I’ve been keeping my act together for 66 years. Writing helps me realise that keeping your act together is not the best way to create a meaningful life.
From the Author’s archive. John Walter — back row centre.
I was born and brought up in the seaside town of Bude, Cornwall Uk. In the picture above, (back row centre) I am 10 yrs old. The girl to the right on the row below me is the one I kissed as she climbed down from a table. She didn’t say a word. She gave me that questioning look and left me in the classroom to finish the flower arranging duty on my own.
The girl (centre front) sat on the desk in front of me for a while. I enjoyed secretly inserting a pencil into her ponytail then waiting for the right moment to twist it. I met her again 30 years later, and the conversation was so easy. I think she has forgiven me.
At this time, I wrote plays and tried to get my friends to act them out. The girls were not interested in my pirate stories, and the boys couldn’t be bothered to learn the lines.
I was rushed into hospital to have my appendix removed, and an uncle bought me a Biggles book by W.E johns. This is my first memory of being completely absorbed by reading. For two weeks, I was alone in a hospital bed eagerly awaiting the woman with the Library trolley that appeared most days.
Learning to keep my act together
After the age of 10, my world shifted, I seemed to split myself in two. Johnny-boy devoured books of all sorts, wrote poetry and songs, drew fantastic designs, invented brilliant machines, and learnt how to kiss.
Big John went off in a different direction. He learnt to sit still in class and keep his act together. He made it look as though he was absorbed in the dreary Grammar School lessons when he provided cover for Johnny-boy to drift off into imaginary worlds. He learnt how to suppress his emotions with alcohol. He worried that something was wrong with him, and one day everyone would find out.
Big John and Johnny-boy have been looking out for each other ever since.I have mostly kept my act together and managed to make a living and allow my creativity and imagination to surface under controlled circumstances.
There have been some excruciating times when Big John has felt he has had to take more control to hold it all together. Johnny-boy has retreated to his bedroom and occasionally peaks around the door to see if the coast is clear for him to come out again.
The coast is clear
Definition of the coast is clear
— used to mean that someone can go somewhere or do something without being caught or seen because no one is in the area ‘OK, the coast is clear — you can come out now!’
The coast is clear, and it always has been. I am 66 years old, and it is only now that I fully hear this message. I can write anything I want. I can play any music I enjoy. I can share my thoughts, hopes and dreams in any way I see fit.
Johnny-boy and Big John have not fallen out. Both make me who I am. At last, we are beginning to work as a team. If I encounter a creative blockage, I know that Johnny-boy has retreated to his bedroom. I shout ‘OK, the coast is clear — you can come out now!’ If I spend days in a creative flow and forget to eat, wash or speak to anyone, I ask for Big John’s help.
I have been writing for Medium for just over a year. I have published 31 stories. Here is a selection
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The Story I’d Like Everyone to Read