I’ll tell you what’s keeping me awake at night… and it’s all my own fault. I’ve got a Billy Bragg complex whereby I feel that the world is skewed so that – oh la la! – the ripest fruit falls into the laps of those who already have too much, and impecunious folk like me have to scrabble on the ground looking for wind-fallen, wasp-bitten stuff that isn’t too badly damaged considering what it’s been through.
What happened was that I was at a party on Sunday where among the company were Mr Schroder and his wife – and let’s be perfectly candid… they’re not short of a bob or two. Lovely people – stinking rich. I was dizzy with the implied flattery of it all when Mrs Schroder mentioned that she’d heard about Phoenix from the Ashes, and asked where she could get hold of a copy. ‘I’ve got one right here!’ I said, lifting the box of books I’d brought in the hope of being asked for one: ‘…and if you’ve got a tenner I’ve even got a pound in change.’
Now, Mrs Schroder only buys goods of the highest quality and authenticity, and naturally enough questioned me closely about what she was getting:
‘Did you write it?’ she said looking me up and down doubtfully.
‘Yes.’ …There was a pause.
‘All of it?’
‘Yes.’ …Another pause.
‘Without any help?’
Living on a remote island far from the bright lights of a bustling city is like living in a forgotten meadow far from the from the Nitrogen-dusted, sterile fields of an intensive farm – the expectation is that anything that does grow will be stunted.
I asked if they wanted it signed – Yes; and did they want a dedication – Yes; and how should I spell their names? …and in all the to-ing and fro-ing of information; passing back and forth of thanks; me giving them a pound and expressing my wishes that they enjoy the book; it wasn’t until they were leaving the room that I realized I hadn’t actually been given a tenner. So – to save embarrassment; to avoid having to stop them at the door with the words: ‘Excuse me… but have you paid for that?’ – I watched the multi-bulti’s walk out, inadvertently carrying a free copy of my book… and a pound of my money to go with it. Why does that feel like a metaphor for my life?
Now, of course, a few quid shouldn’t matter to me – but the reason it does matter is that my chosen line of work is notoriously badly paid, and consequently my finances are as tight as a gnats chuff. What I do, by the way, what I excel at – and I think I can say that without fear of contradiction – is buggering-about-at-nothing-in-particular. Each of us should do the work God fitted us out for – and do that work tirelessly; yet the trouble with my calling is that there are a lot of charlatans out there who try to muscle-in on my line of work, even though they’re not nearly so well-qualified as I am to do it, and I find that the competition is fierce.
Not only is buggering-about badly paid but some people – well-paid enough in their own careers – fancy tinkering about in mine for a ‘change’ and are even willing to do it on a voluntary basis – completely undermining my claims for remuneration.
So, facing the sober prospect of choosing an alternative career – doing some useful work, perhaps (which I know I’d be completely unsuited to – and anyway, what right have I to encroach upon the occupations of others, and take the food from their mouths?) I walked the dog around the loch. It’s just over the hill from the house; it’s quiet… you have a chance to think, and it only takes about twenty minutes to circumnavigate. I sat down at the far end where the silence was so in-yer-face you could carve it into chunks and sell it by mail-order if you could be bothered to lick all the stamps. It was the perfect evening for a bit of work and so I sat there and compiled a list of all the places in the world – hot-spots if you will – where people like me could move and find no work was actually available. It’s not a complete list, but it does give hope. Give hope… perhaps that’s God’s purpose for me?