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|The man in the Paris café|
Recently I came across a photograph that had been pinned in some kind of headlock upside down in an overpopulated kitchen drawer. Perhaps unsurprisingly (though in fact I was quite surprised by the whole procedings) the photograph was of myself .... sipping a glass of Pinoit Noir in a Paris street café.
Finding yourself in such a manner allows for reflection .... for self rediscovery ... possibly even for self evaluation.
The man in the café is wearing a hat. A summer trilby-like straw affair that clearly makes some kind of statement, though I'm not sure what it's saying. Apart from a cream linen jacket everything he is wearing is black. Black jeans, black amnesty international t-shirt, black moccasins. That's another statement, but psychologists differ on the nature of its subtext.
He's reading David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas". Now there's a book and a half. (From other research I know that he also loves "Black Swan Green" and indeed every other David Mitchell book, not to mention pretty much all of Haruki Murakami, Douglas Coupland and Jonathan Saffran Foer and has not been disillusioned by the so called James Frey revelations, but to move beyond the scope of the photo is perhaps to take liberties with the process here)
The face shows traces of the resigned cynicism that comes with age - he was 52 then, back in May 2005 - though his eyes are sparkling in a way that could suggest that one too many glasses of the Pinoit might have been consumed on that Paris café afternoon. Or maybe the book is creating it's own magic, and the wine is merely enhancement.
He looks what he is - as Joni Mitchell once so wonderfully described it - "A free man in Paris, unfettered and alive, nobody asking me any questions, nobody's future to decide". Sans staff, sans office, sans clients, sans all the trappings with which he uneasily coexists during the working year. By his side is his notebook. Somewhere in his brain sits the germ of a possibility that one day might become an idea that grows into a story that forms the basis of a book that could live in the house that......anyway, enough of such frivolity.
His wife is not in the photograph. Shopping as I remember. Interestingly they have learned to live apart often .... as she works and lives in Belfast, whilst he plys his profession in Dublin. Weekends and holidays provide the opoportunity to develop and grow the intimacy of body and spirit that have nurtured a 30 year relationship.... no wonder there's a contented smile on his face.
His children love this photo; this copy is the last one left in his home. The doctor, the sociology lecturer and the er...herbalist all know this man well. They are his friends. His confidantes. He has known them since they were tiny.
Closing my eyes I return there. Back to the café and the smoky jazz club, the gallery afternoons and the long long conversations.... always the long long conversations.
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a total diversion
May 28, 2008
i sold s book idea last month ..... not for millions or anything .... but for a few quid ...."how to quit the day job" comes out in ireland in january courtesy of blackhall press .... i got it on the back of a column i've been writing on retirement & pensions .... and now i have to write the firstr draft in 9 weeks ...... well i had a lot more than that, but i got side tracked and now time is running away with me! but how hard can it be?
Anyway, in May the column goes like this.....
“You’re doing what?”
He repeats the sentence calmly, ignoring the lap of coffee around his feet and the shards of what used to be his favourite coffee mug now scattered in a three foot radius around his kitchen floor.
He’s a phlegmatic man my Dad. He always was.
“We’re driving from Little Rock to the Grand Canyon, attending a five day geological lecture series and then driving back again. In a 1983 Toyota”
I mentally run through the full gamut of adult responses-stroke-flabbergasted comments that I might make; systematically filing them into panic alert grades green, amber, red as I go, and finally settle on one of the more innocuous options.
“But you were a surgeon. You know nothing about geology”
There’s a pause. Not a long pause, I’ll grant you, but there is a pause.
“And you’re eighty two years old. And he’s eighty eight. And the trip is fifteen hundred miles each way. And the car! The car is nearly as old as you are”
Sometimes I find it difficult not to slip in to hyperbole when I’m making an otherwise logical point.
My Dad smiles benignly. He’s known me for awhile.
“Well, I’m hardly going to go on holiday with you. And Bill is so insistent that I spend some time with him.”
Ten minutes and a fresh pot of coffee later I’m beginning to calm down. After all the thought of two men and a Toyota with a combined age of almost two hundred making a three thousand mile car journey across central America isn’t really that alarming. Not when you switch to decaf. And anyway, isn’t he proving a point I keep trying to make to my clients. The one about retirement being a time of opportunity and big horizons. The one about having the freedom to do all the things they’ve previously stored up lovingly in their dreams and aspirations, longing for the moment when their hopes might come alive. The one about how a retirement fund of four hundred thousand Euro just isn’t going to cut the mustard.
That one is the one that gets me on my soapbox.
Later on when we’re huddling round the Aga munching on toasted scones I ask him how much income he thinks a person needs to live on when they reach eighty two years old. He tells me about his friends the retired dentist and his wife, both approaching their mid nineties and still playing table tennis every Wednesday morning. He talks about his retired architect pal, eighty nine next birthday, who has decided to convert his house into apartments so that his grandchildren can have their own place when they come to stay - and is supervising the work himself. Answering my question not with a sterile number estimate but with humorous stories of real life octogenarian flamboyance he paints a rosy picture of how life can be for those who are financially independent and successfully ageing.
Back at home that night I log onto Wikipedia to learn about successful ageing, also known as ‘optimal ageing’ and am stuck by how much of what defines this desireable objective is dependent on an individual’s capacity to fund what is described as an active engagement with life.
I send my Dad an email.
“You’re hitting these eighties well” I say.
He graciously replies that listening to my advice on pension planning played a crucial part in his decision to make the maximum possible pension contributions for the last ten years of his working life. He tells me that he now has ample funds to continue his active engagement with life. In fact, as well as his octogenarian Toyota ride across the USA he intends to sail single handed round Ireland later in the year. I ask him if he’s also screen testing for the James Bond role and resolve to increase my AVC contribution even higher.
Oct 2, 2007
I have no idea now how to start a conversation! Anyway, I submitted the above new story to the Alternative Workshop tonight and I'd love comments as it's the first thing i've managed to write in awhile....
basically i know it's totally unpolished, and that the syntax and structure leave a lot to be desired.......
but i suppose all i really want to know is, have i conveyed any truth...even in this first draft of a story.... is he someone oyu might care for?
anyway, all comments welcome...
update on the lulu thing
Sep 3, 2007
well, i am slowly selling some of my "pulses" short story collection on lulu.com
the story goes like this ..... "Pulses" was placed in a short story competition hosted by "chapter one promotions" ... a fine looking little outfit who run an annual competition .... (which, i am led to believe, attracts a reasonably large entry) ... that was in 2005 .... and there was to have been a book published in 2005 - and another in 2006 and 2007.
Of course the long awaited books have not appeared and so, despite the contract that was to have held good for 2 years, i decided to publish a few of my own short stories (including aforesaid "pulses") on lulu.com ...no upfront monies is required, copies are paid for by the purchaser as they order them and so it's really a no risk venture...how lulu makes money is beyond me.... but still....
anyway... it took a couple of attempts to make sure that the layout was correct....but i think it is now..... and people are, as i say, starting to buy the book. The download is very cheap - around £1.70 i think .... and the book is ok at about £6.60ish.
clearly you would never put your "baby" novel out there on lulu.... but for short story collections it seems like an interesting idea..... i think i'll maybe sell a few hundred (unless of course hootoo people in their droves to buy it ... * in which case who knows....
but the experience has been interesting .....though i had to remove the sexy cover photo for reasons of space.... (ahem)
* if you did run to buy it and couldn't find it .... go to lulu.com and type "pulses" in the search box on the top right hand corner.
now if that wasn't a shameless hustle i don't know what is!
maybe someone will be interested in this ....
Aug 27, 2007
july 24th 2007
Jul 25, 2007
when i was forty nine
the gods in whom i no longer believed
and their voice was the voice of a woman
and her words reached my soul
music and laughter,
entwining insight and infinite understanding
all wrapped in the secret echo of her whispering my name
and i was at peace then
when i was forty nine
the gods in whom i no longer believed turned towards me
and their face was the face of a woman
and her smile woke my heart
gentle and gracious,
half covering mischief and sensual mystery
all bathed in the tender mingling of an almost lover's kiss
and i was inspired then
when I was forty nine
the gods in whom I no longer believed showed mercy
and their grace was the grace of a woman
and her love healed my shame
unclothing weakness from tarnishing journeys
all hid under fragile armour in the darkness of my deepest self
and I became known then
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