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We were sitting in Wagamama at the Royal Festival Hall today. Weíd ordered our meal and while we waited for them to arrive, Felix and Ava were both completely absorbed in drawing on the backs of their menus. While chatting to Carol and Andrew I was fascinated at how involved they were in the process. I remember how I used to draw so compulsively at the same age. Drawing was an act of creation for me back then, the pencil creating a running narrative for no one elseís pleasure other than may own. Ah, to be six years old again!
Itís hard to imagine being single again. Weíve been together for so long now that the idea of a life that didnít include you seems inconceivable. Sure, I enjoy the time we spend apart; we both do, but itís always underpinned by the knowledge that weíre a unit. Even when we're 12,000 miles apart thereís never any question that weíre always there for each other. What we share forms the bedrock upon which rests everything else weíve achieved to date. Weíre different in many ways yet we share so much in common and together weíre so much stronger than apart.
Iíve done precious little for the last week. Itís been brilliant! Iíve been happy to stay home and stay indoors, venturing out only when necessary or when the whim has taken me. I havenít done anything particularly productive and nor have I wanted to. Itís been downtime, pure and simple. But now I need to crank myself back into gear and get myself back into work mode. That means multi-tasking, engaging meaningfully and purposefully with others and spending two to three hours in transit every day. Without the down time I donít think IĎd be able to do the other.
Itís the level of engagement with others that seems so daunting; having to step outside of oneís own sphere of interest and concern and actively open up to the kids and all of their dramas, worries and limited experience and understanding of the world around them. But the thought of it is worse than the experience itself. By the end of the day it was as though last week never happened. Our minds were filled with all the demands of the day and by the end of it, weíd all done pretty well. Really, itís not so difficult to do.
They couldnít stop themselves from laughing. Iíd only turned my back for a moment but it was long enough for them to hide the work. I suppose I could have gotten annoyed but I decided to play along. We played warmer and colder and they had me climbing all over the room, only to discover that theyíd placed the work back on the table. More squeals of laughter. It made the think how seriously we take ourselves sometimes and of the benefits we reap when we choose not to engage the ego and simply let them have a good laugh.
Iím reasonably happy with my current dentist. Heís certainly a lot better than the cowboy I was seeing previously, the one who filled my teeth with all the sensitivity and skill of a lumberjack. (Apologies to any lumberjacks who may be reading this.) Thereís something unnatural about having someone poking around in oneís mouth with a drill. I canít help but tense up whenever Iím in the chair. Iím invariably waiting for that piercing pain that going to see me embedded in the ceiling. Fortunately today that didnít happen. Hopefully with this guy it never will. But Iím always waiting . . .
I canít help but notice how much building activity is taking place alongside the rail track. Itís not just the odd building here and there. Thereís an absolute flurry of construction work running the length of the track from London Bridge through to Greenwich. Not that itís confined to that stretch but itís where itís most noticeable. Every day I monitor the changes; another story added here, another area of acreage flatten there, a new set of foundations being laid somewhere else. Nothing remains the same for long. The old comes down and the new goes up in its place.
Doing copious amounts of nothing in particular has its merits but Iím beginning to tire of it. Work has kept my days occupied and itís been a good week but anything other than domestic tasks has taken a back seat of late. People ask me what Iíve been up to and I tell them nothing. And itís true! I come home and I do nothing. Iíve not been reading, Iíve not been writing (except for these entries) and Iíve not been going out. The only thing is Iím getting a tad bored of doing nothing. Not totally, but a little . . .
When I remember who you used to be and I think about who you are now, I know at an intellectual level that they are one and the same person. But as you fade a little bit more each week and as the inevitable inches a little closer with each passing day, in my mind Iíve had to differentiate between the two. The woman who brought me into the world and raised me is not the same frail woman I speak to on the phone each week. You remember little these days. But I, God willing, will never forget you.
London is such an expensive city, especially during Wimbledon, and finding affordable accommodation for their stay here is proving to be challenging. I think Iíve cracked it though. Thereís a hotel in Covent Garden, just off Drury Lane. It boasts good disabled access and facilities and, at £110 a night itís a decent price. It certainly beats £230 a night for the hotel down the road from here! The crazy thing is weíre here ourselves but with such a small place and being a flight of stairs up from the street, itís not exactly what you would call wheelchair friendly.
Same old, same old. Thatís how it feels sometimes. Iím feeling flat again. Itís partly to do with work, partly to do with things in general. Same old, same old. Iím sitting in the lounge with the windows open. The roar of the traffic, usually diminished to a barely audible background noise is reminding me that we live in a busy part of town. Taxis and buses compete with voices drifting across from the restaurant across the road, its windows open and its customers clinking glasses and laughing aloud. Just another warm and sticky London evening. Same old, same old.
There are days when I hunger for a very different life, one where I live in a quiet, secluded spot, maybe in the Adelaide Hills, where the summers are baking and the winters foggy. Iíd probably find the reality less appealing than the ideal. Maybe, maybe not. There are days when I love the energy of London and the anonymity the city provides. There are others when the idea of a solitary walk at night beneath a velvet, star-studded sky or a drive down to the sea on a hot baking day, the radio blaring loudly, seems much more appealing.
It feels heavy, like being weighted down. It feels like being stuck in a groove, circling ever onward towards a preordained destination. No other outcome seems possible. Trying to skip a groove is a pointless exercise. The ending remains the same, the outcome certain and unchangeable, while any attempt to stop or slow down can at best only postpone the inevitable. Change the mindset, I hear a voice say. I have done, many times! But a belief in flight, no matter how powerfully held, will not equip me with wings. There are limits, self-imposed and otherwise. Theyíre real. They exist.
Then again, maybe change is possible, but what does it really allow for? Is it satisfaction we crave or merely distraction from what is fixed and unchangeable? Do we really grow or do we merely kid ourselves that we do by tinkering with the window dressing of life? So much time, energy and effort is spent distracting ourselves, but from what? What is it that lies beyond the veil? Can we ever really know? Would we ever really want to? It all comes to naught in the end; so much nervous energy flickering and twitching, burning late into the night.
Youíre angry and you have every right to be. Theyíve been unduly harsh and we will be the poorer for it. You bring so much light and warmth to the place. The kids adore you. More importantly, they trust you. Speaking selfishly, I canít imagine not seeing your smiling face each morning. You have an amazing capacity to leave your own troubles at the door as you enter the building each day and give yourself whole heartedly to any task at hand. It makes no sense. You are an absolute gem; a treasure. They must have rocks in their heads!
You asked if I wanted to go to Hyde Park to feed the squirrels. Sure, I replied, so off we went. At first I thought the four day concert in the park might scare them away but we were in luck. Before long we had soft, furry squirrels climbing all over us, much to the wonder and delight of children and tourists alike. Once we’d fed the masses we went and sat by the Serpentine and had coffee. There’s something very satisfying about feeding soft, furry animals. It satisfies something essential and it leaves you feeling soft and furry yourself.
I’d been hoping for a sleep in but the bulldozer outside the bedroom window, though not operating at full throttle, was nonetheless revved up enough to firstly wake me and then prevent me from going back to sleep again. I went downstairs, phone in hand in protest: 8am on a Sunday morning is not time for such activity! The guy climbed down, pointed to the hole in the road and proceeded to explain the urgency of the matter. The pipe could burst at any time. It’s now evening and the hole is still there, though thankfully the bulldozer is gone.
There’s a tipping point with certain groups of kids where they pass from being a disparate gathering of individuals into a cohesive whole with its own flavour and identity. That’s what’s happened to my Monday/Tuesday tutor group. New friendships have emerged; a sense of camaraderie has developed where previously there was none. They’ve bought into the creative process in a way I hadn’t anticipated. They’re willing to trust me and, more importantly, themselves. They come to class and treat it more as a studio than a classroom, a place where ideas are explored and exciting things are possible. Priceless!
It was one of those evening when, from the moment I walked through the door, strung out from the demands of a busy day, I couldn’t do anything right. It’s a familiar scenario, invariably coming left of field, usually on a day when I least need it. Any other qualities of merit I may possess are always lost in the equation which, amplified by your pained and exasperated delivery, focuses squarely on my shortcomings and invariably links to every other similar instance in which my incompetence and indifference has manifested itself. Oh, to be blessed with such exhalted moral authority!
I hadn’t intended to let it bother me but it did. The issue is one of pedagogy, over which we fundamentally disagree. I’ve tried to accommodate her in the past; paid lip service, jumped through a few hoops and made nice for the sake of diplomacy but I can’t do it anymore. The bottom line is I’m more qualified and more experienced than she. Perhaps if she hadn’t been so damned condescending I might have been able to accommodate the situation but, given the way she has chosen to approach the matter, the gloves are off. And they’re staying off!
I get to the end of the day and there’s still plenty to be going on with. Sure, I could close the door on it all and leave it for another day, but days being what they are, one would pass and be replaced by another and then another, and before long it becomes a pointless exercise to even bother. So I put on Joni Mitchell, crank up the volume and launch into it. Cut, chop, paste, trim; put this one up next to that one; move that one over here. The music carries me along. The job gets done.
It was while coming home on the train yesterday that I realised that the scratchy sensation at the back of my throat was more than just a temporary irritation. By the time I got home the scratchiness was gathering momentum. The nauseating lethargy set in soon afterwards and by this morning I was feeling positively wretched. But staying off work is usually more trouble than it’s worth, so I launched myself into the day and, despite feeling strung out had a spectacularly successful day. Sometime work can be an effective antidote. Now however, all I want to do is sleep.
I stumbled across my grandfather’s gold cufflinks at the back of the bedside draw today. I don’t even recall putting them there. They were wrapped in pink tissue and placed in an envelope. On the front was written “My Dad’s old cufflinks for Terry” in Mum’s handwriting. It was dated 1981. It was a poignant moment, all the more so for having learnt that Mum had another mini-stroke the other day. She’s apparently okay but the timing served to remind me yet again that all things pass. It was 26 years ago that she placed those cufflinks in that envelope.
Sitting there by the pub window gazing out at the bridge over the canal I began to see how our lives could be different. Change is good. It could be a whole new chapter. We’ve been in the same place for five years now. It’s a nice place. We’re in our comfort zone. We have everything we need on tap. But a change in scenery, a new venture – that could be interesting. It could be fun. And while I was initially resistant to the idea, it’s starting to take shape now. I can begin imagine how things could be different.
There are times, like tonight, when you think the absolute worst of me. Am I really such a monster? Do you really think me capable of such nastiness? What do you base that on? Why would you think that of me? Had the tables been turned it would never occur to me to hurl such accusations. That's not me being pious. It just wouldn't! I felt bad enough as it was for having hurt you, but to accuse me of malicious intent is, to my mind, unfair. It was an accident, nothing more. Yes I’m clumsy, but I’m no bastard.
The squeeze is on. The next few weeks are going to be demanding. Scott and Helen are going to be in town. Reports need to be written and annual reviews conducted, not to mention compiling another statement application. Then there’s the matter of house hunting. People wonder why I enjoy long haul flight as much as I do. I enjoy it because it means I can finally stop and disengage from everything. It represents an ending and a beginning; a new phase. Departure day is suddenly tangible and everything that needs to be completed must be done so by then.
In just four short weeks Iíll be off to Oz. Until now Iíve not given it much thought, and over the coming days I wonít have a lot of time to think about it either, but just at the moment, sitting in an empty train carriage waiting to go to work, itís an energising thought. However, I need to turn my focus to the day ahead, a day of supporting kids in school and later, dinner with Bronwen and Francois. Tomorrow evening itís The Phantom of the Opera with Teddy. Weíve managed to move on. Iím no longer the monster.
Itís in the nature of my job that I regularly deal with difficult, oppositional defiant young teenagers. Most of the time I can do the job blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back. Itís only anger and defiance after all. Still, there are days when I canít help but get rattled; when one of them manages to get under my hide. Thatís what happened today. The frustration of simply not being able to get through at all can serve to overwhelm me. Itís not that I snap. Rather, I find myself feeling completely exasperated. Why wonít the bugger comply???
Sitting here on the train, the green and grey outside the window looks poetic. Itís a rainy, late June morning. It looks and feels more like March. Weíve had so much rain over the past few weeks that even Noah might have become concerned, and thereís more to come. My heart goes out to those further north whose towns and villages have been deluged. Donna tells me itís the same back home. Her sister had to be airlifted from her farm in Gippsland after it became submerged. I guess the drought is finally over, but one wonders at what cost.
We had a meal at the Criterion Hotel in Piccadilly Circus and then wandered around to Her Majestyís Theatre to see The Phantom of the Opera. A little later someone parked a car a few doors down packed with enough explosives and nails to kill and maim hundreds, possibly thousands. If it hadnít been for the quick thinking of an ambulance worker attending to someone whoíd fallen in the street, it no doubt would have done. A similar device was identified and defused across the road from where Vivian lives on Park Lane. Such are the times we live in.
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