Start From Scratch

I have been travelling down a road. It is not a main road nor is it a cobbled path. This road has been long and enduring. The terrain at times rocky. There have been pit stops along the road – taverns and inns  – where I have met new people and learned new things about the world and myself – learned who I want to be and how I want to continue along the road. The road had turns – some sharp enough to teach me lessons about the cruelty that life can bring. But the road, at times, was accompanied by beautiful sights – some  enough to teach me that sometimes it is the journey rather than the destination which holds more reward for your soul.

And now this road,  has come to a junction. Abrupt yet subconsciously always expected – this new turn, this new path – is daunting. I have been slowing down in anticipation of it for a while now, yet I had never believed it would arrive. Am I equipped for where this new road goes? Will I be able to join it safely or will fear overcome me and will I need to stop completely? I had become so used to the old road, I could handle its bumps – for I had had years of learning its tricks.

This road  is a metaphor for where I feel I am in life right now . I have arrived at a point in my life which holds new opportunities, new prospects and new goals. But therein lies the rub- everything is new. It feels like everything I had done prior, all the relationships I had built, all the ways I had begun to love and feel at home in a city, all had to be said goodbye to  – not forever  – but for some time.

Everything feels like it has to be started from scratch.

Which got me thinking – why do we start from scratch? What is a scratch ? (Apart from something you itch )

The word scratch in today’s world is used to describe the beginning of something, or the start of something with no advantage in it. Its origin heralds from the world of sport.  Like most sports, cricket involves lines which demarcate  boundaries which cannot be crossed. The most important line for the batsmen  is the crease. Back in the 18th century , these lines – were etched – or scratched, into the ground. This was also the case in the world of boxing, where boxers were not permitted to cross the line on the ground afore them .

And so players were told to start from scratch.

Writing this has taken my mind off of the scratch that lies ahead of me .I am leaving the pavilion, helmet in hand, armoured with pads to protect me from the game of life, bat swinging by my side. I am approaching slowly to the crease. I have looked at the umpire. I have looked at the bowler – the deliverer of all my challenges. I have seen the boundaries that encircle me – the ring for my own battle.  I am taking a deep breath – for only I know, that unlike the ordinary batsmen,  I have to cross the crease, for it is one thing to start from scratch in life, but it is another to be up to scratch.

 

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The Die Is Cast ( Alea Iacta Est )

” Without an element of uncertainty, life is a meaningless game” John Galsworthy

Call me boring but there is no tune as sweet to my ears as that of the promise of an evening well spent with good company and a good old fashioned board game.( That is of course assuming that I am on the winning end of the team , nobody likes a sore loser and unfortunately I am as painful as they get when it comes to losses.) That said, it is not the winning that I enjoy as much as the pursuit of it; the adrenaline rush that comes with the quiet, mental, elegant competition of scrabble – oh you think you can make a 7 letter word, well just you watch what I can do. Boardgames are reminiscent of childhood, times when there was little to worry about other than hoping desperately with fingers and toes crossed that you rolled a double six.

But then adulthood hits. And you realise that all those “life is a game” analogies you heard in the movies and songs when you were growing up, were true.You’ve learnt from the hard experiences of growing up the bad moves, bluffs and dirty tactics life can throw at you. Sometimes you’ve been at the receiving end of a bad deal and at other times you’ve been the one with the upper hand.

Either way, when you make your decision, when you decide upon your next move, there is no going back
“The Die Is Cast.”

Now this well known phrase is originally latin: “Alea Iacta Est” And there is nobody in modern history who is more associated with latin and its home – Rome – than our man Julius Caesar ( after all he did come, see and conquer.) Now I’m looking forward to writing about the origins of this because it involves delving into the history of the past – the history of 49BC to be exact. Julius and his men await on one side of the River Rubicon in Italy. In crossing the river Julius would immediately be sending a message to Rome, and the formidable leader of Rome – Pompey – that Julius meant business and would no longer take orders from the Senate. Caesar was at a pivotal point in the game of politics – he would either win or lose. And so, making the first step on the bridge which crossed the river, Caesar looked towards his men and declared that now their fate was sealed: Alea Iacta Est – The Die Is Cast.

Now J-Cae in this moment aptly says it all. In life you have to make decisions and nobody can make them for you. Sometimes the decisions aren’t as easy as picking white or black on a chessboard. Whatever we decide to do , regardless of the outcome, once it is done, it is done. There is not enough time to play the game of life, to make decisions and then to regret. So once that die has been cast – let it roll. See what happens – then make your next move. The trick is to keep on playing.

Bite The Bullet

It’s that time of year again – the end. And so as we all sit and reflect on this past 2014 we see our year – the highs, the lows, the adventures, the mistakes, the loves and the losses – as if it were an old movie playing on a movie projector whilst we sip on a New Year’s tipple. It is a curious time of year, one where suddenly nostalgia overwhelms even the most brazen of souls. We find ourselves stopping for a moment and looking back on the past 365 days, reflecting on all that we came, saw and conquered. (Can I remind everyone that we survived the end of the world in 2012 – which was really a close call – so really 2014 was piece of cake in comparison. )

This year I learnt that sometimes you have to do things you don’t really want to . In fact the very thought of doing such a task is nauseating and you succeed in putting it off for at least an hour by reasoning with yourself and by the end of those 60 minutes you have a long list of reasons to just call the whole thing off.

But it’s time to finally ” Bite the Bullet”  and get on with it.

It’s pretty easy to work out the meaning of this phrase and the origins of it are equally as straightforward.

Biting the bullet is used to describe gritting your teeth and doing what you have to do , when really you’d rather be washing your dog’s feet after it waded through a cow farm post bovine breakfast time. You get the point – you don’t bite the bullet unless things are really bad, in fact the bullets are usually locked away so it’s a pretty serious situation when the bullets are out and at arms reach let alone anywhere near your dentition.

The saying’s origin is set in one of these bad situations. It is believed to originate in the times of modern warfare. In these times primitive surgeries were necessary with high numbers of wounded soldiers . However the Western Front was no Western General and so access to anaesthesia was minimal. But every cloud; in these times of war, bullets were at hand and so were used as a trench trademarked lidocaine. Soldiers were told to bite down on lead bullets during the most savage surgeries including amputations as a means of enduring the pain and focussing their energy on anything but the body modifications occurring at the end of the bed. And so the saying biting the bullet arose.

Now I’m not suggesting we all risk the quality of our teeth and start carrying pocketful of blank bullets. It wouldn’t look good in the middle of a job interview if  we were to suddenly bring out a bullet nor would our dentists be best pleased. But what I am saying is that life is too short to put things off no matter how unappealing they are and no doubt similar situations will one day arise in the future, and so,  it is better to bite that bullet now before it gains momentum and hits you harder the next time.

Rudyard Kipling says it better than I do, but if there’s one thing I’m taking with me into 2015 it’s the belief that no matter what is expected of me, or what I expect from myself, regardless of the outcome – triumph or disaster – the success is in the bravery of trying.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”