life as you understood it simply ceases to be. Like a light going out instantly, completely, irrevocably, it leaves you alone in the intense darkness of uncertainty.

And so it was that Bertha has been summoned for me to descend into the labyrinth of the garage to try to give value to time once more, at least in a small sense. Perhaps it is only in a childish sense, involving nothing more than the wish for a small part of a thing that once was; ‘time’ will tell. But it is a start and in many ways it is ten thousand times more than existed before. In the fullness of the future who knows where such roads lead. Life can be mysterious like that.

And so now we are set to spend forever days in each others company rediscovering where we once existed in unison. It is a place where every sound and bolt will be familiar to my ears, to my fingers. It is a place where sockets or spanners, fasteners or ties, will be reached for without thought in their long familiarity with what my eyes tell me.

You see I have also found that within the never ending days you can stem tears with dedicated concentration on a single task. By breathing out hard in that concentration all tears can be compressed into silence. The true problem begins, however, when you have to breathe in again.

Now when that happens, I set out to rediscover a smile I once heard while sitting alone in the dark and the pouring rain as time passed me by.

Perhaps if I keep looking hard enough I will find that same magic again …………..

Hasta luego.
Bernard Smith.
book cover
Atacama heat
Smiles and smiles
Jane in the forest - Go Ape
Breakdowns on old bikes - 2007
Nepal river rafting.
As it is.
Chile, dogs and smiles
before leaving the UK
Athens in the hovel called a hostel.
The flowers of Peru
The higher you are.....
the past and the future
the way things were and are
Malaysian fixes in the here and now
Finding the past
The past and the present
The higher you are......
Book cover.


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4 Responses to APRIL 2013 – Newsletter #8

  1. Jacquie April 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Wow cousin.
    I dont know what to say… if only all of us could have loved someone so deeply as you loved Cathy. You have had and still have something some people never find.

    You are truly blessed altough maybe right now you dont think so

    Love Jacquie your cuz

    • Bernard Smith February 25, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      Oh Jacquie I fell of the cliff there haven’t I. Where does time go. I blinked and so much time has gone past. Thank you. I appreciate, much belatedly, your words. I’m hanging in there. Best wishes.

  2. Ginamarie February 24, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    Like your cousin said, we’re the lucky ones who got to experience love so deep that when it is taken away from us so suddenly that we feel lost and incomplete. As friends have told her that it get easier in time but the reaility it never goes away. It is like riding a surfboard, the waves keep coming. Some bad and some good. Just enjoy the ride which will gives you something to look forward to.

  3. Bernard Smith February 25, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    The old saying of ‘Better to have loved and lost……”

    The waves keep coming and yes, my Dad says it doesn’t get easier, all that happens is youlearn to manage it better.

    Best wishes G.

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