Francis Meyrick

The Burning Soldier (Part 4) “Riding the Wind “

Posted on July 5, 2011

The Burning Soldier

(Part 4) Riding the Wind

“I don’t speak the language”.

His words were half defiant and brusque, as if I was trespassing on hallowed ground. But they had also sounded a trifle apologetic, as if his lack of Gaelic somehow put him on the spot. For my part, I was almost relieved, owing to my own very limited skills.

“Oh!”, I said, brightly, in a most conversational tone, “That’s a shame. It’s a fine language…”

In spite of himself, he nodded. Almost ruefully. Quickly seizing the opportunity, I rambled on about my little teacher in Dingle, County Kerry. Again, he nodded, telling me he had been there a few times. Soon we were talking about the Ring of Kerry, and Slea Head. And the local girls, and the local bars. The bizarre dimension was not lost on me. Once again, the Absurdity of Man was richly on display. Here we were, surrounded by the sights and sounds, the smells and the rumors, of a vicious civil war. Smoke and flames were curling up, and burnt out cars and a smoldering tour bus littered my intended route of travel. And here we were, lightly talking about girls and bars…

After fifteen minutes or so, he seemed to suddenly grow brusque. Chatting time was over. A mask had come over his face again. I was no longer a human being. I was an object.

“And where do you think you are going?”, he asked, officiously and almost sneeringly.
“Dublin”, I answered, truthfully, in my best Raheny accent.
The sneer was in ample evidence now.
“You won’t be going to Dublin this way…”
I nodded understandingly. I hoped I sounded approving.
“Surely”, I said, “could you tell me the best way I could be going…?”

There followed a long series of detailed instructions. Very detailed. I had to back up a few miles, turn left, and then follow his exact instructions, to avoid other “problems” as he delicately put it. It was overwhelmingly clear that he knew exactly where his colleagues were manning their own versions of barricades. His route steered me carefully past them. A minor road across the border into Southern Ireland, he assured me, was wide open. I thanked him politely, being careful not to appear too effusive. Then it was time to kick start my Triumph back into life. There was a roar, and I carefully maneuvered the turn on the narrow road. Now I could casually (and disinterestedly) sweep my gaze over my erstwhile Molotov Cocktail targeteers. They had long since lost interest, and stood in small groups, bored and disappointed, gossiping. They hardly gave me a second glance, except one urchin, who was perhaps the youngest of them all. No more than ten or twelve years old perhaps. His scowl, still fresh and pure, seemed to pervert his young face into that of an old man. He alone still gripped his fire bottle, with the oddly white wick standing out strangely against the dark of his ragged blue pullover. Our eyes met, briefly, casually, and in that moment, I sensed the ancient hatred of Ireland. The constant perverting of the young, raised on Granddad’s knee, listening to Irish History from a decidedly one-sided point of view. Black-and-white. Goodies and baddies.Indoctrinated. Implanted with bias and hatred, from the very earliest youth.

I drove the first quarter mile slowly and with a forced relaxation.

And then I drove like the wind…

I crossed the border from North to South, following the twisting side roads, exactly as briefed by my guide. I encountered no further problems.
Once on the main road to Dublin, I rode the wind. Even by my standards, very, very fast. Part of me exulted in being alive, and riding my motorcycle. I relished the wind in my face, and the roar of my engine. I hung low around the bends, and overtook every car I came up behind.
Part of me relished the sky, the clouds and the rain. The music in my head.
And part of me grieved. For the hatred, the bigotry, the violence, the needless deaths, the divisions, and the perversion of youth. The destruction of innocence.

And I saw, as I have all my life, the face of that young lad. A twelve year old, Old Man. Clutching his Fire Bottle. Seething distrust written all over his grime streaked face.

At times I have no hope. At times I am defeated.
And often I have worried. Perhaps it is I.
Perhaps it is I.

The writing , scribbling one who can do no justice to all the troubling emotions. The failed writer who simply does not understand. Who cannot…
Translate into words the whole mess, the whole heart ache, the whole sad, slow Death of Compassion. The torn passions, the sleepless nights, the endless soul searching…

Yes, perhaps it is I, of whom can be said, with justification:

“Poor fellow, he tries, but…

he can’t speak the language…”

Francis Meyrick

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2 responses to “The Burning Soldier (Part 4) “Riding the Wind “”

  1. Ah yes, the old bigotry! You know, I kinda miss it. Peace is all well and good, but it doesn’t help pay for the drug empires of border ‘farmers’ who rely on young men running around planting bombs to take the police off their trail.
    Little old men – that was how I always saw my peers when I was young. They see the world through their great-grandfathers’ eyes. Oh, for the British not to have planted poisonous seeds in this province, poisoning the land with their Master Race bile long before Hitler copied the British blueprint.
    I love your story so far, it has the makings of a great novel. Failed writer my eye!

  2. Kevin, I’ve known good, mediocre and downright bad people on all sides.
    And so have you.

    Good people caught up in the midst of a horrible situation, over which they had little control.
    I don’t see it as simple as blaming one side.  

    Oh, yes, the British delusions of Empire. No argument. But on the foot soldier level, the humble grunt lying in a ditch… many did not not want to be there either. They joined the British Army to see the world, and have adventures. And they ended up dying in Northern Ireland, blown up, hated…

    True understanding, true compassion, if that is possible, requires us to delve deep into our own souls. Nobody was perfect. No community was wholly innocent. Together, we failed as a fellowship of human beings. And we continue to do so.

    I see the injustices. I saw them then. The inequality. The exploitation. The discrimination, with council housing (remember?) and jobs.
    But when a man surrenders to hate, he destroys himself.
    Hate is an acid, that eats away all the good.

    Am I a pacifist? No. Hell, no.

    Do I believe in armed self defense?  

    Yes…  (I own a range of weapons, including an assault rifle with a finely tuned scope, and a collection of semi-automatic pistols. And I shot competitively. And I am, shall we say,  no stranger to the concept of "lethal force")

    But only as the absolute last resort. When all avenues of negotiation and compromise have been clearly and utterly exhausted. Look at what Martin Luther King achieved, and Mahatma Ghandi. Neither were saints, but they taught us so much of the power of the weaponry of non-violence.

    Was that great big mess ALL the fault of the damn Brits?


    They had a big hand in it, for sure. But they were not alone.

    And on an individual level, many of those British soldiers were confused young men. Caught up in an awful situation. Good sons, good lads.  Given impossible commands, impossible objectives, dictated by cameleon politicians sheltering far, far away from the bullets and the bricks, the mortars and the bombs.

    Which reminds me of a story about the Paratroopers… a strange encounter I had.

    Let me see if I can write that one… I’ll dedicate it to you…

    And you reference crime… oh, yes. How much crime masqueraded as a freedom struggle. Hypocrites and criminals. How many nasty, brutal, thuggish acts of robbery and intimidation were dressed up in the lofty words of political struggle, when in fact a large portion of the loot was held for personal gain? Personal advantage?

    You know exactly what I’m talking about.

    Here are two videos, different perspectives, same tragedy.

    (note the angry verbal instruction from a Brit Officer…!!)
    (he wasn’t yelling that -angrily- for lack of CAUSE…??)

    (I agree with the last line…)

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