You don’t need an engine to begin a journey. Remaining static and in the same place daily can provide a wealth of experiences. This gentleman has a bicycle, well two actually. The imagination starts to fly. The spade? Small excursions to a garden plot? Has he someone close who uses the other bicycle? He looks quizzically. He looks enquiringly. Self sufficient and able. Tom Good comes to mind. The Good Life, a sitcom from the 1970s told the story of Tom, who in midlife crisis is searching for the conundrum he calls “It”. What is “It” and how may it change his, up to now, materialistic and boring life as a draughtsman who draws designs of plastic animal toys to put in breakfast cereal packets. His solution is to become self sufficient in Surbiton. It’s Tom’s choice and he’s lucky to have an understanding wife, Barbara Good, who’s keen to get involved too. Maybe that second bicycle provides this imagery too. They swap the car for a digging machine and churn up their life in the form of the front and back gardens in preparation for growing vegetables. Lifestock is involved too.
Their life is one of claustrophobic comfort. Waking up, sometimes with the early morning birds (too early for the next door neighbours suffering the noise involved in the garden), in their house and getting on with their dreams and ambitions. Tom, a roller up of sleeves and bullish nature and Barbara with her insightful characterisations enabling them both carrying the dream through. She scrubbed the old rusty range, whilst he cut out paper bird shapes of birds of prey to create shadows in order to scare the birds off from eating their seeds. Whistling merrily at his new found splendour of a life, she’s getting on with the nitty gritty of the basics. The basics to keep them alive.
A bit like people thinking nurses hand out tablets from a drugs trolley and sit and write in the notes. There is an actual reality of Fundamentals of Care. People need toileting, washing, feeding, etc. Rough with smooth. The gentleman above sitting on the steps of his lifestyle has that spade and bicycle. There is his nitty gritty. Journey should be considered as such, I suppose. The nitty, the gritty, the calm and the inspiring nature of what’s all around us.
I loved the Good Life. It just made me happy. It reminds me of my time when I was making ceramics in a cold garage, handling cold clay and making Celtic travellers, warriors and other pieces influenced by the surreal. Starting the day with hot black sugary coffee, honeyed porridge and radio 4. I’d be planning pieces for upcoming events such as craft fayres or exhibitions. Getting ready orders for shops and craft galleries. A time of peace and contentment.
Then, my nephew was born profoundly Deaf. We, as a family, attended a British Sign Language course, and my career changed. I began supporting people. I took up a career role supporting Deaf students in further and higher education. Five years for me to train in Sign Language, note taking and lip speaking skills. More than my staff nurse training. And that involved a lot of learning too. So much clinical knowledge to learn. Anatomy, physiology, pathology, ethics and law. A veritable minefield of inclusions adding to my inner turmoil of ‘what if I make a mistake and it all goes wrong?’ I can’t bash it down like a piece of wet clay and start over. Mess up once and the nursing journey would be over!
It was at this time I realised my anxiety started to rear itself. Am I good enough to support these people in their choices educationally? Will I let them down? People said I was a good signer/communicator, but you’re your own worst critic aren’t you? Nursing has added to this burden. Anxieties become even more profound. The modern NHS is a contributing factor. Anxiety isn’t born from your skills base. It comes from looking at the holistic principles of their health situations. Biological, psychological and sociological considerations in the modern world are really frustrating. Anxiety is seeing the hierarchical systems of support belittling it’s staff, watching the nurses struggling. But……you get those wonderful moments of witnessing human tenacity. Patients, families and the multidisciplinary team. All have that tenacity. So, the end of the day and reflection on them give a sustenance that makes you get ready for the next shift.
But I still yearn for my old artistic life. Yes, I can pick up my guitar and write songs, pick up my camera, load a film and take photographs that may deliver the shock from latent imagery that may produce a little gem, create a perfect synergy of essential oils that provide a complementary aromatherapy to ease pain, stress, anxiety or depression or Mindfully cook and eat a vegetarian meal that has aromatic splendour. Sometimes succeed, lots of times fail. But it doesn’t matter. It’s the journey that counts. They all begin, as Buddhism says, with the first step. Artistically, my hobbies are little oases of calm amongst the turmoil and anxiety that can exist.
Just like Tom and Barbara’s ruined crops after a night of stormy weather, and Margo and Jerry coming to their aid in gathering and saving the salvageable. It’s like an exceptionally bad day on the ward and your colleagues supporting both yourself and each other. A little oasis of human generosity. I loved the Good Life. I loved it’s stupid humour. It was a bit like Lovejoy (the Ian McShane antique dealer role) and that other life of focus and intent on very British humour. A settling down place on the settee and escapism over a one hour episode. Now? Netflix mini series minefields that blow your brain into uncharted territories and give you the collywobbles.
Hey ho…..my VW Crossover will be ready soon. And I have a bike. Well a couple actually. One belongs to my wife. I also have an old beaten up Tilley hessian hat and a spade at the back of the shed. I have a plot of land in the form of a beautiful back garden, which presently has gone absolutely bonkers wild. But does attract all forms of nature. It has ancient apple and damson trees which badly need attention. It has the ability to marry controlled plots and the freedom of meadow naturalism. Eco natural married to systematic production of plants and vegetables. I was once familiar with many plant, herbs, vegetable insights and grew vegetables and herbs for a few years at my parent’s house and in various houses of myself and Angie’s. Now…….what would it be like to actually become a gardener again?