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
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.