As the train finally came to a halt, my chest was pounding with unaccustomed effort, coupled with an absurd anticipation of exciting activity ahead – sadly, on this particular outing, I discovered that the rules had changed, where people once hurriedly brushed past you to reach the ticket-checker at the end of the platform – and invariably offered a mumbled apology for doing so – present day, they have resorted to tactics more reminiscent of physical underhandedness on a rugby pitch.

I was kicked, shoved and jostled as I attempted to alight the train, one ‘gentleman’ even saw fit to question my parenthood, this as I moved through the carriage doorway in an Noah’s Ark, two-by-two fashion, he was more of a ‘single-file chap’ I guess – one with an appalling penchant for utilising Anglo-Saxon language too – oh how I ached for the comfort of home at that disagreeable juncture!

The Tube journey to the conference centre was equally reprehensible, packed to the rafters with commuters and short-hop university students – thankfully, the last leg of my journey was a mere a ‘two-station’ passage – yet one that proved to be mercifully brief, lucidly bringing home to me the atrocious decline in people’s personal habits, never have I witnessed such a huge volume of human-kind, being quite content to pick their noses and scratch their backsides…in public!

On alighting from this underground craft, I made doubly sure that I would not step-off in a ‘two-by-two’ manner – one never knows what one may catch from the hands and fingers of those bodily explorers – their digits must have investigated every crevice of their respective anatomies – physical contact therefore was simply not a plausible option, certainly not in the interests of my much-yearned-for longevity.

As it turned out, the conference proved to be a worthwhile experience, even my aged, yet healthy, (I trust) un-bypassed heart can still be stirred – some of the debate was magnificently put across and I reveled in the proceedings throughout.

In true reflection however, it was also something of a bittersweet experience, there were countless uniformed personnel in attendance – and they each contributed much to the arguments on the table – I could only listen attentively, without contributing – as a retired soldier, this is the way it must be.

Now as a civilian, this is the limit of my permitted skills in the military arena – a sad comedown for one who was groomed to make things happen.

As the day drew to a close, I surmised that it was a trifle sad to have slipped from one-time motivator to that of mere spectator – from the wings of great [military] stages to a piece of high-winged furniture in the lounge of my home, where oh where did all those years vanish?

Yet, I have no right to grumble, lifelong prudence and hard work has certainly reaped its rewards, so why complain about retirement? There is no justification for it.

En-route home, I accepted that the tranquility which retirement has bestowed upon me, is richly deserved, virgin pure and rewardingly fulfilling – what greater calm can a man find on Mother Earth, other than the quiet rustling of his gilt-edged assets of course?.

I belonged to a different breed – and so I must move aside and embrace retirement utterly – coupled with an even stronger sense of purpose – the Army and I are no longer in sync – we are now light-years apart – the way it should be – the way it must be – civilian normality is now my Nirvana.

Only within, deep within, at the clotted edge of my irreparable sense of military loss, will I feel the need again for an another quite unnecessary journey into the past, on second thoughts – I shall avoid it at all costs – allowing others to finally get on with the job in-hand.

It is the modern-day breed that have been entrusted to ‘run-with-the-baton’ after all – it is their time, it is they therefore, who must be permitted to get on with the next stage of the journey – my race is run…finally!

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