REPORT A PROBLEM
And so, a chapter draws to a close, as I sit here on the esplanade at Ryde, overlooking the pier and the Solent on this cloudy, windy day. I love this island and these people. I spent the morning at Ashcliff, my childhood home and sanctuary, befriending the new owners who have spent a fortune restoring it (at last!) to its former glory. I climbed the cliff for the first time since I was a boy and as my footsteps rustled through the layers of leaves I couldn't help but hear the footsteps of a smaller, younger Terry behind me.
How nice to spend a day at home with no itinerary or agenda other than relaxing. I've had a busy schedule of late, albeit and enjoyable and fulfilling one. On Monday I go back to work. Today, however, has simply been about relaxing. Outside on the streets there's no traffic to disturb the tranquility of the day. A massive burst water main in Denbeigh Street on Wednesday night has made sure of that, with the intersection across the road closed until the huge water crater it created has been attended to. I need days like this every now and then.
Modigliani and His Models at the Royal Academy. An intriguing exhibition and the largest gathering of the artist's work I've seen. Modigliani is an artist I've come to appreciate more as I've gotten older. I used to find his elongated figures annoying but the more I become familiar with his style and technique the more I come to appreciate its inherent sensual beauty. I found the portraits of Jeanne Hebuterne particularly affecting with their quiet intimacy, (all the more poignant for the fact that she committed suicide so soon after his untimely death), a lasting visual document to their love.
Climbing the 70 stairs to my room at work this morning for the first time in six weeks, I felt a degree of uneasiness and trepidation. Can I really do this again for another year? As the day wore on these feelings subsided somewhat. Walking the streets this evening, listening to (the new) James Morrison and soaking up the architecture, the question kept cropping up: what is this next 12 month period going to be about? What am I going to achieve? What do I want to achieve? One thing is clear. I don't want it to be about nothing.
Timetabling, teaching Nikki to use Publisher, moving furniture, printing photos for the new displays, getting to know the new staff members, clearing out drawers, organizing my resources, a talk with Heidi about her dying brother, getting back into the swing of London Transport and, most significantly, the very welcome news that Bronwen's breast lumps are benign cysts which have now been dealt with. Finally, to finish the day so well, a walk with Teddy to Battersea Park and along the river at dusk with an almost full moon keeping us entranced as it rose over a remarkably low Thames tide.
We're going to Rome in October. It's been ages since we went on holiday together, although we've traveled apart a lot. It's going to be our first shared trip since Barcelona. It's been nearly 25 years since I was in Rome but given the nature of the place, the chances are that very little has changed. That's why people go there. We made the booking a little after 2 am which means I'll probably feel tired tomorrow. But no matter. Missing a few hours of sleep during the working week is a small price to pay for a good holiday.
Visiting schools. I'm getting back into the swing of things. It's not such a bad job really. One of the teaching assistants today commented on how good my job sounded: teaching, visiting schools and being a SENCO. It all sounds pretty good. There's never a dull moment, that's for sure. And with the additional staffing provision for this year I'm quite prepared to value the whole job upwards. To a large extent it is what I make of it. Attitude is everything and at the end of the day I have far more freedom and flexibility than many other jobs.
Another school day spent entirely with Seamus. The progress he's made is remarkable. We really are making a difference to these kids! A long wait at the station after work due to a broken down train further up the line. An opportunity to get to know Heidi, who replaces Adam this year. A fellow fraternity member. A sad story. An opportunity to count blessings. A meal at Goya's with Teddy this evening. Tapas and good beer. Far more than we'd bargained for. A moonlit stroll home through Pimlico. A sense of satisfaction and contentment with the way life is now.
It was a quiet day, the kind where you don't really notice the passing of the hours. They just seem to slip by, one after the other, while the sun arches up and across the sky, changing the hues of the buildings outside the window. Having said that, we did crank up into domestic mode — washing the clothes, vacuuming the apartment and sorting through the cupboards for things we don't need anymore — T-shirts bought and never worn, a once-favourite top now superceded and various other things better utilized by other, to be crated up and sent over to the Philippines.
You were tired when we met in Chinatown. It's been a challenging few months for you: so many conflicting highs and lows. We had a beer at The Three Greyhounds in Soho and it all came tumbling out. But after fresh sushi and good wine at The Okawari, washed down with a Daiquiri and freshly brewed coffee at The Covent Garden Hotel, you seemed positively revived again. We've been doing lunch for so many years now. We go back a long way do you and I and your enigmatic mix of vulnerability and strength has always intrigued and astounded me.
I had a dream of a familiar place and familiar people, although I didn't recognise them until they introduced themselves. And in this dream a different order of reality prevailed, familiar yet different to what once was, for in the dream what was merged with what was imagined. And it bore an uncanny resemblance, in spirit if not in fact, to a dream I had as a small child, a dream located somewhat higher though in the same geographical region. It was a dream where fantasy and fact merged and where the boundaries between the real and imagined are blurred.
Sitting in a stationary train just outside of London Bridge Station, the driver announces over the intercom that we're being delayed due to a signaling fault ahead. Hmn. Perhaps the trains that seem to be frequently whizzing past us aren't aware of this fact? Or maybe they're headed in a different direction? I gaze out of the window at the profusion of damp weeds growing wild by the side of the tracks. Then, another announcement: we're being re-directed to New Cross, resulting in a flurry mobile activity as people hastily revise their morning schedules. Obviously I'm back in London, sigh!
What is the name of that writer, the one whose name I can't recall? It's little more than a year since I read him. One of the 100 most important books of the century it said on the cover. I'm presuming they were referring to the twentieth century. Memory can be such a fractured, frustrating phenomenon or, more precisely, its absence. Where do those pieces of information hid when you are looking for them? How is it they so effectively evade detection, only to resurface at three in the morning when we no longer need them? If only I knew.
There are days when the work I do can be incredibly satisfying, and while today was perhaps the epitome of what one might call a honeymoon day — new pupils, new staff, new academic year — I was happy to lap it up for all it was worth. Despite my high levels of disenchantment with the place a few months ago, an injection of new personnel, and expanding role for the Centre and the refreshed attitude and perspective afforded by my time way has led me to the conclusion that I could do a lot worse. It's not such a bad job.
How on earth did the music of Laura Nyro escape my attention for so many years? With echoes of so many of the performers who have provided the soundtrack to my life, yet so distinctively her own thing, I'm left scratching my head to find an answer. And, like so many of those great performers, sadly all we have are the recordings as a legacy to someone whose spirit will surely endure for many years to come in the music she left behind. She has been one of the most stunning musical discoveries that I have made in recent months.
Spending time with Ben H. is a real shot in the arm. We linked up today on Skype. Just being able to see each other on screen and hear each other's voices was such a buzz! Ben gets more interesting the older he gets, and the older he gets the closer we seem to become. He said things to me while I was in Melbourne that completely blew me away — kind words of love and respect that served to further cement an already special friendship. After our rave today I spent the rest of the day wearing a perpetual grin.
The time for cranking up into a higher gear is fast approaching. These past few weeks I've been happily chugging along in second gear. Work is proving to be a much more palatable endeavour and in myself I feel generally positive and upbeat. But I'm passing the evenings idly, and while there's nothing wrong with that I'm beginning to feel the need for a more creative engagement. Seeing three good films this weekend has served to remind me that there's more to life than going to work and having a social life. It's time to be a little more creative.
The days are getting shorter. Going back to Australia during the English summer each year, I get a little less daylight than most. The experience of time feels different depending on the time of year. During the summer months 9 pm still feels like later afternoon. In winter, 5 pm feels more like evening. And while to some extent I'm almost looking forward to the onset of autumn and the cooler days, the thought of less daylight does little to cheers me. I'm fine (almost) until Christmas but January through to March become trying. I'm very much a daylight person.
The conker trees of London and beyond are dying. They've been targeted by a moth larva that's killing them off. The fear is that the disease will spread throughout the country and kill them all, much like Dutch elm disease killed off all the Elm trees some 30 years ago. The thought of there being no more conker trees is terrible. They were such an important part of my childhood. Collecting conkers was one of those pleasures that can still promote feelings of warmth and well-being. The country will be a far poorer place if all the conker trees disappear.
Everything is so much easier right now. Sure, I could be doing a lot more with my time at the moment but in terms of the things I am doing, everything is ticking along quite nicely, and it's a good feeling. I feel fine about being in London, I feel fine about work and I feel fine about life in general. As for doing more with my time, what's needed now is a plan. Without one, I'll simply drift. I know myself well enough to know that. I need to set some targets and get some projects up and running.
It feels as though there's less to write about now that I'm back at work, but why is that? It's not as though my days are dull — far from it! The last two to three weeks have been really good, work-wise. I guess it's the absence of input from other areas of my life that saps the energy for expression. That's about to change soon, I know, but right at this time I suppose you could say I'm enjoying a contented lull. Yet despite the lull, things are internally ticking over and it won't be long now, it really won't.
Catching up with Adam last night was a real buzz. We sat out under the darkening London sky, enjoying what may well be the last really warm night of this extended (global warming induced?) Indian summer we seem to be having here in London. We shared holiday news and anecdotes, caught up with the latest bands we'd discovered, traded our impressions about various exhibitions we've seen, all washed down with a satisfying pint or three. Life's simplest pleasures are often the best and it's good to spend time catching up with a friend, especially on such a warm, pleasant evening.
All throughout today a part of my mind has been preoccupied with the fact that this evening in Melbourne Ben, James, Bec and Sren (plus partners) were getting together for the first time since we all gathered together on August 19th. As the day wore on into evening, sure enough, the text messages started flowing back and forth, many from Bec, and a little after midnight here in London I linked up with a very drunk James and an even drunker Ben online, albeit briefly. Sadly, Sren couldn't make it, but the rest, it seems, had another night to remember.
I went to the Kandinsky exhibition at the Tate Modern today and was blown away by its extraordinary power and beauty. While there, I found myself reviewing my entire life to date. It was as though the work itself was speaking to me, challenging me, prompting me! So many ideas arose from seemingly nowhere: positive, exciting, creative ideas, a myriad of possible projects plus a connection to a process: the act of creating and being creative. It was like a revelation! I came away somehow changed in a way I've not experienced since the 1980's Aboriginal Dreaming exhibition in Australia.
It started today. Kandinsky has been the catalyst but it's been in process for some time now. Nonetheless, today is the day it all begins. It's a shift of focus; a change in emphasis: a re-appraisal of all that is and an inquiry into what, as of yet, is not. It isn't a dramatic shift. First steps and changes in direction rarely are in and of themselves. It's what follows in their wake that, over time, assume the air of the dramatic, if indeed it's going to. But whatever it turns out to be, today is the day it begins.
It's about being centred; about being both creative and responsible at the same time. It's about avoiding the tendency to devalue certain experiences at the expense of others, while making the necessary commitment and time to find a balance between life's competing demands. It's about allowing for down time but not sinking into inertia. It's about recognising that nothing comes from nothing. Perhaps most importantly, it's about being an initiator and a change agent. So much is still possible. So much potentially still lies ahead. That attitudinal shift can provide the motivation and the driving force to make things happen.
It's also about getting enough sleep, rest and relaxation. I have a great propensity for skipping sleep, though rarely for good reason! I think it stems from a childhood fear of missing out on something. I've been tired these past couple of mornings due to a lack of good sleep. It's so easy to stay up late, especially with a glass or two of red in me, sigh! So I'm going to start climbing into bed an hour or so earlier. After all, few things are nicer than sinking into bed at the end of a long and productive day.
It's not hard to see how the term force of habit originated. Habits are very powerful. They're the reason we don't have to exhaustively reflect upon every decision and action we make and take each day. Life would be exhausting without habits. As for good and bad habits, it's not too difficult to see how those qualitative terms arose either. Making a conscious decision to change a habit, either good or bad, requires persistence and perseverance. It takes time to lay the tracks of new habits. In the meantime, perseverance and persistence are the key requirements for change to occur.
It's amazing what a difference a good sleep can make. So often I go for days and days with no more than six hours a night, often less. Last night I climbed into bed straight after watching 'The Sopranos' at 11:15pm, so I actually managed a little over seven hours in bed. When I awoke, I was in exactly the same position I had been when I fell asleep, and while I'm sure I hadn't lain that way all night, it certainly felt as though I'd done so for quite some time. Seven hours of sleep and dreaming. What bliss!
I find myself thinking about how much of my life is spent on autopilot. It's so easy to remain within one's comfort zone. Yet laying new tracks is about moving beyond that zone, about doing things differently and about doing different things. Doing is the operative word. It's easy to sit back and speculate. It's more challenging to actually do something in a new way. Or is it? How often do we make a change and then say to ourselves, Why didn't I do that years ago? I think October is going to be thinking outside the box each day.
The Tip Jar