Category Archives: Personal

The Summer of Discontent

***Preface : I wrote this piece for a school assignment more years ago than I care to admit. As I’m changing computers soon, I figured where better to store than the deep recesses of the internet? As usual, I expect no one to read this, but if anyone is passing by, feel free to have a read, it is rather lengthier than my usual scribbles on this though***

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When I was ten – a mere slip of a lad – I had the great pleasure of staying at my gran’s for the whole summer. (It is a shame that my computer does not provide a sarcastic font.) This rather unique holiday arrangement was not as cruel as it may initially sound – my parents were not somewhat maliciously shipping me out to my gran’s, like some kind of trendy evacuee, just so they could be rid of me for seven weeks; they were in fact accompanying me whilst our family home had an extension built. Being ten, I wasn’t so much excited about the imminent construction work, as I was inconvenienced.

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of spending an entire summer holiday at my gran’s. For a start: who on earth was I going to play with? I mean my gran was pretty sprightly for a seventy-five year old woman, but I still couldn’t envisage her footballing skills being up to much. Secondly there was the very important matter of the TV – seven weeks of ‘Cash in the Attic’ and no cartoons whatsoever was not my idea of fun. Furthermore, when my parents informed me that my gran’s internet connection was a rather archaic ‘AOL Dial-Up’ system, I did actually contemplate giving Child-Line a phone.

However, it was the lack of companions my own age that caused me the greatest concern; in fact, it led to me entertaining myself in a rather unusual fashion. I would go out to my gran’s back garden and fervently recreate the battle scenes from some of my favourite films, such as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Star Wars’. Even more tragic to contemplate now, I would also run around the garden pretending to be the Master Chief from the Halo computer game series. This would normally entail me shooting at invisible enemies; I would also run towards make believe space ships to escape from mysterious, imaginary parasitic alien entities who were hell bent on killing me; watched all the while by my often bemused – and most certainly disappointed – family.

The summer seemed to drag in and inevitably I began to run out of ideas for my games. I began to turn to other sources like television programmes and books in order for me to fuel my imaginary world. My “Adventures” would range from defeating Daleks as Doctor Who to even taking on the mantle of minor characters from childhood cartoons such as ‘Dragonball Z’. As much as these games amused me at the time, as July slowly moved onwards I began to tire of playing with myself – I missed playing games with my friends; I missed the companionship; I missed the banter; I missed the physical interaction. I guess I knew then what it must feel like for Hollywood actors who act in front of blue screens, pretending to react to non-existent creatures, prior to their CGI insertion.

By late July the extension was now so far along in the building process that it was possible for us to move back home. As I enjoyed the company of my friends once again, it was some time before the concept of playing with myself eventually re-entered my mind like an insidious and unwanted visitor. I began to find that as I watched new films and television programmes, I’d often want to act out the parts of some of the characters – usually the protagonist – in different scenarios. It began at home. If I found myself in a state of ennui, I would go into an empty room and act out whatever outlandish fantasies my vivid little imagination allowed. This was all fine until it left the home and spilled over into the playground.

However, it all came to a tragic and horrifying end with one cringe-inducing incident of shame that took place in the rather mundane setting of my primary school playground. I was acting out a scene from Halo, playing as the Marines against the mighty Covenant – a brutal federation of alien races! I rolled around the grass, firing invisible bullets at invisible adversaries; all the while making the ‘hum’ noise of a futuristic machine gun – although I probably sounded more like a camp bee. I turned my gun behind me and noticed that there were three people standing there – sadly not three mighty Covenant warriors; rather, three of my befuddled – and most certainly disappointed – friends. As they stood still, they seemed to be wondering what the hell I was doing. It was only when one of them began to giggle, that the others also broke out into loud and raucous laughter. My mortification was absolute. I had often heard people talking about times when they had wished that the ground had opened up and swallowed them whole, but had never experienced the sensation myself. I experienced it now. It took all my determined resolution – and all of The Force that my fledgling Padawan powers could muster – not to run away, crying; but I stood firm. Well: sort of firm; and sort of ‘not crying.’

My friends were merciless. They pointed at me like I was some kind of freak – which in hindsight I guess I kind of was. Their taunts and laughter drew the attention of many more of the playground clientele, until I was virtually circled by a baying mob of mocking adolescents. I felt horrible – like I was being analysed and dissected right out in the open; all of this because I had shown a propensity for having a wee bit of an over-active imagination. Hardly deserving of such hostile and hurtful playground derision.

I headed into the sanctity of the school building, the sound of jeering and sniggering still burning my ears. Upon entering the cloakroom I spied a large pile of coats on the floor – thrown there haphazardly by their owners. Like Gollum retreating to the dark safety of the Misty Mountains, I took my ‘Precious’ feelings and crawled inside my very own coat-made Musty Mountains. I lay there for an eternity – or at least until the school bell rang. I hoped that I had hidden away long enough to erase my friends’ memories. Sadly, this was never going to be a possibility.

Children can be incredibly cruel at times. I know this because I never truly heard the end of the matter. For months I was known as ‘Master Chief’ to my contemporaries; the wittier ones even opting for the more ironic ‘Master Chef’ at times, which in turn gave way to my S1 moniker, ‘Ainsley.’

The ordeal, which left me emotionally scarred for life – as it would anybody – still leaves me cringing when I see younger children rolling around the floor in a similarly theatrical manner to myself in my younger days. If only I hadn’t spent the summer at my gran’s, I would be a far more rounded and stable human being; I would also be able to watch children cavorting joyfully without feeling the overwhelming urge to projectile vomit – something their parents tend to find somewhat unsavoury.

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He sat there, rolling over and over in his mind what he was about to do. Would it be worth it? Was he making a mistake? Was he ready to do something like this?

The lights changed and he knew it was time. He stood up; surrounded by sheep trotting along in carefree aimlessness, he was determined and resolved. 

He waited. He boarded his vessel and the warm, long arduous wait began. For what seemed like an eternity he waited still, until finally he was released from his bondage and forced into a new land, into what he had both longed for, for so many months, yet feared at the same time. It was he who wandered now, lost and confused he passed through many different places, looking for what he knew would relieve the stress of his endeavour.

He walked on, thinking of the times passed, his anticipation growing with each thought. His pace quickened, his senses heightened. He composed himself. It was time. Time to see if this was worth it.

He came to a halt. The first barrier approached. The gatekeeper looked at him with accusing eyes, yet he stood firm in his resolve, and grudgingly he was let through into the kingdom beyond.

Shock. Disappointment. Fear. Regret

He stood silently, searching. He could not see his salvation. He could not see his saviour.

 

Panic.

 

He rushed around now, searching through a complex he had no knowledge of. With each step his heart quickened, what had been anticipation mere moments ago was now fear. 

 He looked at the signs, he worried frantically if he had made a fatal error.  Yet here was hope. A man sat there, non-chalant as if time itself was no issue for him. 

He pleaded with the man and was rewarded. He found his direction. A new conviction. 

He couldn’t have made a mistake, could he?

His pace quickened, his heart beat faster with anticipation, his salvation was in sight. 

Yet still, he was not there.

A guardian blocked his path, he quickly found ways to move around it, to close the final gap.

There she was.

His salvation.

She ran to him, they came together like two halves of a whole. One heart beat together and he felt euphoria rush through them, he knew know that he was no longer himself. No longer alone. But finally he was with his love.

Finally they were one.