SAVED BY THE BELL
October 17, 2013
I would be in my bedroom at seven years old; I would hear the other kids playing outside. I would be in my room, preparing the mass, on a home made alter, with blankets and a cup, covered with a card, dressed in a white sheet, pretending to be a priest. “Again he gave them thanks and praise gave the cup to his disciples and said…take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, that will be given up for you and for all men, so that sins maybe forgiven, do this in memory of me” ding-a-ling-a-ling, (those words and that bell still ring in my mind) I was already an altar boy for St David’s Cathedral Choir singing in Latin (The language from ancient Rome, used by Roman Catholics.) Truth is I never really got a grasp of the Latin language, so I would make up my own words a lot of the time, while singing I looked like I knew the words, because I would copy the movement of the other children’s mouths, I was probably singing in pig Latin most of the mass. I always felt the language sounded sacred to me, the catholic churches always had a darker side that always intrigued me. The mystery behind those walls, the statues, the paintings, the candles misty lighting, worked like Vaseline covered lenses in the old movies.
I can still picture my mum coming to see her angelic son (me) after her hard days work, sitting in the pew smiling, always supporting. I remember feeling like I was in a show, but it felt like much more, I felt a deep sense of spirituality I felt bonafide. A highlight for me also, was taking my brother to church for Sunday morning mass on my three-wheeler bike. I was about six years old, I remember vividly thinking how cool it was to be making my way through the streets in the rain, when it was still dark at 7:30am in Wales UK, while my parents slept like babies.
My Aunt Pearl had a picture of Jesus Christ a picture of Mary and a picture of me on the mantelpiece, no wonder I had delusions of grandeur.
Ding – Saved by the bell, the other guy of course. Next scene I am gloving up in a working mans club toilet in South Wales at 14 years of age, I can still hear the ruckus outside, mainly dads shouting over the trainers “Hit him, knock him out”. I boxed with the Roath Youth boxing club. Jerry Watts, and JJ was the corner man. I can still see JJ, thick black glasses, bald with the comb over hairstyle. He was always dressed in what looked like the same suit, shinny from ironing it too much, always smiling. Then Jerry the head coach, he had his head down, chin tucked into his chest, with his broken nose, saying, “Straight left, then straight right, that will put them to sleep”. I enjoyed boxing on many levels, it was more than a sport, our club was a community of rough necks, most from working class broken homes. A real melting pot of cultures. My dad realised self defence in this world is vital for a deep rooted confidence, if it comes down to you against any kind of bully, you can stand up for yourself and for your justice. My dad used to say, “the punch that hurts you the most is the one you don’t see coming, but if your not afraid of getting hit, you will be prepared for it, and preparation is key”. I liked the one on one experience, no one to depend on but you, and the sweet science of it all. It is definitely a front mans proffered position. Especially a thoroughbred Leo/Ox front man. As they announced my fighting corner and my name, as I stood biting on my mouthpiece, I looked down at my Ali tassels on my black and white boxing boots, the tassels there only to distract my opponent. With my back against the ropes facing myself in the opposite corner. I felt alive, inside that smoke filled beer stenched, sweaty venue. There was something authentic about fighting all the elements. Then it felt like an arena, today there is no smoking or drinking, and the people these days come from a privileged life style, computers, even the army are fitted with continental quilts, prisons with DVD’s, all to the soundtrack of luxury rap record. Many trophies later, my two brothers Tony and Blue and I, were all Welsh Champion boxers. The appeal for me was how through this sport, my soul was being nourished by the rapid growth and understanding of my life. I was at one with myself; I was fast becoming very aware. It felt very natural for me to fight in this way; my genetics were totally at home with the rigid regime, both physically and mentally. The fatigue went hand in glove, I would always have a soft spot for boxing. I will also be forever grateful to both of my parents who decided for us to become pugilists. As I will also be grateful to the two priests that persuaded me to chose life.
Round three... The church… In the black and white corner, the challenger Noah Francis Johnson. I studied; I ate and talked with the priests behind those walls. I sang in the church, I fell asleep at night in my bible. I was celibate, I put on real commitment, ready to leave this world, as I knew it. But then something I was not prepared for, what I thought was my true calling turned out to be my mistake on my part. Two priests told me, the church was not for me. Not once, twice within a ten-year period; both times by priests with the Christian name Christopher. I thought something is sending a message. Let us break that down, two Christians with the same Christian names, Christopher, what are the odds? = Christ – opher = I offered my services to Christ. It was declined in a very articulate way, with conviction. “Go have a family and be a good man from outside these walls”, that was all very romantic to me, and it had it’s own appeal. “You are a troubadour, that is your path”. That is exactly how I was able to process their explanation, when they felt and maybe the church was not for me. I have no regrets because I got the heart felt message. I was told to follow the music. One song is a thousand prayers, I was also told I didn’t need a dog collar to make a difference. I also agree with the sentiment, if one of us is left behind we have all failed. So I’m out here trying to be a positive role model.
The ring is life; my gloves are my music, my punch the message, my church the people, all for the title Love… NFJ