I am having an actual coffee break. A real proper break with a latte and a huge piece of cake and everything. Being self-employed is a beautiful and lovely thing, mostly because of the flexible hours which mean I can ride my mare, but oddly, I do not allow myself things such as coffee breaks. On a normal day, coffee is a fuel, not a treat. The lashing voice shouts in my head: on, on, on. Quicker, quicker, quicker.
Today is a logistics day, as I must get ready to go south. I have been running errands in the village, so I went to the nice man with the Gaggia machine and that’s why I’ve got the coffee and the cake. Amazingly, the nice man and I ended up talking about the Danes and their excellent record on recycling. (Charging for plastic bags has just come in, so all the locals are discussing the ramifications.) From which we moved easily to my favourite subject – the Scandinavian social contract. I know this will make at least one Dear Reader laugh. (You know who you are and it was a top, top comment. I smiled and smiled.)
Actually, I’m not sure whether there even is such a thing as the Scandinavian social contract. I made it up in my head. It’s just that all those Nordic countries consistently score at the top of every league from maths to well-being, and they have a lot of state and a lot of taxation, so from this I extrapolated: social contract.
Anyway, the point of all this is that of course I was not going to be writing a blog, because of the running around and the logistics and stuff, and because look at me and how busy I am. (And, I must admit, there is an awful subliminal suggestion of: be impressed by my industry.) But since I decided on the real coffee break with the real coffee, I thought: why not? Why not stop for a moment and write a word or two? The sky will not fall. I get myself into these lashing frenzies, when in fact all it is is mucking out the car and making the house look reasonably respectable for the dog-sitter. There really is time.
All of which made me think: things are so often less bad than one thinks. The human capacity to catastrophise is astonishing. Of course some things are much worse than one thinks, like a refugee crisis or the fact that there still exist some highly-paid financial operatives who think it is a wizard wheeze to break the law, but what I mean are the small daily things of dread. That awful telephone call, the defrosting of the fridge, the attempts to organise the piles of paper. I was absolutely dreading today. I had twenty things to do and I hated the idea of all of them. On top of which, it was pouring with rain and the sky was the low, brown colour of lost hope.
In the end, though, it really was not that bad. The packing and the kitchen tidying and the errands took about half the time I had thought. Admittedly, I did get soaking wet, as the rain is the kind which somehow insinuates itself, no matter how many coats or hats one wears. And there was a fairly demoralising moment when I lost my wallet and had to spend half an hour retracing my steps, before finding it perched sadly on the incinerator where I had taken a load of rubbish. But even that had a bright side – at least I did find it and would be able to pay for petrol, and nobody had come and lit the incinerator and burned the thing to a crisp.
The mare is hunkered down in her good rug, braced against the weather, but not grumpy, just stoically getting on with it. Stan the Man has decided that finding sticks in the rain is actually quite good sport. (Lurchers are not water dogs, and there were moments in the early days when he would look at the weather and refuse to go out in it. He’s butched up marvellously.)
Yes, the car is full of random bits of hay and horse feed and spilt grass seed from where a bag broke open, and the house is filled with small bits of mud and leaf and also feathers from a burst cushion, but it’s not the end of the world. I even opened the cupboard of doom and decided it was not really that doomy after all. I use it as a regular stick to beat myself with, but really it’s just a place where some slightly muddling stuff goes to hide.
Things, I thought, oddly sunny despite the atmospheric conditions, really are often not as bad as I anticipate. Must tell the Dear Readers. (The mean inner critic, the one who drinks gin and has long nails the colour of ox-blood, at this point says, her hard voice dripping with sarcasm: oh, yes, because they don’t know that already.’)
So after all that, I wrote you a blog in my coffee break. It is almost certainly because I had said I was off, and so all pressure was removed. There really are mad days when I feel obliged. Must give them SOMETHING, shout the voices in my head. And then I go all blank and cussed and resent the job.
It’s actually the pictures that take the time. There is a lot of collating and editing and choosing. I want the thing to look pretty. If I have banged on about the mare, I think well, at least I can give them something diverting on which to rest their poor tired eyes. It becomes duty, and then I panic. If I am saddened by my poor excuse for prose, then the hunting down of the good pictures becomes a thing. Time shudders past, and I grow livid with myself and what should be a pleasure becomes a blot.
Today, because I was not supposed to write anything, because I did it because I felt like it, because what the hell, I let the thing spool out and then found some entirely irrelevant photographs and it was not a chore at all. None of this is my best. But I rather think that might be the whole point. I suspect you don’t come here for best. You can get that elsewhere. Perhaps a little bit muddly and a little bit unpolished and a little bit real is also of use.
Well, it’s just a theory.
Today’s pictures, from the archive: