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Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Passage of Time


Today I reached a milestone. 65 years of age. It has traditionally been the retirement age here in the UK, and for my own generation that means that we can draw the state pension. I started to contribute to mine in April 1964 when, as a 14-year-old, I got a holiday job in a steam laundry, and I’ve carried on contributing for most of the past fifty years. Now it’s pay-back time.

The pension has a greater significance for me because of a decision I made back in the mid-1980s – namely, that I would stop working for other people and pursue my own passions. That essentially meant ten years as a student and academic, and, since 1994, twenty years as a writer, sometimes earning very good money, often earning next to nothing – and, after I’d failed to get that first novel published, producing mostly what other people would pay for. (It’s all on my website.)

That will change. From this day forward I will have a small, guaranteed monthly income and considerably more freedom to write what is in my heart. It’s probably been no bad thing, this being forced to dance to others’ tunes. Yes, at times I have felt constrained, repressed, even put upon; but my goodness I have learned. Mostly I have learned technique and discipline. As for all the things about which I feel  so strongly, and about which I want to write, well, I think I will have benefited from all this waiting. I think I’ve gained a more balanced perspective, and I am sure I will approach my cherished projects as a better writer.

I entitled this entry ‘The Passage of Time’, and here’s where I bring in that rather badly focussed snapshot. I have had a few gifts this morning, but none more delightful than this. Three years ago when I came home from my stint in the Red House, I brought with me two Native American spear-heads. One I found, quite by chance, while walking around the ranch. It just appeared at my feet. I reckoned I was most likely the first person to pick it up in 10-12,000 years – and that was quite thought-provoking. It was in fact rather moving. The other was a gift from a guy I met with in Crawford, Nebraska. I bought some moccasins from him. The two have sat on my desk ever since. I could not figure out what to do with them. But this morning I had a delightful birthday surprise. My partner, A., had furtively constructed a Perspex box, fashioned some wire into a couple of loops and there you are: a museum-style exhibit to grace my window-sill.

So here I am, musing on this milestone: sixty-five years. And there in front of me are a pair of artefacts, chipped from stone by a stoic, diligent, skilled artisan who lived by hunting on the Great Plains some 10 to 12,000 years ago and died with his (or her) life unrecorded.

Tempus fugit – and this writer needs to get dressed and start work.

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