We are at the dawn of a new era, if only ……..

The title of an episode in Alan Plater’s Beiderbeck trilogy and a sentence repeated but never finished at a number of points throughout that and subsequent episodes.

And a new header for the new blog, a photo taken at dawn in October 2005, standing on the roof outside the back bedroom.

Just about sums things up at the moment.

It is certainly the dawn of a new era for me.  The months in Greece were something to look forward to through the winter months not only because the Greek islands are a great place to be but also because it represented a breaking away from the habituated pattern of life, and having broken the everyday habits and tram-line thinking, the opportunity to start afresh when I got back.

Now that’s over.  Now I’m back.

No doubt about it, the old habits are certainly broken in many ways. A lot of practical things rethought. Five months of a completely different lifestyle and I can now hardly remember what I used to do.  Simple things like breakfast.  Since I finished work in 2005 I had developed a set pattern once I got up.  Loo.  Wash.  Clean teeth.  Coffee (instant: I used to find it just about drinkable as long as I didn’t think of it as coffee and it was quick to make with no cleaning up coffee grounds after).  Reading and prayer.  Thick slice of toast and jam.  Cup of proper coffee.  Wash up.  Tidy the kitchen.  Check the e-mails.  Only then I was ready to face the rest of the day.

Now there is no clear pattern at all.  The instant coffee doesn’t often feature on the agenda.  Real coffee always does, I’ve still got to have my early morning fix.  Sometimes I have breakfast first thing.  Greek yoghurt, crushed almonds, honey and fruit appear on the breakfast menu some days, brought back from the habits of the summer.  Toast other days.  Occasionally both.

Other changes include far less use of the credit card.  Few places take plastic on the smaller Greek islands, even fewer since the increased prospect of tightening up on taxation, so I used cash the whole time.  Using cash gives better sense of the speed at which the cash is leaking out of the bank account.  Using the debit card gives almost as much of an awareness via on-line banking.

Months of shopping in family-owned supermarkets which are the equivalent of corner shops in the UK and buying fruit and veg which is kept at ambient temperature rather than chilled have changed my shopping habits.

So, the dawn of a new era, if only …………. I could put my finger on it.  At the moment it’s a bit like the current weather on the tops of the mountains – living in a fog, no clear view of where I’m going.

There are lots of tasks, things to do.  The minutia of everyday living.  Finding the best way to fit in with the family which is also at the dawn of a new era with the twins.  Writing up and publishing the walks recorded in the summer.  Publishing Enfys’s poems.  Going for walks in the mountains to keep body and mind toned up.  These all have to be accommodated and time organised so they all get done.  But no overall goal, no framework, no underlying purpose.

Over the summer the practicalities of everyday living have been much simpler.  The house was considerably smaller and I didn’t have responsibility for maintenance and improvement.  There was a tiny yard to keep swept not a quarter of an acre of garden to tame. I went walking in the mountains every day, uncluttered by man-made stuff.  Cleared the mind and meant more opportunity for the subconscious to mull away in the background and analyse things.

Looking back, life has been a series of clear and ‘given’ broad targets which provided the framework for everything else:

  • Go to school and pass exams in order to …. (14 years)
  • Go to university and pass exams in order to …. (6 years)
  • Get a job to pay the mortgage, put bread on the table and earn a pension so, as it turned out, I could …… (35 years)
  • Retire early to be with Enfys when she became ill. (5years)

Now, the dawn of a new era, if only ………… I knew what my purpose is now?

I guess it’s an issue for a lot of people when they retire, particularly blokes. Many of them have no real interests outside of work and when that finishes they have nothing to do but sit around reading the paper and drinking coffee.  That was why when I finished work in August 2005 I cancelled the Guardian.

No, it’s not that I’m stuck for things to fill my time.  Far from it.  I find I can’t do a fraction of the things which I need to do, never-mind the things I want to do.  The things which need to be done, household chores etcetera take a lot longer because now I have to do them all not share them.  I’ve become even more obsessively tidy but I don’t get hung up on it.  I can walk away and go and do the things I enjoy.  The sad thing is that one of the things I enjoy now is getting everything clean and tidy and I will have to make sure that doesn’t take over.

One significant change is that I will nolonger being going to a Greek class. We started learning Greek in 2001 after our first visit to the islands, shamed by not having a clue about the language, not even knowing whether the signs we saw said “Welcome, please close the gate” or “Beware of the mad dog”.  One year I went to two different classes.  I’m still nowhere near fluent despite going to a class in Cardiff University for the last 5 years.  But the numbers in the class have dwindled and it is nolonger viable.  Alternative arrangements may be made but for me it seemed a natural end to that particular process. Certainly the end of an era, if only …….. I had become more fluent in the language.

One big thing is on the near horizon.  Ruth and Tim have given up their jobs and on 1st December are going to Canada for a season’s skiing and to complete their instructor training.  So I’m going out stay with them for a month from mid-December.  Certainly a new thing to be away from home for Christmas.  Enfys and I talked about it some years ago, thinking about renting a chalet in the Alps but it didn’t happen.  But I see this as a one off, not the beginning of a new era.  I can see the headline now “Pensioner Denies Jet-Set Lifestyle”.

I wrote in my first blog on 18 April : “I’m very conscious of the fact that though “a man’s mind plans his way …. God directs his steps” (Book of Proverbs chapter 16 verse 9)”.  What that tells me is that though I may not be aware of what my purpose is now, God has a plan behind it all.  So while I find it a bit disturbing not knowing where I’m going or what I’m doing in the broader scheme of things, I’ll not fret about it.  At the moment I’ll just aim to chart a course through the various tasks to make sure they are all achieved.  Maybe the purpose will become clear.

Hope you like the new photo.

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