Times past

Wednesday June 29, 2005

If moving house happened all in the space of a handful of consecutive days it’d be hell but you’d not have time to notice until it was over. Then you’d remark on how well you’d done and get stuck into the job of establishing yourself in new quarters. When I contemplate most house moves, the actual activity has indeed been confined to a few days only, spread out over a period, long or short.

There’s little glory in the reality of it. Some days you go to bed with a feeling of a job well done. Mostly it’s more a matter of containing pent-up energy in a no-activity day, fearful of rocking boats, making a mess, or doing anything that may jeopardize the final outcome.

Today was like that. I got up, did my morning writing, breakfasted, showered, cleaned house… and then I sat back wondering what the hell to do with the stretch of hours remaining of the day. All unbidden, a vague feeling of mild discontent settled over me.

It’s not that I’m in uncomfortable circumstances, far from it. I have comfort running out of my ears. Warm, clean, well-equipped accommodation, money in the bank, no debt, a sufficient income, time to follow the interests I enjoy… all the things that I was told I should be working towards when I was a young man. And still, if I’m honest, things towards which I continue to work, and to maintain. Normally I potter about my small world, enjoying the fruits of my labours, happy as the days are long. Today, discontent tended to make me think it’s all a hollow shell, that perhaps all that effort, all that sacrifice, were not worth my while. And the day was too long.

I started out in life walking over damp, pot-holed cobbles, through dripping alleyways lined with mouldy, peeling hoardings. Along the way the potholes got filled, the cobbles were nicely asphalted, the hoardings were stripped of their multi-layered messages, and the chill damp was replaced with warmth and light. And, you know what? When I sit down on empty days like this and wonder what to do with myself I think mostly of tidy roses and neatly mown lawns. Sometimes, though, I hanker after my beginnings. And today was one of those days.

When I was in the Air Force, training to become a more-or-less skilled technician in the trade that’d been chosen for me, I’d most often get back to the barracks and settle down to an evening of study. Now and then, though, I’d chuck my books in a corner of my locker and enquire of my companions: “Who fancies going out and getting pissed?” There was always a small number who felt the same way.

When I was living in London, alone, working up my skills in the commercial computer field, I’d walk through those cobbled streets from one job to another, or from the evening institute back home, and settle down to yet another evening of study. Now and again, though, the urge to rebel would hit me and I’d take myself out to get well and truly pissed with friends and acquaintances.

It’s what young people do, if they have any sense. Some make a career of it, most, like me, work more or less steadily through it and, as the years go by, away from it.

Today, for no good reason, I had a fit of the regrets, completely unjustified and totally unwelcome. As a young man I’d have followed the urge and gone out to tread the cobbles, and get pissed. Now, my legs can’t manage cobbled streets, and my heart responds badly to a sudden and immoderate intake of alcohol. So there’s little I can do about it but sigh, go and dead-head faded roses, and think about times past.



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