As always, Sunday morning has arrived.
I say ‘as always’ as if it’s given fact, but one day, one week, playing at a theatre near you, forever, it won’t arrive.
I woke up this morning which means that Sunday has arrived. It was warmer outside and there was a sun shining vaguely through the morning grey. I woke up, I shuck up, and I went to make the ceremonial tea.
After that, I made my announcement:
“Today, and from this Sunday on, we will be going out for a run.”
What I meant by that was not thet we would be running everyday, but that when Sundays came to find us huddled tightly in our duvets, hiding from the promise of another week, we would rise from out slumber and jog politely into the new dawn.
“Is it cold outside?”
This was the significant other asking me a meteorological question and as I had just been outside, in the car, putting air into a dodgy back tyre, and washing off the winter muck for the first time in two months, one would assume that I knew the answer.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“But you’ve just been outside.”
“I know, but I was doing other things beside observing the weather patterns of East Yorkshire.”
I may have well have been asleep for all the notice I took of the outside world. This sometimes happens to me. Indeed, I think it happens to a lot of us without us realising.
To prove this hypothesis:
Key Question: Have you ever travelled some distance in your car, arrived at your destination and then forgotten large chunks of that journey?
Key Answer: I think it is YES.
So, I had been outside performing a range of vehicular tasks whilst also buying a particularly healthy soya and linseed loaf of bread. This goes great with the right cheese when toasted. As I was putting air in the offendingly-deflated tyre, I noticed a five pence piece, yet I did not pick it up. Perhaps I am richer that I think I am. I drove to the carwash and had a medium wash that did not entail being coated in a triple-wax treatment. My reasoning was that some of the winter was still hanging about meaning that the car would get dirty before long. Wait for the spring and then clean properly.
Having left the car wash, I returned to the house, parked the ageing but now shiny car, admired it, stood back and admired it again, encountered a nebulous half-thought that did the mind-coaching crap that I hate ‘this day is the beginning of the rest of your life’ – fingers in metaphorical throat, and went indoors.
“Is it cold outside?” The question I had not revised any answer to.
“I’ll just check.”
Surprisingly, it was a wee bit chilly and that mitigated the wearing of warmer gear and gloves. On this point, I have to say that I find gloves just as annoying as socks when it comes to being found. I have lots of pairs of gloves, but they obviously have lots of hiding places. Eventually, I found some wooly gloves. Although not ideal for sporting enterprises, they kept my hands warm and it was still sufficiently early to avoid the gaze of the athletically enhanced fashion Fascists.
“Hey folks. If you have been reading this blog.”
Two very misleading statements that I abhor as they tend to assume that the human-race has little better to do with its time here on earth but to read the ravings of a half-baked half-wit rather than battling “against the dying of the light”.
Anyway, I like a run. Unfortunately, I don’t like winter. Most mornings during late November, all December, all January, and most of February, will find me at the mouth a of hollow in our back garden, gazing into the underworld whilst cooing Persephone back from the bowels.
This morning, she was clear of the bowels (Persephone not the missus) and we were on our run.
For a number of years I have counted to twenty when I run. It keeps a constant pace, takes my mind off the strain, and puts me in the moment (zone for us sporty types). My winter lay-offs always take their toll so it takes me some time to return to that Mars-like man that I always dreamt of being. I also like to have a chat with the wife as we run. I tend to say things such as, “This is great, isn’t it?” and she ignores me. I have a greater appreciation of wildlife and the environment at these moments, but refrain from sharing too much until we get closer to home.
It was a good run this morning and I was pleased that the days are starting to get warmer. I was able to shrug off my shroud, ignore my bad knee (something I have not had to endure before), and just be.
No zombies, no end of the world, no big deal.
Just the moments, those little moments that make sense of it all.
The cat sat on the mat.
It was cold outside and there was a draft blowing through the loose-fitting door. The cat slept or pretended to sleep. A vacuum cleaner whirred from some place upstairs.
The cat slept or pretended to sleep. A washing machine slowly turned through its cycles. Its churning indifference replaced the urgency of the vacuum cleaner which was now silent. The woman upstairs moved from room to room collecting this and that which needed to be collected and then needed to be thrown out. She huffed at things that had collected themselves over the winter months and made sharp references as to what would happen in the future. The washing machine began to wake to another cycle and this time its effort increased.
The cat sat on the mat, but was not asleep.
The man sat at his writing desk and tried to write. It was cold outside, but the sun was shining. He liked the sun and hated the cold. He listened to the increasing speed of the washing machine and was thankful that the vacuum cleaner had stopped its busy cleansing. He looked around for the cat that should have been sleeping, but found that there was no mat at the door. No mat meant no cat.
The washing machine spun for take-off. Any moment now they would all be leaving the ground and heading off into the clouds that had already been hushed into vapours on this cold, cold day.
“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”
It’s only been a couple of days, but the need to write something new has been growing and growing. Perhaps the signs have been there for a while now and I had not noticed them. I was trying to write twice a day as a way of getting my skills into some sort of shape that would be worthy of calling myself a writer. First thing in the morning, I wrote silly stuff whilst in the evening I would try to write something more serious. It seemed to be working. But the more I wrote the deeper my addiction went.
It wasn’t writing that was my addiction. My desperate need for views and likes drew me to the computer again and again, staring at the screen, trying to make the numbers click over, trying to work out why nobody was reading my stuff; my very special stuff. I was dependent on acknowledgement and appreciation and that was when I knew that it had to end.
I reached the point of thinking about what would appeal to those who read my work and then I produced a post that was meaningless. It was about serial killers and cults, inspired by a programme I had seen on TV. In truth, it had nothing to say. It was a vacuum of nonsense. Even nonsense would have made more sense. And I posted it.
“I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I don’t want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”
So, I posted some less-than-nonsense just to post it. I wanted to scare out the views, to add to my figures, to make me feel a little better about this venture that had started to appear to be fruitless. When I got big views, I felt good. When I didn’t….well?
Really, the writer doesn’t want success… He knows he has a short span of life, that the day will come when he must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall — Kilroy was here — that somebody a hundred or a thousand years later will see.
When I write a novel I’m writing about my own life; I’m writing a biography almost, always. And to make it look like a novel I either have a murder or a death at the end.
As I have said before, the blog business was there to help me through a desperate time. It did so. Unfortunately after being saved from my breakdown, I lost the essential reasoning behind blogging. Do people climb mountains to reap the rewards of amateur reviewers of the feat or do they do it just because they do it?
See you later, folks!
I am sitting at the computer desk, looking out on wet Saturday morning in northern England. The garden is green and there is a hint of the new growth that will make it better. Rain is steadily dripping from on high and the temperature is laid flat at the feet of zero. And yet my gaze is somewhere warm, somewhere back in time, somewhere on a shoal of months standing out from the past.
I am sitting in the plaza major with my wife-to-be and we are watching a river of faces flowing past us. These are Basque faces, crowned by truly black hair. Nevertheless, there is colour in them. Primary hues accompany each as they follow their days to wherever they will lead. We are back there now watching ourselves unfold…
A cold beer sat before each of us. The heat was already reaching upwards and we had nothing to do. After our brothel-stop, we moved on to a campsite on the outskirts of the city. We slept well, undisturbed by the comings and the goings of a thriving business. The morning arrived with a distinct bite of the months to come, so we arose, showered, dried and dressed, before making mugs of soul-warming tea.
We had taken to walking into the city in order to look for work. Sonya had convinced me of the efficacy of such plan. It was a beautiful city. It was in Spain. It had a bullring. And it had bar after bar after bar. And each one was a gem in it’s own right. We were sitting at one later that morning having done circuits of the city, finding English language schools and popping in to drop off rather basic CVs. I had been asked to return to meet the owner of a little place called Lexis. It was a language shop that sold English. I could speak English, was a teacher, had taught TEFL, and needed a job.
The person who greeted me at the shop was a huge upper-middle-class chunk of a man. I stand at six-feet-three, but he was another three inches and an extra five or six stones. He was a member of the Received Pronunciation Brigade and that would have normally not encouraged me to like him. His height and his class allowed him to look slightly down on me; he knew it and so did I. Nevertheless, John (later to become Big John) was welcoming; almost encouraging.
“We are not open at the moment, school holidays and all that, but the Jefe will be back around five. I’ll give the CV to her. Right then, if you don’t mind, I have some work to complete. Where did you say you were staying?”
I hadn’t told him.
“Camping, well. It’s probably alright at the moment with the weather being as it is, but in another few weeks we will see a change. We get a lot of rain here and it can get very cold.”
“Oh,” I said rethinking our plans. “How cold?”
“Well, we see a lot of snow in winter. We’re not far from the Pyrenees. The campsite will be closing down for winter in the next couple of weeks.”
We shook hands, Sonya said goodbye, John didn’t say ‘toodle-pip’, but he may have well done so.
After our stay in the plaza, a couple of beers, the stroll in the ever-so-warm sunshine, a sleep (siesta), shower, shave, and a coffee from one of the many cafeterias (cafe con leche was just the best), we made our way back to the neighbourhood in which the school was to be found. In Spain, neighbourhoods are called barrios and they all have their own characteristics. The one that the school was in was a barrio mainly inhabited by people from Andalusia. Oddly, these fellow Spaniards were referred to as foreigners because they were not Basque.
That made us double aliens.
It was in the Basque Country that we began to understand the importance of identity. The Basques did not truly see themselves as being Spanish neither did they see the Basque Country as belonging to Spain. El Pais Vasco is something else, as are the Basque people and their language. In the following ten months we were to learn an awful lot about shared Basque/Spanish history as well as taking a retrospective of our own. What we found there had largely disappeared from our own culture and had been replaced with quick consumerism and and a liberal dollop of popular-culture.
“This is Marian,” John announced.
She was the owner, the jefe as John would have it, and she shook my hand with a professional smile and a perusal of me and my CV. She was in her early forties and spoke English well having spent some time in London.
“So,” she said in her best posh-London, “you have come to Spain for work. Are there no teaching jobs in England?”
I explained that there were plenty and that I had come to Spain to work and to see and to experience a different culture.
“This is not the Costas,” she informed me. “Here is similar to England. It gets cold in winter.”
She went on to tell me that she needed somebody whom she could trust. She didn’t want a ‘fly-by-night’ who was just after a good time. She made it sound like we were being romantically introduced rather than professionally.
“You can read my references,” I offered. “My last employers spoke highly of me.”
“Yes, I have seen them. When can you start? Our new term begins next Monday.”
“Well, Monday it is then,” I replied.
“You have somewhere to stay?”
“Yes, we are on the campsite at the moment.”
“You can stay with us, for the time being,” John offered. “We have a spare bedroom and Demma’s from Yorkshire. She will love to have somebody to speak to.”