...when they were kittens
In a few weeks’ time, I’ll be embarking on what will be - without any overstatement at all - the greatest adventure of my life. I’m hoping that, like the two Grand Tours I’ve undertaken so far, it will change my life by giving me totally new experiences and new perspectives - new vistas, new places, new people and, of course, new memories.
Planning it, though, has concentrated my mind wonderfully, as you’d expect. I’ve not only been pre-occupied with schedules, timetables and venues but also - surprisingly - with what it all says about the kind of life I lead now. I found myself asking if my enthusiasm for travelling is fuelled by an unsettling dissatisfaction with my daily life.
Am I (I asked myself) secretly unhappy or frustrated? To help sort this out, I started to draft a kind of Typical Day In The Life Of Ian Robinson. It goes like this…
Am usually asleep by now but that depends on the book I’m reading or whether I have podcasts to listen to.
Asleep - with Symi, one of my two cats, also asleep right on top of me. I’m used to her snoring away on my chest and anyway I couldn’t stop her sleeping there even if I wanted to. She’s the kind of cat that does whatever she likes. Whoever said that ‘cats don’t have owners, they have staff’ was absolutely right.
Wide awake. Something has spooked Symi and she’s suddenly leapt off my chest, waking me up with quite a shock. I curse her roundly and drift slowly back to sleep, lulled by the ticking wallclock.
I know that some people find the tick-tock infuriating but, whenever I’m abed in a room with no audible clock, I just can’t sleep.
Wide awake. Unspooked, Symi has clambered back on my chest and woken me up.
Asleep until 0600, when Symi starts her neurotic ‘paddling’ - pressing her claws repeatedly into the continental quilt. I’m used to this, too, and have the scars to prove it. I quickly doze off again.
The alarm sounds and spooks me and both the cats - Halki, too.
I stagger out of bed and make for the kitchen, narrowly averting utter catastrophe because the cats are weaving between my ankles or collapsing flat on the floor in front of me. Why do cats do that?
I pour myself some fruit juice - blood orange juice, if I can get it - and put the coffee machine on.
After I’ve fed Halki and Symi ( - Purina Senior Recipe Meaty Chunks in Jelly, £5 for 12 pouches, Thankyou Good Morning - ) I stare out of the window and wait for the coffee machine to finish hubblebubbling.
I flop down in Mam’s old fireside chair, slurp my coffee and read that day’s To Do List. I started drafting To Do Lists five years ago because, like many newly-retired people, I found that I suddenly had far too many things To Do each day and got hopelessly confused.
It might look like this…
Meet Hildie 1130
Put that picture up
Send birthday card to Kathy (or whoever)
Draft blog - it’s late!!!
Buy batteries, porridge, flour, washing-up liquid, cat litter
Check emails (you forgot yesterday)
Reply to Martin, Peter, Susan
Listen to back-podcasts…
And so on and so on. I sigh heavily because I know I will never get through this lot.
This realisation, though, spurs me into action. I pour another coffee, sit back down again and finish reading yesterday’s paper.
That done - it’s breakfast time.
What I have for breakfast depends on what day it is - I’m a bit OCD about this. It’s always porridge on Mondays, Oatibix on Wednesdays, yogurt and fruit on Fridays and croissants on Saturdays and Sundays. I'm not sure why I don't legislate for Tuesdays or Thursdays but I don't.
So if it’s Monday, I will have mixed up my oats with milk the night before because everyone says you should. I take the mixture out of the fridge, bung it on the stove, stir it as it boils for a few minutes, lace it with sultanas and maple syrup (if I’ve been able to afford them) and sit back down - again - to eat the resulting heavenly gruel.
I really, really love porridge…
Somehow, I seem to have daydreamed away most of the morning. My To Do List remains unticked - and its almost 1030. If I don’t bestir myself now, Hildie will be left sitting all alone on the steps of Grey’s Monument - an experience to which she is not altogether unused. I blush with shame and make for the shower.
The phone rings. It’s Barry, my wonderful brother. He’s overexcited because he’s seen a very rare moth in his garden - or a particularly beautiful species of moss on the foreshore or an unusual plant on Tunstall Hills - and wants to know when we’re going to get together so he can tell me all about it and I can tell him about my latest trip to France…
At this point, I stopped drafting my Typical Day In The Life Of Ian Robinson and read through what I’d written.
A day that starts like that, with a list of options and opportunities as rich as that - and cats so affectionate - can’t be bad.
No, I decided. The reasons why I long to travel - to be moving - must lie elsewhere.
But I knew that already, anyway.
Please don’t forget that the Great Truckshunter Summer Extravaganza will once again be taking place at the Tanfield Railway.
The date - Thursday 15 August.
The time - 1030.
Get there if you can. Bring a friend, too, if you like.
A splendid time is guaranteed for all…
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