When I have fears of old age, death and the rise of the ‘right’ I have a slow espresso in the garden and say to myself “not yet, not today”. Then I slip into the denial that has served me well in my life so far – that I am immortal. Not immortal in the living forever sense but in the sense that right now is forever and I’m here …
“Livin the dream man” he says and because he knows he’s on radio I suspect he’s dragging his words out slowly to sound like a stoned surfer living in a van with his pet kelpie. He sounds blissfully ignorant, or maybe just indifferent to the strife that is weathering so much of the free world. Like Bacchus on Olympus he couldn’t give a flying fig for the bounds of reality that bind mundane mortals like myself. What he’s really saying is “I chose a lifestyle that is better than yours.” How how I hate smug, happy and insanely content human beings. How dare they slip off the treadmill, follow their dreams and then rub our noses in it! I’m more frustrated at how in a moment he is undoing years of hard work trying to convince my 16 year old son to study hard, work hard, get a job and take his place beside all of the lobotomised men of his undistinguished family. Generations of us have been suffering like Sisyphus, casting aside the call for adventure to shuffle as slowly as we can from our mortal coils while wrapped up in our linen sacrcophagi, ready to buried, already dead. I’m shocked at how easy he makes happy sound, bastard!
So tell us mate, how are you living the dream? The disc jockey asks smiling (you can hear when people smile).
You’s guys are all stressed out about work and money and rushing here and there an i don’t have that man. Surfer dude says. I don’t got much but i got a lot, you know he continues. Oh someone please shoot him now. I switch off the radio.
I turn left instead of right at a critical juncture on my way to work. I stop and buy a ‘long mach, topped up’ and walk down to the beach where I sit for 10 minutes with a stupid grin on my face. Thanks surfer dude!
I live on the edge here in suburbia. That’s where the action is, the danger – my happy place. Courage under fire is my espresso. We feel most alive when the prospect of death is real. My adrenalin rush this time? I’m choosing a paint colour for our bathroom. I know what you’re thinking, that’s not life threatening. No ,it’s not, except I also intend to apply said paint to said walls … as a surprise, without telling my wife. Now that, my friends, is what I call going where the proverbial angels fear to tread.
About twenty years ago I painted our kitchen yellow. That was a surprise too. It was bright sunflower yellow and I remember this because it was during my ‘impressionist’ period when I was discovering Van Gogh. It never had the desired effect. I was going for delight and would have settled for a smile, I was not prepared for horror. Hence the twenty year hiatus in home decor. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how suburbia channels the spontaneity gene-carefully, one to-do list at a time. Until you wake up one day and realise that you put down the toilet seat without being asked, boldly declare your intentions (once you have permission) and the weekly shopping has become an outing. You know the price of bread, when potatoes are on special and start buying low fat milk and walking the dog to combat cholesterol. You’re mortal after all, reliably so. Playing it safe may have contributed to the quantity of years but not their quality, there is only so much time left and you’re half way dead already so to hell with it, let’s be reckless … let’s paint another room! Tempus bloody Ra!
You’re probably worried. Don’t be too concerned, I’ve thought it through long and hard. The idea actually came to me this morning as I unintentionally placed an extra hole in the bathroom wall (they are ridiculously thin) whilst fitting new towel hanging devices. Selleys No More Cracks or Dents tends to stand out against a wall that is not white. For the moment a towel covers the spontaneous cavity but it’s bound to be moved soon, it’s inevitable I’m afraid. I thought of doing something ‘Banksy’ like sticking a frame around the damaged plaster and writing in elegant graffiti ‘where was this hole before it was here?’ But that’s so twentieth century and I am trying to stay relevant. So, instead I’m contemplating white or a neutral stony colour – this may in fact help me to define what period I’m going through at the moment. (Note to self: avoid beige). Maybe it won’t be noticed? Do I go full suburban and aim for blending in? This is going to be harder than I thought. I must not induce an existential crisis. It’s only a paint job. It’s never just a paint job. It’s not the Sistine Chapel but it’s never just another paint job. This is bigger than you and I, it’s … snatching back my dignity and then running like hell before I get caught!
Wish me well. As General McArthur said, “I shall return”. Mind you, Scott of the Antarctic said “I’m going out, I may be a while” and look at what happened to him. And he was only sight seeing, nothing as dangerous as surprising his wife with unauthorised decor. Watch this space.
This beautful Renaissance work by Artemisia Gentileschi has always been a favourite of mine. I must stress the historical context presents as symbolic and not prescriptive.