Mastering the Art of Avoidance

Sometimes we just have to sit and do nothing. Time has a way of slowing us down, it makes us drag our feet as if a heavy weight has been tied onto our list of responsibilities. Just thinking about it tires me out. Too many thoughts about too many to do’s and not enough time to really enjoy, and I mean relish and devour, this brief life of ours.

Sometimes I sit and think of pretty girls, for no other reason than to fill the space in my head with something delightful to distract. But alas, it rarely lasts more than a minute or so, guilt kicks in to remind me of my weakness for doing nothing in particular, and the piles of digital paperwork that have collected like old enemies on my computer claw at me until I can’t stand it any longer and so jump up and cross another item off my list.

I wish I had a man servant, and a maid who could understand English. And maybe someone to cook, although I do love cooking, that is, until guilt kicks in again – ‘come on get back to work, no time to worry about how you might die, you’ve more important things to do, like making money.’

I don’t enjoy spending money, but it’s nice to have it for the odd book or two. Not that I have much time to read either, I’m kind of saving them all, all of these books, for a time when I won’t have to think about making money, and can just be, ideally in a comfy chair near a window, with the curtains partly drawn, so the empty gardens outside are visible when I want them to be, but for the rest of the time I can feel safe in the cozyness of my inner rooms.

Life requires effort. Maybe that’s why people commit suicide – disappointed that life doesn’t just happen by itself. I remember being aware of that naïve illusion when a child, and then the awakening when realising that one day I would have to do things like work. My dad worked in an insecticide factory for part of his life as I was growing up. He smelt of yellow when he came home each day. It eventually killed him, that yellow. My childhood hairdresser told me so, when as an adult, I bumped into him shortly after my dad died. Fison’s Pest Control Ltd – a serial killer, but they had great Christmas parties for kids – ten green bottles hanging on the wall. So the idea of work was not attractive to me, is it to anyone? I spent most of my life trying to avoid it and I was good at avoidance. You might say I mastered the art.

The jobs I did for others were always painfully draining. I couldn’t see any real benefit in any of them. So I would somehow re-position myself into new roles that appeared on the surface to be more beneficial to my employers. They loved me for it, but in truth, I just wanted to get away from the limitations of a 9 to 5.

How shop assistants can just stand there all day I’ll never know. I tried it as a furniture salesman for a while and soon re-positioned myself as interior designer for the room settings instead. That way I could move around the shop and no one ever quite knew where I was. No one else seemed to mind though, they all had retail addiction. Chained to their tills, that’s how it used to be.

So I have this strange respect for shop assistants in the John Lewis Partnership who spend their entire lives working for the company. John Lewis dangle this carrot of a one year sabbatical with full pay mid-way through their shop assistants working lives – ‘only another 20 years to go and you’ll get a whole year’s holiday.’ I think I would rather be dead than to have to look back on a life in retail and try and convince myself that it had all been worthwhile.

I’ll say one thing though, if it hadn’t been for retail, I wouldn’t have met Anne-Marie, the busty blond 16 year old Swedish kennel maid who took my virginity, married a multi-millionaire and bought a house owned by ABBA. And I wouldn’t have met Jayne, my first wife, mother of two of my children. She fought off my advances for a whole year before finally feeling sorry for me and agreeing to marry. And I wouldn’t have sung traditional English folk songs every Wednesday evening with two policemen, one of whom tipped me off about a strip club they were going to close down because it allowed customers on stage to join in the fun. Luckily I got to visit a week before they closed it down. I returned back home from Soho on the train in a state of shock. I’d never seen lesbian sex before. I felt like every passenger could read my mind and knew exactly where I’d been.

So thank you John Lewis, you opened my eyes in many ways. That time when the manager of menswear set up a projector in the stock room and we all watched 8mm movies of people having sex with animals will stay with me forever.

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