I think I mentioned it was my birthday a week or so ago. Yes, I know I did and the reason I raise it again is because it’s related to this blog in the sense that it’s vaguely about presents. I’m hard to buy for (although nowhere near as Mrs Summerhouse), let’s face it at my age if there’s something I want I’m going to go out and buy it, not wait for a year, delayed gratification is fine but not when it comes to presents. One of the two people asking me what I wanted for a birthday present, was number one daughter. I told her books were always a safe bet but then she wanted to know which books. Again, assuming that any of my favourite books – Wisden, crime, cabins, railways, etc, – I would already have bought for myself, I needed to think outside the box. Sooo, I read the weekend papers, the review sections of which were full of what experts – i.e. people who read a lot of books other than the old favourites above, were recommending. I came up with a short list of 5 books, from which she chose two. These were books I wouldn’t ordinarily buy myself. That was the idea. One chapter into the first one I knew why I wouldn’t have chosen it. Weird book which I gave up on quite quickly. It sits by the bedside whether I’ll try again, hard to say, probably not. The second one was worth a read though. It was titled Second Hand Time (see above). It is ‘a brilliant, poignant and unique portrayal of post-Soviet society out of the stories of ordinary women and men’. It was recommended by several reviewers so I thought why not, try something different. I hope you’re impressed.
I’m enjoying it. What I hadn’t expected to find in this book was an idea about retirement. Admittedly the idea is my own and isn’t actually in the book. What started me thinking, never a good idea, was when, in the book, it said after the ‘fall’ of communism, ‘freedom had materialised out of thin air: everyone was intoxicated by it, but no one had really been prepared. Where was this freedom?’ Elsewhere the author Svetlana Alexievich writes that people were irritated by freedom, they didn’t know what it was or what ‘to do’ with it. Yes, some people prospered financially, if not spiritually, but many people floundered. They liked the old communist order (even to the point of resurrecting Stalin, Lenin and Marx as heroes, young people, disillusioned young people, wearing T-shirts with images of their dead communist heroes on them) , they, older people, knew where they were with the structures it provided. Bloody hell, I thought, that sounds like me, where communism was represented by work, and this thing called freedom was my retirement. This freedom, this opportunity to start again in retirement was, I knew, supposed to be a good thing and yet, I’m finding it quite difficult. Of what I’ve read so far I don’t think there are any happy answers to the dilemma of what to do with freedom. According to Svetlana pretty much all the people of Russia wanted was blue jeans, a car, a house and a world that looked like the America they’d seen in movies. I don’t really need another pair of jeans, or a car and certainly not another house, although…
In an effort to get away from this kind of thinking, yesterday, feeling a bit bored, which is what happens very quickly when I’m not involved in any of my projects – three days in the vineyard, three days the week before at the Derbyshire cottage, two sessions with our gardener and everything in the last blog, writing a blog, walking the pups etc. So I was reading during the day, something I don’t normally allow myself to do but it was Ok because it was non-fiction, for a while at least. And then there I was reading my usual stuff a book (A Darkness More Than Night) by Michael Connolly (crime in case you don’t recognise the name) and bless my soul if it wasn’t about an investigator who had retired to sail his yacht and was missing his former career to the point that when he was offered a case from a former colleague, despite having married, having two children, one just a baby, living in what sounded like a great house in Catalina Island (I think), having a business hiring out his yacht for charters, he couldn’t wait to get re-involved. He wanted to feel useful again, to serve. Ha, what an idiot. I can’t tell you how it works out as I haven’t finished it yet. I confess I fell asleep which is one reason why I don’t read during the day.
So freedom, wasn’t that what William Wallace aka Braveheart shouts out before they do unspeakable things to him? Fat lot of good it did him. Actually I hated that film not helped by watching in New Zealand where they all seemed to think the portrayal, by director Mel Gibson, of the English as blithering idiots was historically accurate. I mean I’m not always proud of my country and our performance as the British Empire (plenty of Scots raping and pillaging along with the English, Welsh and Irish) had its shortcomings, but this was just embarrassing. Didn’t do Mel any good either. His fall from grace seemed somehow appropriate. So no good ideas about what to do with freedom in that movie.
I wrote in a recent blog that it, the blog, might be somewhat confusing. A friend who read it agreed, he said it was. This blog, about which I didn’t have a solid idea before I started, may be similar but since I’ve started writing these blogs I’ve become an even bigger fan of Jack Kerouac (On the Road) and, what I believe was called, his ‘free flow of consciousness’ style of writing. Otherwise known as making it up as you go along. This is what I do and, all I can say, after years of writing professional books and stuff where you have to plan it all out and make sure it makes sense, writing in my blog style is liberating. So I can only apologise if you find my style of writing irritating but I guess if you do you will have stopped reading these blogs ages ago, so I’m wasting my time apologising. So where was I? Oh yes, retirement and freedom, a good or bad thing, ah, not sure