I’ve skipped past 50. I’m told that time travels quicker now. Well that’s cobblers for a start. I would suggest time is a constant (although some smart arse physicist/mathematician will say otherwise); and that it is our perception of time as we hurtle towards the grave. Time is something that the young feel they have an unending supply of. Maybe this is why my daughter never gets up in time for school. What we fill our time with determines the speed at which it travels maybe.
My friends on Facebook all seem successful, happy folk with established careers. I’m a struggling writer with a lot of lovely children. They are the sum of my achievement presently and mighty proud I am of them.
My books sell in small numbers but they do sell. At present they won’t buy me that Hebridean Island or the yacht to get me there or even the train fare to Scotland, or even the bus fare to the railway station to get the train.
Don’t confuse my present state with disappointment though. It is what it is. There are many aspects that I am blissfully contented with but that’s none of your business.
The impending general election has got me thinking of what I have learned in my 50 years on this ball of rock spinning wildly in a large empty dark thing. Some profound lessons that will help others struggling with direction and identity (or is that just me). Why the general election? I guess it is because there are lots of people promising to make things better for us all. We have been here before and it has not always worked out like they promise. So I thought to myself, what have I learned in the last 50 years without the help of a new government to enable.
1. Money isn’t everything but…..
It is however the conduit to enable you to do all the sort of things you could do without it. I discovered there is somewhere called the Mediterranean. It’s largely quite hot and has very blue sea and I really like it. To get there either involves a very long impractical drive or a plane. Both cost money. I actually really love the few bits I have been to. I am in fact currently investigating the possibilities of becoming an aeroplane stowaway or an airline pilot whichever is more practical.
Now money isn’t everything. Money has to be earned. I do earn but just not enough to go to that hot place with the very blue sea. You honest hard-working readers out there have earned your place and financial rewards. I have worked hard over the years and continue to do so but in a different way now and one that is financially more precarious.
Money gives you choice. Money is not however worth sitting on. I have seen older people save and deprive themselves all their lives to leave their family an inheritance. This is very sad. My family will not inherit riches galore. I won’t have a memorial bench with an inscription describing how ‘he loved this place’. In truth I have helped put enough of these in around the moors of Bradford to know how much they cost and how many there already are! I also love all sorts of places so how would they know which place I love in particular?
2. Home is not a place
Some people move house regularly through their lives. Some stay in the same house their whole lives. The latter is very rare nowadays. I’ve moved about a bit. Houses become an extension of your personality, your relationships and your family. Houses are however not home. They are the vessel in which home is created. Home is your relationship, your family, your bolthole and the place you put your personality into. It has been my refuge and my prison. It has been central to my happiest and saddest moments. I have escaped to it and from it.
I now have another home. I have discovered that you want to make it your home because the component parts make you ‘feel at home’. Home is wherever you build a life. It is not just bricks, stone and wood (other stuff too like pipes, wires and dust). This discovery has taken me an awful long time and I guess you lot already know this.
3. Always make sure your feet smell nice.
Keep your feet clean and dry. Never wear socks in summer. They enjoy the air, sunshine, sea water, the feel of grass tickling them. They thank you for freeing them. Smelly feet introduce you to people before you enter a room (never a good thing). Wear the best shoes you can afford because they won’t make your feet smell (if you keep them clean and dry of course). Talcum powder works a treat after a bath or shower.
4. Being happy is easy when you know how!
Happiness is a tricky one. It can be transient, fleeting, momentary. It can be rewarding, elusive and out of reach. It can seem so far away that it is for others and never you. You grab at any opportunity to have a small dose of happiness. Small doses do not cure the sad. They give you glimpses of how it could be if only…
When you spend a decade of being depressed in large chunks, you think that happiness is for other people and that those brief glimpses are the most you will ever get.
True happiness is an altogether different thing. You meet it by accident (or is it design/destiny/fate) and it opens you up to a completely new experience. A much deeper more satisfying experience. It is like a tool to open doors and make the impossible possible. When you are exposed to it, being then apart from the source of your happiness is very hard. You know that with true happiness anything can be achieved or faced or overcome.
5. There is no such thing as bad music.
Don’t expect me to like everything you like. That will never happen. I have immaculate taste in music but guess what, so do you!
That’s the secret. You may be a Donny Osmond fan, a Daniel O Donnell groupie. You may adore all electronic music. You may worship The Fall, Hank Williams or Bing Crosby. Personal preference allows us to all have immaculate musical taste. The really big thing I have learned in my 50 years is that to not dismiss any music. I refused to listen to so much which I now enjoy. I was a blinkered opinionated teenager who thought he knew it all. I wouldn’t listen to some fabulous, exciting music because it didn’t fit my narrow parameters. I have grown older and hopefully musically wiser. I do thank BBC 6 Music for that. They will play pretty much anything which is so refreshing.
So if I don’t listen to your musical icons, don’t be offended. I am glad they bring you joy and I know they are the best music in your world.
6. There is such a thing as society.
An iron lady once said the opposite of this. This just shows how detached from humanity she was. What an utterly stupid assertion. To think a country can operate on the basis of 60 million individuals who do not rely on each other to exist is ridiculous and frankly terrifying.
Ok there are those who care little for others and judge their lives based on what they can get for themselves. Greedy, selfish maybe but often unaware of an alternative form of living.
I truly believe we can only exist if we help each other. It can be as simple as letting someone out at a junction. Saying thank you when you move out their way in a supermarket. Stopping to help someone who is alone and in difficulty. This should not be because it may be you one day but because it’s the right thing to do. Simple as that. By helping each other rather than thinking about self-advancement, the whole society moves forward.
7. Make your own bread
It is easy, rewarding, tastes much better and better value. Cheap bread makes you feel awful because of the rubbish in it. If you want to go one stage further, make your own sourdough. It is the best bread and certainly toast in the world. You never feel bloated after eating sourdough. Have I persuaded you yet?
8. Find time for quiet
Now this is a struggle for me.
I live in a house with five other humans and two dogs. Finding anywhere or any time for quiet is near impossible. Call it meditation maybe. It is the chance to empty your head of all that fills it up. We fill our minds with worry, plans, anger, to do lists, worries about to do lists. Try to put twenty minutes to one side to think of nothing. Absolutely nothing. No waves or whale noises. No ethereal Brian Eno or rainforests. Just pure unadulterated silence and peace. No mobile phones, tablets, laptops.
When I learn to achieve this, I will let you know how good it feels.
So there you go. I didn’t even reach nine let alone ten. There are probably many more lessons I should have learned but for the moment these will have to do. None is more important than the other. Tell you what, why don’t you find out what you’ve learned and then tell me!