So that’s it: finished. I walked out of the famous office for the last time yesterday evening at 5:30 pm. When I started out for work in the morning, I was surprised that I felt neither cheered by the fact this was my last day nor annoyed that I was facing another 7 hours of boredom. I didn’t feel anything in particular.
Throughout the day, however, the boredom and distaste built up and I often found myself day-dreaming or even dozing off. I got myself a double espresso topped up with hot water to keep me awake. Despite this, I think I acquitted myself well. I didn’t skimp or give short measure.
At 5:25, I gathered my things together. I put all the papers away in the fire-proof cupboards and made sure there was nothing personal left in the work folders they had given us. I took leave of my colleagues – only three of them were still there at that point. Most of the permanent staff had already gone home so I wasn’t in the possibly embarrassing position of having to say goodbye to people who rarely bothered to speak or even look at me.
I awoke this morning at the sound of Tigger putting my cup of tea down beside the bed. She does this every weekday morning and it’s better than any alarm call. “No work today!” I told myself cheerfully. I could have turned over and gone back to sleep but instead, I got up. I usually get up after the tea arrives, even if I am not working or going somewhere. For one thing, I like to see Tigger and talk to her before she goes to work. For another, it seems a waste of a perfectly good day not to get stuck into living it straightaway.
There were several tasks that needed doing. One was giving the sink a good clean because I have neglected it a little the last few weeks. Then there there were a couple of errands to run. I had to go to the Post Office and deposit a cheque at the building society. At first I found myself hurrying and being busy. Having deposited the cheque, however, I suddenly realized I had no need to hurry. I was free and could get on with enjoying myself. So I did. I had a stroll and looked in some shops. I went into Borders in the N1 Centre to see what was in their reduced-price boxes. Then I wandered over to Philosophy.
What should meet my gaze on the philosophy shelves but a book by A.C. Grayling. Irresistible. I am a fan of A.C. Grayling and to discover a book of his that I haven’t read is always an exciting occasion. This one is entitled Descartes and subtitled The Life of René Descartes and Its Place in his Times. Two magical names – Grayling and Descartes – in a single package! Irresistible, as I said.
All being well, I shall have more time for reading now. At the weekend we visited Grant & Cutler, the famous foreign language bookshop. There I at last found a copy of Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry with the author’s original drawings. I also got Albert Camus’ L’Etranger that I had been meaning to re-read.
Ironically, I have a clutch of library books, unread or partly read. I have already renewed them once (or is it twice?) and we are going away next weekend for a few days so I think the kindest thing is to take them back. You will probably understand what I mean when I say that some books read more slowly than others. You want to read them but you have to take your time over them. If you borrow these from the library you have to keep renewing them and there’s always the danger that someone else will request them. On the other hand, if you buy them, you may keep putting off reading them so I suppose it’s a no-win situation.
Le Petit Prince is a charming but strange little book. In most editions is is well short of 100 pages long and in the UK usually turns up, in translation, among children’s books. Saint-Exupéry writes it as if fo children but I’m not sure how much children would understand or enjoy it. It is one of those books that seem to have been written for grownups to read to children, where the children would understand it on one level and the grownups on another.
The conversation between the author, a pilot trying desperately to repair his aeroplane that has crash-landed in the desert before his drinking water runs out, and the Prince, a strangely wise child from another planet, tells an enchanting tale of tiny planets inhabited by eccentric beings and gradually reveals the author’s philosophy of love and relationships. The bitter-sweet air of nostalgia that pervades the book comes, I think, from the fact that it is also an allegory of the author’s banishment from the Eden of childhood.