p(leisure): the politics and economics of having a good time

Yes.  I’ve spent over seven months now, working when work comes it’s true – mainly proofreading and the occasional language class – but not working my ass off.  Instead, I’ve spent my time learning how to write poetry, learning more about my darker side as well as the kinder, and generally exploring the wilder edges of verbal expression.

I started by deconstructing the language, and then – only then – moved gingerly towards saying more understandable things.

This I think is unusual.  We normally start by following the rules, and then proceed to break them.  But perhaps the decades of writing prior to my stint as a poet were the training-ground in following most of the rules; and the period just before Christmas 2015 to around the beginning of July 2016 an eagerly sought liberation from the creeping bonds and ties of familial permission and expectation.

That’s how I now realise it was before Christmas 2015.  A lot of those terrible bonds and ties have now disappeared.  Not, however, without pain on all sides; and not in a completely successful way.

Also, as those who run away from that which hurts often experience, my desire to be free has led me to say and do and think greater liberties than perhaps anyone should be allowed.

I have kinda done so on these pages today, probably despite my better judgement.  I don’t know if I am entirely responsible for feeling as I do – I still wonder if others aren’t intervening deliberately in some way or other – but as I cannot prove nor even sustain this without people considering me quite mad (and quite rightly, I guess), I have to just learn to deal with an environment that clearly leads me to say and do and think and see certain things which are generally unacceptable.

That, then, is how I come to the politics and economics of p(leisure).  One positive out of the last more-than-seven months is I have learnt how to enjoy myself, even if the enjoyment has necessarily been in a solitary confinement located in public places.

That is to say, I have dined alone, sat alone, spoken with few people, engaged with few organisations: in all this time, I have had absolutely wonderful company on one occasion in Ireland; I have had regular meetings in one of my favourite cities of all time, Liverpool, with the ballsiest woman I have ever known in my life; and above all, the time I have spent with my children – where they were of a mind to talk to me – has been like gold-dust.

However, I realise – now – that so much pleasure and leisure cannot continue indefinitely.  I have been able to get my head round a peculiar free-form poetry; I have become gently proficient with iPhone photo software; and I have acquired a love of simply having a good time which was never mine all my adult life.

Maybe never in my childhood either.

But as one worker said in a food place I went to today, when I thanked him for the experience and the quality of the food: “I’ve been here for too long.”

And so it was then that I realised: “So have I!”  Though I thought it only; didn’t say it out loud.  I said nothing at all in reply, except – of course – a heartfelt noise of commiseration.

People must work their socks off, so other people can smile and tip broadly and sound generous and be happy and fun-loving and terribly terribly eager to pursue the tiny hedonistic impulses that latterday life still affords some citizens.

But for the rest of us, the only real fate seems that of grim grind.

A grim grind dressed up with our mobiles and push-notifications as the resulting glory of collective 21st century intellects.

I am no better, because whilst I explore and learn and expand my knowledge of stuff, and probably contribute to the sum of human experience in a fairly positive sense, I only really postpone the moment of inevitable emotional and intellectual debauchery: the final descent into a compromising of all principles: that minute where I live off another I begin to despise instead of working my own way through life.

And yet the thought does come to mind: if on occasions I have seen further, then I have long ago seen the decay of the relationship between worker and work too.  I saw it when I worked in a bank, where the disintegration of complex roles into itty-bitty nothing jobs was in full flow, and where the consequent job satisfaction also disappeared in tandem.

I saw it when I attempted to set up a language-learning business: online learning was but a step into the very near future, and the role of teachers – already eroded by their transformation into mere hands-off environment-defining enablers – a mere blip towards a horizon of trainee self-aggrandisement.

And now I speak to people who talk quite naturally of robot dentists.  At the very least, very shortly, robot dental-hygienists.

No one is safe from the march of technology.

And yet who will be able to pay for it when the grind either rewards so little or has actually ground itself into a dust no phoenix shall ever arise from?

Please don’t misunderstand me.

I love enjoying myself; would spend all my day taking photos.

But I’d rather work with other people, have sex with other people, invent and design with and enjoy other people.

Wouldn’t you?



why i like proofreading – it’s the networks of sex, stupid!

I love proofreading.  It’s a humble task in the chain of publishing process.  Or, at least, a task which most will see as humble.

I wonder why I like it so.  I can’t, I have to admit, focus on one activity to the exclusion of any other.  That’s just the way I’m built, I’m afraid.  And those who say otherwise, maybe for my own good with reason, misunderstand what I need.

But if truth be told, proofreading is like good sex – or voyeuristic sex, anyway.  Unlike the role of writer, when everything unspools, when a handle on the work’s direction does not entirely belong to the author, when the characters themselves take on lives of their own … unlike the writer or the thinker or the salesperson, the proofreader sees everything – but everything – at a single glance.

And without too many doubts, either.

The good proofreader needs a dictionary only to confirm: never to identify where something, quite wrong, needs obviously amending.

Obviously, that is, to the good proofreader.

Like that voyeuristic sex I mention, then, the good proofreader commits little of themselves and yet receives so much pleasure in return.

The pleasure of accuracy, of exactitude, of supporting the voice of another even … yes, it’s not all one way; it’s not all being in control.

But it is a getting to know of a network which, soon enough, gets thoroughly explored and defined – ultimately fascinatingly enjoyed, over and over.

Networks are popular things these days: everything, as you can see, can be interpreted as a network.  There is, of course, in all our lives a real place for love and attachment, with all its happy and sad complications.  But surely there is also a place for where we can feel in charge: something which briefly reassures our sense of being; of emotion; of character; of simple existence.

For me, that activity is so often proofreading.  No preparation.  Just an act which has a beginning, middle and end; and which is dependent on us knowing from vast experience exactly what to do at every stage.

Interaction with people is glorious stuff.  But the networks which allow us to say yes or no to words and their multiple links are clearly relationships which form part of a wider pleasure: getting it right, getting it wrong, sometimes getting it intelligently fuzzy … a whole human breadth of curious experience, corked into that ten-page document which acquires fifty comments along the way.

Why do I need it so, then?  Maybe because stimulation sometimes gets too much for me: my brain is constructed with a chemistry which can dazzle myself, if not others; the connections failing on occasions to stop their interesting scuttling around.

I need the limits of two-dimensional networks sometimes; the fitting together in attractive consonance of twenty-six letters and their corresponding punctuations.

But such connections are not malevolent.  They just need comprehending.  As they also need the comprehension of the understanding.

And the channelling of the wise.

Is that OK?

why sex is so important and yet no one cares

In the past, we didn’t have to worry about our identities.

In a way, the state, companies and other orgs were simply inefficient about collecting the intel.

That’s constructively inefficient.  That’s comfortingly inefficient.

Inefficient to the extent that they allowed us to breathe.

Nowadays, identity is just in the subset of what we need to worry about.  The real caballo de batalla, as the Spanish would say, is sex.

Cameron, the people who advise him, and probably most of the opposition parties here in Britain too, are looking to invade our right to sex.  They want to outlaw everything we’ve grown up expecting, as full-grown adults in a country of liberal freedoms.

The only sex they seem to be capable of allowing is that which involves powerful people hurting – or even killing – the weaker amongst us.  That sort of sex, they’re happy enough – it seems – to permit.

There was a time, before identities became a subset of everything we should now be worried about, that we didn’t even think about this thing I’m calling sex.  It was just there; it was just a part of what we were; it was just … well … like grass which was green and skies which were gloriously blue.

The furniture of humanity.  The furniture of being human.

Now that sex is in the cross-hairs of our government, now that our government is (to coin a phrase) weaponising sex, we are poorly equipped to defend ourselves against the dialectic of the sex-invaders.

We were so used, in the past, to what they are now taking away from us that we actually find it impossible to understand, any more, exactly how they’re taking it away.

So when Cameron or whoever bleats on about needing to invade our sex, we kind of dismiss the rhetoric and just carry on as we were.

Hoping against hope that at the end of the decade sex will still be there.

In some magical way.

In some mystical process.

Through the benevolence of those who are anything but benevolent.


In essence, what’s happened is we’ve forgotten precisely what we’ve lost because, in that past I refer you to, we never had to really fight for it.



A final point I’d like to make.

If, in the title and content of today’s post, I’d written the word “privacy” instead of the word “sex”, would you have read it?  I don’t think so.

And therein lies – and ends – the lesson for this cold and blustery morn.