Monday, August 30

Doubling Up and Bowing Out

These past 3 weeks or so have been spent back home in Ireland, and only as I approach the curtain-closing shopping spree-ing final few days of civilian reprieve do I find myself in anyway motivated or inspired to write. I can’t deny that the dry-spell wasn’t in the slightest unsettling and/or to the fore of my mind as I’ve profited as much as possible from one of only a handful of (unofficial) geographical regressions each year. Unsurprisingly ironic, however, is the fact that I now find the fingers tingling over un-tapped keys with increasing enthusiasm the closer the return voyage back to my own private post-Armistice Arkham gets. Oh Danny Boy!!!

The Legion’s annual Summer break allows the more proximal party poppers (such as yours truly) to skip off towards native shores for rekindling of home comforts in all their guises; visiting family, letting the hair down, rediscovering old watering holes, the list goes on. The further flung, visa-less recruits are forced to find contentment in the Legion’s little Marseille-based hotel with cheap rooms, beach-access and blistering sunshine. Not quite home but not too shabby either. Understandably, my primary activity while home on these flying visits is catching up with old acquaintances. Intriguingly, this particular activity has found itself slowly becoming an ever more complicated, unpredictable and
rarely un-eventful exercise in relationship creation/maintenance/ evolution/navigation/termination. And obviously, I’m a glutton for a little exercise.

I do feel obliged to hold my hands up at this early point and admit that, upon first enlisting in the French Foreign Legion, I rather sub-consciously allowed a misguided idea concerning the world’s rotation to enter my freshly-shaved head. Unsure, even now, whether or not it was as a result of extraordinary circumstances in friends’ lives during those early days, or merely the realisation of how much time in general was actually lost before reconnections were finally made, I can only conclude that an overdue slap to the face was just what the doctored ordered. I needed to wake-up to the lives being lived concurrently with mine, and to the challenges and obstacles equal to anything I had experienced being constantly overcome by my friends while I "toiled" away inside these crazy walls. Yes, I took a plunge in flying out to sign up, but since then the only way has undeniably been up. Weekends in Paris, enviable photo opportunities from all over France, Africa and (not soon enough) Afghanistan, and interesting tales scrap-booked along the way were having to compete with the recession, redundancies, family bereavements, financial and health problems, not to mention the loss of poor auld Gerry Ryan! Returning home and (quite frequently for the first time since I left) meeting friends from my old - let’s say "indefinitely suspended" - life, I’ve discovered that some lost time is genuinely irretrievable and it’s adapting to visible, sometimes scar-like gaps that provides me with my truest challenge to date.

Now everyone has the old workmates on Facebook, the same old bus drivers driving the same old routes, the same shopkeepers selling you The Mirror and a MORO in the local Spar. Quietly deciding the ties subtly worn away to nothing by advancing time is easy. A warm but non-confusing walking-wave lets them know they’re remembered, but no longer quite worthy of direct engagement. The elite group of close friends never changes, irrespective of whether or not its respective members’ circumstances do. Indeed, it only serves to provide more material for conversation, before drifting back to eternally recyclable nostalgia takes over. Then there are the middle men. The ones who were abandoned unclassified and never quite returned to with the same inter-personal ambience which would have otherwise prolonged the relationship. I could try to blame it on the distance ("These things never work out, right??") but that would be forgetting a very close friend who has left me perpetually awestruck through their successful and thoroughly thriving long-distance relationship now spanning several years. Perhaps it’s a question of extremes. Knowing someone so little facilitates the inexhaustible and inoffensive walking-wave. Knowing someone powerfully intimately allows for mutual time spent saying nothing at all, merely enjoying their reassuring presence and company. But those pesky middle men, they’re the frown-formers if ever I saw them. Stepping off the plane in Dublin Airport is like tumbling straight on to a giant see-saw. Only by rocking the shit out of it for the duration of my respective stays can it be determined who will soar up into the confidante scaffolding and who will come crashing to earth with a thud, forever destined to receive and reciprocate the infamous walking-wave.

I honestly hope I sent more monkeys flying up to the bars than tailbones tumbling down during this trip. After all, one can never have too many friends. Either way, I had a fantastic time sipping from the source once more, and look forward to the next foray into the jungle of friends, strangers and those pesky but delightfully unavoidable in-betweeners.

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