Up to 05/06
The season was over and pre-season training camp was not to begin for a good couple of month. So despite signing up, i got to spend what remained of the regions winter among the frozen lakes and hills.

On many nights the others campers, along with some locals, would gather around a large camp fire and toast the night with a chorus of celebrations. I went along on occasion. The neighbours were for the most part decant types & the atmosphere, one of dis-abandon, in some ways remained enticing to spectate. That said the enticement, slim as it had always been, diminished ever more as the season grew older.

On those occasions i went along. So clear, in the hours at least, they were all set on engaging in only the most gentle of conversation. They would ask the sort of polite and short on controversy things that you suspected all had asked and answered, a number of times before.
They were, as i said, decant types and it wouldn’t do to be wholly unappreciative of their efforts. But to have set aside time specifically to the singular ends of identifying one’s favourite quote, a quote to herald above all others, a first among quotes, well i’d never felt the flush of such a motivation. Not even a passing compulsion to offer it consideration.
There were quotes that had stuck but not usually in their specific words and certainly not with any memory of their source. Why must people ask banal questions at the alter of politeness. Now that, if that had taken much crisper wittier form and been once uttered by a person of note, then i should have been sorely tempted.

Instead I ferreted forth two candidates. The first i had heard only once, it was on the subject of a musical style, one i felt little appreciation for, Jazz. It told that the art of appreciation would be found in listening to the notes that were not played, but i knew not who had spoke these words nor with what authority they offered this minor philosophy.
So onto the backup with its few key advantages: It was more humorous and importantly it came many more of its details still intact. When asked about his political advisory’s modesty Churchill was said to have replied along the lines of “he is a man with much to be modest about”.
Either way it probably didn’t matter, for in polite conversations most polite questions would have there answers met with a polite smile. One day i might answer the question of “so how are things with you?”, with some sort of detailed update on the progress of some fictional carnivorous mollusk and its adventures in the nether-regions (a retelling of the hungry caterpillar only with an dutch twist for modern times), that day, that fine future day in the future times.
Yes, I disguised my indifference like a true master of those fair arts. Yet the truth was, such places held little lure for me & for the most part i spent my nights sitting, waiting & traveling in thought.

One such thought, occasionally passed on the travels, fermented and niggled its way to life. It was a doubt or maybe it was just a sense. Either way i came back to the point; perhaps in all the places visited my eyes had not been open wide enough, such that they were able to appreciate all that may have been before them. Tacked on came a sprouting hope, one of whimsy but still real, that upon my paths might lye something more substantive, than a fine pack of “COOKS” matchsticks.
O-For the day when I might draw all turnip kind close, whispering with fading breath and new hope, ‘let me look at you with my own eyes’. That would be a day to live in, if it wasn’t for this being taken already over ripened from the orchard of some well furrowed land, dam you Phil Connors, dam you!
Often the piece of one day bled seamlessly through the night into the next. I’d came to spend too many nights, sat in the dark, expecting yet knowing i should not catch any glimpse of the beast. For no other reason than a hope, a hope founded on little more than the absence of any final evidence to dispel the myth, i sat. It was surly among the most illogical of acts and worse, i knew it.

For a time I’d stop, search no more & remember the tired mornings, with their draining realisation. A realisation of falling short, of succumbing once more to the allure of the hunt and its forlorn endeavour. On those mornings I’d awake, energised, so very pleased that this was reality no more.
Then, again for no reason, save the ambers of wonderment given life once more by a persistent breeze of misplaced obstenance, I’d find myself sitting in the dark once more. Somehow I’d allowed myself to slip into the roll of Joanna and this (a slanderously alleged product of a lo-humorised beasty botherer and his union with said beasty) was to be my whale.
Yeti in the snow
In case there was doubt in your mind, let me say now, in all that time I never did catch a glimpse of Little Big Steve. If I were to go back now it would be to enjoy what actually was, dark, bright & unique. To appreciate the time spent just lying beneath the crisp close sky, stars so near & hypnotic in gaze.
At least, this would be my hope.
I’ve sine heard fresh roomer that the beast is active once more in the night. Indeed such was the foray of excitement this generated that there had since been an inadvertent capturing of a beardey fella and his banjo. This early stage drop out of Austria’s most bearded had taken to camping quite apart from all ut t’others, way on-high upon a northern hill face, he’d subsequently been released.
So for all that the cold open expanse does call, i will offer no test to this hope and held to my resolve, now that it is placed on firmer pastures. Maybe I am Joanna but i wear his asphyxiating clothes no more, that was a matter between me and the ice, a lesson not soon to be forgotten.
Being Cold
Filling should be borrowed – Save the Turkies
A further thought had slowly and intermittently burned into cohesion, during my time on the ice. Time was one thing not in short supply. At first it had been just a cold effected musing but came to feel like a simple truth, that we each leave a little part of ourselves in the hands of those we meet on our travels (both groups and individuals, maybe even places).
I looked on the past, with its many truths. From the helpful accord found in guiding lost tourists in search of the reservation picnic areas, to the more staunch certainty mined for the purveyors of poor quality turnip seed.
Of course that could not be all, for what as given must also be received. All about us the splintered dust speckled debris, collected from such encounters. On scares occasion something more, there was that which was lifted from within a poultice effect. Drawings to it things so used to their hibernation or subservient silence that their existence had become but a whisper on an old wind. A sense of irritation lumbered forth with a most aggrieved air. All of those numties, the gimps who’d felt need to bother my path. Not only had they made of with god only knows what but the damdable feckers had gone on and bespeckled me, tom cat-esk, with the the baggage of their less than sought after fairy dust.

So it was, with the earlier of these thoughts in mind, that on the quiet solitude of the ice it was those young and true parts of the self, held in trust only by the oldest of friends that called undeniably.
Perhaps it was age, certainly it was true it was not so long since i’d left my home. It seemed clear enough, I was that young turnip farmer no more, I had a career, I was the “Third” for some team whose name was really rather long and included the word phoenix.
First though I would return home.

On getting back i made arrangement to meet some old acquaintances, mostly because they were such an interesting pair, but equally mostly, because they actually still lived back in the shire, making them notably more accessible than those i’d returned with a mind to see.

I headed to the two chimneys, Fredo & Gandja’s public house of choice.
Horse Shoes Pub
Now Gandja, as you may have guessed, bore a name that wasn’t his own but such had always been the strength of both (a) his opposition to recreational drug use & (b) his side parting, that this particular nickname had stuck. His real name, rather irrelevantly, being Jeramey.

Fredo on the other hand had imposed his own nickname “Fredo”.
He’d done so on moving to the shire, age nine. Fredo was after all an outsider & he knew what that meant. I’d caught sight of his driving license once, it read Caerwyn. Though quite why “Fredo”? & quite how his particular talents had earned him a driving license, that would have to remain a mystery.

There was much recanting of stories, the many things i’d missed, including an attempt to ride their supreme knowledge of sub-american pie teen’s on the loose comedy “eurotrip” (featuring Vincent Jones) to Mastermind championship, clearly it had been the less specialist rounds that did for them. It did not take long before they were telling me about how the shire folk were up in ams. I wasn’t about to question the accuracy of this but few had been the waved pitchforks i’d seen, in the admittedly brief time i’d been back.

Apparently it was as a result of the cockney hoards having taken to erecting great flameless eyes. They told me of their plan to strike back at the heart of the enemy, about how it could not fail coming as it did from the mouth and mind of a great wise man. On further inspection it transpired the wise man was actually Graham, the unhygienically hairy fruit and veg guy from the market. Graham had offered this nugget of wisdom to Fred-o, along with some beans, in exchange for “Tenera Phasmatis”, the prize Ayrshire cow Fred-o had found himself to be in very temporary charge of.

It was Gandja and Fred-o’s desire that i should aid them, to give them the benefit of all my traveling experiences. We’d had some drinks by now and i had to know more about this plan.
If anyone else had told me they had secured a ring and needed to take it to it destruction at the heart of the enemy then it would only be a mild concern, but i had a distinct memory of Fred-o’s affinity/obsession with all that had been the TV world of vampire slaying, in mid to late 90s.

They both smiled knowingly and having leant across the old wooden table shared, with dulled tone, all that remained.
Fred-o’s ban on international travel had led them to compromise a little, but there plan such as it was, now stood as capture, smuggle and toss an appropriate offering into a ‘volcano’. The one caveat being that the aforementioned Volcano be located in the heart of enemy’s lands.

Although there seemed to have been apparent & disconcerting due diligence and thought applied to achieving the first stage of this three prong assault, i left them, reasonably secure in the knowledge that stage three had notably greater hurdles to overcome.

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