Being the dog sitting next to the fireplace

Have you ever had a fireplace in your home at sometime in your life? And if so, have you ever had a stupid family dog, that always sits right next to the fireplace and is panting it’s head off, because it’s too hot and too stupid to move?

And if so, have you ever had a stupid family dog, that always sits right next to the fireplace and is panting it’s head off, because it’s too hot and too stupid to move? What do I mean? When I was training to join the Royal Marines at 19 years (I did want to join at 16 but luckily my parents persuaded me to go to college for 2 years, to get a qualification in computing and engineering). During my training we had our usual Christmas leave, whereby we had 2 weeks off to go home and visit our family. During this leave I had learnt a new trick to show off to my mates; ‘car surfing’.

This involved climbing out of the passenger window of a moving car, getting up onto the roof of the said, still moving car, and stand up and, well, basically… surf! All well and good. I had managed to get out of the passenger side window and climb onto the roof of the car, to perform my stunt. I stood up for what was most likely a nap second and then cringed to the roof, like a piece of snot sticks to your fingers. The problem now was, this car was a 3 door hatchback, and I had to get myself back into the same passenger window, that I came out from.Easier said than done, especially as my friend sitting in the front passenger seat had moved his seat back into the correct position. Thereby, making it all but impossible for me to get back into the car. No worries, I was having fun, so I just sat on the passenger window ledge. The door rim. And let the wind rush through my hair and past my face. That was for all of about 5 minutes, when I noticed the still moving car I was sitting on, was hurtling towards a ‘width restriction’.

But then the Company sergeant called me into the staff office “KNIGHT!!!!, what’s this I have just been informed, that you have broken your back by doing a ‘moony’ outside a car window?”

If you’re not familiar with width restrictions then I’ll explain. They are basically metal bollards, set up in the road, just wide enough apart so that cars have to slow down to drive through the smaller gap. I’m not sure if you can picture the scene. I’m slightly panicking now, because I’ve seen the width restriction up ahead and I know the driver (my 17 year old friend driving in a crappy beaten up old hatchback) is not going to slow down! I try to squeeze myself back into the car, which just leaves my head hanging out of the car. And therefore, right in the path of the bollard!

I didn’t really fancy my chances with that, so I decided it would probably be best to take the full brunt, on my back. I sat back up on the window/ door ledge. Then within seconds BOOM! My back collided directly with the metal bollard. Hitting me just above my hips and right across my spine. OUCH! Actually because of the impact and shock, I initially didn’t feel any pain. I did also lose my voice because I was winded from the severity of the impact. I tried screaming out! But nothing came out, and my friends (still in the car laughing and singing to loud music) didn’t have a clue as to my predicament. I started banging on the roof. To which my friends thought I was banging to the beat of the music. Then luckily I caught my breath back and very ‘un-masculine-like’ I started screaming for them to stop the car.

My friends were horrified when they realised what had happened. Not as much as me though. I was now panicking, worried in the thought that I might actually be paralysed. My friends quickly and carefully laid me in the car and took me to the nearest Accident and Emergency. hospital, which was luckily, just around the corner from where we were. On arrival I was seen to by the medical staff. The result was, I had fractured two vertebrae in my lower back. The S4 and S5. They are located on the large lump of bone that attaches all of your hip joints etc. And also where many of your nerves from the spinal cord splay out. The doctor mentioned how lucky I was, as I could have easily been paralysed from the accident. And of course he mentioned just how stupid I was. So just too clarify on my stupidity. I have NEVER drunk alcohol and therefore have NEVER been drunk in my life. I performed this clever stunt completely sober!

As you may recollect, I am still in training with the Royal Marines at Lympstone. Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM). This little mishap could and would cause complications. On my return to CTCRM, my troop (644 troop) had to carry out a 6 miler speed march. A 6 miler speed march is where you are expected to march (more like run actually) 6 miles whilst carrying 30 pounds of kit and rifle, within a set timeframe.

The kit was to be carried around your waist and on your back. Are you starting to see a problem yet? Literally 1 week before this I had fractured my back in 2 places. InitiallyI tried to carry on as if nothing had happened. But then the Company sergeant called me into the staff office “KNIGHT!!!!, what’s this I have just been informed, that you have broken your back by doing a ‘moony’ outside a car window?”

A ‘moony’ is where you drop your trousers and stick out your bottom at someone showing them your ‘moon’ as it where. I was horrified by this accusation, as ‘car surfing’ was so much cooler than simply ‘mooning’ outside a car window.Anyways, my sergeant was left with no option but to send me to sick bay, to get checked out. The doctor there decided I would have to stay in sick bay to undergo rehab, until they could allow me back into training. I was gutted. To be ‘back-squadded’ was not something to be proud. Especially when it was self inflicted.I remember vividly when the doctor said “that because of where the injury was located, it would most likely take me AT LEAST 2 years to get back to normal training!!!


After this, I was never more determined than ever, in my entire life to prove them wrong. Because of my nature, trying to motivate me the typical way by saying “Come on you can dooo it” just simply doesn’t work for me. If you want to light a fire under my ass and if it’s something I care about simply tell me nicely “I don’t think you can do that”.

Challenge accepted!!!

It took me 6 weeks to get back into arguably the hardest military training in the world! If I’m being honest, I have to admit, I was taking quite a few pain killers on a daily basis, to get through some of the days. But I still made it, and I got my “lid.” The coveted green beret that all Royal Marines wear so proudly. The worst thing about my back, wasn’t so much the pain (and believe me it was quite intense on certain days). It was the fact that the inflammation and swelling affected my nervous system, sometimes. And on these days, I found it hard to simply walk, as my legs were not as responsive as they should have been. In fact on several occasions, I simply could not keep up with the rest of my troop during some speed marches. I dropped behind.

Luckily, my squad corporal asked me (never forced me) whether I wanted to get on the wagon. Meaning did I want to stop and get on the back of the support vehicle. If I would have got on the back of the support vehicle, it means I would have QUIT.

Now, here’s what I mean about the ‘dog sitting next to the fireplace’, I never did quit. It wasn’t because of how tough I was or how brave. I simply didn’t know how to! To explain my point, I will have to tell you briefly about our the week long survival training, which every Royal Marine recruit has to endure.During this week you are expected to ‘survive’ for a full 6 days, in the forest, with just a simple folding knife and a rabbit that we had to kill, skin, and cook. (Not sure if they still do this?)

At the end of this week many of the guys, having had very little sleep and virtually no food, started to become very demotivated. When you are in this mindset it is easy to make mistakes. And we made various bad decisions, which in a real life situation, could be fatal. The instructors decided we needed to be reminded of what it takes to become a Royal Marine! And so we were instructed to pick up our full Bergens (Rucksacks or big backpacks). Our Bergens were set to one side during the entire exercise, so we had no access to them, or the equipment in side. We were instructed to speed march back to the trucks, carrying our somewhat heavy Bergens. The trucks in this case were the typical Military 4 tanners, a heavy goods military people carrier, used mainly to transport troops. These trucks would as far as we knew, take us back to CTCRM. Once back in camp, we could get some ‘real’ food and have a wonderful much needed shower. Our imaginations run wild!

After 4 miles speed marching back to the vehicles, we finally reached our destination. Looking around, I could see that everyone was really beginning to feel it. The accumulated toll of 6 days in the field, with poor sleep and virtually no food, except our rabbits and some insects to sustain us. We dropped our Bergens on the floor, getting ready to climb up into the trucks. When, suddenly….the trucks started up their engines and drove off… without us. WTF?

We were instructed to pick up our Bergen’s, again, and to march on to the next location, where the trucks would this time really take us home (no honestly they REALLY would this time). So we continued on, more of a table of men this time. When we got to the next location, our trucks were waiting for us again. And, yes obviously you guessed correct. We dropped our Bergens on the floor, in high anticipation if finally getting on the trucks, and… they drove off again. In my mind I remember this happening at least 10 times, but in actual reality, it was probably more like 3 to 4 times maximum.

The interesting point about this whole experience was that, during this process 16, yes 16, of my fellow recruits quit! They decided enough was enough, and so they thought it was easier to give up and go home. This seemed remarkable to me. I simply couldn’t understand how they had quit! Did they not expect this? What did they think becoming a Royal Marine would entail?

At the time, I simply couldn’t understand their mentality and therefore had very little empathy or sympathy for them. I was however, very sorry to see some of my friends go. For me once again, it wasn’t me being brave or me being super tough that got me through. It was simply me being the ‘dog sitting next to the fireplace’. My stupidity. I simply didn’t have a plan B! And so I didn’t know how to quit. I understand that sounds silly, but it’s very true to me. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary in myself to quit or to stop. I didn’t have a plan B, and so this is what I was stuck with.

During this phase in my life, the notion of quitting never entered my head. If I’m being truly honest, now that I’m much older, not so much so. To maintain some form of cardio fitness, and because I despise it so much, I run around my local park. One lap of the park is exactly 1 km. Because I despise running so much, I decided to run 10 miles. This amounts to 16 laps of the park. The reason I choose to do this is, because every lap, you can simply stop and walk home. Whereas, if you’re running a 10 mile route on the streets, you might as well keep jogging, because you’ve got to get home somehow.

Now that I’m running my 10 miler or 16 laps of the park, I start to get those thoughts. You know the ones. ‘it’s ok you’ve done enough for today’ and ‘Don’t push it too much for today, save some for tomorrow’. They are horrible thoughts. Weak thoughts. Your mind looking for an easy way out. And if you accept them, knowing you quit. And then making all sorts of excuses, as to why it was the right thing to do. The thing is, these weak thought permeate throughout your life. And if you allow them they will consume you. And before long you have become one of those people. An excuse maker.

Now though, I finally understand what other people have to go through. Like I said, I never ever had any of these thoughts when I was going through. my training. Or in any part of my life, really, as a younger man. How lucky I was.So, although I’m going through my struggles now, as an older guy. I would like to take this opportunity, in inviting you to join me in taking my own advice, and that’s to become that dog!

To make your life easier, become the stupid dog that sits next to the fireplace. Constantly panting, because it’s too hot and yet too stupid to move! Because it hasn’t got a plan B! If it means enough to you, and you want it enough, then don’t give yourself a plan B. Don’t give yourself a way out.


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a Knight's rant

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