I’ve had some weird thoughts since I retired but I had one the other day that must rank among the strangest. Even took me by surprise and I thought I knew my weirdness fairly well. The only explanation I can offer was that Mrs Summerhouse had gone out to have a coffee (the one on the right looks like a flat white I reckon) with a friend. Nothing remarkable there but the fact that I felt slightly, only slightly mind, envious surprised me. For some reason I couldn’t fathom at the time, I wished I had a friend to go out for coffee with. People who know me will be surprised at this in that I am generally known as something of a miserable bastard with little interest in having, let alone socialising with, ‘friends’. And I think that’s a pretty fair summary of my current situation vis a vis socialising. And the weirdness didn’t end there although, in a sense, it got a little more predictable.
It wasn’t that I just wanted to meet with a friend and chat, no that wasn’t the way of it at all. First I wanted the cafe bit. I wanted to be sat in a nice café having a nice cup of coffee (and maybe cake – nice cake) while the meeting took place. In this sense I wanted to feel a part of the ‘meet in cafes and have coffee’ crowd . You must have seen them, the bleedin’ adverts on TV are full of the smug bastards – young, smug bastards, young, laughing, smug bastards. Sorry, got carried away there. I suppose this part is tied up with an area of retirement I have written about before – belonging to some crowd (tribe) or other. The café as a location is also fairly understandable. During my working life some of my best work experiences took place in cafes. Not in an office or a school but in the more-relaxed setting that was so supportive of a couple of my work values – having ideas / projects and having fun.
Cafes always seemed more conducive to this type of activity, to creative thinking, to having fun planning a new project or even reviewing an existing one. It may sound very obvious to the reader but it wasn’t until Mrs SH went off, I had the mild envy and I asked myself – why should this be? What was going off in my brain that this minor realisation came to me? I used to have the same feelings about pubs but as I got older cafes replaced the pubs in which I would sit and plan either with another person or on my own with my trusted diary. Nothing gave me greater pleasure. At least that’s how I remember it now. Having ideas (even those directly related to work) was so much easier in these settings, so much better than the office or schools where some kind of professionalism strangled the fun and hence the creative element of the job.
Having penetrated this far into the undergrowth of my mind (hacked through with a machete even) I went a little further. I’ve already suggested that the meeting was not to be a simple social event where I chatted to the person/s sitting at the table about what might be happening in our worlds, who was doing what to whom, where, how and why this might be. Nothing so trivial would meet the needs of my retirement. We had to be evolving or reviewing some kind of project. A simple project although with far from simple requirements. It would have to be, in no particular order – fun, useful, helpful to others, practical (i.e. not requiring a big budget although some expenditure would be acceptable), engaging intellectually and maybe physically and most of all creative and ideas based. Not much to ask for I think you will agree. But that’s not even the hard part.
The hard part was in trying to develop some understanding of who the other person/s would be. I don’t have a long list of friends and if you subtract ‘all’ those who aren’t geographically close, it reduces to one or two at a stretch. Neither of these friends seemed at all appropriate probably because the nature of our relationship had not, for many years, been predicated on meeting in a café and having great ideas about world changing projects. In addition, these friends are couple type people. Going to the other extreme, was I capable of ‘working’ with a complete stranger and how would I find one anyway? So I turned my attention to my second-tier acquaintances. There are a few more of these but again none of them seemed like ‘let’s meet in a café and have a chat’ type people although there is one person who might fit the bill but I don’t have the faintest idea of how I might approach this person with my, already admitted, totally weird idea.
So, in order to bring this scheme into being, I am faced with one big decision and a number of smaller ones. The big decision is – where to start? Should I start with the other person/s? With the idea? Although the nature of the idea might influence who my partner should be. Perhaps I should start with the location. This has appeal and has the advantage of being the easiest action to take but then the likelihood of somebody walking into my chosen café, sitting down at my table and starting to chat about how s/he (it would probably have to be a ‘he’ in this version as I don’t think Mrs SH would be thrilled about me meeting up with some woman in a café with the objective of having fun) needed to meet a creative person to work with on a very exciting project he had been kicking around in his head. And whose idea would it be, or would the idea come from the meeting rather than before it and could I work on somebody else’s idea and the same for them if it was my idea? It’s all slipping away.
I believe Budhists say that ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.’ Wise words but, as things stand, I can’t even identify a single step. When I thought it all through, well, to a point, it seemed like a fab idea but now I’ve sat down and written out in this blog, the complexities of getting the elephant off the ground, I feel stuck. Before I was retired there would have been no time for and less need for this kind of mental perambulations. But now, all I can say is retirement does some weird things to a person and this blog is weird, right?