Through reading glasses

Long ago, it seems now, I was entranced by a Paul Simon song called ‘Proof.’ It’s 1990 and I listen to his ‘Rhythm of the Saints’ album over and over again on my brand new first CD player, particularly to hear this song about ageing:

“It’s true, the tools of love wear down
Time passes
A mind wanders
It seems mindless, but it does
Sometimes I see your face
As if through reading glasses
And your smile, it seems softer than it was”

I’m in the middle of being thirty something at the time so this song, curiously beguiling as it is, feels like a message from a distant country which I can’t yet imagine visiting.

Nowadays I see everything I read and write through reading glasses.My previous blog post on here was a reflection on living as if I have a year left to go. Hoping I have many more but, at 63, knowing it would be a misguided conceit to carry on calling myself middle aged. In that post I wrote that all posts from now on would have to pass the test of ‘Would I bother writing this if I thought I had  year to live?’ Since then I’ve wondered ‘Well what exactly am I going to write about?’

I know there’s going to be a lot more Liverpool than there’s been on here lately. Not because it’s necessarily any more special than where you live but because it’s my home,  where I’ve chosen to live the whole of my life. There’ll also be more about people I know or meet who are doing good things that I want more people to know about, because I like helping out people I judge to be making their corner of the world into a kinder place.

Beyond these, well what?

There will be continuing reflections on what might seem like ordinary days, except there are no ordinary days. There will also be reflections on my life. What I think, how I’m doing and what I’m doing. Reasoning that if you’re interested in the other things I’ll be writing about then maybe you’d occasionally like to hear directly from the writer about his own life. Like on that long ago day when Paul Simon sang his song about looking at someone through reading glasses.

My particular someone isn’t here. I dropped her off at Lime Street early this morning and by now Sarah will be on a train, somewhere between Liverpool and Glasgow, on her way up to the Knoydart Peninsula in the west of Scotland for a week of wilderness walking. No sea kayaking will be involved this time. Instead, this is a continuation of the sort of independent late Summer and Autumn solo adventures Sarah has liked going on during most of the years we’ve known each other. Why it happens at this time of so many years only Sarah knows? But it does and I rejoice in the fact that she just gets on and does it.

At which point in this writing the rainy morning here in Liverpool turns briefly sunny, so I go out and, of course, get wet.

I also go for something to eat in Naked Lunch. A co-operatively run café on the Ullet Road/Smithdown crossroads that I recommend. Even while busy, which it often is, it’s a friendly, unhurried and civilised place where you can sit on and read in perfect peace. The current novel of many I’ve been reading over these last few weeks being ‘Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant’ by Anne Tyler.

Which brings me to ‘these last few weeks’ when I’ve been taking an extended break from working. The longest break, as it’s turned out, in my life. An annual health check with worrying results that has brought me to a physical and mental pause, while I do what I can to get well and also think about how I want to live from now on.

“Stress” friends have called it when I’ve talked it through with them. Depression and worry have also been a part of it, keeping me awake through most of some nights early in the break. Certainly it’s been the kind of mixture of physical and mental symptoms that can be hard to describe and can’t be fixed by only focussing on the physical. Which is why I’ve been thinking about how I want to live from now on, and why I’m writing this. Writing and walking are the best ways I know of thinking clearly, so I’ve done a lot of them both over these last few weeks, though coming to few conclusions beyond the things I’ve written in these last two blog posts about valuing my time as if I have less of it left to live than I already have lived, a clear and obvious truth.

So I know more clearly than I ever have that I want this time to be for the people and the things that I love. I also know that the things we love doing change over time. So I’m taking this time to get to the truth. The truth of now, the truth for me. The story of how I’d like to live as I get older. What get’s picked up, what gets left behind? The story I’m writing now.

A story I’ve written just about enough of for today. Except to observe that this is one of those quietly ordinary days I mentioned earlier. Sunshine and rain, walking round my place, going out for lunch, reading in peace, then writing for a while. Later there will be more reading, perhaps an evening walk and certainly some music before I sleep.

Then tomorrow I might get up, put the camera in my bag and follow my feet round Liverpool to see how it’s doing. If you see me say hello.

Later on, a good day ends peacefully.

Meanwhile, thanks for the song and the inspiration Mr Simon:

See all of the ‘A year to live’ posts here. From now on everything will be influenced by this thought.

16 thoughts on “Through reading glasses

  1. Maggie Wallace

    Very sorry to hear you have health worries. This past year I’ve had some too, on top of my battle over moving from indefinite DLA to PIP. It can be horribly draining and exhausting. No words of wisdom over coping, other than just keep on going, put one foot in front of the other and keep on. Prob a bit of a silly metaphor (?) as I can barely walk 10 metres at a time now! But I’m sure you know what I mean. Very best wishes from Aigburth, Maggie.

    Reply
  2. robertday154

    I know where you’re coming from. I celebrated (as it were) my 60th birthday earlier this year in part recovering from some examinations of Mr.Prostate (as I have named him). This is indeed a time for reflection on where we go from here. In my case, I’m still working, having actually started a new job last November. So I’ve had a bit of a conversation with my employers about the way forward, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve spent some time talking about my future training needs – nice to find an employer so open minded!

    But when you read obituaries and pay especial attention to people’s ages, it does rather pull you up a bit. And yes, you do begin to consider what’s really important to you. Certainly, I’ve done quite a bit of that.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks, as ever, for your thoughts Robert. Glad to hear about your encouraging employer. Also that these conversations are being had within the context of considering what’s really important to you now. I’ll continue to work too after this break, though self-employed in my case.

      Reply
  3. Pauline Yau

    Thanks again for all what you have shared. Most enjoyable to see through your eyes places I remembered and some never known about.

    Really interesting, and what’s lovely and very moving is you have shared all this for us all whilst you are poorly. I think you are amazing and again I thank you. Best wishes from a 73 year old who can’t get out as much as wished but so enjoyed all you have shared.

    Reply
  4. Lesley Johnson

    I do enjoy reading your blog. Your love and pride of Liverpool shines through. I was at university there 1972-75, stayed until 1977 and still return several times a year to “check” that’s all’s well, as you say on your walks. Do hope that the walking and writing helps, – “this too will pass”. I love Anne Tyler’s work and would recommend Saint Maybe.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks Lesley, and for the good wishes. Saint Maybe’s on my shelf here to read next. Currently enjoying Stella Duffy’s ‘London Lies Beneath.’ The company of good reading has been a deep pleasure too these last few weeks.

      Reply
  5. Nicholas McGinn

    I am a great fan of the writings and wisdom of the flawed Christian. apologist, Malcolm Muggeridge:- “The only ultimate disaster that can befall us, I have come to realise, is to feel ourselves to be at home here on earth.”
    Chapter 1, Jesus Rediscovered (1969)

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks Nick, I realise your faith is of great value to you but I don’t share it and feel perfectly at home here on earth without considering that to be any kind of disaster.

      Reply
  6. memoirsofahusk

    I hope all will be well for you and your health, Ronnie. I hope your walks continue to give you insights, inspiration and even peace. Walking is such a good medicine – and tonic. With the world the way it is I can’t understand anyone who is not a little disturbed – but we also need to hope.
    One solo evening I sat looking out of the window into trees and suddenly understood the reality of a dead end (literally) to my existence. I began tracing connections through the natural world into all of life – mine, yes, but especially that of trees! Have you read Lab Girl by Hope Jahren? An odd book, the stuff about trees is amazing. And I loved that particular Ann Tyler you mention.
    You once offered a downcast me a shared walk – if I can offer even a recommendation of a walk in return, let me know, I have one in mind. Not in Liverpool, though. And not that many trees – but lots of birds and sky and tranquility. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thank you, things are starting to feel pretty good now after much reflection, writing, walking, music and talking to some friends. More is needed and maybe it could be time for the shared walk? DM me if you fancy it?

      Reply

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