> New Jersey Transit 17.47 to Morristown, NJ
& New Jersey Transit 07.50 to New York Penn Station <
…No, not really. I think we can all agree that that should be beyond the scope of your hoping – and is definitely beyond the reach of my Friday afternoon/Monday morning writing.
In truth, my humbler aim for this blog is to be slightly less glib than usual, to counter the impression I may have so far created that I’m floating around like some kind of happy idiot. What can I say? It’s tricky. On the one hand, keeping your own blog is surely about as navel-gazing as it gets (and I’m loathe to add to the impression any further). And, on the other, who am I to sell short my fascinating complexities?… Oh look, what a lovely piece of lint.
I thought I’d share, for the shear bloody hell of it, three particularly vivid memories I have. If the exercise proves to be excruciatingly awful – either for you or for me – then, in time for my next blog, we can just pretend it never happened. But, if it doesn’t, who knows? Maybe I can nudge in front of you a little intimate exchange that, if only fleetingly, is more agreeable than whatever your boss has you working on. Or whatever else you’re on the internet for – nothing too stimulating, I hope.
The most boring I’ve ever been…
I’m temping for AXA Insurance (a particularly unfortunate period in my life). Over comes the office joker, a man with vast reserves of affability even in the midst of stultifying dullness. He gets my attention and I mutely look up from the database I’ve been doggedly entering numbers into.
With great good cheer, my colleague picks up a pen and proceeds to do with it a comic bit of business (what, exactly, I really don’t remember). I look at him through tired eyes and realize with gradually increasing dread that I’m expected to respond. Add to the quiet office some bonhomie of my own… some wry banter… an appreciative laugh, even. I got nothing. Never before have I been so comprehensively bored, so desperate to be any other place.
Finally I speak. My words monotone, flat, and the full miserable extent of my response. “It’s a pen.”
The most exotic thing I’ve ever seen…
I’m deep in the hilly hinterland of north Wales, with my parents midway through a short vacation. It’s an indistinct time of day in the middle of the working week – probably about three o’clock, although our trip is such that it really doesn’t matter.
My dad’s been driving the Rover for a good while now – but, since we started going gradually up, we can’t have passed more than three other cars. Round the winding way, all we have for company is a mass of wet fern and grass, and the odd grazing animal pottering about. There isn’t another soul to be seen and, save for the sound of bad weather closing in, it’s deathly quiet. We’re terribly small – against the giant hills all around, distant craggy rocks and the gathering grey sky.
We press on as it starts to rain. Not a heavy lashing rain, just a fine misty veil, the familiar British sort that hangs about forever. It’s fun being in the old car: the three of us like seafarers peering through a porthole and a long way from land.
At last we spy something far ahead that isn’t road or rain, animal or land. Much higher up than us and off to the left, a tiny, hunched over figure fixing a weather-beaten fence. As far away from anywhere as I’ve ever been, a solitary man going about his work on the up-slope of an indifferent hill. Billions of people in the world – and only three of them, by chance, within the scope of his huge, arching view, a holler of his thoughts.
…And a perfect break from worry.
A handful of days away from leaving the UK for America – twenty-two years old, student visa at the ready – and I’m walking down Wallington High Street on my way to lunch. I’ve arranged to meet my nan and my great auntie Hazel at the Brother’s Bistro, a favourite local eatery.
I’m jittery and jumpy, thoughts are racing through my head. Am I ready to live so far away? Will I like it over there, or will I fuss and worry; miss the happy certainties of home? Have I been too bold… am I making a terrible mistake? Is this churning in my gut excitement – or fear? The thrill of reckless running – or the fateful dread of falling?
Further down the road I look up just long enough to see nan and Hazel approaching from ahead. They’re both in their 80s and walking only slowly. But they’re also side-by-side as they so often are: two sisters who do so much together and who have lived all my life and more in two houses about 50 feet apart.
We all smile and wave, and, at once, I feel nothing but happy and serene – as if I could think for the rest of the day and not find a single thing to fret over. These two lovely ladies, both born long before the war and as harmless as can be: I know how happy they are to see me, and how straightforwardly so. The realization seems to matter more than anything else in the world – and as I walk the rest of the way, feeling for the first time the hot summer sun, I learn at last it really does.
So, there you have it. Life is far too short to spend too much of it working, the world is a beautiful place full of things to look into and enjoy, and it’s other people who make everything worthwhile.
…Well, I never said I was going to write anything new, did I?