Parenting the self

They do say that the child is father to the man, or if they don’t I just have. There might just be more in this than first meets the eye…

I don’t work full time as some years ago I decided that rather than upgrading my “life” to have bigger and better examples of stuff like houses, cars, etc I would rather work less and have more free time.  I was lucky enough to be able to make this particular choice, and so now work down to a salary – if you pay me more per hour, I will work fewer hours.  I’d like to claim this came about as a result of some stunning, Damascene insight but it can, in fact, be explained by laziness.  I refused to register for VAT – if the government wants me to collect tax on its behalf, it can pay the going rate (something it seems reluctant to do) – and so this capped my maximum income for the year.  Having found this income  plenty to fund my fairly modest lifestyle I saw no reason to change when I returned to working directly for “the man”.

As a result, I should have heaps of free time and a very relaxed and restful life – but somehow this doesn’t seem to have happened.  I seem to spend my whole life racing around like a maniac trying to “get things done”.   Some loss of time can be explained by my voluntary work for a local music festival, but for all the rest the only person to blame must be yours truly.

My obsession with travelling by public transport or bike and trying to buy local or somewhat ethical goods uses up a chunk of time.  This is getting out of hand, and is probably based on self-delusion, but despite owning a pretty fuel-efficient car I still feel guilty using it – all the more since seeing a cyclist wearing shorts in blizzard conditions in Edinburgh yesterday (I couldn’t help but be impressed and now feel that I should be trying harder).

I also like to cook two square meals a day – well, if I’m honest, what I really like is consuming the results of this process with the cooking being a necessary precursor (well, until the replicator makes it from Star Trek to reality) – and that takes a little longer than the “prick lid and microwave for 2 mins” school of dining.  The cycling (and gym visiting) means that I can eat these two cooked meals and the myriad other “snacks” that feature in a typical day without worrying about my figure (well, other than the risk of wasting away) but probably means that all the money I save on petrol, I eat (but surely that’s a lot more fun!).

Like many in today’s world, the internet and its various offspring waste quite a lot of my time – you’d be amazed how long these posts take to write: trust me the correlation between time employed and quality is very weak.  However, this is mostly the analogue of water one can still add to a vessel already “full” of sand.

No, I think the biggest consumer of my free time is my attempt to keep the Arts in this country going, single-hand if I must.  I’ve written about my addiction to theatre, but there are also the visual arts, music and comedy – even before we think about reading which provides one of the many reasons to use public transport: the Law takes rather a dim view of reading a book while sipping from a glass of red wine when driving (it’s health and safety gone mad!).

Last Monday, to help me copy with the loss of Being Human from our screens, I had a day off and took myself to London (obviously waiting for off-peak fares and my Network Card to kick in first – I’m not made of money).  This day illustrates rather nicely my slightly dysfunctional relationship with leisure.

Having arrived in town, I grabbed a quick bite of lunch and a particularly fine  hot chocolate (it may have lacked the marshmallows and whipped cream of some, but few could touch it for taste or beauty of presentation) at the Workshop Coffee Company in Wigmore Lane.  It was then only a short stroll to the Wigmore Hall for a couple of lunchtime string quartet courtesy of the Arcanto Quartet.

After that, a quick Jubilee line dash took me to the Hayward Gallery for the Light Show exhibition.  This is absolutely stunning – it brought out both my inner child (never far away) and my inner super-hero (rather more elusive) and I’d rather like several of the exhibits (albeit a little scaled down) for my home – it certainly makes you think about how drab and mundane most of our lighting is. It was the only exhibition which I have seen small children enjoying (some of them very small) and I would thoroughly recommend it to parents (though it wasn’t cheap – and I only had to pay half-price).

Cunning use of the tube delivered me (with a minimum of troglodyte meandering) to 10 Greek Street for dinner and tips on where my roasted celeriac patties had gone wrong.  They tasted fine, but lacked structural integrity as I’d missed out the need to double-crumb them.  I am turning into the Norm Peterson of 10GS – and am trying to view that as a good thing.

A quick tube dash then took me back to the South Bank and to the National theatre to see This House.  The play has received glowing reviews, but I wasn’t entirely sure if it would be my cup of tea – I find journalists are generally more interested in the world of politics (or celebrity, depending on the paper) than am I.  It is set in the Whips’ Offices during the Labour government of 1974-9 – and I am not hugely fascinated by politics and was a small boy during the period in question (though I do remember they had the audacity to hold a general election on my birthday which, in those dark days, meant no children’s television).  I needn’t have worried, like all good writing, whilst politics provided the context, the play was about people and their thoughts, actions and interactions.  It was fascinating, entertaining and unexpectedly moving – and three hours is soon gone (though that may just be my age talking).

I finally made it home at 01:15 having left at 10:00 the previous morning and filled almost every point in between with incident and moment.  No wonder I am generally exhausted – if this is how I spend my day off, a day in the office can only be restful by comparison.  I am forcibly reminded of the time, some 10 years ago, that I was given responsibility for a friend’s 10 year old son for the day in London (** spoiler alert **  no-one died).  Having no parenting experience or skills, I planned an incredibly full day – which nearly culminated in me buying the lad a long island iced tea to accompany his dinner (I did mention I lacked experience, such a purchase was fine for my normal dinner companions).  The following day I was totally exhausted – but so, I discovered, was he.  As a result I learned an important lesson in parenting – it is good for both parties if a parent (or supply parent, in my case) allows their children some time to be bored.  I think it may be time I applied this important lesson to self-parenting!

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