The thing about having nothing to do is that you’re constantly forced to confront those whose lives are full. Turn on the radio, and by very dint of their broadcasting, the person you’re listening to is making a relatively fulfilling living. And when they interview others or digress to talk about their own outside interests, well then you are forced to face the real price of your idleness. This is not so much the failure to learn to sail, paint, ski, ride a horse, play an instrument and master a language, for all that is done and behind them; I speak of the essential nourishment of life, of which you are not just bereft, but where your water source has dried and rusted, leaving you to survive on whatever happens to fall from the sky.
I learn from podcasts, YouTube, the news – whatever, that Paul McCartney goes horse riding when he’s not in the studio; the man who is to be the new BBC chairman, whilst – get that whilst, making himself a billionaire at Goldman Sachs, was chairman of the Royal Academy of Arts; even little Hugh Grant plays golf all the time, and when he watches the England match, in whatever form it comes, he does so with the same group of mates with whom he first started watching it in 1982. ‘They’re all judges, and heads of banks nowadays,’ he throws in, just to remind us that we are not. We have no jobs to go with our unstructured leisure.
I don’t possess a single friend, let alone held on to a successful group of achievers since the memory of man runneth no further. Oh yeah, that’s right, but I do have that – since my father persuaded (/forced) me to take a law degree because I didn’t make my mind up about what I wanted to study fast enough for him, I have, besides having derived no benefit from it whatsoever (based on a lack of interest and aptitude for the subject), managed to retain as my legacy from it, a dozen or so pathetic English aphorisms that would sound incongruous on the lips of a prick like Boris Johnson, let alone my own. Oh yes, la vie manqué went on a frolic of its own, all right.
Everyone else, like Hugh Grant’s friends, got jobs because they’d studied something useful, became good at it by doing it all the time, and eventually, without loads of striving, found that it turned into something. A career; a life – with income, and holidays; and friends; and leisure which eventually becomes as important as the job itself. Meanwhile I sit in my father’s shed, watching them on my phone, hoping that something might happen.
It is wrong to look back, as Admiral Michael Caine is always telling us, but the busier amongst us are better at it than the rest, and I cannot help but find myself thinking that had I embarked on the course which I have eventually come to set for myself when I was younger, that now my belonging would go unquestioned; I’d be established, known, and living a life on a constant loop of recommissions. Instead of this – where the only constancy is the waiting, and wondering, if, when that first gig arrives whether it will create traction from which a glacial momentum can be eked.
I am due to see Dog’s Bowl Beer soon, and I have prepared them already to expect a rejuvenated facade when they see me. And it will happen, I have found that sort of resolve at least – I’ll give myself that.
But all these other mutinies from able seaman Caine’s mantra remain for you and I to resolve, dear diary. Sleep tight, I know that you at least, are my friend.
Thank you to Rebekka Urban for the watering can image.