Then and Now

I was having a conversation with my good friend Jamie Boswell, here in my home town yesterday. His brother Duncan (the man responsible for the superbly executed map of Goblindom in my fantasy anthology Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults and his girlfriend are soon off to New Zealand, the land I love, for a few weeks. Like most young people operating on a budget, when it comes to seeking a bed for the night, they plan to find a cheap hostel for the first few days they are there. And so I suggested to Jamie that he might mention they utilize the YHA hostels that pepper both of the main islands (North and South) that go to make up the bulk of the country.

Like a lot of people these days, Jamie hadn’t heard of the Youth Hostel Association, despite it being a worldwide organisation. And so I hunted out my life membership card to show him. On opening it, a ghost from the past stared back at me from a grainy 1 x 1/2 ” passport style photograph.


Me aged twenty-six in 1974, a lifetime ago.


Compare that to me today in 2021 at seventy-three… A lot has happened in the intervening forty seven years, not all of it good.

Ah the ticking of time…  😉

A reclusive life


Whether we live in a loving family environment, or lead a solitary existance is all down to circumstance. In my own case these days I exist hidden away from society and the world, behind securely locked front and back doors. Why? Because like countless others across the planet, life has dealt me more than one cruel blow during my lifetime.

When I was nineteen I was deliriously happy, married for a brief eighteen months to a beautiful Montagnard girl named Mai, who I met in a bar in Saigon. When we wed in a magical Buddhist ceremony, Mai was seventeen and I was eighteen. We later had a sweet baby boy – John. Without going into gruesome details, suffice it to say that because of a cruel act of war, both Mai and John were killed by friendly fire, while I was on patrol up country. John was just four months old at the time.

From that terrible day until this, I simply could never allow myself to grow emotionally attached to another human being. Call it pathetically stupid, or self-protection if you like. Whatever you want to call it, I have lived the solitary life of a recluse ever since. Some people find someone else and are happy. I’ve never been able to do so again.

The next blow came in 2005 when I was physically beaten up in broad daylight outside my local corner shop in full view of people on the street and in the shop by a bunch of young thugs from the Council Estate close to where I live. Being an older man with a distinctive limp, who at the time exhibited all the signs of someone who was still suffering from a complete mental breakdown, from which I gradually emerged six months earlier, by that I mean I could never look someone in the eye, let alone hold a conversation! If anyone called out to me, either I froze, or I began shaking uncontrollably. Given all of the aforementioned, I made an easy target for them. What really galled me is that at no time did any of the onlookers come to my aid.

These days I am resigned to my solitary, almost monk like existance. I had two friends in this my home town, the Boswell brothers, Jamie and Duncan. I don’t easily trust people as I once did, but they were the exception to my set of rules, designed to keep me safe. Both brothers are fine genuine human beings I am proud to call my friends. Sadly they had to move.

I still wear my wedding ring in memory of what might have been had Mai and John lived. Meanwhile I keep the world at large at arm’s length for the sake of my sanity. Add to all I’ve said a body peppered with outbreaks of skin cancer. Tendonitis in the feet (very painful), worsening eyesight, and apart from that I’m fine…