I never thought of that before

It’s been a strange few days.

My other half finished working at a local infant school on Friday. The end of nearly twelve years as “the lady in the office” – and apparently a huge figure in the childhood of hundreds of small children along the way. We’ve kind of gotten used to not being able to walk through town without somebody saying hello. She came home with armfuls of flowers, bottles of fizzy wine, and cards from staff, parents, and children.

Later in the evening she went out for a meal with the school staff, and I wandered along towards the end of the evening – not quite knowing what I might be walking into. I’m not quite sure how teachers do it, but they have a way about them – particularly infant school teachers. There’s a calmness. A kindness. It’s hard to put your finger on. They are without exception quite wonderful people, and I’m going to miss them tremendously – even though I only knew a few of them.

Promises were of course made at the end of the evening – to keep in touch – and to meet as friends rather than colleagues. It’s funny how that works. My other half did wonderfully well until the headteacher said goodnight – then suddenly the tears arrived – for both of them.

The new job starts on Monday, and no doubt dinner times over the weeks ahead will be filled with stories of new characters, new situations, and new challenges. We’re kind of looking forward to it – albeit somewhat apprehensively.

Today we’ve been pottering around the house – or at least we were until some good friend invited us to the pub for a drink. I often remark how lucky we are to have such good friends – and they now joke with me for saying it. Today in the middle of a pub garden on perhaps the last warm afternoon of the year they all sang out in unison “we love you Mr Beckett” (apparently I had told them I loved them all after the birthday party last week). I think they love how much of a colossal nerd I am, really – and that I seemed oblivious to the fact that I was at the pub with five women.

I’ve always found other people interesting. I could listen to other people’s stories all day (and all night, it often turns out – I’ve somehow become the person people talk to during struggles). I always remember standing on a railway platform with my eldest daughter in London when she was young, and pointing at the sea of people on the opposite platform…

“Look at each of those people. They all have their own hopes, dreams, and worries. They’re all perhaps looking forward to where they are going, or missing somebody, or have parents somewhere worrying about them, or children they’re looking forward to seeing”.

She looked at the sea of faces, and held my hand.

“I never thought of that before.”

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With a little help from my friends

We went out last night – to help a good friend celebrate her birthday. We met at her house, summoned a taxi, and had the best night out in quite some time. A lovely meal, a few drinks, and lots of stories, laughter and smiles along the way.

I’m SO tired today. Miraculously I didn’t have a hangover this morning.

You know the funny thing? The whole “night out” part of it was kind of superfluous. I would have been just as happy to have gone for a walk or sat on a park bench with my friends and caught up with each other. The rest – the meal, the drinks and so on – that’s all driven by convention.

All you really need is to be together with those you love.

Love is such a divisive word – but only because people make it so. I love my friend’s smiles, their laughter, their stories, and the experiences we have shared over the years. I love spending time with them, helping shoulder their stresses, and just “being there”.

I remember reading many years ago that you can tell a true friend because you can sit together without making conversation. It’s the piglet thing again, isn’t it.

It’s odd though. I’m a pretty solitary person too. I sometimes struggle to step outside the door – to get over myself. I do though, and I’m always thankful afterwards.

A Piglet Moment

There’s a moment in the book “The House at Pooh Corner” that has always stayed with me:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

The House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne

I had one of those moments last night, and messaged a friend I’ve not spoken to for quite some time. This is where those that know me will start to shake their head, and smile at the contrariness of it all. I could swear the universe was up to something.

For the last several days – in the quietest moments – it was almost like a whisper on the wind. A calling to reach out. I don’t understand it, and don’t particularly want to pick it to pieces too much. Sometimes it doesn’t do to reach behind the curtain – sometimes it’s better to just admire the magic.

Anyway. That was all really.

We all have our Piglet moments sometimes.

After getting up this morning I wandered into the kitchen and was immediately confronted with a bargain of sorts. If I went to the corner shop to buy milk, my middle daughter would make me coffee and a bacon sandwich. While walking to the shop, I smiled to myself – realising that these are the stories I should write down – the stories I should remember.

Still Here

Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated (if indeed there were any). I can’t remember the last time I let so many days go between blog posts. It’s all slightly surreal really. It’s not like I even missed writing – I just didn’t think about writing at all – which is even more odd really, given that I’ve been writing pretty consistently for the last twenty-something years.

I’ve just been busy, I guess. Busy working, busy tinkering with projects, and not chasing my tail as I have for far too long. One good friend reached out to me this past week, to see if I was ok – and I was quite taken aback to think anybody really thinks about me – or my absence.

As I said – I’m fine. I’m doing good.

I stopped running this week, after pulling a muscle in my backside. Stop laughing. I told you I wasn’t as fit any more – and pulling a muscle pretty much proved it. It started hurting while I was running the other day, and has taken the best part of a week to get better.

I haven’t reached out to distant friends in quite some time, and I feel awful about it. I need to do something about that tomorrow – climb out of my hole, dust myself down, and wave in their direction.

It’s 1am while writing this. I should probably go to bed. I’ll write again tomorrow, I promise. It’s kind of like getting on a horse, this writing business, isn’t it?

What part will you play?

It’s been a bit of a week.

Over the last few days one of my cousins started posting online about a hospital visit to check something potentially serious. It’s all been a bit cloak-and-dagger, and a bit awkward. It’s difficult sometimes to just go with what people feel comfortable sharing.

Then last night we got word that an aunt is seriously ill too.

I spoke to my other half last night, and our thoughts immediately turned to “how might we be able to help” – but really there’s not much you can do other than be there for people if they need you.

It makes you realise that life really isn’t a dress rehearsal. We get one chance at this. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do anything big to qualify having “spent your life well”, but it does perhaps mean you stop putting things off until tomorrow.

It’s strange – as I got older, my family got bigger and bigger – with new generations having children. Over the last few years it’s starting to get smaller. Nobody lives forever, and as you grow older, you become ever more aware that some depart before their time.

Shakespeare had some words on this, didn’t he:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

As John Keating might have asked in Dead Poets Society, “what part will you play?”

An Evening on the Green

We live on the corner of a green – surrounded on all sides by sprawling suburbia. Among the various families living in those houses we have made wonderful friends over the years, and now and again an invitation goes out to anybody that might be able to make it – to find a quiet spot under a tree together, and share a little of each other’s world for an hour or two.

Tonight was just such a night.

A little after dinner we began to appear from our various houses – carrying blankets, camping chairs, bottles of wine, and glasses. A warm evening with friends. The conversation flowed through all manner of subjects – everything from movies, to books, faith, food, life experiences and more.

Every time the question of faith comes up in any sort of group conversation eyes tend to turn to me. Everybody knows I’ve slowly become more comfortable opposing the status quo – speaking my mind of asked. It’s becoming a calling card of sorts – the more belief somebody has, the more entertaining the debate becomes. Don’t get me wrong – it’s never disrespectful or angry – and we always change the subject eventually – agreeing to disagree.

I think perhaps agreeing to disagree solves lots of problems. I see it often – people setting out their stall and preparing to die on the hill they construct – continuing any and all arguments that oppose the view they wish to force on others. I suppose the Celestine Prophecy might have categorised their strategy as a drama of some kind.

Before we knew it the sky had become dark, and I found myself walking across town to meet my middle daughter from work. She was shattered. On the way home we talked about the characters of the evening, and her thoughts about training to manage the bar. There are plans afoot.

While writing this the clock is ticking towards midnight. Saturday is becoming Sunday beneath my feet. I wonder what Sunday will bring?

A Hummy Sort of Day

In the book “The House at Pooh Corner”, Christopher Robin asks Winnie the Pooh what he likes best in the whole world. Pooh answers:

What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying “What about a little something?” and Me saying, “Well, I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you Piglet,” and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.

Even though I’ve been submerged in work, sitting through calls, and picking away at a new project, it’s been a hummy sort of day today. I think somehow we choose to make each day a hummy sort of day or not – and while it’s very easy to pull a cloak of dark grey clouds over a day, if we set off on the right foot it’s really up to us.

Anyway.

I have to wander into town now, and buy something for dinner. It’s just me and Miss 21 tonight – the rest of the household have jumped on a train and are headed towards a far flung football stadium to watch England play in the European Championships. While they cheer, shout, and jump up and down, our evening may involve pizza, cider, and a horror movie.

I should get a move on. I wonder if the birds will be singing ?

Running and Quizzes

After work yesterday evening I pulled on my running shoes and went for a run around town. It seemed like a good idea at the time – but I had completely forgotten that the junk room / study where I sit for most of the day is on the cold side of the house. I knew I had made a mistake minutes into the run, when the air might well have been made from treacle.

Let’s just say it’s a bit humid at the moment. And hot. While running, I started to wonder if my body might complain about what I was putting it through – and could feel my chest tightening after a few minutes. After perhaps 10 minutes running, I gave in and walked for a while.

It’s perhaps no surprise that as I started to struggle, an ambulance and a fast response car passed me. My suspicions of starring in my own version of The Truman Show are as large as ever.

Later in the evening we trooped off down to the pub to meet friends for a pub quiz. Getting to the pub in time for the quiz was something of a challenge (for all of us), but once there we managed to forget about everything for a while and just have fun.

When it got to the “scoring the rounds” part of the quiz, we became aware of a very, very serious table with two men sat at it. Every quiz has one of those tables doesn’t it. Men of a certain age, obviously single, no sense of humour, and this is probably their entire world. Think Benedict Cumberbatch in Starter for Ten.

We weren’t really there for the quiz – it was an excuse. We were there to spend time with friends. Late in the evening – after returning home – I messaged the group chat that had resulted in the night out – and remarked how lucky we are to have such good friends.

There’s an old saying, isn’t there – about being so busy you forget to live. I’m often guilty of that.

A few words

It’s been a few days since I last polluted the internet with any thoughts. I think the biggest surprise to me is that I haven’t really missed writing. I thought I would.

Life continues to be quiet.

Saying that, we have been invited out to visit neighbours for dinner this evening – a reunion of sorts of school parents – our children progressed through junior school together. It’s going to be fun.

While sitting out on the green with neighbours a few of weeks ago – an excuse we all used to use to grab a drink with each other – the conversation turned to what we had all been doing over the past year or so. Guilty admission followed guilty admission. Nobody had really done anything. Nothing has become the new normal.

I kept quiet about descending into my own Abed Nadir world of pretend aeroplanes (Community reference – we’ve been binge-watching it at home recently).

Actually – while mentioning Community – perhaps you can clear this up for me. In the middle of the LEGO Movie, Emmet names a number of cats that cross his path. The final cat has a deep voice, and is introduced as “Jeff”. I’m pretty sure it’s Joel McHale, “Jeff Winger” from Community. I wonder if anybody has ever jumped down the internet rabbit hole to find that one out?

Anyway. We need to go soon, so I should stop writing. Maybe I’ll just pause here, and write more when I get home…

(and entire evening passes)

It’s now 11am on Sunday morning. I’ve already cut the lawn.

Last night was fun. It’s easy to become stuck in an insular world of work, chores, errands and so on – before you know it, you haven’t seen friends for months or even years.

The evening whistled by. We laughed, told stories, reminisced about the past, and looked forward to the future together. Our children are all growing up. While we are of course apprehensive for them, we’re also adjusting to a new normal of our own – our lives are changing too.

We got home just before our daughters, who returned from the pub where Miss 18 had worked until closing time.

In other news, I’ve begun stripping away the results of recent tinkering – reducing the blog to it’s core at WordPress. Given my sphere of work there is always going to be a temptation to delve into the machinery of the internet, and lose sight of the reason I am here in the first place. While I might not agree with walled gardens, platforms, and “the man”, there are benefits to “just writing”, and taking advantage of platforms I don’t have to look after.

Anyway.

The remains of Sunday are stretched out ahead of me. Perhaps a cup of coffee might be a good first step.