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Beginning something new is sometimes difficult. I may have the best of intentions when the initial idea occurs to me to embark on some new endeavor, or even when I think about picking up where I left off on something already underway. But when the moment comes to actually begin something, procrastination has a sometimes insidious way of leeching the energy from me and I end up putting it off or even abandoning an idea altogether. Tonight however, some twelve minutes before midnight, and despite the temptation to do otherwise, I’ve written my first one hundred words for the month.
The currency of time. It’s a concept I’ve been mulling over for some time now. It’s finite and it’s non-renewable. Yet it’s so easy to squander, too. I sometimes wonder what it will be like to be at the end of one’s personal allotment of time, looking back. How will I feel about the wasted time? And it’s not simply a matter of time, either. Other things come to bear on time, like health, and opportunity. But time itself is of the essence. Without it, nothing else is possible. It’s synonymous with life. It’s the space where our lives occur.
Late at night in London. As the days get progressively longer, the heaviness of a long winter and late spring has finally lifted. At this time of the year the mood of the city lightens. Windows are opened. The sounds of the street drift up, no longer muffled by the heavy-set doubled glazed windows. A passing car. Music from one of the restaurants across the street. The slamming of a car door. Voices punctuating the evening air, not all of them friendly. Another day is done. Another night of dreaming beckons. I turn out the light, and surrender to sleep.
Listening to the music of my youth is like listening to old friends. I guess that’s due in part to the music I listened to back then: Carole King, James Taylor, Janis Ian, Joni Mitchell, to name but a few. These were the people who shaped who I was to become as much as many of the people I knew in person. They were the people who provided the soundtrack to my early years, and sometimes it seemed they were the only ones who seemed to understand what I was going through, or that’s how it felt at the time.
The thing about nostalgia is that it’s constantly being created. What is current now will all too soon pass into the realm of what once was. The challenge is to grasp this fact and make the most of the present moment. So many times I hear people bemoaning their age. For some reason, it’s a habit I’ve never really bought into. I mean, what’s the point? After all, the age I am right now is the youngest I’m ever going to be. So I might as well enjoy my youth while it lasts. This is as good as it gets.
A giant elephant with a house on top and a giant girl up front wound its way through the streets of London today, bringing chaos to the traffic and smiles to more faces than this city usually sees in one day. The Sultan’s Elephant it’s called. Today was its third day in the city. Tomorrow is its last. It is a stunning piece of street theatre by a French company whose name I don’t recall. Seeing it today amidst all the umbrellas and clicking cameras, we collectively reveled in childlike delight and wonderment, a welcome change in these unsettled times.
When I was younger I used to experience wild and dramatic mood swings. I loved the highs but hated the lows. Well, I guess that’s pretty standard. These days I don’t get such wild swings but sometimes a creeping uneasiness seeps into my bones, usually on the back of a high. Today I found myself sinking just a little, for no real reason other than the fact that I’ve perhaps not done as much today as I might have wanted to, and so things I put off today will continue to occupy my thoughts and time during the week ahead.
There's something refreshing and confirming in discovering the words of another that resonate with an uncanny sense of knowingness. To discover words I feel I could have written myself about the same things that occupy my own thoughts is something of a revelation. To the stumble across the fact that those words come from one so young is, well, extraordinary. It makes me realise that there are common threads running through the fabric of human experience that have little to do with chronological age and everything to do with what it means to be fully alive and on the planet.
I experienced something exquisitely beautiful this evening, a small part of a larger performance that completely swept me away; a dance like no other I’ve ever seen; sweeping movement and choreography, music and lighting that rose way above and beyond what was otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable show. And it made me realise how there are some things which words can’t express or convey. Not fully. Some things by definition remain in the realm of personal experience. It was all that I could do to simply sit there, bathed in the spectacle, and smile inwardly and with wonder, tenderness and awe.
Working with disaffected youth has done much to teach me how to be more patient. I’ve always had a tendency towards tolerance but in recent months I’m finding myself more and more able to keep my cook under pressure. I deal with kids who have emotional and behavioural issues on a daily basis. Anger management loom large on my daily agenda and I find my ability to resist being ruffled by others goes a long way towards defusing issues and avoiding unnecessary grief. But it can be extremely tiring too, and my need for down time is a real necessity.
There’s something innately very powerful about committing words to paper. It’s something that many of us take for granted, yet speaking to young Ashley today who is so completely phobic about reading and writing, I was reminded of how incredibly blessed are those of us who write so freely. We have a tool that enables us to investigate and reflect, explore and express, unburden and share. I cannot imagine having survived my teens without my diaries and journals. Come to think of it, you can add my twenties and thirties to that. I write, therefore I am? Indeed, how true.
Sometimes when I sit down to write my mind goes blank. It’s not that I can’t find things to prattle on about. Rather, it’s that nothing seems especially important or significant. I guess that’s partly due to the fact that I usually write these words so late at night and tonight I’m particularly tired. The combination of getting to bed late and getting up before 6 am each day starts to take its toll, while tomorrow there’s no chance of a sleep-in either because I need to be in Finchley by 9:15 am. I guess it’s just like that sometimes.
It starts now, with the words I write tonight. It’s a decision that needs to be made. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. Weight loss. Ah yes, as I stare down at my stomach I hear an imaginary voice saying, “I’m back!” Yes, well, maybe you are but your days are numbered. I may be 46 but there’s no way I have to accept those extra five to eight kilos. There’s no way I want to head towards 50 as a fat slob like so many men seem to do. And I know I can lose it.
A welcome email from Margaret in South Australia. A trip into town to change the paper and envelopes for Bronwen’s wedding invitations. A couple of chats with her on the phone, and Carol too, who’s moving back to London in July. An hour-long conversation with Mum too, my regular 7:30 pm (South Australian time) call. A sleep on the bed with Teddy this afternoon and an evening spent completing the invitation design and printing the proofs. Oh yes, and a couple of hours painting this morning. All in all it’s been an enjoyable and productive day as days generally go.
A delayed train. Stalled at the platform. An announcement. Waiting for a change of signal. Another announcement. The closing of doors. Movement. Five minutes lost forever. Fifteen hours later, back on the train, going home after dinner with Bronwen and Francois. A mild evening. T-shirt weather, just. The only white face in the carriage. Excited voices on the platform of Greenwich Station. A couple of women chatting together a few seats in front of me. It’s been a long day, and after a few hours sleep I’ll be back on the train, going back the other way. Such is life.
The paper work and administrivia component of my job can be a crashing bore at times. All this jumping through hoops, having to justify oneself all the time. But if I have to jump then I have to jump. The bottom line is, I’m really connecting with this current crop of kids. They’re allowing me to intervene when conflict arises. They’re allowing themselves to trust my judgement. They feel safe with me and they’re beginning to flourish. I know I’m only a drop in the ocean of their lives but at least they get to experience trust in an adult.
100 words. It’s an interesting concept. And words themselves – written word. I mean, there are so many people in the world today. When Plato was writing the known or maybe only guessed at population of the known world would have been so small, though no doubt large to Plato. No, I don’t compare myself to Plato. I have a different name for a start. But you know, when you write something, you never know where the words might end up. In all likelihood, nowhere special. But then, you are reading these words, and if you, then who knows who else?
Big Brother UK kicked off this evening and yes, I tuned in for the event. Most of us, if not all, have a voyeuristic streak if we’re honest with ourselves. Reality TV. It’s such a hackneyed term, I know. Sylvania Waters has a lot to answer for. But there is a strange fascination in watching a group of people who don’t know each other thrown together and then tested so mercilessly both by the Big Brother team, and by themselves. Human nature is a funny thing. We all like to think we’re so different and unique, but hey, are we?
There’s so much to choose from these days. So many distractions. I can’t help but admire those people who have the ability to be single-minded in such a complex and busy world. People like Annette. I stumbled across her web pages this evening and I was delighted to see she is as prolific as ever. I used to be in awe of her and her paintings at one time. I remember her telling me that painting was a necessity for her and that if she didn’t paint for a day, she felt out of kilter, or words to that effect.
Perhaps I’m just lazy. I know I can make a god show of seeming busy, and I do get my periods of focus and fixation, but I also know that if I really put my mind to it I could, indeed am capable of so much more. It’s just that I allow myself to squander time. To be sure, down time is important and valuable, but I still haven’t got a handle on how to consistently use time in a more constructive manner. It’s like I never quite get into top gear before I come back down to bottom again.
How easy it is to become numbed by one’s own comfort zone. It’s so easy to become lulled into inactivity – not total and complete but by the standards of those who live life to the full, inactivity nonetheless. It’s a place where it’s all too easy to forget that we are mortal, temporary, finite. By definition it implies an innate sense of the terrifying reality of our existence, the Achilles heel of all that live. That we will one day not exist is at once terrifying and, without an imminent threat materialising, we are but frogs on a slow boil.
Living in London. I use public transport. I don’t own a car. I get a travel subsidy from work of Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£18.10 a week, which means I pay only Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£13 a week for all my travel costs. With such cheap travel, why have a car? In Australia by contrast, I had a car for years, and when I didn’t have a car I had a motorbike. Trains and buses were things I never used from one year to the next. It’s funny, the chapters of life and how they differ, one from the other, living in London and living in Australia.
The thought occurred to me today that I could just find another job. I’ve done it plenty of times before. Sometimes I think to myself that I’m fed up with the whole scenario. I’m not so disenchanted that I hate it or anything like that, rather it’s that I can’t be bothered with all the hoop jumping. Starting a new job is always exciting and challenging. There’s always the promise of a new start, a new beginning. Whether or not I’ll act upon it has yet to be seen, but I’ve moved for letter (and greater) reasons in the past.
It’s interesting how quickly things can change. One minute you’re cruising along happily enjoying the ride and the next minute something happens, or a series of things happen, and you think, nah, I don’t have to put up with that crap. I’ve had a few such somethings in the last few days regarding my job and now I find myself preparing an application for a new one. It may be that I’m being over-sensitive or over-reactive about the whole thing but I mean, fuck it! I’m too old and too qualified to take that kind of crap. I’ve had enough!
It’s done. The thoughts have been gathered. The referees have been contacted and alerted. The information has been gathered and processed. The statement is written. The qualifications have been scanned and the whole damn lot has been emailed off at 3:15 am. It’s done. And it feels good. The imbalance has been redressed. People have been put on notice. Even if it all comes to naught, they won’t be taking me for granted anymore. And if I am successful, then it will be an exciting new chapter, and let’s face it; I’ve always liked the idea of a new chapter!
Exhausted and strung out, ready for bed. How I got through today I’m not quite sure. The kids were off the wall this afternoon. But there’s a week without having to see them now. Oh boy! Trying to find the words is no easy feat! I’ve not felt like this for a long time. Yet here I am, pen in hand, making sure I keep this thing going. I was expecting a call this evening, but it hasn’t come. Maybe there’ll be one tomorrow. Or maybe not, who knows? It it’s meant to be, and then it’s meant to be.
Seems it all came to naught. Ah well, such is life. Today, an anniversary. Twelve years since we met. Outside, a car goes by and a disembodied voice calls out something unintelligible. The clothes remain unfolded on the drying frame. The blue clock on the mantelpiece tells me it’s approaching 12:25 am. This evening, a movie and a meal at a Japanese restaurant in Soho. The rain keeps falling, despite the drought and global warming. A week off work now. Time to focus on other things. Sleep is beckoning however, and it’s time to turn out the light, and dream.
Is wisdom a choice? At what point in our lives can we claim to be truly wise? It sometimes seems that we spend so much time focusing on where we’re going that we forget to take note of where we are. This is what I was thinking about while strolling through St. James’s Park this evening at dusk. I’m 47 years old. Well, nearly. A part of me still feels like I’m in my twenties, or early thirties at least. But the fact is, I’m 47 years old, and maybe I ought to be acknowledging the wisdom I’ve already gained.
It’s all too easy sometimes to be insensitive. To say the wrong thing. To turn a mood on its head and suddenly discover the warm glow has developed a chilly edge to it. I didn’t intend it to be so, and I still think I had a point, but that’s not important. It was a petty point and I’m not going to press it. Suffice to say I’m not immune from being insensitive, and I’m sorry for the upset it’s caused. There are more important things than allowing issues to escalate. It’s not about winning. It’s about acting with integrity.
Amongst those influential singer songwriters who had such a profound impact upon my life as a teenager, perhaps the first one to really touch me was Cat Stevens. So to learn that after 28 years of denying his music in the name of his faith he has now chosen to release a new album as a response to the ever-widening gulf between two of the major faiths in the world is heartening. This evening I watched Yusuf Islam talk of his faith and of his search for meaning, and I felt as though I had rediscovered a dear old friend.
I think it’s the observation of the little things that I want to begin focusing upon. The little snippets of life that so easily get overlooked, yet when observed closely can make such a lasting impression, like a haiku poem, or a tender touch that says so much yet speaks without language. To be alive and be aware of what’s going on, right here, right now. A duck on a rippling pond. A child’s gaze of wonderment at a giant bubble floating, briefly, through the air. These are the things I wish to turn my attention to and write about.
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