PC 205 ….. A First Step (continued)

Scribbling about that ‘Wants’ list (see PC 204) and sowing seeds brought another connection to mind, my good friend Jon becoming a grandfather for the first time. I wrote to him saying that I had found something extremely special about cradling my first grandchild in my arms, in my case Jasper in November 2011, and realising he contained some of my DNA. These scribbles are about more first steps but I suspect Otis’s are some way off, as he was only born in late October!

I caught up with Jonathan & Deborah earlier in the month. He’s been struggling to return to full health following a bout of Covid back in February and then Long Covid for five months; pleased to hear slowly but surely he’s getting better, but this ‘Long Covid’ is a real bummer. Deborah is a talented pianist and she told me that recently she’s ‘been hearing new tunes, passages and musical sequences in my head’ whilst gardening. The first step I guess to composing something, like a novelist looking at a blank sheet of paper and waiting for inspiration. We wait, we start …… with a first word, with a first note, with a first brush stroke.

In a note to PC 200 I mentioned that Simon & Benedicte have very kindly lent us a 4000-piece of Lego Techic – a Porche 911 GT3 RS. We saw it on their table completed; from memory it’s probably about 65cms long! Then they took it apart and gave it to us in a number of plastic bags. It comes with a book that’s 2cms thick and contains 856 individual instructions. Like so many things in life, building the model Porsche starts with the first step; take A and B and fit them together.

And some weeks on, after a false start and the need to go back to the first instruction, we are making progress!

I have sailed in dinghies and in keel boats all my life; sometimes around buoys or lightships, both inshore and offshore, in a race and sometimes cruising long distances to other countries (For instance the STA Transatlantic Race 1996 to Bermuda (PC 161)). No matter how often I have doubled up the warps in preparation for casting off from the mooring or jetty, the actual instant of feeling the yacht moving with the wind, taking that metaphorical ‘first step’, with all the anticipation that adventure brings, never ceases to thrill me.

The warp doubled up, ready to leave ……

Of course there is hesitation with anything unknown – with the analogous darkness if you like. But like the chap who wanted to walk to a far-off town, all you need is a little light. Sometimes that light has a religious feel.

Like a lot of people of my generation I read Nelson Mandela’s inspirational autobiographical book “Long Walk to Freedom”; now he took a huge number of ‘first steps’!! Somewhere in his Presidential inauguration speech he said:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 

We are all meant to shine as children do. We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I get that, letting our light shine, the light of our life. So it was sort of disappointing to learn some years later that he hadn’t actually written this, that he had been guided by the American Marianne Williamson. Ah! Yes! I thought, I have read her book “A Return To Love: A Course in Miracles”, about her journey from drug addict to someone with purpose and ambition. I reached for the book on my bookshelf; somewhere in here I thought, in this course of miracles, she will have written those words, but where exactly? I closed my eyes, thought about this quotation, and opened the book at random, finding myself at page 165. The first paragraph started: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. …” I kid you not; there it was! SPOOKY or what? Possibly a miracle?

Next to Rami’s there’s a café which acts as a venue for an AA Meeting (Note 1). I make no judgment as to its popularity but pleased that each individual, young and old, man and woman, has taken the vital first step, possibly one of the most difficult they have ever taken. Whilst I acknowledge that alcohol can act in all sorts of ways to enhance one’s experience of life, in excess it destroys both the individual and those who love them. I don’t know anyone who has engaged in the AA’s Twelve Step programme, although I have known some who should have! As I understand it, the first step is to admit one’s powerlessness over alcohol; the second to believe some ‘greater power’ could help restore one’s control and the third step is deciding to commit to the programme. The fact these meetings are still allowed during our second UK lockdown emphasises their essential nature.

And being an ex-military man, you would expect me to write something about marching, that first step, that initial lift of the foot forward. A military pace is 30 inches, measured by the drill sergeant with his Pace Stick. You start off with your left foot. Why? Well, when the Greeks developed the phalanx formation, the soldiers’ shields interlocked, and their weight was transferred to the left foot in a fighting stance. We have all heard it somewhere, sometime: “By the right! Quick March! Left, right, left, right, left …..” (Note 2)

Intake 39 Commissioning Parade July 1967 Slow March – that’s me on the right of the line!

Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon, on 20th July 1969, famously declaring: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Now that was a very famous ‘first step’ ….. onto the moon’s surface.

And finally when you step forward you step into a virgin idea, onto a clean sheet of paper and as you do so you make memories. So go on, take a first step, whatever it is?

Richard 20th November 2020

Note 1. Alcoholics Anonymous

Note 2 ‘By the right’ simply indicated that you line up with the person on your right. When recruits were uneducated chaps from the countryside, they didn’t know left from right. Drill sergeants tied a wisp of hay to the left foot and a piece of straw to the right one; instead of ‘left, right’ it was ‘hay foot, straw foot’!

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