Let me ask you a question. Could you name the most wonderful experience of your life?
Most people may describe losing their virginity, others the day they met their partner. Whatever the case, just remember and remember well!
I’m going to try and tell you about mine. I say try, because the most wonderful experiences are ones for which words are not enough to describe, a voice does not compare too and even you cannot describe the feelings and sensations you experienced, to yourself!
It all started on a family holiday to Lough Melvin in Co. Fermanagh in 2001. We were camping in a town called Garrison, on the shore of Lough Melvin, through which runs the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. ‘Twas into the last night of the trip, about 8:00pm that night, whilst my family was in the camping reception house, when I decided to go for a long walk to gather my thoughts.
As I ambled along I decided to go to the small peer jutting out into the lough. The light had begun to fade, turning the sky ever darker shades of Grey, and the wind was blowing, not strong, but enough to give a chill through the thin jacket I was wearing.
Following the shoreline, I walked into a small stone and concrete parking area and past a white van with a man and woman inside and then to the beginning of the peer.
Looking out onto the lough; the waters were dark and black. A thick carpet of cloud in the sky hid the setting sun from sight. The mountains around me were smooth with a few white house’s dotted on them, like stars laid down onto the landscape, and the occasional row of trees marked otherwise unseen field boundaries. I could make out the different shades of green grasses on the hillside and could tell where it was longer in some places.
To my right I looked back at the campsite. The few tents of different shapes and sizes, some with vehicles stationed outside, making mini boundaries, an old rock harbour big enough for the few row boats still tied there and the rocky walls being held in place by huge amounts of thick chicken wire. As I allowed my gaze to travel I could see the large circular, red brick structure with the fresh water tap, the park with a few swings and a climbing frame, the utility shed with showers and toilets with automatic outside lighting and finally the stone wall marking the edge of the site.
In-front of me was a peer maybe 40 or 50 feet long, wide enough only for one person to walk, a metal grab rail on my left and wooden decking at my feet, turned dark brown, almost black by the fading light. The peer was being supported by thick round, concrete pillars below, disappearing into the black swelling waters of Lough Melvin.
I started out. Heading for a small right angled turn at the end of the peer. As I walked, the wooden decking felt damp and slightly slippery from being soaked by the water for so long. My hand clutched the cold metal grab rail, as I looked down I could see the black water through the gaps in the decking. There was no way for me to know just how deep the water was should I have the misfortune to fall in. This realisation sent a chill up my spine and played on my nerves. But on and on I carried till I reached the end. And I looked out at the new sight that welcomed my eyes. I could see more of the Lough, more of the mountains and more of the setting sun. I could see where the thick darkening carpet above me broke and allowed some of the land below to bathe in the suns warmth. Where the carpet did break, streaks of yellow and orange light came flooding downwards and onto the mountains below. Like the heavens above opened for a short time and allowed me to bear witness.
Fear and my now over active imagination took over and I slowly proceeded to walk back along the peer. The planks beneath my feet did in deed feel slippery to my step. At one point I thought I was going to fall in, but my main concern was not for my safety, but for the expensive camera I had taken with me.
Back the way I came and onto the campsite I went. Down to the shore once again. I found a spot just a few feet from the rocky shore, sat down on the damp grass, looked and listened to the wonders happening around me. The sound of the water breaking on the rocks just feet from my feet (excuse the pun) and the sun still trying to break through the thick graying cloud carpet. Eventually the grass beneath me got too wet and I went in search for another observation point.
I found a bench made of thick wood and mounted on two concrete pillars painted white and covered in pebbles for decoration. The dark chocolate coloured seat looked inviting when compared to my current perch.
As I sat on the bench, I shivered both from the cold and the dampness of the seat but my discomfort was soon to be forgotten as I gazed out upon the shore waters once again.
And again I found myself lost in a world of beauty and peace.
The clouds now threatened to rain. I scanned the Loughs length taking in every detail my eyes could find. On the far shore white buildings stood out like stars in the night sky. An array of greens in varying shades marked field boundaries made of grasses, trees and bushes.
As the night progressed and the sun sank further into the distance, the cloud began to break and fracture allowing light, like gleaming blades, to shine upon the mountains. Almost as if God himself were viewing the land. And the waters changed colour to a deep, dark blue haze.
The evening wind started to blow, piercing my jacket and biting at my skin, and causing tiny waves to form in the waters and crashing into the rocky shoreline.
Streaks of oil floating on the surface left behind by some unknown vessel show up like white slime trails.
In the distance mist starts to roll of the shallow mountains like a hazy tide slowly coming towards me. Enveloping everything in its path. The greens and browns and yellows of fields all get swallowed by the encroaching tide.
I look up at the clouds and can clearly see the different layers. The lower parts are a light Grey turning to a graphite shale colour. The upper levels retain a light white, still being fed by the disappearing sun.
In the furthest parts of the Lough a seemingly tiny boat can be made out only by the white colouring of its sail in contrast against the darkening Lough waters.
As I sit, I admire Mother Nature and all her glory. I look at the watch on my wrist and it reads 21:30. Half nine at night. I’d been watching the Lough for what seems like 15 minutes when it has actually been 90 minutes. As I sit I think about what I had the privilege of witnessing, thoughts and feelings of peace and serenity fill my entire body extending to every nerve from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. Mere words are not enough to describe this sensation, but it is one I shall never forget.
The gentle dripping of water on my face and jacket tell me it’s going to start to rain. Time to go back to the tent and get a bite to eat and still think more of, what has possibly become, one of the most awakening and perfect experiences of my life and one which is likely to remain as fresh at the time of my death, as it is on that very same day in which they took place.
This is a completely natural emotion to feel. It keeps us safe when we feel threatened, increases respiratory rate flooding the blood with oxygen and releasing adrenaline and our bodies natural painkillers; in preparation for either attacking a danger or running away from it – flight or fight.
I have some difficulty with this particular emotion as it conflicts with some of my personality traits in that I am not an aggressive person and I do what I can to avoid conflict and try to deescalate any increasingly hostile situation which life throws at me.
I have seen people get angry and loose their temper with people who are only doing their job or they get so engrossed and passionate about a sport that they easily take offence at anyone who disagrees with their view.
Anger also has its place within our society. Soldiers, martial artists, sports; any sort of situation where we are competing against or in conflict with another person and anger is useful in a controlled way as it improves our performance, increases our pain threshold and enables us to go that little bit further…or in the case of military personnel, helps keep them alive.
For me its different as it conflicts with my personality. I hate being angry. I don’t find it to be a pleasant emotion and it makes it easy to loose control of a situation and react negatively. But then again, that rush of endorphins flooding my body and increasing my confidence can be exhilarating lol.
Sadly my anger often times results in self-harm and emotional pain that’s almost beyond endurance.
I’ve spent years learning to be on the lookout for warning signs that I am starting to get angry and as a result my anger rarely sneaks up on me. There are usually early warning signals. Maybe I am feeling more irritable than normal or I feel that adrenaline starting to be pumped into my blood and my breathing increases. I also use my eyes, ears and mind to assess what is going on in my surroundings to see what the stimulus is that could be impacting negatively on my emotional state.
In the meantime, having had these early warning systems being triggered, I immediately focus on my breathing to try to calm down. Deep breath in… hold… and slowly release. Repeat as often as is needed. I also take myself out of and away from any situation that is causing this level of distress.
Sadly we all have a breaking point. I’ve found myself in situations where I need to have that physical release of energy and I usually end up punching a wall and damaging my knuckles or biting my arm until my teeth hurt all the way to their roots.
This is a controlled, and destructive, release as I will NOT take my anger out on ANYONE as I don’t believe this is productive. And I rarely find myself in situations where my safety is in question. I am always on the lookout for an alternative to a physical confrontation. I pose a danger to myself, but not to others.
But like I said, we all have our limits and even mine can be tested to the extreme…
Many years ago I remember one night when I was supposed to be staying with a friend in their flat. They had a visitor from Scotland over and the 3 of us were supposed to be going to a fancy dress party. I had my dads leather jacket and was going to go as John Travolta from Greese.
The situation that night took an unexpected turn before we even left the flat. My friends visitor had begun drinking and, having been informed somewhat of my past, he began questioning me about my experiences. I wasn’t happy about this and refused to answer. But the questions kept coming and were becoming more aggressive in nature.
I could feel those familiar warning signs being triggered and I was becoming concerned. I began to employ calming breathing techniques. As the minutes went by the questioning changed and this visitor began to ask before demanding to try on my dads jacket. This to me would be the equivalent of trying on his skin and desecrating his memory.
I looked to my friend for help and asked them to help; but my pleas were ignored whilst they laughed.
I had to get out of there before I snapped. I began to pack up and was being told to stay by my friend whilst being called a ‘chicken’ and a ‘little boy’ by this visitor.
Nah, fuck this, if I don’t get out of here I am going to loose my shit!
It took several trips to remove all of my belonging from the flat, but despite now being outside and away from these idiots, I was barely in control. I was physically shaking with rage.
Sadly, I seem to have somewhat of a delayed reaction in that even when I was finally out of that flat, my anger was actually increasing as the gravity of the situation began to fully catch up with me.
All I wanted to do was to kick a bin, but I didn’t do this in case the neighbours heard and began to ask questions.
I walked to my car, determined to drive away. I also knew that as soon as I got behind the wheel, this would not be safe and I could very likely end up in an accident or hitting someone; but such was the heat of my anger I decided to be selfish and not care about other people. With the distress I was feeling I just didn’t care about myself or others.
I think something must have clicked with my friend because they came out and grabbed the keys from my hand and threw them away before shoving me away from the car. I was so so close to hitting them. I wanted to. I felt justified in throwing that punch.
But the morals my parents instilled in me as a child came to the surface and they were my last line of defence.
I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I just wanted the pain to stop. Emotionally I was in agony and just wanted the pain to go away. And I will admit that had I gotten into the car in this state, suicide was most definitely an option I was actively considering.
Fortunately my friends shove, when combined with my own constant calming techniques, did the trick. I calmed down just enough to regain my desire to not do anything stupid.
After a few minutes my anger had cooled from 100C to 98C. Still far from being safe and calm, but cool enough to regain that valuable control of my mind and actions that I so desired.
I still left. I drove away angry and alone, but now no longer carelessly so. I don’t remember where I went but as I am here writing this today, I clearly got there safely lol.
I feel like the Husky wanting to begin to pull its masters sleigh in the cold snow covered Alaskan wilderness. I want to write but a subject to liberate this urge eludes me. Sudden inspiration hits me. I think “Bingo!” I have on this the first day of February 2004 just created something which may gave vent to these frustrations. I have titled it “Dreams”. From here inspiration grows, a selection of 80s inspired power ballad type music gives energy to my fingers as they whiz about the keyboard hitting keys which my mind only decided on a split second before.
A powerful energy surges forward giving yet more life to my already speedy digits. My mind races forward so fast I have to consciously slow down as I find difficulty finishing one word before the next eagerly emerges. My mind is a frenzy of thought and activity as I type.
I urgently move quickly, for the fear of losing the very fragile idea which my mind has just acquired, is very real. I cannot recall when the last time was that I felt such a thrill. The idea of putting into words an idea which I created and allowing people to read, then witnessing expressions growing and falling from their faces as they become absorbed in my world, is another thrill in itself. I can tell just by the expression on their faces where in my journey they have reached.
This is my gift to the world. I am who and what I am and I wouldn’t change a thing. Slowly I am emerging from myself. A stormy past of thought from many years ago is giving way to this new emergence of me. I am finding myself all the time. I have been a secret to my soul. Hidden in a depth of the mind rarely explored but which always surges out as I sit down to write.
It is not enough for people to read these personal and dear thoughts, but I wish them to read and believe they are their own and it is I that plucked them from their minds. In most cases this is achieved.
The randomness of the words takes you on a journey which you cannot predict. A journey of the mind. A journey without question. Because in dreams we do things and see things that defy logic, but which never seem out of place or questioned. Defying gravity, seeing weird and strange lights which threaten to reveal the secrets of the universe aren’t questioned. Suddenly being rich or having superhero abilities become the norm. logic is turned on its head and once again, as in childhood when being told about Santa Clause or the tooth fairy, we accept this new environment of psychological creation without question.
But, even in this new totally accepted environment, we can create built in triggers to help make the experience all the more enjoyable.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about the ability to program the mind to wake up if you have a nightmare. This is the case for me. If I start to have a dream I don’t like I automatically say to myself “I don’t like this. Time to wake up.” And I do. This happens regardless of whether or not I am aware that I am dreaming. Since I started doing this I have never had a nightmare that I didn’t want. If things get to scary I just simply wake up. Nightmare over. This, as far as I’m concerned, is an extremely powerful ability, but one which I am thankful for. I don’t know when or how I started doing this.
The other thing about dreams is that about 70% of the population remember the last dream they had. Here’s an interesting question to which I do not know the answer. What percent of the population remembers the 2 or more dreams they have during the night.
Dreams occur when we enter into the deepest of sleep known as Random Eye Movement (REM). Personally I have recalled on at least one occasion when I have been dreaming and was aware that I have had 2 other dreams already. Or even more recently I have recalled in some detail 4 dreams which I had on one particular night. Quite surprising. What percentage of the population does this put me into? That is a question I would love to get answered.
The mind is indeed a powerful thing. To create sensations which have never been experienced in life but which turns out to be very accurate. Dreams and the imagination, hope to coax them into the reality of the waking world.
To fly free of this world and escape into the hidden depths of the soul. To experience sensations which would never be contemplated in the world of the real. To conquer fears and live as thy should like to. Explore thyself. Fears become nothing to be feared. Eternal energy flows through the mind.
But the greatest sensation which gives way to the greatest awe is when the reality of the dream is realised. That the world which is before my very eyes is not real. But created entirely by my mind. A sense of disbelieve fills my mind. I walk up to a door; feel the hard wood and grainy surface beneath my fingertips. I look up and see the sun shining down on me, feel the warmth of its golden rays upon my very skin. See the shadows cast by its brightness. The tarmac beneath my feet, the buildings around me. All this is not real. I feel everything I touch but it’s not real. It’s all in my mind. I am literally creating everything I see. The shock of the situation as I realise all this is overwhelming. But then once again the reality of the situation strikes like a thunderbolt. A million thoughts and ideas rush though my mind and as this is happening, an evil grin grows across my face and all sorts of possibilities flood my mind. This is my world. In here I am God!!! I can do anything I want without consequence. I am no mere mortal. I am not bound by the rules of the norm. I am beyond all. I can run faster than I can.
I try and test this theory, unsure if it will work. I have a muscle I am not sure how to use. I run! Down a street with no end. I feel my feet in my trainers beating the ground. I feel the wind in my face. The cars pass me easily. I pass a group of guys and hear the shouts of “go on ya boy” and “hurry up or you’ll never make it”, floating on the wind behind me and I think in amusement “just like real life”. But I’m not going fast enough. This is my mind. My rules! I am faster than this. Suddenly the cars appear to slow, the cracks in the pavement become blurred, the wind picks up, I feel a see sensation of speed building in by gut. I hardly notice the absence of the sensation of my feet beating the ground which was once so apparent before just seconds ago. I find a “higher gear” and suddenly lunge forward, the sensation of speed building all the time. The cars seem to be going backwards.
Time stands still.
The power is building. Shifting.
I can feel it sinking down, down deeper, down into my thighs. It’s overwhelming. The sensation of speed is trying to overload my mind.
I can’t stand it any longer. I have to do something. I feel an overpowering desire to jump, and jump I do.
A new sensation overtakes my senses. The sense and freedom of flight. No earthly boundaries. I go higher and higher into the clouds. The world drops away beneath me into the distance. I surge upwards into the heavens. I feel the wet moisture from the clouds against my face as I journey though them. Suddenly yet another overwhelming desire takes hold and urges me to fly. Fly as fast as I can.
I’m off once again. Flying into the wind. Destination not important. I feel my entire body become even lighter than before, the power builds and I increase speed. The world beneath me starts to whiz by. First tall building separated by streets merge like the white lines on the road. Their windows first hard to distinguish, then impossible. The buildings themselves turn into giant black streaks, then fades to grey as I angle upwards into the clouds once again.
The city gives way to countryside of green fields and hedgerows with the occasional farmer in his tractor tending them. Further still and I see rivers give way to mountains of multicoloured rock.
Something in the back of my mind says “faster, faster, faster, you’re faster than this.” Once again I feel the surge and then a tremendous sensation of speed. The landscape below be blurs then melts into itself as I go faster and faster and faster.
The land opens up to sea then ocean. I see the dark blue hues as I race over its rippled surface. From the depths of the ocean up ahead I see a pod of Dolphins break the waters surface. Their slick grey streaked bodies with their arching back fin break the surface. Puffs of dense white water vapour erupt up as they blow out and take another deep breath ready to return to the oceanic depths. Some of them jump clear of their watery home and take flight in a display of un-associated aerial grace.
As I fly past I see dark thunder clouds ahead of me. I approach and see white streaks of angled lighting as it travels within the cloud, followed by an ear-bursting thunderclap. I dodge the lightening easily. Faster and faster I go still increasing speed.
In the distance I see the sun. It spears to stay still as I approach its horizon. I feel yet another surge of speed and the world around me takes on yet another change. All colour fades from sight and I am enveloped in a tunnel of grey. I pass onto land and mountains become dark streaks which flash by so quick I have difficulty in realising what I have just seen.
Boredom takes hold and I once again angle up wards aiming for the blue sky itself. As I go higher and higher, the blue fades, gives way to the dark, cold blackness of space and I see billions and billions of stars. Each winking at me. Daring me to set forth and greet them personally.
Off I go. This time speed becomes irrelevant. The size of the cosmos shrinks and I pull it near as though attached by an invisible chain.
I see an array of dazzling colour and various ballets which have been performing since the dawn of time.
The universe shrinks and closes in on me. I see clouds of dazzling sparkling dust millions of light years across and at the centre is a pinprick of light which is slowly sucking the cloud closer to its ever brightening and expanding centre. This is the birth of a new star just like our own. I ponder what manner of life will evolve on the planets which will orbit it in the millions of years yet to come.
I see the sun. our sun. I feel its heat on my face. Its surface is like a boiling pond of lava. I bare witness as huge arches of fire and plasma millions of miles across reach out and wrap its boiling arm round me. I see its warm glow on my hands and feel its life giving heat on my face.
Closing my eyes I relish its cosy effect.
Journeying further I see a spiral of dust and debris heading towards an invisible black mouth, sucking all that is unfortunate enough to be taken within its reach of gravity. Not even light itself can escape its insatiable and endless unrelenting hunger.
Onwards yet again and I see a spiral disk with 2 huge towering jets of light shooting out from the top and bottom. Each is several light years long and beyond comprehension. They reach far out into space like a giant spear piercing its centre.
I go out farther still and I approach the edges of the universe itself. I reach the limit of the imagination. When I can go no further and explore no more I wake up. I realise with disappointment that my journey was a dream. I feel special. Like I have discovered the secrets of the universe. Physically I feel tired. Happy to be home. I realise that what started off as a realisation of dreaming, turned into the journey of a lifetime. The experiences and sensations I was privileged to explore are beyond praise.
All this happened in my mind. At the beginning of this journey it was important that I realise that I was dreaming and then I got lost in the beauty I was seeing and the feelings I was feeling. The power I was talking about felt like all my love and passion, hope and desire, hatred and anger and all my other emotions were compressed, magnified a million times and then turned into pure energy and released within me. Actually it feels like more than that but the words don’t exist to write what I felt. The only way to understand is to feel it. Almost as if everything in the universe was me and I it. We were one and the same. As if I am the universe and I am just flowing through it.
I would like to make clear that I have felt this way before, not when I was dreaming but when I was awake. I wrote about it before. The story is called Garrison. I won’t to into it because that story has already been written. But essentially the feelings are the same. The only difference being that in Garrison I had to make due with feeling the sensations and acknowledging they are there, in this case I was able to do something more with them and used them to take to places I can only dream about.
In garrison it was just me and what was before my eyes. There was nothing else. No worries, fears, dreams, hopes, people, nothing. Just me and what I was witnessing. Experiences such as those leave a long lasting impact on your life and I found that I don’t want to forget even a single feeling. Part of the reason why I write things down. I want my experiences to become yours.
I experienced all this and yet my mind struggles to accept that the journey didn’t happen. Or did it? You decide. I’ve made my mind up about what happened to me. I leave you to make up yours.
On a warm summer day in Co. Down, the sun shines brightly from its zenith, looking down upon countryside which is being surveyed by a mysterious, figure-less but curious entity, floating in the air.
The surrounding area is made up of a network of country roads and fields, dotted with houses.
Large birds such as Jackdaws, Magpies and Rooks fly swiftly through the air. From somewhere below, hidden in the bushes, their location known only through their high pitched chirping, dozens of Finches and Blue Tits fly quickly from branch to branch as they scan the nearby houses looking for food and trying to avoid the local cats which patrol the area hoping to make a meal of any unsuspecting creature which they can pounce on.
As I grow accustomed to my few form, I become aware of its mass, its thoughts and memories. I suddenly know all that he knows. I am all that he is. At last I become aware of his senses.
Through helmet-clad ears, a slight breeze carries upon it the sounds of nearby birds, still chirping happily, unaware that soon the calmness of the countryside will be shattered by the roar of a motorcycle.
A breeze picks up and blows through an open visor, cooling a face whose striking blue eyes peer out through a dark visor and survey all that is before him. The road stretching away into the countryside; the white road markings; the cats eyes road reflectors; the birds in the air; the trees and bushes and fields on either side of me.
I listen intently to the wind and scan it for sounds of possible traffic ahead and to the rear of me.
I can feel the adrenaline as it begins to build and course through my veins in response to thoughts signalling what I am about to do.
I start to take deep breaths, trying to get as much oxygen to my muscles, preparing them to act swiftly when I call upon them within seconds of starting off.
In a few bends time I will see, 2 signs stand as guards signalling the beginning of the 60 mile per hour speed limit and the ending of the 30mph village limit.
Adrenaline comes in waves and makes me feel giddy. I feel alive and everything seems to be in slow motion. I know I have entered into the Holy Grail of the mind – I have entered “the Zone”. This is where you are so focused on what you’re doing that the only thing that matters is what is happening this very second.
Ahead of me the road disappears to the left. As I approach I move to the right of my lane, eyes scanning for each last bit of information: the white lines of the road lengthen signalling the approaching bend is going to tighten.
I slide to the left of the bike and put my knee out to shift my centre of gravity. My eyes seek out the vanishing point where the 2 curbs appear to merge and become as one.
I start to scan with my peripheral vision, looking out for anyone or any animal that might suddenly get suicidal and want to step out in front of me.
I have reached the point where the road starts to turn. With a steady throttle I lean off the bike, using my body-weight to pull it down into a tighter line, whilst keeping my head looking up and ahead and pushing down onto the foot peg with my right foot in preparation of the corner opening out.
I feel the tires grip and as I lean in further. I can feel the wind hitting my chest in a gently and welcome breeze.
Suddenly the corner starts to move away from me signalling I can accelerate should I wish to do so. I start to sit the bike up and move over to the left of my lane as the second bend approaches. I do everything as before only in the opposite direction and then I lean and turn left once again.
This whole time I feel alive. My heart pounds with such force that I fear it wants to burst free of my rib-cage.
Ahead of me are the 2 signs guarding the entrance to the national speed limited roads.
I pull over and stop, turning the engine off and hearing it ping as it starts to cool. I can smell the petrol and oil as it wafts up inside my helmet, carried by the heat coming of the engine.
I want to savour this.
I sit and think about what I have just done and feel endorphins, pleasure hormones, surging though my body. A thought enters my head; “this is better than sex.”
With my eyes closed I start to think of what I am about to do and a stray smile grows on my face.
Take a deep breath…hold it…hold it…hold it…and slowly let it out. I take another and hold it, let it out and open my eyes.
I see the trees; hedges and fences forming a corridor through which the tarmac follows with all the weaves and curves that this type of plane brings.
Inside my helmet I can hear the quick, rhythmic, thump thump thumping of my heart as blood is pushed round my body with ever increasing ferocity, in familiar response to the anticipation of what I am about to do.
With a hand, clad in a leather glove and reinforced with various pieces of Kevlar armour, I reach forward and turn the ignition, seeing the familiar green neutral light coming to life.
With my right hand I reach forward, grasp the throttle and push in the ignition button with my thumb, whilst simultaneously pulling in the throttle lever with my left hand and balancing the bike with my right foot, I bring the side-stand up with my left foot.
The bike rumbles into life. A quick twist with my right hand sends the tacho needle upwards, at the same time unleashing a whine from the engine. This is just a taste of what is to come.
With the clutch in, I press downwards on the gear lever with my left foot and ½ feel ½ hear the click as first gear is selected.
Placing my left foot on the ground, I balance the bike between my legs as I pull my black tinted visor down with my right hand, completing a typical biker look and sending me into anonymity from the rest of the world and softening the sound of the engine…but not for long.
I have ridden this road before. I know where it goes. It’s one of the tightest and twistyiest roads I have ever found in Northern Ireland.
But this time is different. This time I want to ride it harder and faster than I have ever done before.
I settle back into “The Zone”; a state of awareness so high that everything seems to slow down. I become aware of everything in front me, on the edges of my peripheral vision I start to scan the road for any suicidal creatures looking to spoil my fun by trying to dive under my front wheel. I also become aware of my mirrors and start to constantly scan them more than ever, with the fear that blue flashing lights and a squealing siren brings to my fragile licence.
With everything set, I slowly twist the throttle hearing the revs build and begin to feed out the clutch.
As the bike creeps forward, I quickly bring my feet up to rest on the foot pegs, balancing the balls of my feet on their edges.
Onwards I go and when I reach 20mph and with the clutch fully out, I violently open the throttle.
I need to get up to speed quickly.
I feel my entire body slide back into the seat as the bike surges forward in response to my actions on the throttle. The front wheel grows light as the front end lifts up in a slight wheelie, and then comes back down.
I grip the handle bars tighter and use my feet to push forward in an attempt to brace myself against the violent forces I am about to subject myself to.
I allow a smile to creep across my face as sheer concentration gives away to an emotion. And instant later the smile is gone from my face, once again replaced by sheer concentration.
The dangers involved are not too far from the back of my mind. I know what could happen should I make just a single mistake, no matter how minor it may seem.
The engine pitch gets higher and higher becoming just a scream.
I look down and see the needle of the tacho meter drawing very close to the 10,500rpm red line.
In the same glance I also notice that within less than 2 seconds, I am already at 50mph.
I close the throttle and at the same time I hook the toes of my left boot under the gear lever and pull upwards, short shifting into second gear.
The bike responds by once again by slightly lifting the front wheel.
All around me the hedges, trees and fences merge into one singular blur.
Below me, the white lines in the centre of the road join as one solid line. The cats eyes forming little bumps as they wiz by at ever shortening intervals.
Suddenly! The road reaches upwards very sharply.
I think, “Oh f**k! I forgot about this!”
Too late to do anything about it now.
The front wheel starts to angle upwards, following the road skyward. The handlebars, grown suddenly light in my grip, signal that the front wheel is now airborne.
I brace myself as best as I can as I feel the back wheel rise over the crest of the hump.
For a split second I am flying though the air like an airplane. The wind is whipping at my leathers and helmet; pushing hard against my chest.
Then I feel my stomach heave as the rest of me, bike and all, begins the violent descent towards the road, wheels still spinning in midair.
With my weight already sent rearwards by the acceleration force of the bike, the rear wheel hits the ground hard; a split second later it is joined by the front wheel.
The rear-end begins to squirm and fishtail, as minor undulations on the road surface magnifies the forward motion of the bike, upsetting the handling.
Just as quickly as the bike is unsettled, it straightens out and I regain total control, backing off the throttle just long enough to regain control of all of my senses.
“F**k! That could have been nasty!” go the thoughts, quickly through my head as I luckily get away with what could have been a serious accident. “I’ll remember where that is next time so I don’t hit it at the same speed.”
I look ahead through the darkened visor at the smooth tarmac 50 yards ahead of me, as it turns sharply to the right. The hedgerows and trees giving me early warning of just how sharp the impending turn really is.
I back off the throttle slightly to give myself more control. Racing towards it, I lift myself up just enough to slide ½ an ass-cheek off the seat, put my knee out for better control, and start to lean the bike over, feeling its stiffness as it tries to resist; my eyes totally focused on the point ahead of me where the corners of the sides of the road seem to merge in unison into one – the vanishing point; constantly scanning the sides of the roads with my peripheral vision, alert for any sudden and unexpected dangers.
The bend begins to straighten up. I start to stand the bike up, getting on the throttle at the same time and gathering more and more speed as I bring the bike completely upright.
As suddenly as the last bend is over, the next bend appears.
I read the road and it tells me it’s just as sharp as the last one.
I point the bike towards the middle of the road and start braking…hard! I feel like the bike is trying to throw me over the handlebars, as the suspension compresses and the front end dips. Senses learned from years of brisk road riding tell me that I could brake harder if I wanted to, but I have already slowed to the ideal speed for this corner.
Just as before, I hang ½ off the bike and scan the road and hedges for potential hazards. Midway through the corner when the road begins to open up for me, I am back accelerating hard, short-shifting through 3rd and 4th gears.
The next bend is 100 yards ahead of me and turning right. I look at the edges of the road; the trees growing smaller tell me that the road is angling down.
I scan the fields to either side of me looking for any breaks in the hedge which may signal a hidden entrance to a field. I also look ahead as far as I can, examining the road for any mud or pot holes.
The smooth tarmac is completely clear of any debris.
As I approach the corner, I back off the throttle, brake hard, pull in the clutch and press my left foot down, feeling the click as 4th gear is disengaged and replaced by 3rd. I press down again and engage 2nd. At the same time I have manoeuvred myself over to the left 3rd of the road.
As I approach the bend I see that it is quite open, so I stay in 2nd, lean the bike over, and keep a steady speed through the bend.
A nice, long, sweeping right hander.
Below me, I can feel the tyres gripping the road, telling me there is nothing to worry about.
Suddenly, the road swings back onto itself as the road turns to the left.
I feel a moment of sheer panic and utter fear as I realise that I am going fast. Too fast! I can’t turn at this speed!
My mind races into overtime. Thoughts fly though my head so quick I don’t have time to consciously process them.
I think, “Too fast! Too fast!”
“Sit the bike up…quick!”
I fight the fear of crashing as my eyes become fixed on the edge of the road.
Years of experience honed on the road, come to my subconscious and instinct takes over. I think, “Don’t panic. You can do this! Don’t look where you don’t want to go. Look though the bend! Concentrate! You can do this!”
My brain tells me to brake…hard! Brake now!
“No! Don’t brake yet! Brake now and you will lose the front end! Sit the bike up first, brake hard on the straight and you will make it!”
I can’t move quickly enough. Things are happening too fast!
Somehow I manage to get the bike upright, long enough to scrub off as much speed as I can.
I hang off the left side and just hope I can make it. I hope the tyres don’t loose grip or I’m screwed!
I lean further and further than I have ever leant before.
Heat and red hot pain shoot through my knee and up my leg, like I have just been touched with an electric grinder, as I feel the road through my leathers.
Instinctively I lift my knee up a fraction of an inch. And the pain fades slightly.
Then the road begins to straighten out.
I start to stand the bike up again and back further off the throttle. I allow the engine breaking to take over and as I come fully upright and pull over to the side of the road as relief sweeps through me.
I made it!
As I select neutral, put the side-stand down and turn the engine off. The entire world speeds up as my senses return to normal. I can’t believe that I just made it.
I still feel giddy with the adrenaline in my system and with it comes exhaustion and relief. My body suddenly feels very heavy. My arms and legs feel like lead weights. I feel physically drained. All that panicking really took a lot of effort out of me. I am so glad it is over.
I think, “It was only 5 seconds ago that I was having a great time before nearly being caught out by that bend.” I’m bloody lucky I didn’t crash!
I look down at my knee and see that my leathers are only scuffed. But my knee is aching.
I’ve had a lucky escape. “Think I will take it easy on the way home…then again, maybe not.”
Calmness washes over me. I start to feel his body relaxing. The near miss on the bend, which happened just seconds ago, begins to fade into blackness as it becomes a distant memory and the rider, feeling somewhat confused, remembers nothing of what has just happened.
As we separate, the land and the rider begin to fall away as I rise higher and higher above the countryside.
Through senses beyond human comprehension I look down upon the being with who I was as one just seconds ago. I watch as he shakes his head and ponders how he arrived at his current location without remembering how he got there.
Unknown thoughts and assumptions fill his mind just long enough to make him hesitate for a split second before deciding to continue on his journey.
He starts the bike up, retracts the side-stand and selecting 1st gear. Quickly opening the throttle and releasing the clutch at the same time which has the desired effect of hoisting the front wheel several feet above the ground as he speeds off down the road.
As the bike and the rider disappear into the distance and the sound of the engine slowly fades into nothingness, the only sound remaining is that of the soft breeze as it blows through the branches of the trees, rustling their leaves. Then the birds’ return, their chirping once again filling the air…until the next time.
As for me? I carry on drifting though the air and into the distance, leaving behind Co. Down, but retaining all the pleasurable experiences I gained whilst being a biker for a fleeting few minutes.
Feeling unsteady, I ride off slowly, still trying to calm down. Still trying to fully realise what I had just been through, only one thought lingers in the back of my head as a wicked grin slowly grows upon my face. “The next time I come round here I’m going to nail that bend!”
After a long dry period of warm sunshine during which time we spend many a day going for walks or laying about and basking in the heat when we get the chance, it is easy to forget the cleansing affect a downpour can have, especially early in the morning just after sun rise.
The leaves on the trees open up and the air feels fresher and is filled with the smells of nature, as if the earth has just awoken from a slumber and is now stretching and readying for the day ahead.
As I drive towards my place of work I see a layer of cloud resting on Cave Hill like a veil, partially cloaking the mountain from view. The memory of a once occupied ancient fort perched atop and now in ruins, returns to my consciousness and I can’t help but wonder about the thoughts of the former inhabitants of this ancient land and what it would have been like to be amongst them on a morning such as this, overlooking what would become Belfast.
Looking out to the shore as I drive along continuing my journey, the high tide of the sea is filled with hundreds of seabirds all resting on the gentle movements of an otherwise apparently calm sea.
Occasionally I catch a glimpse of an upturned bird seconds before it disappears below the surface of the water in search of a tasty marine meal before resurfacing like a bobbing cork.
The sound of the rain against my windscreen pulls my thoughts out of their daydream and, with a rush, all the sounds of traffic associated with modern life rush to greet my ears.
This entire time, which may only have been a few seconds, my eyes have been staying alert to the possible dangers of the road which accompany 21st Century living.
When I have a few quiet moments at work to reflect on today’s car journey, my thoughts once again return to the past.
The Norman Castle which has stood ever vigilant over the Lough for nearly 800 years now stands out amidst the modern world. It’s presence never waning and constantly serving as a reminder of where we came from and with closer thought, of battles fought and won. Brave warriors throughout the centuries fighting to survive countless savage and bloody battles.
I often wonder what it would have been like to have lived during the time of its construction. How different would Carrickfergus have been and looked. What remains today of that ancient landscape that is still recognisable today? Some of the town streets have barely altered their path from the Medieval period during which they were first marked out. The town walls still stand just as imposing as ever, though now the threat has passed and their defensive purpose now rendered obsolete; they remind us of a more violent time during which they were very much needed and actively used.
Along the Marine Highway still stands the original sea wall marking a shoreline that was still in existence 100yrs ago. The main road and associated gardens now occupy land that was once owned by the sea and reclaimed at the hand of man in an effort to keep up with the ever changing and evolving society in which we now live.
The full moon and stars of our own galaxy would shine like billions of fairy lights hung high in the night’s curtain, brighter and more startling in ways that there are few opportunities to observe in today’s world of light pollution, which shields their glory from view.
Still, we must carry on the traditions of old laid down by our ancestors, in the best manner appropriate for the outcome that we seek to achieve.
We find ways to incorporate our love of the Goddess and God into our everyday life and each environment in which we find ourselves.
And all we have to do to reconnect with nature is to go for a walk and feel the same wind, sun and rain upon our bodies as did our ancestors before us and become at one with them and with the spirits of the earth and sky.
As a resident of Northern Ireland I have the privilege of having access to a huge amount of local and interesting history and all parts of the provence are within a 2 1/2 hr drive from my home.
I recently ventured to the North Coast, Kinbane Castle to be exact and, having been warned about the steep descent along concrete steps, down I went anyway; knowing the steep ascent back to the car park would burn my legs and torture my lungs.
I knew I would be in trouble as soon as I started down; but the enticing view of the castle combined with my trusty Canon EOS 650D, was enough to override my caution and I had already decided the end price would be worth the experience.
Perched on an outcrop of rock and mostly in ruins, I was already seeing the Black and White photos begging to be taken. The deep blue sky with vivid white clouds and low angle would make a wonderfully striking image of a once striking structure.
I could sense the history of the castle as I got closer and closer. I could almost see the people who built, lived and died in this castle…over 400 years ago. I could easily see their hard labour and toil taking place. The sounds of happy children once laughing and playing was whispered by the wind as it blew across my ears.
Inside the remains of the Keep, I had no idea how the former residents accessed the level above; the only remaining evidence are the familiar large square holes where the wooden joists once stretched across the void to create rooms above. I couldn’t see any recesses or protruding foundations that would indicate the presence of a stone staircase.
Looking around the remains of the courtyard, I wondered about the lives of the people who once walked upon the same earth on which I now stood. I am a visitor to their home…and in some cases I am sure I walked upon the same ground where they also bled and died. That realisation triggers a deep sense of respect in my heart.
But in other ways these memories of history live on. Their descendants walk the land which has remained the same. I’ve no doubt that I have spoken or seen them during my many visits to the North Coast.
I also took away a degree of comfort and familiarity with these locals, whose names history has long forgotten, when I think that they looked across the water and observed Rathlin Island. The same sun and wind and rain strikes my face that also warmed, blew and soaked these Irish Ancestors.