This morning I stole up on the day. Usually I look at the clock but this morning, after the first peaceful sleep for two weeks in spite of the mouse (who is here for a lap of honour), I ignored it. Habits of work and family die hard. So you find yourself checking in with the clock – you wish you didn’t but you do – and it signifies something, if only “I shall be late going down the road …” Nobody else notices of course but you do.
This morning, I did not look at the clock. I was busy looking for the socks I had mislaid, which led to frantically ruffling through the mental day diary in an attempt to retrace my steps and wondering if this is the beginning of falling apart. Not so. I found the socks in what we used to call “a safe place”, tidied away (!) against the arrival of a visitor. Visitors bring out my latent sense of black marks. I worry that I am to be found wanting, must try harder. And I am not alone in this.
When I visit my painter friend – she who spent her girlhood being sneered at in punitive boarding schools for one reason or another, including her unwillingness to conform and her weight – even she will mutter supplicatingly “Sorry it’s such a mess !” though it always is, as well as clean and kind and interesting and hers. Why change now ? She won’t , she can’t – but there is still a residual whisper in the back of her mind which indicates she ought to want to…
And Nola Dogwalker (not her real name) readies herself for her mother’s visits by “throwing the vacuum round” (lovely vision) though she was appalled when I said I had strained something in my back. “How did you do that ?” she demanded. “Oh I moved something” I said, “you know, the bed and it was at the wrong angle …” “You moved the bed ? “ she said incredulously. I explained, to clean under it and why was she, queen of the thrown hoover, sounding so taken aback ? “Now listen” she said “I put the hoover round, round (she emphasised) – I don’t move the bed … !” I explained that I had lost an earring, and when I saw the dust, I was embarrassed and cleaned it up.
“Who is going to see under your bed ?” she demanded. “I am” I said “and it was horrid.”
But gone, gone are the days when I did everything full tilt and honestly most of the time, I don’t miss them. I have learned that I can still do most things, albeit somewhat slower. Number One Son put it unarguably when he said there was no point in my manhandling my way through chores which then disturbed my ageing frame so I had to have recourse to the physio and the painkiller. Better to do it slower and enjoy it more. From time to time I even knowingly walk slower.
As you get older, you are of course supposed to take time to smell the roses or the coffee or whatever it is, which isn’t just about slowing down but living in the time you are in instead of ripping through it in psychic blinkers. However that kind of leisure is usually as recompense for something less mundane than domestic tasks. Though if asked, I would say that I don’t want a rest from reading and writing and programme making as much as I want it from scrubbing and laundry and ironing. And I could even make the best of those if I had to do them, so did them as quickly and efficiently as I could, speed being of the essence in putting up with them – though I can’t bear the ironing fast or slow. I am no good at it.
So this morning I mooched through golden light down the street for green pears and the Sunday paper. I read and thought and drank coffee, considering whether I might try and write something about the day that I had crept up on , as if it were a big cat and I were a hunter – which I began and the ink in the computer began to pale. And with a modern gadget, there are endless announcements which again make me fear for housepoints. It’s just as well I don’t drive. The peremptory voice of the car telling me to buckle my belt would threaten my stability.
So having bought the cartridge and fitted it, I’d like a silver star or a mention in despatches please. The day is still out there, though the light is fading now and I still haven’t looked at the clock. I don’t think I caught the day, I think it caught me in a comfortable net of happy do nothing.