The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. A time for reflection: a time for thanksgiving for the quality of life which we enjoy, thanks to the past sacrifices of others. I can remember in school, back in Northampton UK, the tears welling up as we sang ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’ in assembly. Particularly that last line… ‘For those in peril on the sea’. My great-grandfather was a merchant seaman in World War 1 – and survived. I feel that I owe so much to so many people, and it is not just the victims of war which I have in mind although obviously, on this particular day, I recognise the debt we all owe to those who work for peace and to defend their various contries from threats.
As you cannot fail to have noticed from this blog, I have penned three books which cover a period of about three years in my life: a time when I found my true love, a time when a band of us formed together in fellowship – and, indeed, love also; a time when I embarked on a strange career of performance which has given all of us a sense of purpose and fulfillment; and a time when we came, twice, under a severe threat. And I think, many times since, of the guidance we received from a wiser, older and unseen power.
The photograph above I took at Bassenthwaite in the English Lake District. The cross, clearly, is highly relevant today, as is the church behind the camera (see below). But also highly relevant is that circle of ancient trees to the left. Dave’s late grandmother introduced us to that place, with a profound sense of tranquility. ‘When he’s troubled, bring him here’ she instructed me, with Dave in mind. And, indeed, in our hour of greatest need, it was the inspiration of this place which enabled us to get through the first challenge.
I don’t know what it is exactly: I don’t know who they are exactly, but a benevolent presence exists there. People from centuries ago – maybe millenia. I have no idea. Somehow, through me initially but then to others in our group, they channelled wise counsel, judgement, reassurance and advice. They gave us strength to face the even greater challenge which I wrote about in the final book Against All Odds – yet to appear.
On this special day I remember family too, especially my grandparents. And I remember their wisdom, especially my Northampton grandparents, who worked out that I was gay before I probably knew myself and then, to their eternal credit, found it not only acceptable but prepared my parents for the day in which I would have to come clean. As I write I have a gold fob watch on the table in front of me, which I received as a gift during that difficult time (in The Power of Love) – Dave has one too. They came with similar messages and here is mine:
‘To our favourite – and only – grandson, as he approaches his eighteenth birthday. This watch, and its partner, come from way back in our family and are unique. We’ll tell you the history another time. Just accept them with our love to mark the start of a beautiful and loving, lifetime relationship between two of the kindest boys one could ever hope to know. Treasure this timepiece as you treasure each other, and may you share many, many happy years together. Your loving grandparents.’
We have shared those happy years together, and plan on sharing many more. And that is what brings me back to those ‘guardians’ of Bassenthwaite.
St Bega’s church (above) is worth a visit in its own right for the peace and tranquility. All of our group have visited this church, sat quietly and absorbed the atmosphere, lost in our own thoughts. It is in a beautiful setting and deserves support – both through attendance and visits, and also financial. But, on your way there or back, visit the trees too. I guarantee, if you just meditate awhile, and shut the rest of the world out of your mind, you will leave refreshed and renewed.
If you follow the local signs from Keswick (on the road to Carlisle) you’ll make a left turn into a narrow but straight lane, and will see a sign board for the church on your left. Leave your car there, and go through the first gate and down the track. The ‘magic circle’ will be on your left after you pass through the second gate. Should you take a newer path from the main road, the trees will be on your right when you have the church in sight.
I have something to confess to Dave. We’ve shared so much but, one thing I’ve kept from him until now. And, something made me include it as a post-script to the final book. It happened well after the end of the ‘adventure’, just before the death of Dave’s beloved grandmother in Silecroft, and Dave and his brother Pete came over from the US. I came as well, and Zach, because he was at something of a loose end. Zach and I left the family to share their grandmother’s last hours, and took a nostalgic visit to the tree circle. Very nostalgic for Zach, who had been the principle beneficiary of the ‘guardianss’ counsel and advice. But on this occasion, I was the recipient of some unexpected, and perhaps unwelcome, counsel. Something had happened to me in the early times of our adventure, and I did not understand that this was the reason I seemed to be able to ‘communicate’ with the spirits (or whatever they are). But, on the warm evening, for a few seconds, my life fell apart and I had to make a really difficult decision. I thought of my friends, and above all I thought of Dave. And the decision then was easy. To sacrifice something for the love and happiness of my friends and, above all, Dave himself.
It’s there, right at the end of Against All Odds:
“The communication died just as if someone had cut a phone wire. Zach had clearly ‘heard’ nothing. A tear ran down my face, and he noticed.
‘Is everything alright, Tone?’
I paused a few seconds, feeling that things were far from alright. And yet… the guardians had just performed a final service. All for me, this time. I guess I sniffed a little, and wiped my hand across my face. Then I jumped up, staring at the trees and the sheep. I offered him my arm to pull him to his feet.
All the events of the past years shot through my brain in a flash. The bad times… the good times… And then a possible future, and what might have been the future, played out in my head.
I smiled at him, and put my arm around his shoulders.
‘Yes, Zach. Everything’s fine. Just fine.’”
The end of the book, yes. A new beginnning for Dave and I. I’ve never told him, but I intend to tell him during our Christmas break when ‘the family’ – Dave and I, Karen and Clare, Leo and Jaymee – will all travel to UK. Dave and I will go – alone – up to Bassenthwaite one more time. And there I will share with him my secret, something I was perhaps too scared to reveal before. Something that might have been, but now will not be.
Dave, of course, will read this post. Don’t worry Dave, it’s good news. And I’m sorry I never shared it before. But it has to be there, back in Bassenthwaite, with you in my arms. Be patient, my true and dearest love. I know you’ll understand.
If anything can truly represent ‘The Power of Love’, it is that magical circle of trees and the nearby church of St. Bega’s, alongside the beauty of Bassenthwaite Lake.
I wish everyone, whoever you are and wherever you are, peace and love and a happy life, and let us all remember those who gave their lives to make our own lives what they are today.