30 Jun


 old bicycle photo: Bicycle Bisikleta.jpgThe saddest thing I know when it comes to the path a human being takes through life is the increased tendency, with age or blind conviction, to see only extremes of things. To see black and white and no shades of grey. To be blind to the obvious because the skewed impression that is the gift of extremity gives him/her a weird kind of short-sightedness.

I may be accused, in this, to be “getting at” an individual, but in truth I’m not – and, contradictorily, I am – but the man is dead, has been for ages and if he’s sitting plumb in his afterlife where he was sure he’d end up and reading this then there’s sod all he can do about my words. So it’s perfectly all right.

Let me describe him so that those with egos bigger than the condoms they’d like to think they need and who still think I might be inferring them can finally put their minds at rest. It’s not them, unless they’re sitting somewhere near the feet of a dead two-thousand year old hippie in Paradise. Honestly.

No real names, no pack-drill, nothing like that. So I’ll call him Wally. He lived in another town, and when I was young I lived there too. He was, in truth not a great deal older than me and he had a moustache that made him look a bit like Baldrick with a dead slug on his lip.*

I knew him at Sunday School, the advanced class known as the Youth Group to distinguish us from the kiddies. We were too old to be with them. Probably too old to be going to any kind of Sunday School, but the leader with his dead slug was remarkably faithful to a concept I struggled with. Had it not been for Wally I might have followed the masses to the big church and been metaphorically trapped there for all eternity.

I never counted the number of times he seemed to disappear into a trance and tell us about his personal faith, as though it was the only faith going. I wish I’d kept a tally: it might give this account more depth. His words were always similar, though, recounting how he knew with an unshakeable certainty that he would go, hopefully a long time in the future, to meet his Maker in a glorious environment in which everyone he’d ever known, even his ancestors going back through the ages, would be there to greet him and show him around. And the certainty in his voice and on his face, it held a kind of spooky conviction.

Somehow it was as if he was taking a tour round his Afterlife, standing by his lectern and speaking in that monotonous voice of his supported by this or that visual aid that he must have spent hours preparing. And against his intent, it was there, with me in my teens and he only about a dozen years older, that I began to see through the veil his words were drawing across reality. I can remember, with such vividness, the expression on his face, one of a kind of rapture. He even held us, teenagers, with a kind of hypnotic power.

And despite the conviction in his voice I finally saw through it. It was obvious. This is what his faith was. It was a white promised perfection based on no real evidence with black reserved for his Antichrist, his devil, his Satan, also with no real evidence supporting his/its existence. And between the black and the white he had no room for shades of grey.

And he really ought to have, for soon after I gave that Youth Group up I heard that he’d had an accident.

You see, he had a hobby, exploring the countryside on a bicycle. Now, this is was in the nineteen-fifties and that bicycle was far from new and decidedly not modern – and being not modern back then meant it was probably Victorian. But a hobby’s a hobby, and Wally loved his hobby. Warwickshire (the county) is criss-crossed by country lanes and these were food for Wally’s dreams as he rode along.

Until, that is, he had a dispute with a tractor going down Bilton Hill when he was still short of being thirty and newly married. I don’t know what happened or who was at fault, but he ended up in a coma from which he never recovered. And in that coma who knows how many shades of grey fought each other in his closing mind before they were washed away to the nothing we none of us see once we’re dead.

And that was Wally. I’d like to think he made it to his Heaven but I’m as sure as sure he didn’t. That’s what graveyards are and always have been for – the Wallys and all of us.


© Peter Rogerson 30.6.15

*British sit-com “BlackAdder Goes Forth” reference. No particular relevance here, though.



  1. georgiakevin July 1, 2015 at 2:13 am #

    With every post I read of yours I feel like I am getting to know a very good friend better! The better I know that friend the better i like him!

  2. Peter Rogerson July 1, 2015 at 7:49 am #

    That’s why I believe the Internet is so valuable. After all, it’s how I met my wife several years ago, and she’s much more than a friend.

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