Monthly Archives: October 2014
On the promenade
Palm fronds, cling on
In the wind,
Whilst car doors
And waves slam
In my ears.
The moon and sun
Women leave the casino
Tapping their watches…
And the men walk dogs
Over the cliffs
One ketch argues with itself
On a wet mooring
Tearing its heart out.
My unblind mind’s eye
Conjures up dolphins
And seals in the rush hour
Of a stirred-up estuary
As I try to keep pace
With some cruise ship
Heading to the docks
And I’m not even started, yet.
It’s not hard to see where the mid-life crisis springs from, clichéd as it is.
There’s no picture for this sort of existential shit either.
The single thing that has helped, enriched, and generally supported my wellbeing over the last few years is being aware of, and reducing the time I spend out of, the present moment.
Depression, anxiety – the backward, forward pendulum swing of the old unruly mind still goes on, it’s just what the mind does but with practice I can maximise the moments just hanging out in the middle. Stretch them even. It’s good.
Like everything, there’s a payoff. Planning has never been my forte and now I am probably even more challenged in that area. I’ve been asked a difficult question this week: how many hours do you think you need for this project?
I think of my father. 6 weeks was the standard answer for that, always. (He might pop on here and correct me – but I like my personal memory too much to actually check the facts!) Those of us that knew him, would double it. Triple it even. Like building a house, a project will take longer than you think, cost more money, introduce headaches that you had never even thought of. Quantifying a life lived in the present moment in future hours, is a real headscratcher.
Maybe I’ll just follow in my father’s footsteps with one major deviation. His 6 weeks probably included an 18 hour day. Mine won’t – at least not on one project alone. (This fits with his other maxim about projects: three is too much.)
6 weeks x 18.5 hours = 111 and double it = 222 – my lucky number.
Of course I work in the public sector and I know 222 won’t get past the bean counters so I’ll have to pretend it takes less time than it really does which is rather how the public sector runs (at least 30% on the good will of public servants).
But no-one wants to hear that – do they?
Today my paternal grandmother would have been 101. The telegram from the Queen would have been last year’s old hat, but the aches and pains and frailties of old age would have advanced for another 365 days, to accumulate another year on the grand total.
I remember her like that, it’s true. She died, after all aged 96, and there was a lot of sitting in the chair towards the end. Still, the end was unexpected, untimely even. Death was an unwanted side effect of a hospital stay for a bad leg. A stroke was an unwanted side effect of some medication for the bad leg. It was not meant to be that way.
I try not to focus on all that. It hardly helps. I remember her skin, as smooth as any nonagenarian you could meet just about anywhere in the world. I remember her interest in life, her family, the lives of her family. I remember her cooking, and how, in the last years of her life she just wished for a nutrition pill that would save the hassle of standing in the kitchen, when standing in the kitchen became not just painful, but downright hazardous.
I remember the doorhandles, the polished dark floor with the deadly rug that was finally carpeted over for health and safety reasons. The big black phone at the bottom turn of the stairs and the long mirror you could not avoid looking in when you were making a call. The sunburst quarter lights in the leaded windows. The faded ladybird clip on the telephone notepad… the days when the London telephone numbers all started with 01.
I remember the dogs and stories of the cat, Chopsy. The podiatrist on his moped – the cleaners and Mrs Barr with her chocolate stocking selection at Christmas. The cosmopolitan troupes of visitors: Salime and Letitia, Maurice, Dora & Ernie, Maxie and Dixie, the neighbours we used visit who moved to Devon.
Toasted grapefruit with a jelly tot on top
Chocolate roulade at Christmas
Silver trays of sweets
Turkish delight, which I never did like but now I do, curiously
& sweet tea in the morning in the Magic Roundabout mug
I remember. And I am terrified I forget.
Standing out on the street
For a cigarette with you
In the blunt night air
You’ve given up
& I don’t smoke
Sticky with tequila
That step on the toes of fairy tales
Before they can rhumba
When I first started blogging I was more than happy to rob images off the internet to illustrate my point; in fact, that was half the fun. Now, I tend to use my own photos, and, since I dropped the phone after one too many meetings the other week and it went kaput on me, I also seem to have lost the will to blog.
But not quite.
The problem is, with writing, that if you don’t keep up your daily practice, you sort of create a mental log jam of thoughts and when you sit down to sift through them there are a number of occupational hazards. The first is, that if you are careless, you will end up writing AN UNCONTROLLABLE RANT, TO THE POWER OF TEN. That danger is only amplified when you find you wake up and are living in the UKIP poster county of Great Britain, you still have an OFSTED inspection, a friend dies too soon, a friend of a friend dies (some might say too late), and the 11 plus results are in town.
So let’s not go there.
The second problem is that, if you forbid yourself the luxury of a rant, you will instead find yourself going blank on the idea front. It’s almost as if the rant needs to be cleared out first. Like turning on the kitchen tap in an old house and waiting for the earthy brown flow of water to finally run clear. The thing is, if I even have one reader left, I’d hardly like them to have to read the murky effluent, although I am aware opinion can be entertaining and amusing and, if done well thought-provoking. It’s just that I’m not in the mood. Which brings me to the crux of the matter.
I suppose, to be truthful, I am depressed.
It’s not like I am not familiar with the concept, and accompanying feelings of drag, but, even after all these years (and I suppose it’s thirty at the last count) it still manages to creep up on me and settle in to my bones before I finally catch on. These days I have finally cultivated what could be considered a neat trick to manage it. Feel the feelings and do most of what must be done anyway. Don’t stoke the feelings with thoughts. Retreat to the Inner Citadel, where everything and all is well.
Just do it.
And I do. When I twig on. Which I have.
I love Ira Glass’s talk about The Gap. But I like this even better. I was going to write a post about OFSTED next week and the smashed phone, but you know, this stuff is far more important. The Gap? It’s where I’ve been for about two and half years. Just in case anyone was wondering.
The Thing in The Gap by Fletcher Moss
You may already be familiar with Ira Glass’s beautifully expressed insight into the thing he calls ‘the gap’.
If it’s new to you, I’m glad – you’re going to love it. I’m just standing on the shoulders of giants here, but for those of you who’ve never seen the quote, witness. Ephiphany, choirs of angels, glory and splendour, etcetera etcetera…
And if you want to hear the great man speaking, and watch a lovely film to go with it, go here and spend a very special couple of minutes.
It’s this gap – between what we imagine and what we end up with – that’s the hardest part of being a writer for me. Because for me – like you guys too, I guess – it’s not just the gap, but the bad things that live in the gap.
Really bad things…
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