19 February 2014

Idleness

"Procrastination is the spice of life!" was shouted from a window on the campus of the University of Stirling - probably some time during 1975 - or maybe 1976. It was a woman's voice and she remains anonymous and unknown to me. Funny how certain things stick with you.

Once I was Mr Busy Bee. There weren't enough hours in the day. Up with the larks, I scooted to the shower, dressed in record time and leapt downstairs to gulp scalding tea and consume a slice of toast in one enormous mouthful. Then grab school bag and keys, out to the car. And it was always 7.52 exactly. Zooming to the school, I knew the quickest route like the back of my hand.

The work was always full on. With my English team, we often felt like firefighters, beating down those crackling bush fires. We had working lunches - not the ones others might enjoy - but literal working lunches - at one's desk or computer - filling in data, checking work-related messages, marking books while munching on sandwiches. Towards the end, I gave up making tea or coffee at work because that took too much time so I just swigged water from a two litre bottle.

As the head of department, the buck stopped with me. I had other people's discipline issues to address. Hundreds of times I had to leave my own classes to deal with recalcitrant, awkward, lazy, disruptive, violent or mentally disturbed children in corridors. Often they came back to my classroom and sat at the side or we'd try to get the superior and often dismissive senior management team to roll up their sleeves and support us - that is if we could locate them. And staff were sometimes at the end of their wits. There were tears, "sickies", anti-depressant tablets, problems at home, arguments, letting off steam.

After the often stormy weather  of each timetabled school day had passed, there were usually meetings to attend, things to sort out or on Thursdays - detentions to administer. I returned home between six and six thirty - unless there was a parents' evening to attend. Back home, I'd take my schoolbag from my car. It always contained a bunch of pressing things to do or pupils' assignments to mark and assess. I would frequently do an hour or two of school work late at night before retiring to bed and Sunday evenings were often devoted - not to my wife and children - but to that damnable black school bag - its mouth forever open and endlessly deep.

That's how it was. In another life. Now I am not Mr Busy Bee, I am instead Mr Idle Sloth. This blog might have accidentally given you the impression that I spend all of my time hiking around the countryside or taking photographs, watching films, travelling abroad,  maintaining this house or  reading books but if the truth be known Mr I.Sloth spends the majority of his time just lazing about. Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I confess.

No need to get up early. Put the news on the radio at nine o'clock. Dressing gown and downstairs. Tea and porridge or egg on toast. Watch some "Home Under the Hammer" or "Down Under Revisited" - just now its the Winter Olympics - women's curling and I am not talking about their flowing locks. Another mug of tea. Still in dressing gown. Wander outside to feed the birds - though we see less than we used to do. Switch on this computer. Check out familiar sites. Check emails. Check blogs. Maybe write a blogpost like this one. The morning drifts away. Time for a leisurely shower while listening to "You and Yours" on Radio 4. Get dressed. Make the bed. Empty the dishwasher. Check the mail. Make some lunch. 

It was on a morning such as this that I recently missed a dental appointment. Too busy being slothful to look at the calendar and now that excellent NHS dental practice has banished me in spite of my protestations. I have to get on the list of another practice. If only we could have dealt with school pupils like that when I was Mr Busy Bee - "You failed to hand your assignment in on time so your exam entry has been cancelled" or "You played truant on Wednesday so you are off the school roll and you'll have to find another school to disrupt!".

Of course, sloth is one of the seven deadly sins but I don't feel too guilty about it. Pottering around, wasting time, relaxing. It's like payback time for those endless busy bee days. My afternoons are dictated by the weather. Country walking - shopping - making the evening meal. Then there's "Pointless " on the TV with the affable Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. Like the woman shouted, and maybe it's true, "Procrastination is the spice of life!" There's a lot to be said for idleness.

24 comments:

  1. Hi Mr Pudding. Have just discovered your lovely blog. Since seeing Neil on the sofa advert, I have loved sloths too. Sloths know a thing or two. Taking your time is good for your health and well being. Just imagine having a sloth as a pet. It would take you a full day to take it for walkies round the block.

    I enjoyed this post. Just going to take a slow browse through your other posts.

    Best wishes from Carol

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    1. Sometimes I think that sloths (those in the wild) are wrongly derided. Evolution has made them what they are - for whatever reason. They conserve energy but their velocity or lack of it means that they must avoid the forest floor or they will be eaten by speedier creatures.

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  2. Being in a similar position, I know exactly what you mean. There is something tremendously satisfying in putting off till tomorrow what you might once have done today. What I want to know though is where where all the time goes. Just when I've got into the swing of pottering aimlessly it's time to go to bed.

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    1. What is this "similar position" Ian? Do you mean the missionary position or sprawled on the sofa like a big, fat sultan?

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  3. Yes, yes, yes. It used to be up at 5, and in my classroom by 6:45. Now rolling out of bed at 7 am is positively hedonistic. A full pot of tea to meander through the morning, maybe an afternoon nap, dinner when we feel like it (not something to be got out of the way so I can go grade papers in the evening), and wonderful mindless TV at night.
    Life is good.

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    1. Life may be good Marty but are bones and memory?

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  4. I work 11.5 hours at the hospital a week
    And am I busier now than when I worked full time?
    Well I guess I am not, but now I get things done properly
    Also it frees chris up not to get bogged down with the mundane and home things.......so it's a good compromise

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    1. You and Chris seem to have got things really sussed. Sure you could have been a full time health worker - maybe a matron like Hattie Jacques by now - bringing in wheelbarrows of lolly - but why? There's more to life than that as your blog proves nearly every day.

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    2. I did the senior sister thing in Sheffield YP
      60 hour weeks
      And no one to clean the house

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  5. My English teacher, Mr Hayes (a Heathcliff lookalike from Yorkshire, could hit any disruptive pupil at twenty paces with a high velocity blackboard duster. If he was really angry he would pick the miscreant up by the throat and pin him to the blackboard for a few 'words'. If that didn't work, he'd have a word with Mr Pugh (also a northerner), the PT instructor who would make the 'wazzock' run up and down the rugby field with a medicine ball on his head until he cried for Mummy. We all passed English language AND literature.

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    1. Clearly Mr Haze was a cultured man whose approach to teaching had been civilised by his immersion in the great works of English Literature. As for Mr Church Pew - your PE teacher - I am most surprised that he knew any polysyllabic words as almost all the PE teachers I ever met had clearly been lobotomised.

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  6. Taking a day off every now and then, without anything specific to do, is a luxury I can afford from time to time. Such days are paradise, and possibly I hold them in even higher esteem because they are rare, and I already know that the next day will be a regular working day again.
    My parents are both retired, and they were both working hard, plus looking after ageing parents until the end. So now they fully enjoy being masters of their own time, and are as active or as "lazy" as they want to. Most days, my Dad drives to the allotment. He does voluntary work once a week at a charity shop. My Mum does voluntary work, too, reading every Wednesday morning to her 40 surrogate grandchildren at a nearby kindergarten. It is lovely to see how they now have so much more time to spend with their friends than when they all still worked. They go to exhibitions together or just visit each other for a nice meal. I hope my retirement will be a nice as this, and my love still with me by then.

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    1. I really ought to follow your parents' good example and at least do a bit of voluntary or charity work - assuming of course that I would remember to go!

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  7. I became disgusted with my own slothfulness and decided to turn over a new leaf this year. I bought a tablet that shows the days of the week and I write everything I need to do, complete with a little box I can check when it's done. That worked really well for a month. Now I find I resent the list. So instead of making a list of things to do, I wait until the end of the day and write the things I DID, and check the boxes.

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    1. Jan - what you need next is a "things I am not going to do list" then you'll be able to check them all off and feel good inside. No guilt trip.

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    2. Jan, I do that too and then give myself a pat on the back after I write the list of everything I've done. I must admit, I do like Mr Pudding's idea of writing a list of "things not to do". That sounds fab!

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  8. Dolce fare niente. The sweetness of doing nothing.

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    1. I never heard that before. Thanks GB.

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  9. You need to get a recalcitrant puppy, YP. Then you'd consider getting up at 6.30am to be a lie in!
    Enjoy the sweet smell of laziness and having a flexible (non-existent) timetable. You had worked hard for it. :)

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  10. PS I am quite disappointed though as I was convinced you were out hiking in the hills all day, every day, come rain or shine.

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    1. That was just a cleverly wrought illusion Jenny and as for yapping puppies - I think I'll pass on that one and roll over to get some more sleep.

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  11. Sounds like you deserve your rest, after years teaching all those Arctic Monkey monkeys to use their "h"s and showing them the beauty of Yorkshire classics like A Kestrel for a Nave. Take it easy!

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    1. Thanks Brian. Err - I don't think they allowed kestrels in churches!

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    2. Ooops, back to school for me !

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