11/14 A child learning

Splash - At sea 2006

Now we have reached a point where I must stand back. It is easy for me to sit at the keyboard and write assertions. I am an ex-dentist, a white, 65 years old, married Cornishman who likes boats. There are a few people in the world who fit this description but the overwhelming majority don’t. It has been my intention in these posts to paint a picture. It is my picture but I want to encourage you to take it and do whatever you can with it. For you to do this, we need a starting point – that initial rapport I mentioned earlier, and I acknowledge that the description of me above might get in the way. However . . .


There was a time before I thought about things, before I worried over the problems of daily life, before I thought things through from start to finish, before I made decisions that pushed me in one direction or another, before my knowledge, skills and attitudes such that they are affected others.

These past few weeks standing astride the rather shaky line between a life that has now finished and one that has barely started seem to warrant a reflection on a moment when my own life was raw experience, untrammeled by the education of others. Was there ever such a time? – I wonder. If I can recall it, will it make a difference? – I don’t know. But let’s try and see what happens.

First thoughts: Aged two, I did not have the language to describe this in the way I am now doing – but I did have the feelings – the beginnings of experience:

This is a sunny day.

I stand on the waters edge.

I see flashes of light sparkling on the waves

Warm sun on skin.

There are the happy sounds of people talking, laughing, shouting.

Among them are two familiar figures, my mother and father. Even though they are a little further away, it is comforting that they are there. I feel safe.

There is the sound of water too. Small waves shushing round my ankles, the splashing of happy people and below this the deeper resonance of the sea breathing in response to the wider ocean beyond. I don’t know about the wider ocean but I do hear the sound it makes.

I lick the back of my hand and taste sea-water.

I feel the sand gritty between my toes.

As the waves wash over my feet, the sand moves and I feel my feet sink gently into it.

A bigger wave breaks against me and I step back and find no sand there. I tumble backwards into a deep pool, the wave rolling me over and over. I don’t know whether I am upright or upside down. I bounce on the sand at the bottom of the pool. The water feels cold. It pushes me first one way then another.

My eyes are open and I see sand and then sky through the water. It is indistinct, wavering. There is sand swirling through the water.

My mouth is open. I swallow. Water runs into my nose. My ears are full. My arms are waving and legs kicking.

From being warm and comfortable and happy, I become instantly helpless and terrified.

I cry out but make no sound beneath the surface.

And then, as suddenly, I feel hands around me and I am lifted into the air.

My eyes sting. I cough and splutter. I hurt inside.

Water runs out of my nose, my ears.

Tears stream down my cheeks.

There is the taste of tears and the stronger taste of seawater.

My arms around a neck. My cheek on a shoulder. My cries coming back.

Soothing words. A comforting hand rubbing my back.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are, there was a moment in your life when the raw world first touched you too. It may have been a good moment or a bad moment. The above was mine. I share it with you . . . in the greater quest for understanding.


Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Splash -Teignmouth 2006

6 thoughts on “11/14 A child learning

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