Perfect moment


Less than a month ago, my daughter moved out. Or perhaps I should say moved in, to a shared and gorgeous parqueted apartment in another part of town. When daughters move out they leave a gap; a shifting globe of absence that, should you be me, must be filled.

At first I didn’t realise that it must be filled; it just felt like a gap with her name on it. It wasn’t a sad gap, mind you. She was ready to go and find a place unencumbered by Mother. She was geared up and revving to be the adult she is becoming and I was happy, proud and delighted that she knew herself to be ready and had the courage to make the move.

But there was a gap and I soon realised that I’d have to do some domestic rearranging to soften its edges until it became part of my space. Not only my space, but my young son’s.

First we rearranged the furniture; switching, shoving and lugging it from one wall to another until the arrangements pleased the eye and mind. That worked. Up to a point. The point being that the gap, the space, wasn’t physical. It was a space of habit, ritual and order. We, my son and I, had to create our own.

I know! I said. Why don’t we ignore the TV and DSTV remotes from Monday to Friday and try a little quiet time in the evenings. This is not the kind of suggestion one makes lightly to a TV addicted twelve year old, but he said fine. It’ll be difficult, but let’s do it. What a boy.

And so we did what countless others have done and switched off. The first couple of days were mildly jittery as we bumped into each other on the way to the fridge to see if it might contain anything entertaining. I soon stymied that one however and added another challenge to our new world: let’s get rid of the excess kilograms we were (are, it’s early days) carrying and start on A Healthy Eating Regime.

The fridge’s fascination soon gave way to planning and cooking fatless delights. Okay, I’m exaggerating about the delights, but we are both feeling rather chuffed at our determination and creativity with steamed fish.

It’s the TV-less state that’s working the real magic though, as my son, freshly back at school and elated to be in Grade Seven, has expressed no interest in the box’s charms. Instead, he has fallen hook, line and sinker for another technological marvel, his iPad, and is reading more than he’s ever read before. Now, when I go to wind down his day in heathenish prayers, he folds his iPad into its anonymous casing and sighs the sleepy contented sigh of a boy who knows that Willard Price’s Adventures will be waiting for him on the morrow.

And I, work done for the day, settle in with AA Gill (in real book format) and listen to the crickets rasping, the dogs scratching, the fridge humming and realise that the gap is gently dispersing into the particles of our life.

It is a perfect moment. So perfect, that I had to break it to come to my own little technological treasure, and write about it.

 I’m done now. My tea is cold and AA calls me.

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In Praise of Older Men


I’ve always liked older men. I like their ways that are always one step behind – and thus ahead – of the pack. I like their music that reminds me of a time I never knew. I like their manners that woo me into believing the world could easily be a better place, if only it pretended to be civilised.

 I recently attended a gathering well populated by older men of all hues, and was so distracted by the spring of respect and compassion rising in me, that I could barely think straight. I wanted to reach out and ask for their opinions, life stories, solutions. I wanted to dine with them, dance with them, walk on the beach with them.

This has nothing to do with ‘elders’ (over-rated) or sugar-daddies (nasty). I don’t want to bed them, marry them or spend their life savings.

It’s about a certain type of man who happens to be ten or twenty years older than I: men who wear cardigans, corduroys and polished shoes. Men who smell of grass clippings rather than Aramis. Men who’ve read – and can recite – Rudyard Kipling and The Count of Montecristo. Who stalk up hillsides with nothing more than binoculars and an apple.

Men who don’t even know the meaning of the word metrosexual and who, while they might get moody about the state of the nation and cricket, never get moody about women.

This older man, I realise, is something of a fantasy figure; a composite of the best bits of my late father; a dream of what my late brother might have become; a fond remembrance of a friend or two gone by.

In reality, he (for now he has become Older Man) is the retired journalist, professor, senior partner who no longer fits into this world. I would call it ‘modern’ world, but there is nothing modern about the way we live. Modern implies innovation, strides forward, new thought; whereas we live on a landfill of yesterday’s failures. My Older Man is the one seen strolling across the wasteland, not daring to look down but with eyes fixed on a wavering horizon; wondering what the last years will bring – and where the poetry has gone.

I see him now, sitting at his desk reading from a red cotton-jacketed book with cracked spine, a glass of whisky at his elbow and his laptop unopened. He reads intently, occasionally glancing out of the window to check the changing of the wind direction. He makes the odd note on a foolscap pad. In pencil. He ignores the ache in his fingers as he turns the page.

I don’t know why I care so deeply for him, but I do.