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Sometimes Iím taken by surprise at how different we are. We have such totally different world views and value systems. Has it always been so? I suppose it must have been. I suppose also that most relationships are the same. Weíre told that opposites attract, although ironically, in the early days it doesnít feel that way. Weíre seduced into focusing on the things we share in common; the common ground. Over time, that ground gets whittled away. The challenge is to maintain open channels of communication so we donít end up tipping over into that hostile territory of irreconcilable differences.
Iíve been trying to identify what is was about today that was so amazing. Yes, I had an excellent meeting and resolves some thorny issues about a particular student. Yes, I managed to extricate myself from blame regarding a massive undertaking I thought Iíd been remiss in know about. Certainly, Iíve managed to get on top of the workload, engage purposefully and meaningfully with colleagues and students, go for a walk and have a nice meal with Teddy at the local Thai restaurant. But itís been the amazing Mediterranean-style weather that has underpinned the whole mood of the day.
Itís not long now. In a few hours youíll be riding on a big bird and winging your way down under. For a few weeks weíll live on opposite ends sides of the globe. Itís interesting the way weíve built these solitary sojourns into our relationship. I think itís one of the things that make us so successful. Yes Iíll miss you as you will I but weíll also have time to think our own thoughts and operate in our own spheres of interest, unhindered by the other, secure in the knowledge that the other is and always remains there.
Itís weird. Here am I stationary and in London and there you are hurtling through the sky at 500 mph, some six miles above the surface of the earth. Soon youíll be touching down on what is arguably the furthest point on the map from here. Instead of eye contact and physical touch weíll be communicating by telephone and email with perhaps the odd text message thrown in here and there. Itís what we do two or three times each year and we pretty much take it for granted but when I stop to think and reflect, well, itís weird!
I have a terminal condition. We all do. Itís called mortality. Today I am the youngest Iím ever going to be with the most amount of time Iím ever going to have to have left on this planet. With every day that passes my time bank becomes a little more depleted and my tenure on this body a little less secure. More than that, Iím at an age where how I choose to manage this body and this mind will directly influence and determine the amount and quality of time that I have left. Hmn! Better make that a double.
She was fast asleep in bed when I rang. Julie answered the phone and said sheís been going to bed at 6:30 for the last week. Seems she canít stay awake. After all these years of religiously calling her at the same time each Sunday this is the first time weíve not spoken. Julie offered to wake her but I said no, that we had a long weekend here in London and that I could call her again tomorrow, though perhaps at an earlier time. Better to let her sleep. I wonder if itís a sign of things to come?
Iíve discovered smoothies! For the last year or more weíve had a very expensive blender sitting on the kitchen work bench gathering dust. Itís been one of those gadgets Iíve been meaning to start mastering but never got around to it. Until the other day, that is, and now Iím in smoothie heaven! Having started on a healthy eating plan after getting back from France Iím mixing concoctions that really shouldnít be mixed and to my surprise and delight they taste amazing. How can something that tastes so good be so good? I feel like Iíve discovered the Holy Grail.
Where was I? What was I thinking about? How was I feeling? Trying to cast my mind back, it all seems to evade me. Strange. Itís like another country, a place far off, separated from now by so many other things getting in the way and obstructing the view. Some say time is linear, though Einstein begged to differ. I guess that goes to prove the school dunce doesnít always follow a linear path towards a pre-determined destiny. I myself was never the school dunce. Neither am I a genius. I just canít seem to bring it back, thatís all.
Iíd forgotten just how amazing yoga can be. Within a few short days my body is feeling a little more like it used to. The creaks and groans are a little less pronounced while some of the elasticity I feared Iíd lost forever is slowly returning. Itís so easy to let yourself go. Life gets busy, the idea of exercise slides all too readily into the too hard basket and before you know it youíre feeling older than your years. Iím great at starting things like this. The challenge is in maintaining the discipline and reaping the longer term rewards.
If some days are diamonds then others make the pub job down the road look decidedly like an attractive career move. A combination of reduced numbers, combined groups, a temporary change of leadership at the helm and a ferociously windy day ensured that what we had all naively assumed would be an easy day saw us running around like headless chooks trying to catch our tail feathers. Itís the kind of stress that evaporates as soon as the ragged rabble exits stage right at the end of the day and those of us still standing make eye contact and laugh.
They were the only two left behind and I was none too convinced that Iíd be able to engage them in the idea of playing chess while all the others were playing football downstairs. Oliver especially is not renowned for his enthusiasm with regard to anything other than moaning, lounging around and saying ďItís boring!Ē with monotonous regularity. But engage them I did. You could have heard a pin drop! For Lula it was her first introduction to the game and she lost no time in catching on and they passed the hour completely rapt in what they were doing.
I decided to call her early in the morning thinking she would be rested and more able to engage. I waited until 1:30am. Thatís 10:30am Adelaide time. It was Diane who, after much ringing, answered the phone. She said Mum was down in the dining area. She went to get her. When Mum arrived it took two full minutes and more to get her to hold the phone correctly and get any sense out of her. I wished her Happy Mothers Day and checked sheíd that received the flowers. We talked for 20 minutes. That was all she could manage.
I didnít feel like stepping out today. Despite getting to bed late I awoke four hours later, unable to sleep any longer. So I bought the paper, swung the settee around under the window and read it from cover to cover. The rain took turns with the sun to bring variety to the day. A peaceful quiet settled upon the flat. The world passed beneath the window while I immersed myself in the trials an tribulations of others. From time to time I paused, gazed outside and thought to myself, yes, this is a good way to spend a Sunday.
The stranger on the train sitting across from me seemingly absorbed in every movement I make. I steal a glance and we make momentary eye contact. Outside the array of building crammed in around London Bridge come into view. We slow to a crawl. Another train speeds by in the opposite direction. Crash! The strangerís bike falls to the floor. He races to scoop it up. The platform appears beside us. The carriage empties. Not many going to Cannon Street. The seductive voice of the Brazilian Girls's lead singer provides the soundtrack as the train heaves forwards towards the bridge.
Iíve been lying low these past couple of weeks. Happily so, I might add. With the place to myself Iíve settled quite comfortably into my own rhythms. Iím eating better than I have for a long time. With each passing day my body frees up with the yoga. I go into work each day and do what has to be done. Iíve considered calling a friend and going for a drink but actually, Iím happy with my own company for now. I have the TV to watch, lots of good music to listen to and a good book to read.
Theyíre gathered at the far end of the carriage chatting loudly about defending their territory; how theyíd happily attack someone from outside of their area. ďIíd slap his girlfriend, his mother and the motherís baby too!Ē Tribal instincts run deep in certain parts of London. The spate of recent teenage killings bears testament to that. There is no concept of the larger world of which they might be a part and no thought to the things that bind rather than separate people. They cling like frightened children to each other and their limited notions about what they believe is ďrealĒ.
You said you were really enjoying Melbourne again; that you really like the lifestyle. I was quick to concur but at the same time there was reticence. Since then, I can’t help thinking about it; about moving back. There are lots of reasons not to. The money here is better, as are the opportunities to save and clear debt. But is that enough reason to stay? I too miss the lifestyle, the ease, the friendliness of the place. We were happy there. We’ve been happy here too, but it’s a harder city to live in. Yes, I can’t help wondering . . .
After a challenging day with the kids, the text message asking if I wanted to join them for a drink after work drew an immediate YESSS!!! We sat outside in the sun overlooking the common sharing news and anecdotes and recommendations for new music, good films and good websites to visit. After a couple of bottles of Magners the day seemed transformed and I arrived home feeling refreshed and ready for the weekend. I spent the evening slouched in front of the telly, roaring with laughter at Jonathon Ross and mesmerized by the legendary Patti Smith on Later With Jools.
There’s something seductive about watching old movies. Today I tuned into “Mrs. Miniver” while looking to watch something while having lunch. I hadn’t intended to see it through to the end but once into it I couldn’t turn away. Outside the sun was shining and I had thought to maybe go for a walk or even a swim. Instead I sat watching old movies. It’s like having a window onto another era; another world; the world my parents knew so well. It made me wonder how this era might appear to those looking back sixty years hence. Time will tell.
Despite the sunshine I found myself sliding into a melancholic mood today. I found myself wondering, what is there to look forward to? And while the logical side of me can rationalize the answer I can’t help feeling that, if I’m honest, not a whole lot. There’s no “next big thing” waiting in the wings. And then I find myself wondering, should I apply for a new job? Should we consider moving back to Australia? This is the longest I’ve gone without a major change for some time now. Maybe it’s time to consider something different: a new challenge.
Where does the time go? I’m sure the long hours of trekking to and from work each week have an impact but even so, where does it go? I never seem to get the things done I want to get done. Logically it doesn’t make sense. Logically, if I count the hours in a day and the days in a week there’s a lot of spare time left over. But in practice things are much less clear cut. Donna cautioned me long ago against thinking of time as currency. Nonetheless, when I’m feeling tired, time seems to evaporate before me.
It’s in the nature of the work I do that there are days when I don’t want to be there. To the uninitiated it probably seems like an easy ticket; all those holidays and not a huge number of kids to work with. It can be incredibly rewarding at times but at other times it feels like we’re all banging our heads against the walls. Many factors have been out of our control of late; factors that impact upon morale, upon the kids and upon those of us at the chalk face. Then again, maybe I just need a break.
There are moments when I see something out of the corner of my eye – a scruffy weed with a brightly coloured flowers or a bank of wild grasses topped by roof tops and chimney pots – and I find myself transported back to a time and place when I didn’t distinguish between weeds and flowers and grassy hills were there to be climbed and explored. At such times my daily routine is momentarily disrupted and I find myself connecting, however briefly, with a younger, happier me. And then, just as quickly, the moment passes and I’m back on the daily treadmill.
Waiting for a train at the station. There’s been a fire involving gas cylinders near London Bridge Station. All trains to London Bridge and Charing Cross have been suspended. Fortunately the Victoria train is still running, albeit after a long delay. I have two pigeons serenading me from behind and a shady spot to sit and plan things for tomorrow. At home I have a major written application awaiting me. If I get stuck into it early I can probably have it finished by nine. In the meantime I’ll simply sit here and soak in the sunny, blue sky afternoon.
Friday night television. I love it! Especially when I know I have a whole week ahead with nothing planned other than a meal with Bronwen tomorrow and a trip to the airport next Wednesday to meet Teddy. Give me Jonathon Ross, Jools Holland, a good bottle of red and some Indian takeaway and I’m as happy as the proverbial pig in shit. Sure I could have gone into town if I’d wanted to but after a grueling week at work that idea seemed like too much hard work. Tonight it’s the red couch in front of the telly for me.
We spent the day sitting on the red couch, relaxing, drinking expensive champagne and talking incessantly. We sat there on and off for nine hours or more, never running out of things to talk about. And when we ran out of champagne we simply wandered down the road and bought some more. We had lunch at the Seafresh Restaurant across the road and bought Indian takeaway for dinner. We listened to Dire Straights and Crowded House at full blast and reminisced about days long gone, though they seemed just like yesterday. Finally, I saw you safely back onto the train.
The rain has been falling all day. I can hear it in the swish of car tyres as they whoosh over the wet road below. I can hear it in the way the wind pushes the rain against the window, the soft pitter patter punctuated by the intermittent sound of larger drops falling onto the window ledge outside. I like the sound it makes. I can’t remember the last time it rained so much! And sitting here propped up on my own in bed I have that snug, comfortable sensation of being wrapped up as I listen to the rain.
It was another one of those dreams, the kind that linger on through the day with echoes of significance. Where did it arise from? I can extrapolate a multitude of possible sources yet what remains so poignant is the memory of warmth, the unconditional love and acceptance that we never really shared, although we did become close. Perhaps I’ll look you up again one day. It wouldn’t be hard to do. You are family after all. And who knows, maybe we’ll discover anew that connection, that thread that we once shared, albeit briefly. Yes. It was one of those dreams.
And now after 25 days you’re hurtling back through the air at incredible heights and amazing speeds, snoozing no doubt as you do so. And within a few short hours you’ll be home again and the solitary echoes of my solitary time here will give way to the bustle and activity of another. It’s strange, but for the first week or two I didn’t really miss you. I enjoyed the opportunity to operate purely by my own selfish rhythms. But now, all I want is to hear is your voice, to feel your touch and enjoy your presence once again.
On the train back from the airport you sat next to a young mother with her young, grumpy daughter sitting on her knee. You smiled, engaged her in conversation and pulled out a chocolate from your bag. Her eyes lit up. The grumpiness vanished. Then you gave her your keys which she immediately adopted as her own. When it came time to give them back she wasn’t going to let them go without a struggle. It was a humourous moment. You wooed her with smiles and her resistance melted. And as they disembarked, you blew each other a parting kiss.
Thirteen years is a long time to be together. While others have paired and parted since that fateful night in 1994 we ourselves have managed to hold together and grow together. The actual date was last Sunday but tonight we strolled around to the local Thai restaurant and celebrated. It was an enjoyable evening and it’s good to have you back again. While I enjoy the time we spend apart, (indeed, it’s one of the ingredients that makes us so successful), I love it when the parting time is over, and we once again pick up where we left off.
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