As I sit here with a blank page before me, I feel like a pilot who is about to embark on the final flight of a beloved plane that will thereafter be retired, set aside as a museum piece, engine removed and wings clipped like a raven in the Tower of London. The words I put down now will be the last words for 'Meanwhile', after this there will be no more. This is the final article, the final flight if you will.
I began writing 'Meanwhile' ten years ago. The thought that my words could perhaps find their way to places far from my bedsit in Birkenhead where this all began was somehow liberating for me. Their freedom was my inspiration, and as the occasional email from a reader would find it’s way to my inbox, so I became more inspired.
My old friend Gareth told me that 'Meanwhile' was "Self indulgent bullshit." He was right of course, I'm not writing for anyone but myself. I have no deadline to meet, no word count to adhere to, no editor to answer to, and no corporate sponsor to please. Oh yes, this is my cake, and I'm eating it too!
I sometimes wonder what my old English teacher, Mrs. Bamonte, would make of 'Meanwhile' given that she once wrote, "Simon rarely does himself justice in this subject. He is frequently inattentive which results in his inability to complete work in sufficient detail."
It's a cruel injustice that students aren't required to write reports about their teachers. Had that opportunity been afforded me I might have written "Mrs. Bamonte has thus far failed to engage me with this tired old curriculum that does this subject no justice and serves only to suck the life and beauty out of words that might otherwise inspire me. The reason I am not paying attention in this class is because it is boring."
I've always been a writer, but it took YOU to inspire me, and by that I mean it took the idea that someone out there might find time in their day to stop and listen to this inattentive boy. I didn't require feedback, and for the first few years, there was no easy way for anyone who read 'Meanwhile' to give me any. But eventually, I added an email form, and much to my surprise people starting using it.
I didn't keep many of the emails I received over the years, and I'll confess I didn't always answer them either, but I set a few aside, tucking them away in an email folder like old letters in a box. Setting my words free was made all the more rewarding when they came back to me in the form of emails from people, some of whom lived in those far off places I imagined when I first began to punch the keyboard back in 1997.
Maybe it's the height of self-indulgence, but I figured this being the last 'Meanwhile' it was somehow fitting to share with you some of what others have shared with me, a few of those emails that I have kept.
I've enjoyed reading a few of your articles today and found them interesting. I'm originally from Corporation Road in Birkenhead North having lived there when it wasn't the "hell" you find it today!
I left in 1955 so you can guess that I'm not a spring chicken. I retired from work at a nuclear power plant in Texas and moved to Florida.
Many of the places you mention in your memories are places I've also been. Next time you see the sun set over the Welsh Mountains, across the Dee, give a thought of me as I'll probably never have the chance to see them again.
Vincent C Jones. (2003)
I really like your site, I've been lurking for a few years now(!). You have some interesting ideas, well expressed and I'm always interested to see what you will comment on next.
When I am gardening and hear a plane overhead, I always look up, wonder where they've been and imagine what they are seeing as they look down.
I love the way you capture the essence of childhood.
Natasha Davis on Waving at planes. (2003)
I've just read your article on the shuttle and I cried! Well written and similar to my thoughts.
Joanne Platt on Safely home. (2003)
Hello Simon. I have spent the last couple of hours reviewing as much of your site as I could (by trial and error). Of course I'd like to think that I'm the only one that has found this gem, but as I read further, I see that you do have "groupies." I would like you to know that your site was very inspiring.
The truth shines bright through your words and I would most definitely call you a "poet." I felt tears well up in me from your descriptive writings several times and it seems that you have a genuine connection with many people. So, I would like you to know that you have brightened my day and put a smile on my face.
Elyssia Stratton (2005)
You might want to know that your web page was a case study on a second level social sciences degree. Clever.
Tony Mataj (2005)
Stumbled across your site when looking for something else entirely but stopped to have a browse - one of the most interesting accidental finds ever! Rate your article on mcnews muchly and am writing a dissertation along the same theme. You have some stuff worth saying.
Heidi Scrimgeour on Missing in action. (2004)
She eventually sought my permission to quote me in her dissertation.
Who are you? Where are you? Your work opens doors to the deep thoughts of your inner being, but it leaves many questions unanswered. You are like a conception of some artist's mind that has been borne into real life through these pictures and these words, only somehow, you are real. How do you detach yourself from the business of daily life to create this wonderful world and choose to share it with any old person who may click on to your page?
You are the reality of dreams gone unfulfilled by the banker who wished he played the guitar.
Cassie Rangal (2002)
Some comments were comically flirtatious...
Bravo Simon! I just couldn't stumble across your site and leave without blowing you a kiss. You are absolutely ooozing with fecundity! I love it and what's more than that, I just love that you did it.
If you ever make it to California, look me up. *wink*. Bravo again!
Connie B (2002)
Of course, not all feedback was complimentary. One of the wonderful protections the internet offers is a degree of anonymity behind which anyone can hide. Authors of the few abusive emails I received usually gave false email addresses on the feedback form. But as strange as it may seem I kept a couple of these emails because they made me laugh out loud, and still do!
Simon, Your site is incredibly boring. I came across an old article of yours when trying to find something about the recent suicide of an acquaintance of mine in Birkenhead. I wondered why anyone would bother to write such thin, hackneyed, trite stuff. I then read some thing recent, and found that it is in exactly the same flat, routine style. No development at all, of thought or expression. I wonder what motivates you, but not enough to warrant a reply, as I doubt if you have the talent to analyze and write engagingly about your need to to churn out such tiresome guff.
David Jones (2006)
Hey, cunt. The reason that cars carry baby on board signs is so that in the event of a crash, emergency services know to look for a baby within the wreckage of the vehicle.
You stupid, stupid, stupid cunt.
Nameless individual on Baby on board (2006)
Then there are some emails which stop you in your tracks, like this one written on Christmas morning by the mother of Peter Alderman, a man who died in the north tower of the World Trade Centre in New York City on September 11th, 2001.
On this Christmas day, missing Peter terribly, 1 was going through web sites bearing his name and found your tribute to Peter. It meant a lot to me knowing that someone so far away thinks of Pete. Your belief, that putting a face to this horrible nightmare makes it real and human, is a belief that we share.
Looking at your web site and seeing the pictures of you and your friends reminds me so much of Pete. l have so many happy pictures of him with his friends that could almost be interchangeable with yours. I wish for you a happy and healthy holiday season and thank you so much for caring.
Liz Alderman on September 11th (2003)
If you have enjoyed my words, if somehow I've reached out and caught your interest for even the briefest of moments, then maybe you'll enjoy my far more frequently updated personal writing space that comes in the form of a blog entitled 'Before i Forget.'
Technology and opportunity compel me to move forward, leaving this site to stand like an old building among new ones, like a fairground on the way to a theme park. Some people may find this place, but many won't. Nonetheless, no matter how much the neighborhood changes I'll always be able to find my way back here, as if to an old apartment, somewhere I once called home.
And so comes to an end ten years of 'Meanwhile.' It's been a great endeavor and one which I feel sure I will look back on and value greatly. But for now, from this soon to be silent stage, I will take my final bow and say to you all, thank you everybody.
Thank you and goodnight.