Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


Things I’ve done that you (probably) haven’t

I was at the pub with Gavin and we got talking about how to measure how different your life was from other people’s and we came up with a framework where we score a point for each thing we’ve done that most other people haven’t done.

Gavin went to Afghanistan to fight with the Parachute Regiment. His life has been quite different to most people’s. I think my life has been quite different too.

Here’s a stream-of-consciousness list of some stuff I’ve done.

I left home and school at 16.

I have evacuated from a burning building.

I have fired an anti-aircraft gun at an actual aircraft.

memories – Page 2 – Ragged Clown
Alarm! Aircraft!

I’ve emigrated multiple times. Four countries. Three states. 13 cities.

I fell from the bridge of a ship and narrowly missed hitting my head on the ship’s side.

I drank 34 drinks at my leaving do when I left the Navy (rule: no two drinks the same colour).

photo – Ragged Clown
Diving, not falling.

I jumped off Bournemouth Pier onto the sand.

I’ve been caned once, slippered (Dunlop Green Flash) twice and beaten around the head by a teacher half a dozen times.

I loaded the shells for a Mk8 4.5in gun during 300 rounds of Naval Gunfire Support.

I’ve brewed mead.

I have a titanium plate in my skull.

Naval Gunfire Support! 300 rounds! Engage!

I fired a practice torpedo on a Polaris submarine.

I was chased by a fur seal in South Georgia.

I’ve met the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Bill Gates.

I’ve swum on the Great Barrier Reef.

I won a silver medal, rowing stroke, in the London Area Sea Cadet regatta.

Fur seals are faster than they look.

I was CEO of a Silicon Valley startup.

I flew out of the side of the half-pipe at Squaw Valley on a snowboard and landed on my arse.

I was invited to a funeral by the Most Beautiful Girl in Moorea, French Polynesia.

My ex-girlfriend bought the tickets to get us back together again.

I once learned to recite the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

When I was 10, I rescued a little boy who was floating, face-down, in the swimming pool while his parents enjoyed the evening entertainment at Pontins, Scratby. When I delivered their very wet six-year-old, they bought me a coca cola.

I had my bottom pinched by a German girl while swimming on the Great Barrier Reef. She thought I had pinched her but it was actually a sunfish biting her bottom.

Ten minutes later, I thought I was being bitten by a sunfish but it was the German girl getting her revenge.

I was apprehended by the police for scrumping.

Sunfish. Biting bottoms since 1989 (CC).

I scratched Prince Andrew’s car (his fault for parking too close to my ship).

I took my girlfriend to Saturday Morning Pictures on the bus every Saturday when we were eight. She was crowned Miss ABC Cinema by the prime minister, Ted Heath.

I slept on Waterloo Station when I missed the last train home after a well-lubricated evening at The Goose and Firkin. I was woken by a policeman’s boot at 5 AM.

I attended the first public performance of Fairytale in New York with Joe Strummer, Kirsty McColl and Shane MacGowan

I attended a White House meeting with Vice President Biden.

I paid tribute at Shackleton’s grave in Grytviken, South Georgia.

I hitchhiked across Australia. Sydney to Cairns. Cairns to Darwin. The driver knew a shortcut across Queensland to Mount Isa.

I went to see Rocky Horror on stage wearing stockings, suspenders, French knickers and a camisole.

I did A-level maths in 6 weeks.

I ran out of money in Tahiti and survived for three days on mangos & coconuts straight from the tree.

The engine fell out the bottom of our van on a back road in Queensland. Waited 8 hours for the next car to drive by and rescue us.

When my parents divorced, my mother married the next-door neighbour. So did my father.

I walked 70 miles barefoot through the Thai jungle because I lost a shoe getting off the bus.

I was a first responder to fires on a nuclear submarine. Lots of fires!

I was invited to the office of The Mayor of Raiatea who kindly suggested where I might be able to pitch my tent after gendarmes objected strongly (and violently) to my first location.

I was part of the team that won a Duke’s Choice Award for best new Java software in 2004.

Raiatea, French Polynesia.

I was chased by a Komodo dragon in Komodo. He didn’t catch us.

I was at the Live Aid concert at Wembley.

A hungry Komodo dragon. They are not as fast as they look.

I slid down the metal strip between the escalators at Waterloo underground station. It didn’t end well.

I proposed over the phone. I got married on the beach in Jamaica 10 weeks later.

I made a bomb from magnesium dust and homemade gunpowder with a friend. Our injuries were not too severe.

Jolt! The Oscars of the software biz!

I was at a school Christmas party — the infamous Sozzlehurst and Hiccup party — that made the front page of every newspaper in the land.

I ran out of money in Flores, Indonesia and persuaded the airline to let me fly to the next island for free and pay at the other end.

I slept on the beach for a week on Bora Bora, French Polynesia.

I ate homemade crushed beetles with chilli in the jungle in Thailand. We followed it with fresh honey straight from the nest.

I almost tripped over an elephant seal on South Georgia.

My ship was buzzed by a hostile Argentinian jet near the Falklands. We had missiles aimed and ready to fire if came too close.

It’s a long way down!

I was mugged in Amsterdam. Big knife!

I’ve been on a small plane that took off from a short runway at the edge of a cliff and used the fall to pick up enough speed to fly. Wheeeee!

He wasn’t happy about it either.

I went to London on a Red Bus Rover for the day with my next-door neighbour. I was 10, he was 8. We went to St James’ Park, Trafalgar Square and Hamleys.

I snuck into Burma (twice) when the border was closed.

I danced naked in a shopping centre with 40 of my closest friends.

Habitat Star
Naked in a Shopping Centre (can you spot me?)

I’ve been on the cover of a magazine.

I was responsible, as a 21-year-old petty officer, for all but one of the sonar systems on a Polaris nuclear submarine.

I climbed to the Top of the Rock in Gibraltar. A Barbary Ape stole my camera.

I was banned from all four pubs in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands.

Top of the Rock of Gibraltar with a Barbary Ape
Top of the Rock of Gibraltar with a Barbary Ape

I rode an elephant through the Thai jungle.

I rode a freshly made bamboo raft down a Thai river.

I woke up drunk at the end of the District Line on the last train.

I got snowed in for a week in Manhattan and for a weekend in Lake Tahoe.

Life in the Falklands
Port Stanley, the home of Penguin Ale

I was the only member of Greenpeace on my nuclear submarine.

I won a gold medal in a London area shooting competition.

I held the hand of a loved one as she died.

Details available on request.

Philosophical Unruliness

I listened to an interview on BloggingHeads.tv recently where philosopher Agnes Callard explained the concept of unruliness to Robert Wright.

So maybe one way to think about it to make it seem less crazy would be to put it in a context of thinking about that as a kind of outlier decision among a large field of decisions where I am more open and risk-taking than other people. I’m sort of seeing more possibilities of what to do.

Even just when I walk down the street, and if there’s a little ledge, I’ll tend to walk on the ledge because it’s more fun. And I notice other people don’t do that.

Callard claims that, because she feels less constrained by convention than other people, she gets to try things that other people don’t think to do and, as a result, has more fun.

The fact that I walk on the ledges and other people just walk on the sidewalk. It’s fun. When I walk down the street, sometimes I skip, sometimes I dance. I’ve noticed other people don’t do that. So I get to have more fun than other people, because I’m seizing these possibilities that are there.

Callard decided to become a philosopher to rein in some of her wilder instincts. Maybe I should try that next.