LEADERS - not followers

Saturday, December 6, 2008

IF ONLY...

For Writers Island 9 - If Only
Matinee Muse - Self Actualization

LE TOUQUET LESSON

A quarter century ago
I was coming out of my teens
That period between leaving school
And entering adulthood

A time when all is possible
Nothing can’t be done…it seems

I was with a group of friends
On one of our, now legendary
Camping expeditions to France
Pas-de-Calais; Berck-sur-mer

A long stretch of beach forms the coastline
‘La Manche; - English Channel, laps its shores
It still bore the scars and relics
Of a planet torn by war

Decaying, concrete bunkers
And rusty coils of barbed wire
Littered the sands, to remind us
Of World War Two, our fathers fought

A friend and I, decide to walk
To Le Touquet, just for fun
Or perhaps personal achievement
It seemed like a good idea

We’d bought a map, on arrival
Sat down, planned our strategy
Gone over it, in fine detail
Before announcing our intention

“Six kilometres, en francais
That’s about four miles in English
Ninety minutes, at the most
E.T.A. – just before midday
We’ll stretch out on the beach awhile
Take lunch in a café on the sands
Drink a toast to doubting friends
Watch the world go by, and smile”

“Send us a postcard,” joked our pals

They weren’t too far off the mark

Six hours later, we arrived
At pure white sands of Le Touquet
We’d had to trudge through sand so soft
It reached our knees, sometimes our thighs
Nothing on the map to warn us
By this time, we were exhausted

Under different circumstances
This location would have conjured up
Images of Art Deco toffs
Flown in from England in their bi-planes
With fully loaded picnic hampers
And overloaded butlers
But all that we could think about
Was where to find food and drink
Then board the next bus back to Berck

And that’s exactly what we did

No great adventure to relate
To fellow campers at the site
Of course they later found out all
The details of our mis-adventure
Much to their collective amusement

They still laugh about it today

In hindsight though, I’d say, honestly
It was one of the dumbest, and yet
One of the most memorable
Episodes of that holiday
It taught me two valuable lessons
I carry with me to this day

The first; whatever you attempt
And however well you prepare
The unexpected always lurks
To wreak havoc on your endeavours

Second; if you ever plan
Something off the beaten track
Take a friend along for the ride
(Embarrassment shared, therefore halved
And others’ struggles dilute your own)
A back-up, to confirm accounts
Details enhanced over years
Omissions brought about through shame
Or purely to colour the greys
Lost, or confused in the mists of time