My friend Emma told me about some Scandinavian guy she met who was a kind of trendy lifestyle guru, a conflict resolution specialist I think it was (meaning, I think, conflict between people not nations) who said he worked a hundred days a year. This would be a boast. I thought about myself and worked it out. I work about 130 days a year. At a rate of, on average, about seven hours a day, that’s a about a thousand hours a year. How’s that! Probably makes me a life style guru too.
Of course, I have elsewhere in this blog noted that to me work is leisure and leisure is work, which would mean I’m working three hundred and sixty odd days minus a hundred and thirty. That’s two hundred and thirty odd. And the nurses think they have it bad!
I remember I used to go to a cafe at Worlds End in Chelsea on Saturday mornings. My friend Andrew always ordered this particular type of sandwich that only they did only for him. Each time he came in the cafe he exchanged a nod with the lady at the counter and the sandwich was made up for him with all his favourite ingredients in it. What a sandwich! he said one day. It keeps me going the whole day. There’s just one thing. They will insist in putting raisins in it and I don’t like raisins. Why don’t you tell them? I said. It wouldn’t be nice, he said. It’s almost perfect. Why create a problem?
Anyway, this routine of the sandwich continued for many months. Until one day for some reason we were called upon to exchange a few words with the lady at the counter. When you make that little sign I know exactly what you want, she said. That’s right, said Andrew, After all, it’s so rare to get a relationship work so neatly and so nicely as this one. The perfect triangulation betwwen two people and a product. Yes, said the lady, turning to her co-worker. He wants some raisins put in. It makes all the difference, doesn’t it? We nodded and smiled back. Somehow the magic had gone.
There is something emblematic in this story. We set things up just right, but something, some confusion or misapprehension, will always come and puncture your perfect system.
Mid-life crisis is a term I have never really believed in. I realized it was never a valid term for me. I didn’t have a regular-type job and a wife and kids and a car and a house in the suburbs. I didn’t ever think I was on a career path anywhere. Mid-life crises were for people with those kind of things who arrived at a certain stage and realized they weren’t going anywhere special after all.
Now I don’t believe in mid-life crises for anyone. I think it’s a made-up condition because our culture only wants young people doing certain things; driving fast cars and wearing tight jeans. If you’re old and wear tight jeans, it’s a mid-life crisis. Why can’t it just be an older, maybe fatter person in a pair of tight jeans? It is easier to pathologise those who don’t flatter the brands.
When the Jehovah’s witness people come to my door I take them in. I like to explain where they are going wrong. They have a love of exegesis. They are literary critics manques. They love to pick apart the texts of the bible. That’s wonderful, I say. Come into my home. I too have a love of exegesis. I bring them in. They are already confused. You know there are other texts other than the bible. Look at all these books on my bookshelves. It is a world of analysis. Hours of discovery in the forms and shapes of texts, their cross-references, their sub-textuality, skirmishes in textual authority. Why only the other day I was looking at the Marquis de Sade’s Justine. Thay are unfamiliar with this text. They remain guarded. They are not doing what they came here to do, which is make me believe that all these texts are true. They leave me with a leaflet. Come again soon, I say. They back away. He was crazy, they must be laughing to themselves. He reads that stuff, but he doesn’t believe any of it!