It’s those little things that do it; tug at our emotions; turning the corners of our mouths up or down; moistening the eyes even. No I’m not talking about that fantastic last five minutes at Twickers last night, the ones that brough raucous cheering from Granny’s windows. Such is mere trivia by comparison.
I always find February to be the most depressing month, for a number of reasons, some of which are best confined to the desk. But I look through the window and see precious little. There is no colour on the ground, no life in the fields. The grass is leached and dead, the cattle indoors. But there are signs of life appearing, in fact just this morning thoughts turned to the possibility of early bike rides as the chickens were up and about before seven. The days are stretching. Soon there will be lambs cavorting, and rabbits multiplying as fodder for the cats. I can see the heads of the daffodils expanding by the day. Soon there will be colour, though it could be white again for there always remains the risk of frost and snow and there has been precious little of either of late. But I digress, and February will soon be over.
This week I had occasion to smile, unexpectedly. Yes I know some of you may be puzzled and have difficulty putting such words into an image, but bear with me, just for a moment. It was a simple thing, and I felt good afterwards.
First up was an innocent request – anyone got as certain magazine from a decade ago? Well I thought I might have and it turned out I did. It had no particular value here, but considerable merit elsewhere, so a quick phone call, an envelope and a stamp and a good deed had been done. Half an hour later a call came in.
‘I don’t suppose you also have…….?’
‘Let me check.’
Another envelope, another stamp, another smile. For a Monday, with two smiles before lunch this was quite exceptional. It was not entirely an act of charity. The request was made by the current proprietor and editor of Scottish Islands Explorer and his collection of said glossy was missing one volume. It was the first one I had bought, the first published in colour after the early days in monochrome, and I was happy to pass it up. I had a good blether with John Humphries and do indeed visit his blog regularly, as well as subscribing to the magazine, for our islands are favourite sanctuaries, though visits have become rare these days. However though John has been good enough to give me a column inch or two in the past, we have better contact now and my name may not be forgotten. I need to get a trip planned and get my notebook onto a ferry or two, for John just might be interested in what I may have to say.
But highs have a tendency to be followed by lows and another call brought the very worst of those, with news of the passing of an old friend. Often may I remark that life is far too short, with a view that every day we have should be lived to the full, for you just never know what lies ahead. This week I heard of the very untimely death of an old friend, victim of a heart attack at his home in France. But what struck me was not that I was his senior by a few short months, but that I had allowed time to pass. For too many years we had not shared a bottle of merlot, or even exchanged a card, not even an email. And now it is too late to try and build those bridges or quench the flames on the boats that had been burned.
I guess I may not be alone in leaving behind debris and detritus on the journey through life. It doesn’t have to be that way and as I sit here I think of a number of old friends, family even, where I really need to make some effort. In some cases it may well be too little and too late, but life is indeed too short and there are too many good times from which the years have slipped by as we all go in other directions. Life is indeed too short.
Meanwhile, over on the bedside table, I’ve a real gem to tell you about. But not today for the road ahead is long, indeed from where I left it this morning, in Namibia, Zanzibar is some distance ahead. At the moment I am minded of the Cevennes, for there is a donkey, and adventure. It is a book I picked up in Hay-on-Wye last summer, having looked at it in the bookshops many times since it was published five years ago, and always put it back. Quickly it was recognised as a journey well trodden and a tale well told. So it is proving to be.
Yesterday though I read an article. I had hoped to provide a link but though it is in print it is not yet in the ether. Hopelly I can rectify that within a week or so. The article was the subject of a book for which a space has been cleared on the table for some time, the arrival imminent, eagerly awaited. Richard Holloway writes with passion; the same passion he used in his preaching days, or in his broadcasts. He dispatches a vast amount of wisdom. He is 78 now, and has a tale to tell. He has put off penning his memoir for a long time, and now it is about to arrive. Once a Bishop, now a Humanist, always humane. Expectations are high. Leaving Alexandria will be out soon. The article is worth a read so check in again in a week or so. In a while I’ll give you some thoughts on the book itself.
And then unexpectedly there came another high, an email this time. It resulted in me sufferring the frustrations of the various rail booking facilities. But the tickets have arrived, an imminent trip to Old London Town, with a return on the sleeper that should get me home in time to load The Urchins onto the school bus, family life relatively uninterrupted by a day away. The train will give me time to reflect, to read and to scribble. Perhaps I may even nod off. And I’ve been careful this time to avoid those nauseous pendolino coaches of Virgin Trains, instead heading for Edinburgh and the East Coast line. The email brought another smile, yes I know, in the same week. Ego has been massaged, pummelled even. Trumpets will be blown, one day soon. I’m looking forward to a day as unexpected as it is unavoidable. Always smiling, for now anyway.