Get busy living or get busy dying. Some of you will recognise these words of advice from The Shawshank Redemption, the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novella and with this in mind, I took up an offer to go Wakeboarding. A mistake of gargantuan proportions I can tell you, most of which I will enumerate below.
I was joined by my friend Michal, his wife and 16 year old godson and we went to one of those great man-made lakes so plentiful in Silesia and which never fail to inspire me when I’m writing about serial killers and abductions. Michal knows his way around a wakeboard and along with the two dudes who ran the operation, explained how it works; you place your feet inside what is essentially a snowboard and try and keep upright as you are dragged across a mass of water while dangling from a motorized wire.
Most of you know how it works. But for me, who comes from a country where badger-throwing is a pastime for males between the ages of 4 and 70, it’s the height of sophistication. Michal went first and in that typically Polish way, was great, tracing his way across the lake in a manner reminiscent of Timothy Dalton in Licence To Kill, his wife, every inch the languid Bond-girl, watching her husband attempt a dazzling array of 360 degree spins, a glint in her eye as she imagined him slaughtering swathes of Putin’s elite water-cossacks.
His god-son then gave a good account of himself, before I was lowered into the water, where I contrived to get the waterboard and by association half of my body, stuck underneath the jetty from which we were launching ourselves. No Bond I, more like a crash-test dummy who has been magicked to life by a mad-scientist, albeit with the brain of one of the aforementioned Irish badgers who has been thrown way too many times.
They got me out from under the jetty and the motorized wire pulled me a good twenty metres across the lake before the inevitable happened and I splashed down with all the grace of a horse jumping from a plane. A wonderful moment, marked by naked panic, camouflaged by my unerring ability to consume mouthfuls of pure lake-water and convert it into concentrated snot which was then funneled out my nose and ears.
I repeated this trick on three more ocassions before my PRACTICAL SILESIAN WIFE turned up. Just off a 24h duty and reluctant to take part as she never wakeboarded before, but you where this is going, don’t you? She reluctantly decided to give it a go and in true Silesian wife style, was everything I wasn’t. There you go. When the Russians come, she’ll be the one fighting them off, holding a flame thrower while standing on the wings of a glider. I’ll be stuck in some Siberian POW camp, reciting pornographic monologues for the masturbatory benefit of my Legia Warsaw cellmate.
We said goodbye to Michal and his family and so they are still unaware of how, in cinematic terms, my wakeboarding experience went from Woody Allen to The Passion of the Christ. I woke that night at 2am with the worst case of muscle cramps known to an Irishman, even those who have consecutively thrown over 500 badgers. My bed wasn’t a bed, but a landscape of discord and agony and my entire right arm was awash with pain.
Pain. It flowered in my arm as a giant, angry scorpion, a queen who gave birth to millions of scurrying scorpions whose fate was to excrete venomous shards of broken glass down the right side of my body.
Four days later and physiotherapy from my neighbour Ola has helped. My PSW has lovingly administered therapeutic beatings so I’ve got to the stage where I’m crying only every other hour. But I am at one with my pain. I have grown into it. Perhaps this is why I can say what I have to say next;
The pain is good. Good in that at the age of forty-two, I am still getting hurt as a result of trying new things. Sure, there’s plenty of war-stories from my twenties and thirties, but there’s always a risk when you enter your forties, that life will get, you know, flat. Not in Poland, the land of unpredictability, where you never know what’s going to happen next. While this isn’t always a good thing, it’s never boring. I came here and subsequently choose to remain here because I have a fondness for the road less traveled. A rough road with thorns and you will get cut. The price you pay for adventure.
Get busy with life and collect your scars.