the long way round

It was too early to go to where I wanted to go so (untypically) I switched on the television where in a terrific clip from a film about the wildlife of the Andes, I saw

spectacled bears.  According to the voiceover they are the only bears in the northern Andes, not true bears and I have never seen them before.

Then the phone rang.   My son.  Always a bonus.

And eventually I left the house and in walking up the Kings Road , I met a man my own age going in the opposite direction.  Probably Middle Eastern, maybe Sephardi, balding, bespectacled and eating (I caught a whiff of it) the savoury version of an iced bun.

  “You’re really enjoying that “ I said smiling.  “Have a bit “he said.  So I did.  “ More ?”  I shook my head, we beamed at each other for a few seconds and parted.  I can’t remember the last time I had that sort of exchange.   

The thing I missed most in the pandemic – forget nightclubs and pints and pings – was spontaneity.  I am more than willing to co operate in any way I can but there is an emotional impact about planning everything which leads to an emotional cost and you can’t really avoid it.  Which is what I see a lot of behaviour as trying to do  -“just do this” or “do it this way” and you’ll feel better.  And what happens if you don’t ?  

On Sunday morning Matt Rudd in his column in the Sunday Times magazine advised that if you want to feel better, you should ignore everything to do with wellness, delete all your wellness apps -I quote. I bet I am not alone in feeling that yesterday’s slimming industry is today’s world of wellness.

A lot of people will make a lot of money out of it without getting to grips with the basics.  Somebody wrote that the most effective diet was a slow rhythmic movement of the head from left to right.  Too much of wellness – itself a baseborn term – is based on exploiting the need to belong to a select group and that money makes magic.  Speaking as one who is open to all sorts of mind and body connections, it is the marketing of those possibilities, without understanding what they are really about, that bothers me most. 

My happiest moment of contemplation last week was watching a robin ablute in the shallow terracotta bowl

I keep filled with water for the purpose.  Ten minutes of avian self absorption while I watched and thought of nothing but what I could see.  No guru endorsement, no reinvention of self and positively no jade inserts.

Last week was all change in our street.  After several reinfections, and thus rolling periods of isolation, Suse finally tested clear for Covid and went home to New Zealand, leaving me a handpainted card and a magnificent samurai-esque wrap for the winter.  Annie had already left to meet her family in Milan for a deserved holiday with them in Croatia (she’s just done her Master’s).  The pleasant presence of the people opposite is no more – they have removed themselves and their two young daughters to the country and the new people are not yet incoming.

I met a young woman and her mother unloading a car, she has just moved round the corner from the main street (“too noisy”) and bought five doors down. Whether “for sale” or “to let”, there is movement: we shall see.   I overheard one of the estate agents explaining that people who had fled to the country were now returning to London.   Hope springs eternal …  though I always think hope is very expensive.

The heat knocked me sideways, though now I am beginning to think about who will take my books, about cleaning the shelves, about where I have put this or that – movement which seemed impossible under the pot lid of last week.  

I met one of my shopping acquaintance who had the most lovely line for her crumbling spine – “Oh well “ she said “I always knew I should outlive my skeleton.”  I’m not alone in feeling that the structure of our lives has changed and there is only one way – forward.  

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