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Strolling through Battersea Park this afternoon we were both in an appreciative mood. We live in such a great part of London. Everything is within walking distance of our front door: the parks, the palace, parliament, the river, the galleries and museums, not to mention some of the finest restaurants and shops in the world. London is an amazing city. At time itís hard to imagine living anywhere else. Will we always remain here? Probably not, and yet the thought of not having all of this on tap is, well, unsettling. But for now weíre here, and thatís just fine.
Itís late and I wonít get much sleep tonight. Itís always the way after the summer break. Tomorrow I go back to work and everything will change. The new cycle will begin. It seems like a long time ago that I was there. Itís such a different head space. And Iím ready for it. I always stay up late the night before going back, as though trying to hang on to the last remnants of the holiday period. No doubt Iíll feel tired by the end of the day but Iím sure the adrenalin will carry me through. Hereís hoping!
Monday morning, back on the train again, the London skyline glistening in the bright sunshine. An in-service day today with a few new faces to brighten up the workplace. Lots of fractured conversations as we all try to catch up on the holiday gossip all at once. A couple of beers with Ben and Adam after work, sitting out in the sun, enjoying their company while soaking up the weather. Listening to Faithless both to and from work. Unable to get to bed early, still in holiday mode. No matter, I can always catch up on sleep over the weekend.
It doesnít take long to get back into the swing of things although I have to admit that I started the day with more than a few lapses of memory regarding pupil names, data, dates and the like. By the afternoon it was coming back to me. All was well by the time I finished up, during which time Iíd barely taken time out to scratch myself. As I set off for the train at the end of the day I felt that bounce in my step, the one that tells me Iím generally happy with my lot in life.
It occurs to me that Iím managing things now that a couple of years ago would have completely thrown me. I was wearing my Special Needs cap today, the one where I get to liaise with seemingly everybody in the building and a crush of outside departments and agencies, each one adding to the pile of work needing to be attended to, yet without feeling overwhelmed or snowed under. I think Iíve finally got a handle on the fact that panic serves no purpose. At the end of the day I can only get done what I can get done.
Itís an interesting process. I go into schools to meet the next cohort. They begin as strangers. I introduce myself and talk about the Centre. Sometimes they know about it already. Sometimes they know little or nothing. What is certain however is that within a very few short weeks I will be as familiar to them as any teacher they have ever had, while they for their part will come to occupy a lot of my professional thinking time. Itís an enjoyable process. It reminds me of the fact that we all begin as strangers. Itís time that changes things.
I find myself ending the working week on a real high. Returning to Australia is more than just a change of scenery; itís a completely different head space. Coming back to London again, and going back to work, I feel completely reinvigorated. I feel as though Iíve something to once more, an energy that runs right through me. Each day this week Iíve been involved in a different aspect of my job and in each case Iíve been able to say to myself, yes, this is where Iím meant to be and this is what Iím meant to be doing.
I think Iíve reached a point where I canít be bothered making a drama of things anymore. I mean, whatís the point of expending all that energy when all I end up doing is going round in circles? Why not just accept the seasons of the heart and mind and simply go with the flow? Iím in a good place in myself at the moment. It feels like thereís an alternate voice in my head saying chill out and go easy on myself. Balance emerges when one stops forcing issues. Pretty good advice when I come to think about it.
It was by chance that I rang James when I did this morning. At first it went to message bank but as I was leaving a few words he picked up. Ben was there too and pretty soon weíd linked up online. Seeing them both there in screen, hearing their voices and sharing a few good laughs, I couldnít help but spend the rest of the day grinning from ear to ear whenever they came to mind. Theyíre both equal to the finest friends Iíve ever known and the pure pleasure of their company is, quite simply, second to none.
After seeing names at the top of files for the last week or more, the names turn into people. We all sit in a circle and introduce ourselves. The mood is positive, upbeat even. As first days go, today is one of the more successful, although healthy superstition prevents us from overstating the fact; itís way too early to predict how the groups will form and these things can change in an instant. But, superstition aside, thereís a good vibe about this lot. I suspect theyíre going to like it here.
Letís hope theyíve begun as they intend to continue.
As more and more plates fly into the air and demand my skill in spinning them I find myself not only participating in the activity but also a bemused onlooker. It reminds me of the years spent working in pubs, the austral in particular. We used to get so busy the customers would be ten deep at the bar yet we had such a fantastic team we just switched into overdrive and got on with it. What else was there to do? Thereís something akin to a fix in being so busy you donít have time to moan about it.
Iíve got to stop trying to write 100 profound words each day. I end up making a cross for my own back and thatís not what I set out to do when I first started writing for this site. I enjoy the discipline but I need to be more fluid and forget the audience. The thing is, itís not like this is a diary. Itís a collection of thoughts, and thinking is rarely tidy or ordered. More often itís a loose collection of ideas that may at time be linear and linked, but just as likely meandering, messy and disjointed.
And then there are times when I think, fuck it! Iíll give it a rest for a month. But I know myself all too well. One month would turn into two and that would be that. The momentum would be lost and the chances are Iíd never quite get around to starting up again. And I donít want that to happen. This has come to mean something to me, a challenge that I rise to each month as I endeavour to string words together that in some small way both bear witness and expresses a little of my humble self.
I like sitting on trains and gazing out of the window watching the world go passing by. Most mornings I bury my head in work. I might look up from time to time to take stock of how a particular building project might be progressing, or to appreciate the way the light is falling on a particular area. But usually Iím either preparing for the day ahead or taking stock of the one just passed. Today though, Iíd rather watch the planes overhead, the people on the platform across from me and the trains whizzing by in the opposite direction.
What a blissful day, sitting by the window overlooking the sunny street below; listening to new music on Napster while working on the portrait of James; writing the next part of the story with Corinne online; I even started a new painting! Thereís a real pleasure to be had from drawing together one's various strands of interest and weaving them together into a day like today. And then to go for a wander down Pimlico Road, pausing to admire the statue of Mozart as a boy and enjoy the evening ambience of outdoor cafťs and the occasional pub or two.
Thereís an infectious laughter rising up from the street below. Iíve not bothered to look but in my mindís eye I can picture the scene: a small gathering of people standing outside the restaurant, a warm glow lingering over everyone after an evening of good food and good wine; tongues loosened by alcohol and the stories traded over a candlelit table, the remnants of the late evening ambience hanging in the cool but refreshing air. No one can quite bring themselves to say goodnight, so they linger over small talk while the waiter dims the lights and closes the door.
Sitting here on the platform at Plumstead Station the trees on the steep bank across from me are just beginning to turn; flecks of yellow pepper the green foliage while overhead the clouds look heavy as they meander across the sky. A cool breeze is sweeping through the upper branches of the trees and though itís nowhere near sundown itís not as light as it was a couple of weeks ago. Thereís an autumnal air to the afternoon. It reminds me of childhood autumns long passed, red berries triggering fond memories of a boy in awe of the changing seasons.
I wonder what went through his mind when he realised he was drowning? I nearly drowned once. I can still remember the slow realization that I wasnít just in trouble, I was actually going to drown. Had it not been for those teenage boys way off on their boards seeing me I would have been gone. What struck me as so unnerving though was not the fact that I had cheated death by pure luck but the utter obliviousness of everyone to my plight once I got back to shore. I could have drowned and no one would have noticed.
We all gather on the one site to discuss and put in writing our professional aims and objectives for the coming year. Itís a little intimidating for some and no doubt a perceived waste of time for others but I have to say that for me personally I find it to be a useful exercise. Iím fortunate in that I have a line manager whom I both like and respect and who is willing and in a position to help me sort things so that I can get myself ready for the Next Big Thing I want to explore professionally.
Lifeís pretty good right now. Thereís nothing on the horizon thatís causing me any great concern. Things at home are fine. Work is going well. Sure, I have a dodgy knee, a twitchy back and I could be a little further along with some of my paperwork but on balance thereís nothing to really complain about, and thatís a good feeling. Life can throw up so many challenges, good, bad and indifferent and itís important to recognize and acknowledge when things are in balance and to appreciate the fact, in the same way that we acknowledge a nice, sunny day.
I suspect my body might be trying to tell me something. I have a tendency to ignore the little tell-tale signs at first Ė the niggling ache in my knee or the stiffness in my lower back. Itís nothing. Itíll go away. But weíve all heard the anecdotal stories: ďOh, and he used to be such a fit person, too!Ē The older we get the more the little tell-tale signs remind us of the fact. Not that Iím over the hill just yet but itís enough to remind me of just how much I take my physical health and wellbeing for granted.
Corinne and I are writing a story together. She writes a few pages and then emails it to me; I write a few pages and then email it back to her, and so on. We did it once before. We were heavily into it but at some point, many pages in, we seemed to lose the plot. And for a long time, that was that. But when I was back in Oz this year we decided to give it another go with a different story. It gives us something to share in common and so far, itís going really well.
ďThe only reason for living that I can think of right now is to make sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer doesnít get any more money,Ē he says despondently as we speak on the phone today.
Itís been two months since Riki died: two long, devastatingly lonely months.
ďIt doesnít get any easier. I just try to keep myself busy.Ē
When your partner dies, how do you go about putting your life in order again? How do you manage to get out of bed in the morning? Or even climb into bed in the first place, for that matter?
Something happens, and my first instinct is to react rather than respond. Iím annoyed. Iím not getting the response or respect that I want. Yet to go off half-cocked rarely serves any useful purpose and usually ends up aggravating an already heated situation. Iím the adult in the equation and I need to resist the temptation to allow my ego to become engaged. So I take a few deep breaths and reassess the situation. In doing so, Iím able to change tack and approach things in a calm, low key manner. And it works. I get the outcome Iím after.
We live in a small flat in London. Space in this city comes at a price, especially where we live. Consequently every available space is utilised. Were it up to me alone I’d prune things right down so that what little space there is could be visually de-cluttered. As it is, whatever space we have is home to a multitude of objects both large and small while opening a drawer is akin to going on an archaeological dig. Perhaps one day we’ll have a place where a healthy minimalism can prevail but in our current little abode, I’m afraid not.
It’s sometimes challenging to maintain a daily commitment to writing 100 words. It’s not the writing of the words themselves that’s the problem; rather, it’s thinking of what to write about. I live a very routine life. I tend to do the same things day in and day out. I’m not unhappy with that. I enjoy my life. It’s just that there are long stretches of time when nothing much happens. That in turn means there’s often not a lot to write about. Or maybe there is. Maybe I’m just looking for inspiration in the wrong direction. Maybe, maybe not.
At work I spend a lot of time on the telephone talking to people I’ve never met. In doing so, over time I’ve built up mental images of what some of these people look like. Today I was at a conference where I got to meet some of them in person and put a face to a name. And it has to be said that in some cases I was way off, which gets me wondering about what I must sound like to others. It’s a peculiar thing, the disembodied voice. It can say so much yet reveal so little.
I like Fridays. Saturdays and Sundays are good too, and that’s not to say I don’t like Mondays to Thursdays. I’m not the kind to moan about a particular day of the week. But I really, really like Fridays. They’re so full of promise; pregnant with potential. I wake up and straight away I’m thinking, yeah, today is Friday! I carry the energy with me throughout the day, even when I’m feeling strung out or tired. Just knowing that I’ve got two full days off once it’s finished is enough to keep me smiling through the most difficult of days.
Whenever I call her these days I’m never quite sure how she’s going to be. Take tonight for instance. I was talking to her but she wasn’t responding. I began to suspect she had the receiver in the wrong ear (she can’t hear in her right ear anymore) but I couldn’t make myself heard to get her to change it over. Finally she figured it out for herself. After that we were able to talk. I even got a laugh out of her, or what passes for laughter these days. It’s frustrating but that’s just the way things are now.
I bumped into Charlotte on the stairs today. She was just entering when I came in behind her. We climbed the stairs and exchanged pleasantries. She said something about the miserable weather and I responded by saying that I didn’t mind a bit of cold and wet. She looked at me with what appeared to be total incomprehension. I know, I know, I said, I’m a weird one. She laughed. The truth is though, I don’t mind a bit of cold and damp, as long as I don’t have to be stuck out in it for any length of time.
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