Originally published 16th January 2016.
I'm giving this post a page of it's own to remind me not to forget . . .
I have been pondering death. I am not being morbid, I am not depressed and nothing awful has happened, but together with birth and taxation it makes an unavoidable triumvirate which seems to remain the one final taboo. These days people appear to be more comfortable talking about defecation than death but neither can be avoided.
I am 55 and Management recently celebrated his mumble-zero birthday. Neither of us is as fit and robustly healthy as we used to be and all around we see family, friends and acquaintances falling ill or passing away. Whilst I would like to think/pretend that I am super-human and immortal, I am not. The uncomfortable truth is that I now have fewer years ahead of me than lie behind. Another uncomfortable truth is that none of us know how much longer we have as fit, active and healthy individuals. My friend Ali died in December 2012, well before her 50th birthday. In January 2014 we said goodbye to our friend Bert who went from "poorly" to "goodbye" in less than four months. There are many others, some much closer to home.
(sunrise has nothing to do with the preceding or following paragraphs, I just like the picture)
Last year I had a horrible attack of gastritis. Over a Bank Holiday weekend when there was no chance of a doctor's appointment I do not recommend asking Dr Google about "severe pain in upper back after eating". In the dark sleepless hours when common-sense goes right out of the window and we all think the things we don't usually admit to, I asked myself "OK, if this is something really nasty, what do I want to do whilst I still can".
The answers came relatively easily and simply. Here they are, my dreams laid bare.
1. Stop procrastinating and climb all the Lake District fells and visit all the tarns
Granted, the horrendous flooding and damage last year could make access a mite tricky in places, but I have a long list to work through and the ground might have dried up by the time I get to some of the areas which are currently saturated.
2. Use my wonderful fabric stash - stop saving material "for best" or for "that perfect project in the future"
It has taken a long while (decades ....) to realise why I have been saving much loved fabric and not daring to use it. As a child I was in deep doo-doo's if I messed stuff up or wasted anything. It takes a very, very long time to grow out of the dread of impending wrath and doom which might ensue if I screw up.
3. Take the caravan to the all the places in England I want to visit but never have
A year ago I owned up to this:
" ...occasionally I would love to run away, just with Daisy, for a couple of days of completely selfish peace and quiet. The campervan was meant to facilitate that need and then later enable trips to Scotland, and also to provide 'bring your own' dog-friendly accommodation so I could go and stay with friends ..."
The interminable rain of October, November and December would have slowed down even the most dedicated caravanner, but it is sad that I've only had the van away once since buying her.
Continuing to give Daisy the very best life we possibly can goes without saying and the garden we have created here is a constant source of joy and will continue to develop, I cannot imagine not growing and nurturing plants, but but do you notice a few omissions? There is no mention of the ironing basket or sparkling bathrooms? Vacuuming the carpet or clearing my desk don't get a look in either.
(photo thanks to Jill)
This is not about having a "Bucket List", or as I read recently a f*ck-it list which is crude but mildly amusing, this is about a change in attitude. I have spent my whole life governed by the work ethic of 'not being allowed to play until all the jobs are done'. Now it is time to kick back a little (. . . or a lot). It is time to ease up, smell the roses, relax. There is no chance of me turning into a stationery couch potato but I am definitely ready to take the edge off a little.
Management plans to retire in the next couple of years and thankfully, shares my feelings about doing things now, whilst we are able. Having talked about this recently he now has given himself 'permission' to pop down to his workshop far more frequently, even if it is only just for an hour or so after work, to make progress on the motorbikes he is building. He's already feeling the benefit.
* * * * *
I've been preparing this post for a few days, and was close to publishing on Monday when M. came into the study to tell me the morning's news - David Bowie had died.
His music was the soundtrack to my teens, his ever-evolving persona an enigma that none of us could quite get our heads around, let alone solve. The passing of famous folk seldom causes much of a ripple in my little world, but this . . . well this just confirms I am right in my thinking.
Reading some of the many euologies I came across an interview from 2007 during which Bowie supposedly said "as you get older you become the person you always should have been", and in 2002 he told the BBC "age doesn't bother me, it's the lack of years left that weighs far heavier".
Damn it, is there no end to the man's genius?