Monthly Archives: May 2011
“I can’t stand up and I can’t sit down ‘cos a great big problem stopped me in my tracks
I can’t relax ‘cos I haven’t done a thing and I can’t do a thing ‘cos I can’t relax”
(Independence Day -The Comsat Angels)
It all sounded so good in my head when I was daydreaming at my desk, contemplating life after the office. I imagined days of relaxing in the garden with books and music. Endless hours of free time to practice the guitar. Time to catch up with the many hours of recorded TV as yet unwatched, and the growing pile of still-unopened DVDs, not to mention watching again the best of a collection which, if translated into VHS tapes, might rival the size of the Bob Monkhouse archive. Days when I would just get in the car and take off somewhere, and yes, days when I would knuckle down and tackle the exercise of thoroughly cleaning, decluttering and rationalising every room in the house.
More than a month into my unemployment and I’m starting to wonder what I was thinking. The dream of freedom has turned into a world of bewildering possibilities, each one shouting into my head at the same time until I hardly know which way to turn. That is, of course, once routine chores have already taken their chunk out of the day, and not forgetting the passages of time which fly past in an instant when sat at the computer.
I get to lunchtime and wonder exactly what I have been doing with myself since breakfast. I might have read a few pages of whichever book I am currently reading, picked up the guitar for five minutes, made cups of tea or been shopping, but it all seems like marking time. Rarely have I felt a sense of achievement, or considered myself to have made genuine inroads into my long to-do list. Each room displays vivid reminders of what I haven’t yet done. Neither do I feel in any way relaxed, or have a sense of enjoying my freedom.
Then there is the issue of job-hunting. I have no pressing need to look for another job straight away, but the knowledge that I will have to find one some day looms large in my head. Thus I have already started searching, and once that process has started it is difficult not to see it as a full-time occupation in itself.
Perhaps finding a job sooner rather than later would be for the best. It would take away from me the responsibility of having to organise every day by myself, and push my personal time back to the margins of the evenings and weekends where it lived quite happily before, knowing its limitations.
But maybe just being able to express my frustrations on paper like this will help me to understand the issues. Organising my thoughts coherently could be the first step towards organising my days. Thus, one of the things I should certainly set aside some time for each day is writing.
I’m pretty sure I have no inclination to write fiction, so this writing will probably take the form of essays on whichever subject takes my mind. Whether anybody will want to read them is another matter, but I plan to post them here anyway!
“The poplars are felled, farewell to the shade”
(The Poplar Field, William Cowper)
They weren’t poplars, in fact I didn’t know that they were called “Trees of Heaven” until the man from Tree Fella gave me an estimate on removing them. But the two Ailanthus trees that had stood guard in front of my house since before I moved in 18 years ago are now gone too.
They should never have been there in the first place. Planted by the council along with several others 20 years ago, they were the wrong type of tree to be growing so near to houses, given their potentially huge size and extensive root system. Builders must have earned a fair trade rebuilding the front porches of homes in this street over the years, mine was one of them two years ago.
The issue of my trees possibly causing damage to surrounding properties was brought to my attention by a neighbour last year, after he had been in consultation with a surveyor. What bugs me, though, is that both in 2002 and 2008 surveys were done on my property, commissioned by the insurance company after I had reported the cracks in my front porch. Neither survey made any reference to the trees, even though I made a point of asking whether they were the problem.
In 2003 a pointless “semi-rebuild” of the lower half of the porch was done, which started cracking again almost before the builders had driven away. In 2009 the porch was demolished and rebuilt on new foundations , but even the new porch has several hairline cracks appearing now.
Maybe the felling of the trees will prevent any further damage to my house. I won’t miss the hours spent in autumn sweeping up the fallen twigs and leaves, and trying to stuff them into a wheelie bin that is too small. Perhaps my energy bills will be reduced by the fact that natural light can now reach my front bedroom and living room.
I will miss the trees, however. I’ll miss the distinction they gave my property, the pleasing sight of driving into my turning and seeing the two biggest trees in the street sitting in my front garden. I’ll miss the dappled light effect they created when the evening summer sun filtered through, and the sense of seclusion they fostered when in full bloom. And of course, the shade.
It’s not the only loss I have faced recently – I took voluntary redundancy from my job of 23 years in April. Likewise I am missing the shade and seclusion from the real world that my unremarkable job provided, but maybe I now have a clearer view of all that is out there, and natural light can now shine into my existence. And just as new, less destructive trees can be planted in the garden, perhaps the seeds of a new beginning are ready to grow in my life.