Looking For Manhole Covers

Sunday 13 May, 2001

06.30 E&M 60 mins. Tired and stiff. I felt as though I was just going through the motions and found it difficult to motivate myself. During breakfast I was aware of staying focused. Afterwards, we went for a drive. I navigated and experienced slight anxiety about one particular road we travelled down. Karaj had said that it was a dead end but on my map everything seemed okay. Some of the road signs seemed to suggest that Karaj was right. I reminded myself of previous advice and told myself that it doesn’t matter what happens. I felt immediately better and as it turned out the route was fine. Karaj later told me that this issue of mine wastes not only my own energy (by the bucket load), but also that of those around me because they are forever having to rescue me.

After a time on the beach paddling in the sea and talking to Robert about looking and not looking for excitement and drama in our lives, we drove on through the countryside. I navigated again and did a great job. I was thrown at one point by a ‘road closed’ sign but Robert said to ignore it. This had not even occurred to me but as Karaj later said, ‘What could have gone wrong? At worst we’d have turned back’. I need to relax even further; especially with my paranoid fantasies that people will blame me when things go wrong. It is far more draining for people to rescue me than to blame me so relax.

We had a beautiful journey through the countryside, and when I asked Karaj to stop for a toilet break, we found ourselves in a lovely spot with trees and wild flowers all of which Robert could identify. He is a fountain of knowledge with a wealth of experience of the countryside and a pleasure to listen to because his love of nature is so apparent. We meandered back to the hotel in time for the play-off semi-final first leg. I wondered why Calvin had not even mentioned such an important game to Karaj to make sure that he didn’t miss it.

With respect to the football, Karaj challenged me to internalise all that captivates me about football and ultimately to gain my own promotion to the ‘spiritual’ premier league. He said that if I do that, the day will come when football no longer has the hold on me it does at present.

After the game I phoned dad. He is upset at the death of his mother, but after talking to Karaj and Robert about it I can see the games that he is (unconsciously) playing. To start with he is being typically English in the things he says: ‘I am hurting…but I’ll be okay’ and ‘It is distressing…but it’ll pass’. I need to be careful that I am not drawn into the drama which has been created and is being perpetuated by my father. The funeral is on Wednesday morning. I shall travel there on the day and return the same evening. As Karaj said: ‘The less I am with my dad, the more I will see’.

After dinner we sat together for a summary session. It is important that we play down the events of this weekend. To enthuse about it would only make people jealous. I can use it as an opportunity to be boring just so long as I don’t give people the impression that I am trying to hide anything – that is the big danger. It is quite easy to tell the truth and make it sound uninspiring. For example, things did go wrong before we arrived, my Gran died on the day we travelled, it was hard work (establishing the foundations to our working relationships) and it was tiring. And besides walking, talking, eating and sleeping, not a lot happened. The special nature of the weekend was all down to the true essence of our company and that cannot be communicated or shared – so leave it. Those who were there know what it was like and that is enough.

Personally, I need to look deeply at why I have such low expectations of things – why I expect things to go wrong and why I believe I won’t be able to cope. As Karaj says, when things go wrong, which they will, all I need to decide is whether or not to invest energy in trying to put them right. Just like Karaj with the laptop on Thursday – once he knew that I had plugged the mains into the wrong socket he left it. What’s the use of expending energy? Something has gone wrong and that’s all there is to it.

Later on we walked to the pier and me and Calvin had a bit of fun in the arcade. It was like being a child again in Skegness. Even the machine we played on was the same as the ‘feeder’ I used to play years ago. Finally, the four of us walked around the streets of Eastbourne looking at manhole covers. Karaj used to collect (nick) them when he was younger and he fascinated and entertained us all with his insights into the humble manhole cover. We all had such a good laugh together, especially me and Calvin, and we were unable to prevent ourselves getting caught up in Karaj’s genuine enthusiasm and his overpowering desire to find a drain cover with the local borough on it. In days gone by, all towns had their own covers and drains but they have since been replaced with homogenous, modern ones.

Just as we were about to give up, we found one. We were all genuinely thrilled with our discovery until Karaj despairingly pointed out that he needed one with ‘Borough of Eastbourne’ on it – ours, by some fateful coincidence, had been manufactured by Morris Eastbourne. We were all bitterly disappointed. Still, that experience provided the laughing high point of a wonderful weekend as we all contemplated how inexplicably ludicrous we appeared, wandering the streets of Eastbourne at night with our gaze permanently fixed to the floor, searching in gutters for antique drains and standing in the middle of roads admiring particularly ornate manhole covers. Most amusing of all was Karaj, with his serious and unwavering fascination for the way such things reflect the history of Britain.

If you cannot do something out of love then do nothing and wait until you can.’ – Karaj

Respect others – laugh with them, joke with them, but do not demean them.‘ – Karaj

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