Posted by: Debrah Martin | September 29, 2013




My daughter said, ‘if I ever get a tattoo, it will be je remonterai la pente ‘(I will climb back up the hill). That struck a chord. Approaching the time of Christmas  – yes it’s in the shops already –  I wondered, should we question our lack of belief – including self-belief, our arch enemy most of the time. I wondered whether an inspirational tattoo would help, or would it simply be self-defeating , suggesting,  like old school reports, ‘must try harder’? I recalled the times I have climbed up the metaphorical hill. Had I remained inspired? Or just sat down lazily at the top before coasting down the other side?

My best remembered moment was of panic, paragliding in Turkey on my first singles holiday. I literally did climb a mountain that day – 6500 feet of one!  Most of my fellow hotel companions had spent the week anticipating it – the climax of a week’s spree of free love for them, and open mouthed amazement for me, observing from my ‘I’m only just single…’place on the fence. Sweating anxiously, but determined not to be labelled both frigid and a wimp, I sat paralysed on  the old bus, as we wound up the mountain, swinging round the corners like a slow moving rollercoaster, past the tourists and competition jump-points, to the international one, right at the summit. My stomach somersaulted, my heart pounded but I smiled nonchalantly (or so I hoped). The moment came to saddle up – literally because the flying suit worn had a ‘seat’ built into it so once attached to your ‘pilot’ – an experienced glider – and airborne, you could sit back into it and enjoy the ride . Oh really, I thought?

I looked down the slope, fully suited, saddled and scared shit-less. One of my hotel companions was just ahead of me, ready to go. She turned, displaying a wonderfully ample saddle-derriere and said those immortal words, ‘does my bum look big in this?’ Laughter exploded, discharging my hysteria with it and knew I just had to do it! Within minutes I was running down the slope and into mid air, thousands of feet above ground, with just the pilot and our two parachutes to get me safely back down.

glidingThe descent was one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring experiences of my life, purely because of the contrast between the sheer peace and silence up there compared to the hustle and bustle on our planet below. I am forever thankful I was coerced into it. It was such a defining moment. Courage, determination, a lust for life, self-belief – all finally pushed centre-stage; caution and the ordinary banished to the wings – and all precipitated by the most inane comment I could imagine. No Shakespeare or Betjeman inspired quote for me – just sheer Carrie Bradshaw!

Ironically many of my epiphanies have been almost inconsequential moments in the midst of routine. Some profound – like realising the noises of everyday life still continued ignorantly around me as I sat for the minute’s Remembrance Day silence in a coffee shop– how sad we so easily devalue the sacrifices made for us that we don’t afford them one minute of tribute in the many millions we have for ourselves because of them.  Or some ridiculous, like the conversation I had with a potential blind date. He informed me he was a part-time male model, and that he had abs like rocks,

‘you’re lucky to meet me instead of a middle aged beer gut’ he said ‘…my waist is only 29 inches.’

‘Wow, smaller than mine’ I quipped back…

’and my masseuse tells me I have skin softer than a 20 year olds…’

‘Really? Do tell me your moisturiser?’

I waited for him to laugh. Oh dear; he didn’t. He really took himself that seriously. And exactly why was I talking to this man with no sense of humour and such a narcissistic view of himself, I doubt he’d have even noticed whether I was there or not on a ‘date’? I revised my whole attitude there and then and never went on a blind or internet date again. Real people are the ones who listen to what you have to say too, and are best met face to face in real life! The absurdity of the conversation made me see that. And talking of absurdity, it was Polonius, the bumbling fool in ‘Hamlet’, who actually gave the advice that we remember just as well as the iconic ‘to be or not to be’ speech,

‘This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–80

So maybe it is actually the most mundane things that are the catalyst for inspiration? Did anyone watch the Christmas ‘Dr Who’ episode ‘Out of the dark’ last year? It was an enjoyable bit of fun, yet also such an accurate description of life. We have no idea where or what we come from, or where or what we go to. The darkness is either side, and our lives shine brightly in between. Somewhere between the extremes of gloom and illumination we find the balance to live contentedly, coping with the bad and sad, reveling in the joys. Travelling, out of the dark.light and dark

It struck me then that life and your attitude to it – whether it’s a success or failure, is nothing to do with religious beliefs or pretty presents, it’s about believing in yourself, and taking every opportunity to climb back up the hill despite set-backs or disappointments, and allowing the people around to help you do that too – as we should do for them. Maybe there is a Christmas message in there too, ‘… do as thou would be done unto…’

So now, having reviewed my unexpected moments of inspiration, I wonder idly where a

suitable place for that tattoo would be…

More about writing next week.

Find me at

or on Twitter @Storytellerdeb


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