Ten years ago, before a ‘big’ birthday, I wrote Sarah a book called ‘The car next to you.’ Oh yes I did. And a few years later she described the book on the ‘Being Sarah’ blog she used to write:
“Ronnie wrote the book in 2003, during the six months before my 40th birthday, for a present for me. As it happens it was a year in which nothing in particular happened. So Ronnie writes about sitting in the parks in Liverpool, the allotment, my energy levels dipping as my period arrives, painting and quilting, my little blue 2CV car, about stillness, observing tulips, making films, lunch in cafés, our first holiday in a camper van, our lives for six months of 2003. The book is illustrated with small photographs, some of Liverpool, some of the pots and pans in the kitchen, our coats hanging up together under the stairs. It’s just perfectly ordinary. Ordinarily perfect.
The title, ‘The car next to you’ is a joke we invented together. It’s a made up American style self-improvement book we’d been talking about writing:
‘Your fate could be riding in the car next to you.’
We know it’s a joke, but even so Ronnie writes that maybe he should put some ‘homely car tips’ in the book:
‘Bake fresh cookies and put them in your glove compartment in the morning… mmm, the gorgeous smell when you come to go home!’
‘In your brightest felt pens design your own side window sticker – there’s a free spirit riding in the car next to you!’
Or maybe not.”
Well, another ‘big’ birthday is coming up on Tuesday and I write a blog myself now. So in sarcastic admiration of those homely little tomes that squirm in the bit of the bookshop you never go into any more, you know, the likes of ‘Chicken soup for the road less travelled’ I wish Sarah a joyous birthday with this timeless piece of wisdom:
“Enjoy every sandwich.”
This came blurting out of my mouth a couple of evenings ago. And for a few minutes there I was thinking I’d made it up. But soon doubt crept in and a quick search on Sarah’s phone reminded us that it was in fact the great Warren Zevon’s final message to his chat-show public on the David Letterman show. So, part sarcastic and mainly true.
Which is the annoying thing about much of this ‘new age’ wisdom. It nearly all boils down to:
“Live in the now and enjoy the passage of time because your life could end at any moment.”
Which is a cheery way to wish someone a happy birthday but is, of course, essentially true.
And what these ‘Chicken soup’ books all do is riff around their core piece of wisdom the way I was lampooning in that ‘glove compartment’ way ten years back. So what could you do with ‘Enjoy every sandwich?’
“Life may be a sandwich but the filling is up to you.”
“If life is a sandwich why fill it with dull ingredients?”
“Fill the sandwich of your life with the taste of rainbows!”
All stupid and they’ve all got a point. The same point I was ramming home in ‘The car next to you.’ Appreciate the life you’ve made because it’s very special. Sarah Again:
“And now we still use the expression – the car next to you – as a kind of reminder of ordinary. These last nearly five years have been far from ordinary for us. And how often have I wished it could be, that I could ‘go back’ to when ordinary was normal. Because it is in fact not ‘ordinary’ at all, but very special. And our walking days are like that. The specialness of ordinary. I’ll settle for that, for now.”
And on Tuesday, lovely Sarah, we’ll have a day out and walk on a beach somewhere for your birthday. And I’ll enjoy every sandwich, in the car next to you.