Warning: this post may carry traces of incoherence. Wash your hands when you leave.
When I am under pressure to do one thing, my brain starts doing a million other things.
‘Let’s not focus on that,’ it says. ‘Let’s do this instead. Far more interesting, doncha think?’
I used to call it procrastination, but it’s not really. Or if it is, it is procrastination in a jazz improvisation style. Which means you still produce something, but whether it is good or bad is entirely debatable…
This means I’ve been busy. I’ve been busy doing the things I didn’t mean to do, but which just took me over. It feels like my brain, when it is told to go off and make a nice quiet pork pie (no jelly), suddenly starts throwing out a wild and misshapen string of noisy sausages instead. Jazz? sausages? I did warn you.
So now, instead of a nice neat chapter I’m surrounded by poems, a load of photographs, a big load of catching up with Immanuel Kant (who I barely understand a sentence of, but thanks to Professor Sandel at Harvard, I adore) and the beginnings of a short story.
I quite like the short story. This is the opening passage. I might finish it.
She’s dying. At the hospital. Switching the m/c off.
We couldn’t understand it at first. It was Sunday. The radio was on, playing something hip-hoppy. Easy Like Sunday Morning? We might all love it (secretly), but you can’t live your life in some throwback cliché, can you? Especially when middle-age shakes you awake in the mirror each morning.
‘Those wrinkles. Grey hairs. Already? But I’m not ready.’
We might be able to keep Lionel’s chin and the Commodores at bay in our house, but texts about death? They will come whether we like it or not. We don’t. It used to be in the post: death, like taxes, or at least a polite knock on the door, or a phone call. Now it’s via text, announcing itself with a dissonant bleep. Or, worse still, Facebook.
Sometimes, there is not much I wouldn’t give to be teletransported back 20 years or more and to have a pile of copy or audio typing a mile high to do in some office in Swindon: some nice mindless production work that I wouldn’t have to give a second thought to when I got home.
Of course I would become bored with the typing and Swindon too, as I did before, but having a lot of projects on the go can start to feel a bit stressful in my head, at times. Taking on too much, or having unrealistic expectations of myself (something I think of as going into Master of Time and the Universe mode) is partly a genetic trait that I stand helpless in the face of.
My whole family work too hard if you ask me…
Recently I asked my father about how he runs big projects consecutively. This is the man who has barcoded the NHS blood banks, the employees at British Airways and the merchandise at Selfridges. He is currently matching sticks of dynamite to fuses somewhere in the Camargue with RFID, or something. His answer cut across the question.
‘I find three is too many’ he said.
I had a quick tally up this morning: I have four.
No wonder I feel like Dick Turpin is standing over me when I wake up every day.
I wanted to say something about Andy Murray. About how he has not been generally liked. About how he has grown up in front of us from a callow and moody teen, to something approaching a net monster hulking over his opponent, when he is in the zone.
I wanted to say that he is, by his own admission, still beset with doubt about his ability, and that that, even last night at Flushing Meadow, rears its ugly head often enough to affect his game. But, not as much as before.
And I wondered why that was. Is it to do with his new coach, Ivan Lendl, someone whose disposition on court was not dissimilar to Murray’s. Someone who was not much of a favourite with the crowds, again like Murray over the years. Or is it something to do with Murray’s new maturity, both physically and mentally. There is no doubt that Andy Murray, a survivor of the Dunblane massacre as a primary school boy, has the mental toughness of a mahogany tree, but he is human and it is not inviolable. I like Murray for that, it makes him human.
I also wondered about Team GB. Did being part of something bigger than himself in the Olympics allow Murray the freedom to play without the incredible pressure that always comes around at Wimbledon. I can only think that it had a positive effect. Once the public monkey was off his back, it being too busy with track medal obsessions, Murray was able to start pushing his own, very stubborn clinging monkey off as well, and that was the breakthrough. It is the breakthrough we all need when we are struggling to get where we want to be. I am glad Murray has had his, finally. I think this is just the start for him.
It’s funny: the combination of his own dour Scottishness, a stony-faced former Czech player, and being part of a team that some Scots might long to be free from, Team GB, all of these things have acted as catalysts for Murray to finally achieve a dream that seems to have taken nearly forever. For the British public it is 76 years since our last Grand Slam winner, for Murray, well, who knows, but most of his 25 years one suspects. I hope he enjoys it. Something hard won is probably worth a little more to the person who suffered long and hard for it. I suspect the British public can identify with that too.
See Murray sharing something of how it has felt here.