Tag Archives: Blink

Karate And Me – Chapter 4 – From Near Tragedy To Triumph

KARATE AND ME

CHAPTER 4 – FROM NEAR TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH

November 1984 seemed to come around very quickly, it was just four months since my last try at my black belt, that was a miserable attempt and since then I had gone back to training five times a week, it was hard work, but I was determined and Alan was pushing me hard, there were a number of other students of a similar age that were climbing the grades and getting to train with them also, helped to push me on.

But as November started, it all nearly came to an end.

We had a family tradition on Bonfire night, in the half term school holidays, all the kids would go to my Nan’s in the day time, while out parents were at work.  The boys, myself and my two cousins, took responsibility for building the bonfire, I was the youngest at ten, the other two being 14 and 15, the girls took charge of making the Guy and making bonfire toffee with my Nan.

We always made a big bonfire, then on bonfire night, the whole family would descend on my Nan’s, my parents and my Aunty and Uncles would bring a selection of fireworks and we would all enjoy the evening.

This year my cousin decided to add a little extra to the proceedings, somehow he managed to find a recipe to make homemade bangers.  All of the components were available for even a 10 year old like myself to buy over the counter, so we made a number of these in varying sizes.  They worked, in fact the worked better than the over the counter bangers that could be bought at that time, a few years later these would be made illegal, but back then bangers were common at bonfire night.

I wasn’t involved in setting any of them off, my cousin did, I must add, under the supervision of my uncle and at no point was anything considered unsafe.  The night was going well and everyone was enjoying themselves.

As the evening went on I began to feel my eye starting to itch, I rubbed it, but it got worse and worse, getting more irritating as the night went on, eventually I went to my Mum, who took me inside to take a look, then it became obvious that something was wrong.  My eye was far worse than just itchy, my eye lids were red raw!

Immediately my Mum and Dad took me to hospital, surprisingly it was quiet, so we were seen quite quickly.  The nurses in casualty  were concerned and called a Doctor that specialised in eye injuries.

It transpired that both my eye lids were burnt, it would seem that something and probably the sellotape that we used in the bangers had gone into my eye.  The Doctor stated that I was lucky, I must have blinked at that moment, because my eye lids were both burnt, but there was no damage to my eye itself.  Had I not blinked, the melting sellotape would have gone directly into my eye and almost definitely left me blind in that eye.

I had had a lucky escape, just superficial burning, I was sent home with paste to put onto my eye lids at regular intervals, but other than that I was fine, just an eye that was uncomfortable due to the scabbing of both eye lids.

They say things can change in the blink of an eye, I learnt the truth of that sentance on that day.

I went to karate on the next night, it was a normal Tuesday training session, I went only to watch, not take part, my eye still looked a mess, though I could still use it. Alan then broke the news that there was another grading on the Saturday, up in Newcastle, he could get me a lift there and he wanted me to try again.

Between Alan, my Dad and myself it was decided I would go for it again on Saturday, as my eye was mainly just cosmetic and not anything permanent, it wasn’t too much to worry about.

So Saturday morning I left my house about five in the morning, a parent of some of my club mates took me to Lincoln, there I met up with one of the seniors from our Lincoln club, who walked me to his sister’s house and she took us both up to Gateshead, near Newcastle.

We had set off early and then arrived early too, that gave us plenty of time to put in the grading forms, both Simon and myself were grading, so Simon copied the details of my previous grading form and submitted my new forms.

This was only the second time I had trained with Enoeda Sensei, my previous black belt gradings had been under a different examiner.  Enoeda Sensei was an imposing character, he just had that air that he carried with him, he looked serious and really did scare me.  I was on my own in the training, I was with all these kids I didn’t know, whilst Simon trained with the adults.  We practiced a series of moves, in a combination that involved a number of turns, then Sensei requested we get into groups of three.

All the other kids around me obviously knew each other, they all got into groups very quickly and when I looked around there were no other kids to go with, I was on my own.  So I just carried on practicing the combination on my own, whilst everyone else practiced in groups.  That was when I saw Enoeda Sensei coming my way, I panicked, I kept my head down and just did what I was doing as best as I could, after I finished the combination, I looked up to see him stood right next to me, I expected a telling off for not getting into a group with the others, then I saw him smile at me and raise one of his hands to give me a thumbs up.  Wow, I expected being shouted at, I was almost ready to cry, my shy and nervous side was ready to explode, but that smile, that thumbs up, just washed away all those nerves, after that my energy levels seemed to double, I was on cloud nine, I was flying.

There was a bit of waiting around after training, whilst the next group trained, then the grading itself started.  The younger kids were usually first, so I was in one of the first groups of six called up.  My name was called and I took my place in the line before Sensei, then there seemed to be a pause, something was being discussed on the table, then Sensei pointed at me and called me to the table, my heart sunk, all the positivity of the mornings thumbs up was now ebbing away.

I walked to the table, Sensei asked my name, I responded nervously, he asked when I last grading, I told him the it was one year ago, then he asked who old I was, I said I was ten, then he pointed at the paperwork and that smile came over his face once again, with a big laugh in his voice he bellowed out for all to hear;

“It says here, you one year old!!!”

I looked down at the paperwork and to my horror, Simon had put my date of birth as my last grading date the previous November and in that box put my date of birth, it was an obvious mistake, but Sensei saw the funny side, normally he would probably have rejected the paperwork, but he laughed with me as he corrected the paperwork and with that same smile I saw from him earlier that morning he sent me back to my place in the line up.

But once again, Sensei’s smile had put me back on cloud nine, I went back to the line, gave everything I had and waiting with the rest for the result.  Back then you sat through everyone else’s gradings and waited to be called up again, if you were called up a second time for another kata, you had pretty much passed, unless you messed up that kata, I was called up a second time, flew through the kata and a little late my pass was confirmed.

Simon hadn’t passed, but you couldn’t tell, he was over the moon for me, it seemed it meant more that I passed than the result of his grading, he never showed any disappointment, I’m sure he had some, but he did a great job of hiding it.  We found a pay phone (no mobiles back in 1984) and I called my Dad and told him the news, I remember us both being in tears on the phone.

I don’t remember the ride home, it was long, but it passed so quickly, I got home and within minutes Alan turned up at the house, he was over the moon, I could see it in his face, he always took great pride in any of his students passing their black belt, but it seemed more so with me.

The next few days were interesting, there weren’t many ten year old black belts back then, especially not in Nottinghamshire, Alan contacted the papers and I had arrangements for interviews and photoshoots.  One of the papers came to my house and photographed me in my front room, another arranged to come to my school, it was a little embarrassing to have to perform barefooted in a wet school playgroup, in front of a handful of friends, whilst being photographed, although that paper did give me the nick name the mighty atom!

The previous day I had been mentioned in the local paper, not by name, but I was listed as being the only Bonfire night casualty in the Newark area, not my most shining moment, then just seven days later, I made the paper for all the right reasons.

They were six days that were a complete rollercoaster, from almost losing the sight in one eye to obtaining that black belt.  Then there were those moments during that grading which just changed things, to this day I still feel like I must have been Enoeda Sensei’s favourite student that day, he saw something in me and knew exactly how to respond to my shy and nervous persona, maybe I wasn’t his favourite student, but just for those few hours, it felt like it.

Life can change in the blink of an eye sometimes, had I not blinked that Monday evening, would I have done everything I have since then?  Would I have gone on to get that black belt, well maybe, probably not that day or in those circumstances, but I may have carried on, but everything that I have achieved in Karate since that day, has happened because of that one moment, that one blink.

Back then and through most of my life I haven’t been a Christian, I never believed, but now I firmly believe that at that moment, that blink of an eye was a moment when God’s touch was on my life.  Karate has been a major part of my life, a major part of the good that is in me, even in my lost years of drinking, it was only karate I stayed sober for, I’m sure it kept me alive in those years, it was the only thing that went right for me as the world around me crumbled, had it not been for that blink of an eye, well, I don’t even want to think about that.

BLINK by REVIVE
Teach me to number my days
And count every moment
Before it slips away
Take in all the colors
Before they fade to grey

I don’t want to miss
Even just a second
More of this

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?

It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink

When it’s all said and done
No one remembers
How far we have run
The only thing that matters
Is how we have loved

I don’t want to miss
Even just a second
More of this

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?

It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink

Slow down
Slow down
Before today becomes
Our yesterday

Slow down
Slow down
Before you turn around
And it’s too late

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?

It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink

Blink

BLINK

You know all this can change
None of this is beyond My reach
Just bring it all to Me
Place your dreams within My hands

Worry not for tomorrow
Know My heart holds all your hopes
But sometimes what took an age to break
Can take as long to put back together

Believe Me when I say
I have only the best planned for you
I’ll breathe life into dry bones
And I’ll build a stronghold from your ruins

Keep walking with Me each day
Feel I’m with you in every fight
But things can happen in a moment
And lives can change in the blink of an eye

In The Blink of an Eye

Wow, it’s thirty years today since an incident in my life that could have made everything so different, the blink of an eye made all the difference.

Bonfire night 1984, as every year before, we had made all the preparations for the night, during the half term myself and my two older cousins had built a large bonfire in our Nanna’s back garden and all our families would converge there for fireworks, baked potatoes and my Nan’s bonfire toffee.

But this year my cousin had found out, from a friend of his, how to make homemade bangers.  So during the half term, as well as building a bonfire, we had also made a fairly descent stash of these rather loud bangers.  I was ten years old and my cousin was almost four years older than I was, it fair to say I was quite easily led and looked up to him somewhat.

We made them in various sizes, the bigger they were, obviously the louder and more powerful they were.  On the night my cousin set a few of these off in various different circumstances.  I must add here, our parents were present and oversaw what was happening and would have stopped anything that was not considered safe.

As the night went on, I felt a itching in my right eye, it seemed to get worse as I rubbed it more and more.  Eventually it became very uncomfortable, so I went to my Mum and she took me inside to take a look in the light.  From there it was obvious to her that is was a little more serious than just a scratch or something in my eye.  My Dad was summonsed and I was taken to hospital.

Now I must say I expected a Casualty department on a bonfire night, to be very busy, but it was completely empty and I was seen quite quickly.

It transpired that both my top and bottom eye lids had been burnt.  They had been burnt in a way that it was caused by more than just a spark, something that had been melting had obviously caused the burning.  I confessed that we had used sellotape in the construction of our bangers and this was deemed to be the source.

The Doctor then said, that due to the position of the burns on both the eye lids, it was clear that I must have blinked at the time and this had in his opinion saved my eye, had the sellotape gone into my eye, he was sure I would have lost the sight in that eye.

I was given some rather thick paste to put on my eye lids for the burns and sent home, we went back to my Nan’s but as it was late by then, everything was almost over.  There was a bit of an inquisition for my cousin and I, but it was deemed just an unfortunate accident, although we were forbidden to make any more, to this day, neither of us has and the incident is still fondly remembered at family gatherings.

My eye look pretty ghastly for a few days, the eye lids were covered in very uncomfortable crusty scabs, but after a few days it just looked like a black eye, which through my karate I was well used to by then.

On Friday the local paper came out, and a few pages in there was a report that stated that the only bonfire night casualty in town was a boy with eye injuries, they never mentioned me by name, but it was definitely me, my claim to shame.

Just five days later, with a black eye, I went up to Newcastle to take my black belt and I passed, so the next weekend I made the paper again, this time for the right reasons.

Okay, I know this was an accident which was brought about by youthful stupidity, we were making things that weren’t legal, although everything we made them from were easily purchased by people our age, yet that doesn’t make it right.

But in the blink of an eye, a life could have been so different.  Had I not blinked, what would life be like with one eye, I know many people who live that way and have got on very well in life, but I can’t put myself in that place, because in the blink of an eye, I was saved from that life.

If you have read my post from a few weeks ago, “The Night I Stopped Believing”, then you’ll know that I had given up on the idea of God two years before this moment in my life, but when I look back now, it’s another one of those moments where I can now see a touch from God in my life, a moment that without His protection, life would have been so different.

BLINK by REVIVE
Teach me to number my days
And count every moment
Before it slips away
Take in all the colors
Before they fade to grey

I don’t want to miss
Even just a second
More of this

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?

It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink

When it’s all said and done
No one remembers
How far we have run
The only thing that matters
Is how we have loved

I don’t want to miss
Even just a second
More of this

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?

It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink

Slow down
Slow down
Before today becomes
Our yesterday

Slow down
Slow down
Before today becomes
Our yesterday

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?

It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink

SoberDay 746

Okay, so if you have been a regular follower of mine for some time, you will know that I count every day of sobriety and indeed passing every week, you will also know that I hold my own little celebrations at significant milestone, 1 year, 2 years, 500 days, 600 days, etc, etc.  If you’re new to this site, then okay I can be a little weird from time to time also!

Psalm 90:12

Psalm 90:12

So that fact that today is SoberDay 746 doesn’t really seem that significant, but I’ve looked at the days ahead and I’m being to see something more than coincidence with my date of Sobriety, the 29th March 2012, just a normal Thursday, nothing special, just another day.

Then last year my one year anniversary just so happened to fall on a Friday, Good Friday, coincidence? Maybe! I thought so at the time anyway.  But it was a great day and a great way to celebrate.

But then earlier today, I worked out that my 750th SoberDay would fall on this coming Friday, Good Friday, another coincidence?  Maybe, but then again my 1000th SoberDay will fall on Christmas Eve, now I’m being to think differently.

Psalm 139:16

Psalm 139:16

So was Thursday 29th March 2012, just a normal day, when a troubled soul, just randomly decided to give up an addiction that had wrecked his life?

I’m beginning to think not, it wasn’t just a random day at all!

 So Friday will be a great day of celebration, once again in more than just one way and I for one can’t wait!

BLINK by REVIVE
Teach me to number my days 
And count every moment before it slips away 
Take in all the colors before they fade to gray 
I don’t want to miss even just a second more of this 

It happens in a blink 
It happens in a flash 
It happens in the time it took to look back 
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time 
What is it I’ve done with my life 
It happens in a blink (x2)

When it’s all said and done
No one remembers how far we have run
The only thing that matters is how we have loved
I don’t want to miss even just a second more of this

It happens in a blink 
It happens in a flash 
It happens in the time it took to look back 
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time 
What is it I’ve done with my life 
It happens in a blink (x4)

Slow down, slow down 
Before today becomes our yesterday 
Slow down, slow down 
Before you turn around and it’s too late 

It happens in a blink 
it happens in a flash 
it happens in the time it took to look back 
I try to hold on tight but there’s no stopping time 
What is it I’ve done with my life 
It happens in a blink

It happens in a blink 
it happens in a flash 
it happens in the time it took to look back 
I try to hold on tight but there’s no stopping time 
What is it I’ve done with my life 
It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink 
It happens in a blink 
It happens in a blink 

Fireworks, Well Homemade Ones!

I am lucky that 28 years ago today I escaped with both my eyes fully operational.

As a youngster both my parents worked full time, so during school holidays myself, my sister and my four cousins spent the days at my Gran’s small bungalow.  Schools around here break up for a week in October, so the boys spent the week collecting wood and old furniture, in order to build a bonfire in my Gran’s large garden.  We went everywhere around the estate collecting anything that would burn, we would make a bonfire in excess of two meters high, ready for the November 5th bonfire night celebrations.

Our parents would chip in with fireworks, my Mum, Aunts and Gran would make the food and toffee, the girls would make a guy (an effigy of Guy Fawkes), the whole family would then come together for the first time each year, the only other time would be Christmas Day.

And the fireworks fly
And the fireworks fall
But I have seen the best of all
And it’s true, after every charge is through
I can still hear the thunder call
(Fireworks by Brave Saint Saturn)

That year however, myself and my older cousin had spent the holiday’s not only building a bonfire, but building homemade banger fireworks.  I won’t go into the full details of how we made these and the ingredients, but you do need to know that they included sellotape.

We made them in varying sizes, which had differing results, generally they just exploded with a loud bang, louder than the bangers that were available to buy in the UK in 1984.  They had power too, one large banger could provide enough force to lift a galvanised dustbin lid several feet into the air!

As the night went along, our parents set of many legal fireworks and my cousin and I set off our homemade bangers, everyone was enjoying themselves, the 10 year old me included, but then my eye started to itch, it gradually got worse.

It itched more and more, the more I rubbed it the worse the irritation and then the pain got, so I had to show my parents.  Inside, in the light, it was clear that something wasn’t right, both my eye lids were raw, not just from the rubbing, but something more sinister.  There was no alternative, hospital, so off I went with my parents whilst the others continued the celebrations.

For a bonfire night, the hospital was rather quiet, so I was seen almost immediately.  The Doctor said it was clear that there was burning to both the upper and lower eye lids, but amazingly no damage seemed to have been done to the eye itself, he said I was lucky, I must have blinked as a spark or whatever it was had shot into my eye, in doing so protecting the eye from impact and an almost certain loss of some or all the sight in that eye.

It would appear that the sellotape used in the construction had melted on ignition and shot into my eye, I never notice the impact, only the itching sometime later, but luckily as the Doctor stated I must have inadvertently blinked, which save my sight.

I was the only bonfire night casualty in the town that year, I made the local paper, although due to my age at the time they didn’t mention me by name.  I would make the paper again, only five days after this event I passed my black belt grading, so I made the local paper two weeks running, although the second time they did name me!

Last weekend at the Church getaway, it was the first time I have been close to a bonfire since that very night 28 years ago, it brought back a few memories, luckily no one brought any fireworks, never mind homemade ones, although the youthful exuberance was still evident, as the younger members of the group proceeded to jump over the fire as it died down.

Unleash Campfire

Unleash Campfire

Twenty eight years later, I thankfully still have perfect vision, despite this event and my many hours spent wasted staring at a computer screen, either at home or at work.  So now I thank God for these moments in my life, that without me knowing it, he was there looking out for me, saving me from my own arrogance and stupidity.

The Seven Legged Spider

There are bright moments in my life, it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact since I put into action the plan to change my life there is infinitely more light than there is dark, dark moments almost seem like a thing of the past as they are few and far between.

One bright moment of laughter with my kids happened one Friday night, from the back room came running my six year old daughter, there was a spider crawling across her toys, she wanted me to just kill it for her?

Well, the rest of my household hate spiders, they despise them and are truly scared, but me I find them quite amusing. I don’t kill spiders, I usually throw them out of a window or door into the garden or even the next door neighbour’s garden, as long as they are not looking of course.

I caught the spider in my hand and proceeded to chase my daughter around the room with the spider, a bit cruel I know but we both had a laugh. After a quick run around the house I decided to make for the door and let the spider go free, but that’s where it went kind of wrong. I had the spider in my right hand, but as I am right handed and completely useless with my left I couldn’t open the door, so I switched the spider to my left hand, I opened the door with my right and threw the spider out of the door, job done, well so I thought. I turned to walk back to the room, but when I looked down at my hand I found a solitary spider leg was left stuck to my finger, oh dear! Obviously in the struggle the spider put up whilst switching hands, it’s leg got trapped and pulled off as I threw it from the door. I showed the kids the poor spiders leg, both of them found it both intriguing and amusing in equal amounts.

I updated my status on Facebook that night with the following post:

“I’ve just saved my daughter from a spider, unfortunately in the process of throwing the spider out of the back door I pulled off one of its legs by accident, so if anyone finds a seven legged spider crawling in their bath, please give it my sincere apologies.”

I never did see that seven legged spider again or hear from anyone who had seen it, maybe it’s gone into hiding and is plotting it’s revenge.

But only six months after being at my lowest, it was nice to have a few light-hearted moments and enjoy the little things in life, like having a laugh with the kids, rather than locking myself away from them with a bottle of wine in hand, unable to deal with any tantrums or the pair of them falling out, which I can tell you is a regular occurrence.

These little things can pass us by in the blink of an eye, sometimes we don’t see that a moment like this, that others may dismiss as trivial, can actually be an important moment in the life of others, when I look back now that was not just a good night, those few moments at that point in my life made it a fantastic night.

It happens in a blink
It happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life
(Blink by Revive)

Remember that we are supposed to enjoy the gift of life that we have been given, my life was saved, I have been given a second chance, I’m not going to let it pass me by anymore, I will cherish each and every one of the good moments and simply rise above the bad.