Thursday, 3 February 2011

"That's my seat"

Do you ever worry about your attitude to the little things in life? Perhaps when we're no longer concerned with the big and important things, the smaller things take on a greater significance. When you have a job, there's a routine to the day that is accepted. You arrive at a certain time, complete certain tasks, then go home again. What happens when you no longer have a job to go to? You've lived a life of routine, so you tend to fill the jobless hours with a new routine. You don't even think about it as a routine, but that's what it has become.

I acknowledge that this is an extreme example of routine, but Stephen Clarke in his book, 'A year in the Merde', says with great humour, "I was sick of my neighbours. I now knew every second of the morning routine of the family upstairs. At 7:00 am alarm goes off, boom, Madame gets out of bed, puts on her deep-sea divers' boots and stomps across my ceiling to megaphone the kids awake. The kids drop bags of cannonballs onto the floor, then, apparently dragging several sledgehammers each, stampede into the kitchen. They grab their chunks of baguette and go and sit in front of the TV, which is always showing a cartoon about people who do nothing but scream at each other and explode. Every minute, one of the kids does cartwheels (while bouncing cannonballs) back into the kitchen for seconds, then returns (bringing with it a family of excitable kangaroos) to the TV. Meanwhile the toilet is flushed, on average, fifty times per drop of urine expelled. Finally, there is a ten-minute period of intensive yelling, and at 8:15 on the dot they all howl and crash their way out of the apartment to school".

Gala Casino Nottingham
 I've recently noticed a certain routine in my life, and I wonder how healthy it is. Is Dave Eggers correct when he says about routine, it is " doing something because people expect us to do it, going somewhere each day because we went there the day before, saying things because we have said them before, and this seems like the work of a different sort of animal, contrary to our plan, and this is very bad".

In my case, routine has become somewhat linked with a kind of obsession, or is it just habit? You see, I try and go for a walk every day (I'm trying to make up for 40 years of lethargy). The route is not always the same, but the end destination often is. I grab a take away coffee, and head for a seat outside the Gala Casino in Maid Marion Way. (Please note that this in no way endorses gambling, and neither am I sponsored by them). I like it there. There's an overhang which means that you can sit there even if it's raining. You watch the constant flow of people going in and out of the Casino (they encourage people to Eat, Drink, Play, 24 hours a day). I watch the local buses go north and south of the city; see national coaches go to places like Scarborough (why are so many people going daily in that direction? One day I must find out for myself); be asked directions, and look at the slightly weird sculpture that points you in the direction of Nottingham Playhouse and the Royal Centre. All innocent enough, and doing nobody any harm. Except me?

I turned the corner the other day with my coffee and was met by a horrifying sight. Someone was sitting on the seat. I wanted to shout out, "That's my seat", a little bit like Joey in Friends who declares, "Joey doesn't share food". There are other seats nearby, but "That's my seat". I know that everyone has the right to sit on that seat, but "That's my seat". It's part of my routine. It's then I realised that my habit has become an obsession - nothing else would do. It has to be that seat, because "That's my seat". A curse is invoked on the poor soul sitting there. Oh dear, what has become of me?

The question is how to deal with this obsession? I agree with John Steinbeck who says, "It's a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it". It's a bit like trying to come off an addiction, but when routine has become embroiled in obsession, it's time to do something. Or am I making too much of this? Please say that I am. No, I can't believe you. Remember Eggers, "this is very very bad".

Novelty Welsh Hat
Perhaps Andre Maurois is right, "All of us, from time to time, need a plunge into freedom and novelty, after which routine and discipline will seem delightful by contrast".
Vary the day. Do something different. Try something novel.

I know "That's my seat", but if I ended up there weekly instead of daily, the obsession would not be so great, and I would not harbour such unkind thoughts towards my fellow man.

This is all so petty isn't it? The important thing is to learn and change if we are unhappy about something, and we will be better for it.

I don't want to be like the character described by Woody Allen. "At the opera in Milan with my daughter and me, Needleman leaned out of his box and fell into the orchestra pit. Too proud to admit it was a mistake, he attended the opera every night for a month and repeated it each time".

1 comment:

  1. What a joy to read your posts. Glad that you love Nottingham as much as we do. My wife and I have lived here since the mid 60s and reading you posts have captured the essence of the place. Many thanks. Tony Beale (Ruddington)