In praise of the rackety life

Being sort of semi-retired has given me time to reflect on different approaches to life, as I try to create my own new life after full-time employment. Not that I have given up on full-time employment, far from it. I’ve actually been looking for work now for 20 months, so far without success. I suspect it’s my age which puts potential employers off. Who knows? Perhaps that’s just my own defensive fantasy!

I look for different things now from work. Something satisfying that gives me a sense that I am doing something more worthwhile than just earning a pay cheque. Something that allows more time than just living to work, eat and sleep. Something that lets me live my life as well. I’ll keep looking.

Anyway, I keep coming across people who live far more disordered lives than I can imagine. A prime example is Patrick Leigh-Fermor, who apart from his time in the army during the war and a brief spell at the British Council in Athens after the war, did not hold down any regular job at all. He travelled a lot and wrote rather less than he could have done. Of course he was lucky to marry in to money which removed a lot of the financial pressure that forces the rest of us to turn up at the coalface day after day.

Then there’s my old college friend, an eccentric even then. He once got out of a tutorial by claiming (correctly) that he had been taken in for questioning by the police on suspicion of murder. It turns out that the tuxedo he’d sent to the laundry had been suspected of being soaked in blood, as opposed to being stained with the port he’d actually spilled down it. After college he travelled widely all over the Arabic speaking world, becoming fluent in Arabic and its offshoots, and lived for a time in a village in Pakistan. He has no money but is fabulously well-connected. One of the stranger stories that swirl around him concerns the end of the Shah’s regime. Apparently he left Tehran and drove across the border with the body of deceased Anglican priest in the boot because he didn’t want it to be desecrated by the new regime.

Someone else I came across recently, has done a bit of this and that: some teaching, some singing, some singing teaching, investment banking, a project or two here and there.

For me, used to routine and regular income, this sort of life is almost heroic, just through its riskiness and unpredictability.What is the attraction? Probably because it is just so different from what I have known. Perhaps better to live it though vicariously, at a distance, through these extraordinary other people rather than being in the gut churning maelstrom of it.

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