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.