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Sometimes a dark and heavy fatigue weighs down upon me and all I want to do is sleep. Itís been a good day, despite the gas leak at work that meant we had to cancel classes, close the building and relocate to the other site. The train ride into town this afternoon was enhanced by the sun sinking low in a beautiful blue sky. I met up with Seb at The Spice of Life where we sat chatting for a couple of hours. But now, all I want to do is close my eyes and drift gently off into dreamland.
Itís going to be interesting catching up with Dorothy and Ted tomorrow. Dorothyís only two years younger than Mum but still so vibrant and alert. I hope to get she and Mum talking to each other on Sunday when I ring for my usual weekly call. Itís weird to think that theyíve nearly 200 years of life experience between them. Iíve spent the evening pottering around, getting things ready to take with me: the camera, the minidisc recorder, a microphone borrowed from Matt upstairs, etc. I should have been in bed before now but I couldnít seem to get there.
Sheís so small! Mumís small but Dorothy is tiny! I have to be so careful when I hug her. I donít want to do her an injury. I spent the afternoon with her and Ted, looking at photos that my grandfather took in the 20s and 30s of Dorothy and Mum in Spain and in England. Some Iíd seen before, others were completely new to me, page and page of people and places long gone or changed, with just Dorothy and Mum remaining. And she was so excited. ďI feel like I have a piece of Gwenthy here with me!Ē
What a whirlwind trip to Norwich and back! So much to say and yet so much left unsaid. I sat up late chatting to Richard and Jen; then slept badly. Today I felt tired and now Iíve got a throat infection. But Iím really glad I made the effort to go. Poor old Ted is only a shadow of his former self but he still looks much the same. I got the videoed them both and showed them the videos of Mum. Dorothy was rapt. ďI feel like sheís here with us,Ē she said, her eyes glued to the screen.
Iíve felt really unwell today and itís not surprising that Iíve had a testing day at work. Itís been one of those days when it feels like any control or influence I have has been slipping further and further beyond my grasp. Thatís not to say I Iíve not had any successes. Itís just that Iíve been pretty damned humourless. Iím also beginning to despair of the chronic understaffing in the Centre right now. After such an excellent autumn term it feels like the place is slowly unraveling. How can we possibly provide a good service with so little expertise?
Itís the repetition that starts to worry me: week in, week out, the same old pattern, the same old routine. When I feel Iím achieving something I can get on a real high, but when I begin to feel as though Iím banging my head against a brick wall I then get pissed off with the whole thing. I start to fear that life, however noble oneís intentions, is merely one damned thing after another as we advance ever onwards towards our own demise. Being unwell doesnít exactly encourage cheery thoughts, I know, but thatís how I feel right now.
Sitting here on a later train to Woolwich (I couldnít be arsed trying to catch the earlier one) from where Iíll catch a noisy bus out to a school in Thamesmead (joy of joy!) I find myself feeling grumpy. There are days when I love my job. This is not one of them. Today is a day when Iíd much rather be in bed or out walking in town, or sitting in a cafť and reading. Itís a beautiful, crisp cold day in London, and heading out to a school full of noisy, scruffy kids seems like a woeful enterprise.
Another day of snow; another day in which the train system ground to a standstill. One wonders how theyíd cope in Moscow or Montreal. Pathetic! But I had a good book to read and it wasnít exactly an onerous day once I finally got to work. We even closed early, which was a bonus. Right now my mind is turning to the Island, where Iím heading on Saturday for a few days. Iíve nothing planned for Saturday itself, just a relaxing afternoon; a walk around the village, a few hours of reading, a nice meal and a good, long sleep.
Friday afternoon. As usual Iím the last one to leave the building. Why is that? I have to ask myself whether Iím taking longer to get things done that I need to. I donít think Iím a bad time manager. Iím certainly a lot better than I used to be. Still, with so many other things to be getting on with in life, itís a legitimate question. For now, however, my mind can turn to other things. Tomorrow I go down to the Island for a few days. I canít wait. I know few better places to recharge my batteries.
What a blissful day. I finished reading ďBirdsongĒ on the way down here and am now 100 pages into Khaled Hosseiniís ďThe Kite RunnerĒ. Iíve been for a stroll through Bonchurch and around Ventnor. The weatherís been crap but Iím not bothered. Any weather will do. I had the best lasagna Iíve had for ages at the Bonchurch Inn, washed down with a better than average house Merlot. Tomorrow Iím catching up with Andrew and the family, but today was all about chilling out and doing as little as possible. Sometimes the best company you can keep is your own.
Much as I enjoy living in the sprawling metropolis of London, leaving it behind for a few days from time to time is more of a necessity than it is a whim. Here at Elcombe, the sound of drunks on the street below is replaced by birdsong; the rumble of taxis and the number 24 bus past the bedroom window by the sound of the wind in the trees. All I need to do is gaze out of the window at the sea, the clouds and the greenery before me to feel reconnected with something completely sublime and utterly essential.
Today was: walking along the Bonchurch coastal path, huge waves crashing against the sea wall like giant fireworks; chatting to Dolly Dimmick at Carolís; helping Jessye with her art folio; taking little Amylou to Magic Mountain on Sandown Pier; sitting with little Harry while Sarah valiantly attempted to get him to eat; beating Andrew at chess; listening to good music and a windy and wonderful stroll through Ventnor and Bonchurch at night on the way back to Elcombe. Itís been a day of quiet observations and quiet thoughts; musings on the nature of life and the meaning of it all.
Sitting perched on the windowsill of the double ensuite at Elcombe, looking out across the garden and the rooftops below to the sea. Itís relatively calm today. A couple of ships in the hazy distance are heading out into the Channel. A cool sun, muted by the clouds illuminates the glistening water. Seagulls wheel overhead. I find myself in a contemplative mood. I could happily sit here all day but in less than an hour I need to vacate the room. Iíll probably wander down into the village or go for a walk by the sea. Yes, Iíd like that.
Much as Iíve tried to deny it and ward it off today, the fact of the matter is Iíve come down with another shocking cold. Iíve obviously picked it up from Harry and Amylou but itís a bit of a bummer going away two weekends in a row and coming back each time with some kind of bug. Consequently Iíve been feeling progressively off-colour all day and certainly not in a mood for doing any painting. The thing I hate about feeling unwell is the slide into depression that tends to accompany it, sucking all the pleasure out of life.
I got up early and painted for an hour before going up to see Bronwen this morning. I was feeling pretty crook and was tempted to cancel but then that would have made it twice in a row, two weeks running, so I went. We had nice lunch and shared an excellent bottle of champagne and I did enjoy myself but by the time I got back home I was feeling very much the worse for wear. I tried sleeping for an hour or so but to no avail. Jesus, being ill is such a crashing bore! It really is.
Mum turned 93 today. I rang her this morning and we chatted for a little while. Unlike last Sunday, she was relatively compus mentis and had clearly had an enjoyable day. The card and flowers Iíd ordered through cherry had arrived and she seemed genuinely appreciative. 93 years! She was 63 when Dad died. She barely remembers him now. Strange, the way life carries on and, as in Mumís case, for how long! And how bizarre, to have spent nearly 40 years with someone and now barely remember them. Perhaps sobering might be a more apt way to describe it.
If Iíd needed a reminder of how powerful literature can be I doubt that I could have done better than to read Khaled Hosseiniís ďThe Kite RunnerĒ. I canít remember the last time I felt so stunned and moved by a book. The narrative and characters have loomed large in my mind over the last few days, its portrayal of friendship and love, betrayal and redemption all serving to stir me in ways that Iíd forgotten books could do. I feel as though I have lived through the words of another and in doing so, become better for the experience.
There are days when everything seems so pointless and futile. Itís like we strive to fill our lives with meaning and sometimes, often even, we succeed. But there are times when it all seems like a sham. There are days when it feels like my whole life is just so much occupied time, leading nowhere in particular, serving no greater purpose and, when itís all over, will be forgotten along with all the rest. I mean, we all die in the end and, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Atheists, whatever Ė it makes me wonder what itís all about, if anything.
I really donít want to go there today. The thought of having to face kids, work under the pressure of reduced staffing and be the responsible adult today just doesnít appeal. Iíd rather be in bed catching up on much needed sleep after staying up too late. Iíd rather be heading out to somewhere warm and sunny where I can sit in a piazza and sip coffee, read the paper, gaze into space. Iíd rather be doing something for me than for someone else, especially those who appreciate it least. No, I really donít want to go to work today.
7:33am. Charing Cross Station. Thanks to London Underground I missed the 7:28pm by 30 seconds, the first time itís left on time since I can remember. Sods Law I think itís called. Ah well, Iím not going to stress. Iíve 100 words to write, a postcard to send to Mum, Annie Proulxís ďPostcardsĒ to read and, shortly, a hot coffee to drink. Might as well enjoy the delay. Yesterday wasnít so bad. Itís the frenetic pace that I find daunting at first but once Iíve hit the ground running, I find myself sliding back into the usual pattern and routine . . .
What actually happens when we read? What is the magic element that allows me to be sitting on the train or the bus while simultaneously flying kites in Kabul or driving with Loyal Blood along the dusty back roads of the American Mid-West? I mean, watching a movie is one thing. We suspend reality and allow ourselves to be seduced by the totality of the audiovisual experience, a kind of collective dreaming. But when we read, itís as though we can be in two places at once, if not literally, then certainly experientially. And that process is, quite simply, amazing!
Is Friday my favourite day of the week, or is it Saturday? On Fridays I get to relish the thought that itís the end of the working week, that I have two full, clear days ahead of me to do as I please. But I still have to go to work. On Saturdays I get to enjoy the fact that the weekend is here, but by then itís already partly over and Iím one day closer to going back to work. Not that thereís anything wrong with having to go to work. Itís just that I like the weekends more.
Gazing at the damp platform, the blue and grey of the early morning sky reflecting in its shiny surface it occurs to me that the long, dark days of winter have finally passed. A chilly sun hangs low beneath the heavy grey clouds. The sky is pierced with the pale blue of February, strewn with the vapour trails of the constant air traffic above. Soon weíll be closing our eyes against the intruding light at 4am, tossing in our beds, trying to reclaim another few hours of sleep, straining against the temptation to rise, sleep deprived, into an early day.
I found your note. It was tucked into the front of the shoe drawer. It must have slipped in by accident. In it you tell me of a book youíve read and how you think Iíll get into it. I didnít, but thanks for the thought. The note must have been in there for sometime. Itís been ages since you went back but for a moment it was as though you were still here; still dropping by; still near. ďWhy do we all live so far apart from each other?Ē bemoaned Mum on the phone today. I wonder myself sometimes.
It was good to chat to James and Fusun today. They both apologized for not keeping in touch more often but itís not an issue. I know theyíre there, and they know Iím here, and if we really need to talk thereís always an open channel. They got married just a few weeks back, which means thereís now a new Mrs. D. on the planet. Iím really happy for them both. Itís strange to think Althea celebrated 50 years of being Mrs. D. last week and hereís Fusun embarking on her first year with the same name. What a concept!
There was a pink glow in the sky this morning that bathed the city in a glorious, golden hue. Everything seemed lighter, brighter and full of the promise of the warmer months and longer days to come. And when I got to work, lo and behold! A full contingent of staff. (Or at least, the closest weíve had to one for weeks.) And as days go, today ran pretty smoothly. After a protracted period of late winter blues I find myself starting to see more to cheer about and feel cheered by. And itís none too soon, thatís for sure!
As I turn the corner from the lane leading from Embankment Station to the steps leading up the side to Charing Cross Station each morning, an overhead light goes off. At first I thought I was imagining things. Iím not. It doesnít matter what time I pass by; whether I saunter past or move more swiftly. No matter how I try to avoid it, it always goes off just as I pass by. Iíve waited to see what happens if others pass by, but nothing does. It only happens when I pass by. First itís on, and then itís off!
Hereís an idea. What if I choose a theme for each month of the year? Or if not a theme, at least a focus. February has been something of a minor month. Iíve done some things that needed to be done but itís not really been about anything in particular. Perhaps March could be about writing, or reading, or going for a walk each day, or something! A year is a long time to wait before making new resolutions. Itís also a long time to try and keep them! But a month? Thatís manageable. Possible. Achievable. I like the idea!
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