Some kind of resolution

Renewal

We are now in the twilight zone.

It’s that time of the year that we forget exists. What, December actually continues on, past the 26th?? Well, yes, it does – but even accepting that to be true, I find it difficult to comprehend how the time seems to have slowed to a crawl, so that from the 26th to today feels as if it has taken a month already – and it’s only 30th December!

If I concentrate really hard, I am able to locate some hazy memories, as faded (and slightly orange-tinted) as those of my childhood, of the first week of December 2016.

At the beginning of December, I was at work as usual. Just like in any workplace, the beginning of December signals a shift in mindset. Everyone has their sights set on the end of the year fast approaching, and is busy dealing with the impact of that on their role. At my workplace, various staff were busily preparing for the final meeting of the Board of Directors for the year, writing grant aquittals (due, so unkindly, on 22 December), planning the Christmas Party, or working on the text and images for the Christmassy message that would go out in the final electronic newsletter to our subscribers for 2016.

From week two of December, numbers in our office begin to dwindle, as annual leave began to kick in. In an office of only 13 staff, three of my colleagues are from the UK, and all three were going back in December this year, so the numbers in the office began to decrease as early as December 5th as, one by one, those colleagues disappeared. By the final week leading up to Christmas there was just myself and three others remaining. On Thursday 22nd December, all four of us were still working hard, until about 3pm, when it became time to drink a glass of prosecco and eat cherries while we cleaned out the office fridge together and chatted. That memory could easily be of something that occurred a month ago now.

Between 1st and 25th December, I caught up with various friends for the last time for the year, drove to the country to see family members I wouldn’t see at Christmas, went to the work Christmas party, caught up with my brother in Melbourne, went to see Xylouris White play at the Recital Centre, finished my Christmas shopping, finished work, and drove to the country to spend Christmas with inlaws.

That all feels now like years ago. How is it possible that we are still not finished with December???

Yesterday, 29th December, was my daughter’s birthday. I always feel a bit sorry that her birthday falls in a weird vacuum in normal time. This was apparent when she was born – I had the Maternity Ward at the local hospital to myself for the 5 days I was there. Even births go on hold in the week between Christmas and New Year, apparently.

For her birthday this year, we took her out to a movie and dinner, with a friend of hers called Lili, a delightful girl she’s known since she was five. In conversation, Lili kept accidentally referring to “last year” when she was talking about things that had happened this year, and after making this error a few times, laughed that she couldn’t believe that it IS still 2016, because December, and even the days since Christmas, seem to have taken so long to go by.

I think it’s possible that there is some kind of rupture in the usual space-time continuum from 26 December to 2 January. I was not successful in my application for a grant to investigate that so I can’t provide any concrete evidence. It’s just a hunch.

Perhaps the slowness of this week is exacerbated this year in Melbourne by the weirdness of the weather we’ve had during twilight week. To our collective disgust, we’ve had wintery weather right through Spring, and then suddenly on Christmas day it was 35 degrees, and it’s been a similar temperature for the next 4! It’s hot, it’s humid – in short, it’s weather that is conducive to doing not much at all, just lazing around in a stupor and inventing new types of iced tea to drink. Making iced tea is in fact the most physical activity I’ve engaged in since Boxing Day.

Maybe this week is designed to be a kind of blank slate for the mind and the psyche, a time simply for rest and rejuvenation, before we rev up our motors to begin a new year.

Just as December begins with a slight mind shift into finishing up and going on a break, so January begins with another distinct mind shift. There is a sense of optimism about starting a new year, as if we are being granted a licence to start afresh. Start what afresh, you may ask? Whatever applies – professional work, personal growth, relationships – why, basically, life, in a nutshell. In December we planned our work each day as if we were heading for a finishing line of some sort. In January we start up by thinking, great, I can’t wait to file away all that stuff from last year and get things ready to go for the next year. 

That’s the fun that we find in celebrating a New Year, at least for those of us lucky enough to be living comfortable lives with a roof over our heads, where we don’t have to worry about where every meal is going to come from, or whether a bomb will be dropped on our home while we sleep. For us, the idea of a new year allows us to indulge in a harmless fantasy that we have an opportunity to start our lives afresh, or at least, to review and recalibrate, shaking off old, unwanted habits and beginning to form new and virtuous ways of living and being.

With this in mind, many of us make resolutions at the start of the year. (I’m inconsistent on this – for years I have not bothered with this tradition simply because I refuse to see it as an obligation the way some people do, but this year I might dip in again.) This desire to better ourselves is a heart-warming thing about humans. Sadly that desire is easily and frequently misdirected, by advertising and cultural pressures, into far too many resolutions, made by people of perfectly acceptable sizes, to go on diets, and/or lose a certain amount of weight, as if that is the most important thing one can do to be a better person.

But if you think creatively, it’s possible to use this twilight zone of a week, and the notion of a New Year’s Resolution, to think about what is important to you right now, and what you want to change. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to play the guitar, or maybe you want to do something concrete to help people who are disadvantaged. Maybe you would just like to make some new friends who have a similar outlook to you, and, like you, want to do some good in the world.

Whatever you decide to do, it doesn’t have to be big, significant or even noble. It would be stating the obvious to say that a small, simple action is going to be easier and therefore more achievable.

For example, my partner told me his resolution for 2017 is to learn more about music. This is coming from someone who already knows quite a lot about baroque, renaissance, classical, choral, and jazz music, at least, in comparison to most people I know.

I approve of his goal, particularly because I know he is tired and disheartened by work quite often lately. A more obvious resolution for him to make would have been to get a new job this year, but I think the New Year’s Resolution process works better if you don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Sure, he could have focussed on the goal of removing a negative thing in his life, and put pressure on himself to achieve that in a fixed timeframe, but if he failed to achieve it in that timeframe, he’d himself more miserable in the attempt. Instead, he’s thought of something totally unrelated to work, an interest that he gets a lot of enjoyment from, and how he can increase the enjoyment he gets from it. (listening to music more than he already does is probably not possible.)

I don’t usually indulge in uttering wise-sounding, advisory statements on this blog, but all the above leads me to this thought, perhaps because it’s something I am trying to follow more and more in my life:

Find the things, and people, in life that you are interested in and think about how you can engage more deeply with them. Your life will be richer as a result.

img_1138-at-somers-beach

Pic: At Somers Beach, Victoria, January 2012 – © Blathering, 2012.

via Daily Prompt: Renewal

Tea for three

Today I noticed…the sunlight bouncing delicately off a ridiculously large number of boxes of tea in our kitchen shelves.

I notice this array of tea every day, actually, and weird as it may sound, I quite like the view. The three residents of this house, with our different tastes, have managed to amass a mad array of different teas – surely there must be at least 6 boxes of tea per person on that shelf! Piled together the various boxes make a colorful display (apart from the Liquorice Legs, which is in a very classy black box, usually shoved at the back and not able to be seen.)

I find this shelf of tea a very satisfying example of functionality with a pleasing aesthetic. Where some houses, perhaps those with far more room for benches and sideboards and cunning little shelves placed strategically at eye level, might create a charming display of ceramic shepherdess figurines, vases of dried flowers, or photographs of distant relatives at their graduation ceremonies, we, confined to a very small amount of space, have to make do with displaying our cookbooks and boxes of tea to liven up our surrounds while also – well – performing the practical function of storing them somewhere.

 

A tidied up version of collection of tea

A tidied up version – untidy boxes removed for photo shoot

Well, you know what, I don’t mind that, to be honest.

Space is like time, my friends: the more of it you’ve got, the more of it you waste.

That is a piece of wisdom I’ve felt very certain of, ever since I thought of it, which was just as I was writing that previous sentence. What’s more, another gem of wisdom has just struck me: space and time are polar opposites, because if you have more space, you simply have more cleaning to do, whereas if you have more time, a graph tracking the amount of cleaning done will probably not show any noticeable increase, because you’ll simply find other things to do.

Of course some people with large houses employ someone to clean the space for them, which then impacts on their time in a different way, because they need to work in order to earn money to pay the cleaner.

In short, space and time have a very complicated relationship which many scientists have attempted to explain, (see Stephen Hawking for more information) although I note that none so far have addressed the issues that I’ve raised here today. But that’s an issue for another post, today we are talking about tea.

Now it strikes me that these days, some people have a theatre room, or an indoor rock climbing wall, but perhaps a shelf of colorful teas is the poor person’s equivalent. (Please don’t attempt to climb our kitchen shelves, as enticing as they may look to the amateur rock-climber, as they are cheaply made and freestanding, and sure to topple down under the weight of a full-grown adult attempting to scale them. You would be at high risk of sustaining a cook-book related injury, and let me tell you, being hit in the face by Stephanie Alexander’s Garden Companion  is sure to result in a deformity for life.)

To be totally honest with you, there was far more tea on this shelf than what is in the photo. When I stopped to admire the shelf in the first place, it looked higgedly-piggedly and rambshackle, (both things at once!) but I took about 8 boxes of tea out for this photo, mainly so that you could actually see the boxes properly and determine the wide variety of types. Similar to the way that people remove all their furniture, clothes and objects from their house when it’s open for inspection, so that the house looks open, spacious and minimal, and you wander through and picture yourself sitting on the one chair in the loungeroom, sipping a glass of champagne, but when you remark afterwards how nice it all was, your practical, sensible partner says, “There was no wardrobe in the bedroom. There was no laundry. There was no fridge in the kitchen.” Oh yeah.

So yes, I admit it, I extracted boxes of tea for this photo shoot – but my goal wasn’t to make it appear tidy and spacious. It was to enable you to see the wide variety of teas on offer. Some of the teas I removed were double ups of teas already represented there – obviously, the ones we are so attached to that we need a back up box ready. Cinnamon tea is on sale this week? Let’s buy two boxes!  

Of course, as I’m sure you can guess, some of these teas were bought on a whim. When shopping in the darkened, slightly luxurious atmosphere of a T2 store for example. Apple Crumble tea? Cinnamon tea?  I had not purchased anything else a 2 hour shopping trip in a  noisy, crowded and brightly lit shopping mall, and then walked in to the exotic-cave-like feel of the T2 store to find they had a buy-2-get-1-free offer! It felt positively restrained of me to come home from the shopping mall with only 3 boxes of strangely flavoured teas!

As for drinking them, why….well, I think I tried the Apple Crumble tea once. Liquorice legs? I believe it was a gift from my daughter to her dad. Lemon and Ginger? Well, that’s a staple, the one I drink with honey, when I have a sore throat (today, for example.) Lady Grey? Delicious accompaniment to any sweet biscuit that is good for dunking.  That floral tin you can see at the front? That’s actually got Cookies and Cream tea in it.

Woah – stop right there. Cookies and Cream tea? Surely the only evidence we need that the world, and the residents at my house, have all gone slightly hyper-crazy about tea. (Can you go slightly hyper? To be discussed another time – Ed.)

Another confession: for the purposes of this photo shoot, I discretely removed any imposters that usually hang out brazenly on the tea shelf, but are not tea! A tin of Chilli-Cocoa and a tin of decaffinated coffee were hastily whisked away – both, strangely enough, items that have proved unpopular and have sat on the shelf for a few years now, trying to fit in with the teas that come and go around them.

Finally, an observant reader may well ask, do we actually drink ordinary black tea? I’m glad you asked! In fact, there is a box of that hidden somewhere in behind the Lemon and Ginger, but I never touch the stuff. It’s mainly there for visitors, like my parents, who, when offered a cup of tea and invited, with a generous sweep of the hand, to choose whatever they like from our shelf full of exotic teas, say:

Have you got any ordinary tea?

 

 

 

Waiting for the great leap forward

On a day off from work, it is not uncommon that my sole aim for the day, from the moment I get up, is that I will write a post on my blog.

Hmm, on second thought, perhaps sole aim is not quite the right term to use there – I fear that makes it sound like I swan around on my days off, with so little else to do that I really should give the servants a raise, and take up Decoupage.

I did have other goals for the day – if you count all the boring things like phone an electrician about the fan in the bathroom, vaccuum the floors, pick up kid and grocery shopping!!! – but write a post is the creative goal that will make my day feel worthwhile – something that grocery shopping and vacuuming will not achieve, worthy pursuits though they may be.

Each time I plan to write a post on my blog, I hope that it will be a good piece of writing, that it might even be the best piece of writing I’ve posted here so far. Each time I publish I post, I am certain that I fall short of that mark, but nevertheless, I do still get satisfaction from achieving the goal of the doing, and the posting.

After such an introduction, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that today is one of those days, a day where my sole aim has been to sit down and write a post on my blog – and here I am, starting this post at 5.08pm. That doesn’t bode well for producing a high quality piece of writing to post by tonight, since, as we all know, 5pm is the point on any day off where time starts to accelerate. Evidence suggests that the acceleration effect is even more pronounced when you have to work the following day.*

On a day off, the morning is delightfully slow, particularly if you indulge yourself by sitting in the wintery morning sun, drinking an extra cup of tea and reading your book while the laundry is washing. Early afternoon eventually rolls around, and gently nudges you into recalling that you better pick up the pace and finish off those chores if you want that image of yourself sitting by the window writing in the afternoon sun to have any chance of becoming a reality.

Lo and behold, after you’ve done the grocery shopping, put groceries away, made the marinade, prepared dinner ready to be cooked, and answered a few emails, it’s 5pm. Cue that sinking feeling, because you know that time is going to speed up from here, and the next thing you know you’ll have cooked and eaten dinner, cleaned up, had a glass or 2 of of wine, and it will be 11pm and you”ll still be plugging away at that post because you’re so determined to post it today – even though you have to be up at 6.30am and really should be in bed.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s the point where I frequently end up publishing my post, whatever stage it’s at, despite misgivings that it’s not my best piece of writing ever, and in fact a fear that it’s really a very mediocre piece of writing indeed.

Still, the upside is that I do gain a sense of satisfaction from getting the writing done and posted, and thus achieving that goal.

A lot of advice to writers highlights the importance of plugging away and just doing it, and by doing so, forming a habit of writing, and that certainly fits with the contentment I feel in getting a post written and published, even when I sometimes wish I’d written something far more memorable, insightful, witty, intelligent, or (insert praiseworthy adjectives of your own preference here.)

So the good news for me, and people in a similar dilemma, is that today there is apparently an extra second in the day. Yes, on June 30 in the Northern Hemisphere, or July 1 down here where we are always slightly ahead of you all, we had a Leap-Second.* I am not sure how it escaped my attention up to this point in my life, but apparently ever since 1972, Coordinated Universal Time is adjusted by a second every now and then (approximately every 3 years) to keep time with the Earth’s rotation, which is apparently irregular.

Looks regular, but you can never tell from appearances who's regular and who's not.

Looks regular, but you can never tell from appearances who’s regular and who’s not.

Pic: Fact Monster

Now that I’ve discovered the existence of the leap second, not only am I enjoying all the extra time I have on my hands this afternoon, I’m putting it to good use by reading about the leap second. I needed a topic for my post, see, and although this may have seemed like it was a post about writing posts, that little bit of navel-gazing was just a ploy to lead into the topic of the leap second. Or is the topic of the leap second a ploy to pad out a post about writing a post? Well, dear reader, you can decide for yourself, when (or if) you reach the end. (for those who don’t reach the end, please don’t write in to ask what happened.)

Firstly, it’s impressive – when you consider all the seconds that have ticked by since the Big Bang occurred – and let me assure you, there have been quite a few of them, – that this particular second gets to be singled out with a name. Admittedly it is not a proper name, but nevertheless, a categorical name.

The extra second, captured in a photograph taken at NASA this morning.

The extra second, captured in a photograph taken at NASA this morning.

Imagine if we decided to name (even categorically) every second. For a start, we’d have to think of names that could be said in less than a second, so obviously we’d be looking for one syllable words for names – eg,  Jeb, Dan, Syd, Bip, Bam and Pow. We’d also need to think up the names in fractions of seconds, and we’d need to have our Second Naming Department staff do nothing else but think up and name seconds, 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24/7. No toilet breaks. Obviously to undertake this endeavour we’d need a large team of rotating staff and a large supply of speed.

Who even suggested that idea? Clearly naming every second would be an outright waste of taxpayers money. Let’s get back to the second in question – the leap second.

The leap second does not have the upper case status of a proper noun, but nevertheless I enjoy the many references online to the leap second as a noun that needs to be dealt with. I have decided to picture it as Coordinated Universal Time’s equivalent of a little green frog. (which would make the Leap Year a large, ugly, overgrown toad.)

It seems the humble little leap second manages to generate controversy. The Wikipedia entry on the leap second (linked above) has a section devoted to the  Proposal to Abolish Leap Seconds. What – no! Yes, Reader, I’m afraid so. It also has a section entitled Examples of problems associated with the leap second. (I note the careful wording, whereby Wikipedia avoids saying that the problems are “caused by” the leap second, in order to avoid being sued by the leap second. It’s not so cute when it’s mad.) There is also a section on Workaround for leap second issues, which may be useful if your mobile device is telling you that it’s still June 30. (or perhaps you’re just in L.A. and it IS still June 30.)

The poor old leap second. Soon we’ll be reading articles about how it’s been misunderstood and neglected, and then soon after that, articles on its impending extinction.

So there was an extra second today, and that extra second has led to this post. To wrap up, I thought it might be nice to pretend that this was always the plan: here is a list of things that happened in that extra second today*:

– a snail moved approximately 0.1 mm

– a bee beat its wings 270 times

-light travelled all the way from the moon into our range of vision here on earth

– 4 babies were born

-2 people died

-neurons in my brain transmitted a response after I read an article about leap seconds; that led to this post.

 

*

 

 

*references for the list of things that happened within that second:

Top Ten Incredible Things

Ecology Global Network

Space.com

 

Sitting at the end of the day, wasting time

Hi and welcome to my little tutorial on a topic on which I am an expert: Time Wasting.

I’m happy to explain the concept of wasting time to you, but before I begin, let me tell you a little about my credentials. I’ve studied the art of wasting time, at TAFE and university level. My highest qualification so far is a Graduate Certificate in Time Wasting, but I am considering doing a PHD in the subject. In my undergraduate studies, I majored in a specific unit called “Time Wasting Delusion Disorder”, (TWDD) which is the study of the state of mind of a particular kind of time waster, who often ends up suffering from what’s known as “Chronic Time Frustration”. We will go into that in a moment.

I feel that I’m well qualified to tutor you in this topic. Since finishing my university studies, I have diligently kept up my time wasting practice, pretty much daily. I manage to fit this around my paid work, and sometimes even fit a little bit in during my paid work, although unlike some types of time wasters, I generally keep my time wasting separate to my paid work. This means that I fit the profile of the average TWDD sufferer, who is generally a fairly conscientious person, both in work and outside of it, and actually abhors the idea of wasting time.

Why does someone who is conscientious waste time?– I hear you ask.  A very good question. Let’s take a look at the profile of the TWDD sufferer.

It seems that some poor sods are cursed with a sense that every moment they are doing something (other than sleeping), the thing that they are doing should be useful and somehow enhance their life or the lives of others. Not in a huge, life-changing way (that would be a ridiculous pressure every moment of the day) but just in a small way, which can include relaxing and socialising, as long as you are not wasting time by socialising with people you don’t actually like, or relaxing in ways that will make your brain more stupid.

For example, the sufferer of TWDD reasons that reading a novel is a more useful activity than watching an episode of Funniest Home Videos. Why? Well, because we all know that reading is a smarter activity than watching tv. It is more active, utilises your imagination, increases your vocabulary, and gives you material to write a blog post about the book, in which you can sound literary-minded and intelligent. On the whole, it is more stimulating to the synapses than watching other people’s cats fall into toilets.

Synapse

A synapse undergoing stimulation as its owner reads a hardback, First Edition copy of Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, translated into Indonesian by an Arabian candle-seller.

It’s kind of like being lumped with a Protestant Work Ethic, without being a Protestant. However, possibly unlike the stereotypical Protestant, the TWDD Sufferer finds it soul-destroying to work in mind-numbingly boring jobs, for example at banks or in retail, and are happiest if their employment feels fulfilling and meaningful. It’s even better if it’s also lucidcrously busy. That way, between all the reward of it being meaningful, and the stress of being continually busy, they are highly motivated at work not to stop and waste time.

Outside of paid employment the TWDD sufferer likes to feel everything they do has a useful purpose. This is the kind of person who doesn’t watch much TV unless the program is either informative and educational or they consider the writing to be admirably good, whether it’s comedy or drama. I’ve mentioned their thoughts on “Funniest Home Videos,” but you probably also won’t find this person watching “X-factor” or “Border Security”.  No, they will instead be reading or doing something “useful” with their time upstairs on their laptop.

The delusional disorder comes in to play at this point. There is often a great disparity between the TWDD sufferer’s vague intentions, and what, in reality, pans out. Say, for example, the poor TWDD sufferer has vague intentions that in any of her spare time, she will write. This particular TWDD sufferer believes writing, like reading, to be a useful and beneficial occupation for her brain, with all the benefits of being an activity that is enjoyable and educational, as you would know, dear reader.  If you aim to write, then imagination, vocabulary, insight, interest – all of these words and more are required.

Let’s take, just for example, a case where our TWDD sufferer has a 4 day weekend. She thinks to herself that this is heaven! It’s enough time to do

a. household chores

b.work for her second job that always needs something done at home on the weekend

c. spending time with family and friends, and

d. writing

Why, with that much time she may not only write 1, or 2 blog posts, but even start an essay or story to send out to a literary magazine, something she hasn’t made time to do for over a year! She has a vaguely held desire that eventually she will start sending out so many pieces of writing that she will have become a freelance writer, able to write all day long for payment. This plan has to begin somewhere, thus the vague hope, each weekend or holiday, to write something  worth sending off.

Skip to day 4 of the 4 day weekend.

Our TWDD sufferer has: eaten out, wandered up Chapel Street, been to 2 movies with partner and/or child, been out for drinks, done the grocery shopping, washed cat vomit off the doona cover, washed loads of dishes and laundry, pegged out said loads of laundry and brought them back in again, helped her daughter select a photo to enter into a competition and heard her read her book presentation for school, done some work for her second job, and stripped the sheets off the bed. All useful and necessary things, some of which were also very enjoyable, and others which were not. (No thanks to the cat.)

She has also: on a sudden whim, spent nearly a whole day spring cleaning her daughter’s room and then the storage space upstairs, throwing out lots of old odds and ends, and taking a huge bag of old toys to the Opportunity Shop. Read posts on Facebook and Twitter. Read other people’s blogs. Read sections of the book she is currently reading. Watched an old episode of Get Smart. Suddenly on a whim, spent time filing photos saved on her laptop. Tried a few times to start a new post and not written anything that held her interest.

Suddenly it’s 5pm on day 4 and tomorrow she’ll be back at work. Some of these things were not really so necessary, and some, although useful, could be said to have been time wasting, in view of the goal, which was to really spend some serious time writing.

Synapse

A diagram showing the level of stimulation of a synapse as its owner washes cat vomit off the doona cover.

Now, students, what happens to our TWDD sufferer when this occurs? How closely were you listening? That’s right – well done, up the back! Chronic Time Frustration kicks in, whereby she feels a huge sense of frustration that there is never enough time. She believes that she does not have enough time in her busy life to get even a blog post written, let alone the essay or story that she just knows she could write if she had time. She becomes grumpy and snaps at people, because the day is coming to an end, dinner needs to be made, and somewhere inside her there is a brilliant post that she wanted to write and hasn’t. Or an essay that she could have drafted, that might have eventually led to something being published. That might have eventually led to a change in career. That might have led to being able to write every day, and not just in contracts for clients. But she hasn’t achieved any of that because she wasted her time and didn’t write anything at all.

Of course, dear reader, the above is just a fictional example. As you can see, I am not the poor pathetic Time Waster that I used to illustrate my point, because I have managed to write a post, and it’s only…..oh crap, it’s 5.25pm and I need to make dinner. Excuse me.

Punc-tu-al-it-y.

“Hmmm….we’re cutting it a little bit fine……as usual,” I said, sheepishly, to my  12 year old daughter as I pulled out to drive to a show in the city. It was 6.45pm, and the show started at 7.30pm.

My daughter is used to me “cutting it fine” everywhere we go together, so she merely shrugged. What’s new?

We live about a 15 minute drive from the city, but allow time to find a park, (What’s that you say? Carparks? Yes, I’m aware of their existence, but I don’t believe in paying upwards of $15 just for the privilege of parking my car) and walk to the event from wherever I ended up parking……and we would be cutting it fine. There might even be running involved.

Why do I “cut it fine” every where I go? Believe it or not, this trait has sometimes been known to result in my actually running late for things. Gasp! Yes, it’s true!

I have been known to run the last leg of a few trips in my time – I’ve galloped through theatre foyers as the bell rings, run up the street to at least one job interview, and trotted hurriedly into various workplaces via the back entrance in the hope that it will look as though I’ve been there for half an hour already. (Naturally, in case my boss is reading this, my current workplace is not included in that last statistic!)

running late

Someone running late....obviously.

There are a few reasons for my propensity for cutting it fine. For one thing, when I was growing up in the country, I had two options if I wanted to hang out with my friends, who lived a 25 minute drive away in town. Either I asked my father for a lift, (at least a day in advance since he had 5 other kids to chaffeur around), or I worked around the local bus timetable, which meant that if I wanted to be at a friend’s house by 6pm on a Saturday, I’d have to catch a bus at 10am, because there was no other bus on Saturdays.

As I saw it, just one of the many reasons for moving to the city when I was 18, was for the independence, ease, and efficiency of travelling. I could go wherever I wanted to, whenever I felt like it. (Or at least, between the hours of midnight and 5am, when the public transport was running!) Ah, city life – that was the life for me!

20 years later, I still tend to plan travel as though this myth were true. If driving, I usually leave at the last possible moment, and I don’t make any allowance for the possibility of heavy traffic or the breakdowns and accidents that can bring the entire freeway system to a crawl. Luckily for me, my drive to work most mornings takes under 15 minutes, so even though I leave at about 8.50am, I’m still usually there before most of my colleagues. (To my boss, if you are reading: see?).

It’s the same with public transport.  I tend to estimate the trip as though the train/tram will depart the moment I need to catch it, a bit like the Knight Bus in Harry Potter*. Why don’t I factor in waiting time, in case I miss a train? Because that is too boring! The train trip to the city from where I live is that magic figure – 15 minutes. Allowing for waiting time would double the time I allow for travelling! Reminder: I moved to the city so I wouldn’t have to spend hours of my days travelling.

Knight bus from Harry Potter

Looks like the Cadbury bus, but much faster.

I will admit that there is also an element of impatience in my travelling style. (I hear your tones of surprise. Impatience? Surely not?)

I can’t stand waiting around – which is what happens if you are early for something. My life is so busy, that I am certain I can use every minute, to do something else! It seems a waste to leave home 3 minutes earlier, only to find myself standing at a station for 3 extra minutes, with nothing to do but check messages on my iphone.

Finally, I have an aversion to planning. Well, in my personal life, anyway. (At my current workplace I have a name for being “the most organised person they have ever met!”) Outside of work, I prefer to let my life come together organically as I wander through it, which admittedly can be annoying for certain other people. So, for example, in matters of travel, I tend to leave when I’m ready to leave, rather than check a timetable and leave when I know there will be a train in 12 minutes time. Boring.

Time won’t wait for you. It’s a lesson that I constantly tell my daughter, since time means nothing to kids. They don’t realise that if they watch tv right through to bedtime then there won’t be time for a story as well. It’s a lesson you’d think I’d have learned by now.

But despite all my lectures to my daughter, there we were, cutting it fine, again, and it was totally my fault, not hers.

Yet somehow, as so often happens, we just made it! On this particular night, in fact, I was proven wrong about time – it  did wait for us! After running about a kilometre from the car, and breaking the news to my daughter that we were going to miss the beginning, the show started late!

Time. I thought it just marched on, but apparently, sometimes, those times when it doesn’t really matter in the bigger scheme of things, it takes pity on you.

*Thought I would never make a Harry Potter reference, but there it is.

Just 3 weeks ago

Today it’s three weeks ago that my little brother was last alive.

It’s only 3 weeks.

Sometimes it seems like I’ve known this for ever, this awful, heavy fact, that my brother has died.  It’s a huge and awful shock all over again when I realise that only 3 Fridays ago, at this very time, he was probably sitting around after dinner, having a drink, perhaps watching tv or listening to music, and expecting to be alive for another 50 years or so – as you do when you are only 33.

To anyone casually reading this, who has never experienced the sudden death of a beloved sibling, you can’t imagine what an impact that thought has. If I allow myself to think about it, it causes me pain. To think that just 3 weeks ago he was happy and excitedly looking forward to taking up study, and didn’t know that when he went to bed that night he would never wake up again.

So when I say the words, “my brother died”, I am saying that he was alive, as he had always been, and then suddenly he wasn’t, and the shock of trying to come to terms with that is something I never imagined.

When someone dies, it seems that you start measuring time in a new way. For me, everything occurred either before John died, and reminds me of where he was and what he was doing then, or it has occurred since John died, and I’m saddened that time is taking me further and further away from the last moment when he was alive.

Who said that Time heals all wounds? If that is true – and I am cynical –  I think that Time doesn’t necessarily deserve a whole lot of thanks for that, because it’s Time that is to blame for the depth of the wounds in the first place. It’s Time that deepens the pain initially, by marching relentlessly on from the second that someone dies, so that even when you first hear those incomprehensible words, “John died,” and try to make sense of them, his death is already an event that occurred in the past. You are confused, trying to understand that this has already happened. And I didn’t know.

But even as you struggle to understand, Time marches on. It doesn’t compassionately stop to let you catch up. After that awful news, time becomes a blur, and your feelings are numb. At first you are not even upset, because you know that there must be some awful confusion between what has really happened and what  you understand people to be telling you. You lie awake all through the night, but next morning you hope that heavy, leaden feeling is the result of a bad dream. Apparently it’s not, though, because suddenly cards and flowers are arriving. In another moment, or so it seems, you are surrounded by people in black, watching a coffin being lowered into the ground – supposedly with your brother in it – and then before you know it, you are back at work, asking clients for technical specs, and crying when you leave the office to walk to the toilet.

And despite all of that, you are not yet able to think of your younger brother moseying towards you in that easy going way he had, cigarette in hand, cheeky grin on his face, beanie on his head, wearing his favourite brown Bonds jacket with the ripped sleeves that he wore everywhere, and reconcile that person – so alive, so real, and always there through the last 33 years of your life – with the person that everyone is saying has died.

I can’t comprehend that the John who has been a constant presence in my life, and who still exists in my mind (and heart) as strongly as ever, and the John that has supposedly died, are the same person. When, at sudden intervals, something cuts through my mind and, for a moment, I understand that fact , it is too painful to bear.

It can’t be you who died, can it, John?

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