Always one to favour anxiety over relaxation, satisfaction or any other feeling of well-being, I'm keen to traumatize myself as much as possible for as long as the countdown to retirement takes. It might be two and a half years yet, or a few months, or, if I secured alternative gainful employment, it might be never but I'm determined to worry about it as much as I can.
It appears to be going to be one long dreadful gaze into eternity with only the equally terrifying inevitability that it won't be eternity as consolation. Such an outlook is what one can gain from the rewarding activity of reading books rather than involving oneself in a displacement activity like sport, gardening or holidays. But it's always been Camus, Larkin, two Eliots and their like for me rather than potting begonias, fervent allegiance to a corporate brand of athletic undertaking or cruising the fjords. Honestly, it is much more fun.
But if this week of contractual leisure is anything to go by, retirement would be exhausting. I rather imagined that it would be a matter of taking a full day's bed rest after completing a poem, and perhaps it will be. Not every week could possibly be as action-packed as this has been.
I visited family for Easter to introduce myself to our new arrival. I'm not a close relation and have been amusing myself by working out which of my elderly relatives stood in the same relationship to me as I do to the baby, who remains nameless here. However, since I have previously provided entertainments of various types for those children who are now old enough to be parents themselves, I set about it and added yet another genre to this year's widening realm of artistic creation (novel, 'country' music, poem for corporate refurbishment) by composing a song called Mr. MacGonagall Lost His Hat. Don't be afraid to request a rendition. The great Brian Cant wouldn't have been ashamed of it.
Meanwhile, my father, to who my novel would be dedicated in the unlikely event of it seeing print, was the first to read Time After Time. He was very polite about it and I was gratified that he appreciated it for what it was and that his comments were specific enough to show that he had read it. Having gone to such lengths to write such a thing, it is kind of anybody to read it. An unread novel, sir, is like an untasted recipe, even if it is not of gourmet standard. But I know now what is involved in writing even the most rudimentary of novels in case I ever have an idea worthy of a proper effort and my admiration for the likes of Julian Barnes, Sarah Waters, Ian MacEwan and Banana Yoshimoto is enhanced still further beyond that I have for those dilettante layabouts, poets.
But I was glad to receive an entirely different book about cycling,
Bicycles and Blancmange, The History of Gloucester City Cycling Club by Alastair Goldie and Roy Hook
I don't know how easy it is to get a copy unless you have some affiliation to the club because it's not for sale. I'm not sure that my few seasons of membership and winning the Schoolboy '10' medal in 1973 qualified me for a copy; my father's life membership of the club probably counted for more.
It uses a similar 'blurb' to what I had in mind for my own book, that within its pages is 'woven a love letter to cycling', and it provides an engaging account of the beginnings, stages, successes and continuing good work of the club.
From the Golden Age of early bikes, through the strange custom of 'smoking concerts', intrepid all night rides, through to star competitors, the age of sponsorship and campaigning on cycling issues, it is an impressive history full of humour, characters and 'how much more beautiful -almost utopian- the world seems when experienced on two wheels'.
I returned via Cheltenham, another piece of Gloucestershire's sporting heritage. Small fields in National Hunt racing can be a cause of complaint, not necessarily from me, but the late announcement of non-runners on the day can make it a waste of time doing one's homework the night before. The going was perhaps reported more on the firm side of good, and that might have prompted trainers to withdraw horses but no rain had been forecast so I'm not sure what they were expecting. Morale was low after passing up the opportunity to take odds on about Davy Russell's steering job in the first and then missing with two revised selections.
So, hurray for non-runners.
Today's Lunchtime Live in the cathedral was
Tristan Button (trumpet) and David Price (organ and piano), Portsmouth Cathedral.
In Portsmouth Cathedral, it's often about acoustics. In Murder in the Cathedral a while ago, the actors were miked up and it was still awful. In that part of the building, it is difficult to hear anybody who is trying to tell you anything from the stage whereas you put James Bowman, Tasmin Little or a choir in there and it re-echoes as they fill the place so the brash, proud alarums of a trumpet benefit very well and the music hasn't quite ended when you think it has.
Purcell is an opportunity not to be missed. The opening Sonata in D, with the organ from upstairs, was a glorious foretaste before David Price's performance of Bach's Fantasia BWV 572 was wave upon wave of thematic development that implied forever if sadly not lasting that long.
Purcell's When I am Laid now brings to mind Errolyn Wallen for me, which is a bit hard on Purcell, but the trumpet showed how it can do mournful and made one wonder how Miles Davis would do it using the mute. Button and Price, now piano, conversed amiably through the Haydn Concerto.
After such familiar, or at least known, repertoire, it was brave to finish with a Sonata by Thorvald Hansen (1847-1915) but composers that one's never heard of are always welcome. Tristan has links with Denmark, which presumably explains where he found this piece which was not unenjoyable and one day a Sunday evening television programme about an antique dealer or an eccentric detective could do worse than use the final movement as its theme tune.
There was no encore which meant we were out early. The select few that attend Lunchtime Live need to put more effort into extending their applause.
On the way home through Southsea, I investigated one of the bohemian shops in Albert Road's louche quarter that sells apparel and vinyl to choice cognoscenti. Among the t-shirts I found the relevant Jesus and Mary Chain item in a medium size that probably wouldn't do me any favours before I asked if they had such a thing but the label encouraged one to ask for other sizes.
No, nothing for anybody of your current proportions, the lady didn't say.
I said I rarely dared go into shops quite as cool as that.
But now you're in, it's not too bad, is it.
No, it was fine. But, when I have time for other anxieties beyond retirement and eternity, I'll retain the right to feel out of my depth in places I don't know if I'm cool enough to be.