An Audience with an Author …. Richard Holmes talks about life and luck

Being Looked After
I’ve been thinking lately how unbelievably lucky I am. Having said that, I’m sure it’s true to say that I’ve earned my luck over many lifetimes, but I can’t help thinking how unbelievably lucky I am that the Divine looks after me in the way that he/she does. Indeed, I am living proof that the phrase ”somebody up there must have been looking down on me” is very apt. In the earlier stages of this life I got myself into some sticky situations because of my naivety and desperation to ”belong” and later as a soldier stationed in Germany my choice of haunts left something to be desired; but miraculously I always seemed to avoid trouble. More recently my ignorance of certain matters has left me in extremely vulnerable situations, but again, I remain unscathed.
At the age of 14 I’d got in with the wrong crowd. I’d had very difficult relationships with my parents (for different reasons) and got sucked into friendships simply out of a desire to be accepted and to belong. I didn’t understand back then that to simply be me was the only identity I would ever need and went from living one lie to the other. These friends came and went because they were not true friends, but by the time I was 16 I was hanging out in the West End of London a few nights a week, specifically the soho area. I had been introduced to the area by one of these friends who was a couple of years older than me and much more worldly-wise. I took to hanging out in seedy clubs, sometimes not heading back to North London until after 07.00 a.m. or even later. These clubs were frequented by prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, thieves and muggers, but somehow I never encountered any serious trouble. Whenever trouble was brewing something always happened that kept me out of danger.
By the time I joined the army and got stationed in Dortmund in the then West Germany my only true friend was alcohol. I became like a split personality; on one hand I kept people entertained with my impressions and wit; but that was just a front for my other self, who was quite depressed and withdrawn. I didn’t like the army because of the hypocrisy and I didn’t like the squaddie mentality of wanting to beat people up after a few drinks; I was a happy drunk (when I wasn’t being depressed). I was attracted, for some reason, to the seedy side of Dortmund which was ”under the bridge”. It was a standing joke amongst the lads; and sometimes before descending on ”Der Stadt” we would say to each other ”whatever happens tonight I’m not going under the bridge”. The bridge in question was a railway bridge in Dortmund City Centre. All the nice respectable places were before the bridge, but once you went under the bridge it was a real den of iniquity. The standing joke was that even as we were saying it we knew that after a skin-full of beer we would always end up there. Quite often I would go down town on my own and go to the pubs under the bridge. Looking back it was a very dangerous thing to do; British squaddies, after all, were not the most popular species in Dortmund City Centre. I would go to some real holes on my own, but not once did I ever encounter any trouble. I could relate several more stories from my teenage and army years as examples of being looked after but it would make this post too long, however, in more recent years there are other examples of how I have constantly been protected and I’d like to finish by sharing two of them with you. Both of these examples involve cars.
What I know about cars can be written on the back of a postage stamp; to me cars are for driving and nothing else. Sometimes I check my oil and water, but mainly I just drive my cars and hope for the best. I bought a second-hand Toyota in 1999, it was a 1992 model with a genuine 28,000 miles on the clock. I kept the car for nine years and never had one mechanical fault with it. I only cleaned it a handful of times during that period as well because a car, to me, is simply a means of getting from A to B. So, during the time I had the Toyota I only had to deal with natural wear and tear, such as buying new tyres occasionally, new wiper blades, a new battery (once) and just general servicing; renew spark plugs etc.
After I’d had the car roughly eight years, someone remarked one day about the good condition that it was apparently in. I explained how long I’d had it and that I’d had no problems with it. Then they said to me ”what about the cam belt”. I didn’t know what the cam belt was and kind of just gave an indifferent reply. Some time later I was having a similar conversation with a friend and she asked the same question about the cam belt, to which I gave a similar reply. When she explained to me that the cam belt is very important and that if it snaps you might as well kiss your car goodbye, I thought that maybe I should look into it. To cut a long story short, the car suddenly started to develop wear and tear problems that were quite major and in the space of a couple on months I had a lot of work done on it that cost a small fortune. But the mechanic who carried out the repairs said he had never seen anything like it. He was a non-religious/spiritual person but even he said ”someone up there must have been looking down on you”. Apparently you should change your cam belt about every 60,000 miles. When I eventually got it changed (it was the original belt from new) it had done over 166,000 miles. The mechanic said it was a miracle it didn’t snap. Also the radiator was completely rotten and the brake pads (also the original from new) were apparently right down to the metal. Yet that car started first time every time, even throughout cold winters. The brakes always worked perfectly, I never topped up the water once in the nine years I had it and it always ran like a dream. Eventually, because it had started to cost me so much money I gave it away to the mechanic who had given me such good service over the previous couple of years.
The same mechanic sold me my next car, that I’m still driving; although I haven’t had the same good fortune with this one. Well, having said that it would depend on your perspective. It’s not relevant to mention various problems I had with the new car, but an incident in June 2009 is very relevant. At the time I was working part-time on a site that housed adults with learning disabilities. I drove onto the site and down to the unit where I was supposed to be working. Because of the number of cars already taking up spaces I had to park up on a grass verge until staff on the earlier shift had gone home. I went inside the unit and a few minutes later a colleague came in and asked if he could have a word with me. He was quite embarrassed to have to tell me that he had reversed into my car with a works vehicle and put a dent in the front off-side wheel arch. I could see that he felt awful about this, so I just said to him ”don’t worry it’s only a car”. He promised me faithfully he would get it fixed no matter what and we just left it at that.
However, when I went to move the car into a proper parking space I was puzzled as to why it wouldn’t move. Another colleague who was standing nearby was looking on and I could see he was trying to tell me something. I got out of the car to find that both of my front wheels were pointing inwards, and my colleague informed me that it looked as though the front tracking rod had snapped. This meant the car was undrivable. It was also very strange because the colleague who reversed into my car was only travelling at about 5 MPH. It soon became apparent to me why my car had been rendered unroadworthy in such strange circumstances. My other colleague pointed out that if the tracking rod snapped at such low impact it must have been ready to go at any time. The realisation then hit me that if it had snapped whilst I was on the motorway or even a major A road, then I would not be in a position to tell the tale.
It’s only since Sri Sathya Sai Baba came into my life in 2001 that I have really noticed that I am most definitely protected by the hand of grace. I honestly don’t know why the good Lord protects me in this way; I can only assume that there are plans for me that do not involve me leaving this earthly life just yet.
Yes, its great being looked after and I’m so grateful for it. The Divine certainly does have strange ways of protecting his children; but guess what? I’m not complaining.
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6 thoughts on “An Audience with an Author …. Richard Holmes talks about life and luck

  1. Wow, Richard, that’s quite a story! Thank you for your candour and for sharing your background. And Dortmund, huh? My brother went to college there and obviously I didn’t grow up to far from there either… Who knows whether our paths have already crossed, then? Thanks to Sue for hosting this amazing post on her blog today and bringing us amazing insights into Richard’s life and background. XX

  2. Wow Richard, someone is definitely looking after you! It’s funny how we often think of things as being ‘coincidental’, but I’ve come to see that coincidences are often part of a ‘bigger’ plan. Loved reading this.

  3. Gosh, Richard, you certainly did put yourself into some situations and I would agree with your conclusions – you are both lucky and blessed!

  4. WOW what a great interview and thank you for sharing all those memories and stories with us. It just shows that sometimes things are just meant to be! I really believe that too. The bad times serve to make us stronger and when the good times come we should really count our blessings and enjoy every second!

  5. Oooh, it reminds me of the time I pulled onto the motorway, popping a CD in as I went – and whoosh, the dashboard caught fire. Picture me running up the hard-shoulder in aerobics gear, two fire engines in situ by then. The miracle was, the firemen informed me (when the police Rover trundled after me to save me!) was that it wasn’t a petrol engine – otherwise it would have blown sky high! 😦 x

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