Through the last few years of my life it always felt like something was “wrong” but I could never put my finger, thumb or any other appendage on what was actually amiss in my existence.
Since 2004 I have travelled to Eastern Europe, Spain and Germany to recruit students for an ill intentioned, McCollege in London that cared only for money and didn’t give a damn about student welfare.
I joined the Special Constabulary (unpaid volunteers) of the City of London Police in October 2004 and had the privilege of being on duty with them after the July 7th and 21st terrorist attacks of 2005.
I ran a summer camp in 2005, for another McCollege in London (or in this case McEducational Holidays) who again didn’t give a fuck about student welfare but due to my approach to discipline we kept all the kids safe throughout the terrorist attacks and came top of the lists for the 22 centres the company owned (and were the only one to come in under budget and not get billed for any damage).
I joined the police full time in 2006 with a county force and began what would be a downward spiral into depression, anxiety and paranoia after somehow making enemies with a sergeant supervising probationers who resembled Gollum from Lord of the Rings, had the intelligence of a retard and the spitefulness of a recently dumped 13 year old girl.
In 2008 I finally jacked the police and moved to Plakias in Crete for 5 months to stay with my Dad. After suicide thoughts, slipping the LS5 disc in my back (for the third time) and coming on to a straight guy in a local bar (told you I was having suicide thoughts) I finally came through all the self pity and misery and emerged feeling cleansed and with my love of and zest for life restored. I have cherished memories which include:
Having a beautiful, 19 year old Australian girl blowing me on her knees in the Plakias library (where we had snuck in for some privacy);
Going to New Delhi and seeing this wonderful, chaotic, stinking city;
Staying with one of my best friends in Moldova and having her parents throw me a surprise birthday party…
…are all memories that made me realise that my original intention of going into the tunnel that links One Rock beach to Pig Bay and breathing out halfway through…was something that was best put to one side forever.
I travelled to Rome in October 2008 and got a teaching job with my old school where I last worked in 1998. Then another job in a school just round the corner. Then an apartment with a king size bed and a balcony.
I had sex with 8 different women over the space of 12 months and found the joys of a website called Couchsurfing.org which had one of the best and friendliest social networks I’d ever encountered. I spent my entire weekends from Friday to late Sunday getting drunk and having fun (clubs in the winter, picnics in the spring and summer) before setting off with a hangover on the Monday at 12pm (the earliest I started to teach) to a high school where I taught Twilight-obsessed teenage girls and one or two boys the finer points of the Queen’s English.
2009 I came back to Plakias and found after about 18 years that getting punched in the head in anger wasn’t the end of the world, but is fairly embarrassing if you were too drunk to remember it the next day and didn’t know where the black eye had come from. A book I’d written about my experiences in the police was picked up for publication…but by a self-publisher, who promised inclusion on Amazon and Lovewriting plus a whole plethora of goodies…all for the sum of 5 grand. A friend of mine in Plakias heard how well the manuscript had been received, even by publishers who’d rejected it and offered to lend me the money, on a handshake deal with a promise of his investment returned and 25% of profits.
I returned to Rome and went back to teaching. Christmas 2009 I went back to England and after 18 months of fighting for it, was given an exit interview from my old police force. The Assistant Chief Constable for Professional Standards (3rd from top) sat down with me and the Federation (union) rep’ for over an hour and against all the odds listened to everything I said and even winced a couple of times at what I told him I’d had to put up with. He promised me that changes would be implemented that, while too late for me, would stop that sergeant EVER hurting anyone else again.
April 2010 and the book came out with the title STAB PROOF SCARECROWS. 2000 copies were printed and in the space of a month we sold 200 on Amazon alone. For the first 2 months Amazon were constantly sold out and my old force (not COLP, the second one) were none too pleased. The free signed copies I’d sent to the handful of cops I actually respected (plus one to the Chief Constable) were passed around and to my utter joy the Professional Standards department spent several hours trying to work out who was who and once they were satisfied they’d deduced identities, the ACC I’d had the sit-down with sent letters to those portrayed badly stating that as I had changed the names and not identified the force then they weren’t prepared to regard the book as libellous.
In May I went back to Plakias a third time. Had a fist fight my first night there that, when I woke up the next morning with a bad hangover and no memory of it, to my immense surprise and pleasure I had won, with the other guy (who had started it) having an upper lip that looked like someone had hit him with a hammer.
3 weeks later and some 19 year old came at me on the dance floor of the bar and went “I’ve always wanted to fight a copper” and hit me in the bollocks. I punched him in the jaw and next day he said he was sorry.
Drinking, shagging, seeing four countries, getting a book published and finally winning a couple of scraps.
Hosting a Couchsurfer who had sex with me the one night she stayed and then left me a wonderfully sweet reference on the site a week later.
Seeing one year old, white Bengal tigers (two of only 50 in the world) playing together in New Delhi zoo (not to mention the ice cream-stealing monkeys)
Getting a 470 page book published and knowing that (unofficially at least) it has made some good people happy and made some very bad people very uncomfortable.
Getting an angel tattooed on my back that took over nearly 4 hours but was worth every excruciating second.
Watching the sunset in Plakias and Rome while drunk on red or black wine.
Cliff jumping in Plakias into foaming waves.
Becoming a qualifed scuba diver (Advanced) and going spear fishing and catching an octopus which I cooked for dinner.
Somehow…something was still lacking and I couldn’t figure out what.
And then, I met Mich.
May 2010 and I went to a Couchsurfing meeting in the Trastevere area of Rome. I turned up early and saw a very cute girl sitting the steps at the back of the plaza rolling a cigarette. I wanted to go over and speak to her but have never been much of a guy for sparking up conversations without a fall-back reason.
To my surprise she was there for the same meeting and we spent a pleasant 3 hours in one of Rome’s few “strong ale” pubs where we both got trashed and she spent the night at my house but slept in her jeans.
The next day I suggested that, as I was leaving in 3 weeks for Crete, that we could have a 3 week affair to which she agreed. Second night out and having known her for 24 hours I got so drunk I could hardly stand up and next morning she asked me quizzically “what pleasure do you get out of getting so drunk you can’t talk or stand up?”
We continued to date and she said things that started to find chinks in my bravado. She looked at me one day and said “Lance, the only bad thing I’ve ever heard about you…came from you”. She was patient with my talk about my past and when I came home she was always there, smiling and ready with a kiss.
After 2 weeks I realised that this sweet, spiritually aware, beautiful girl was more than someone I wanted to simply shag for 3 weeks and then move on from.
I was in fact, for the first time in about 8 years…in love.
I suggested she came to Plakias, regardless of whether we were still together or not as she would be able to find work easily in one of the holiday bars. I was still trying to play it cool and added that there would be somewhere cheap to stay if we didn’t last the course and we could always just be friends.
I was supposed to start work for a holiday company managing a holiday centre in Greenwich, London but the pay was awful and when I realised I had more in my bank account than I thought I had, I decided to stay in Plakias and e-mailed the company owner that I’d changed my mind.
I pretended I wouldn’t be there and then went with the guy who had driven to the airport to pick her up intending my presence to be a surprise. While perusing the arrivals board I turned around to find she had snuck up behind me and was standing there grinning, waiting for me to turn around.
We spent over 2 months in Plakias, living together while she worked in a bar and then at the youth hostel cooking breakfasts. Our only major arguments came from me drinking too much or Mars and Venus misunderstandings over what she said and what I thought she meant (e.g. “you can go out if you want (kiss)” I took to mean I could stay out all night, come home at 5am, piss in the garden and walk up to the front door to find her sitting on the balcony with an ashtray overflowing with butts, glaring at me and whispering “you BASTARD!!!”).
September and I asked her to marry me. She replied “not now” and kissed me as we hugged in the sea, just off Plakias beach as the sun set.
In December we move to Mexico together to begin again there. I will be with her family and seriously hope that this works out and the next time she will reply “yes”.
I love you Mich.
You have made a very cynical man realise that if I wait long enough, life provides what I have always searched for.