‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’
I somehow missed Milton at school. Perhaps I was off that day. So I’ve struggled with him over the years lacking the easy familiarity that long afternoons in chalky classrooms has given me with other writers.
But my mother was particularly fond of the above line and used it to cover a multitude of situations. Queuing in a shop. Standing at a bus stop. Holding the line for a call centre. Anytime really when nothing much was happening. So I imported it into my repertoire of unhelpful helpful sayings deployed willy nilly when the going gets tough.
Over recent months I have deployed my full thesaurus. The boy has stood on the burning deck. ‘If?’ has been asked on numerous occasions. I’ve galloped into the Valley of Death. Refused to go gentle. And told a true song of myself.
After working at high velocity for years on end suddenly being thrown back on one’s own internal resources has been eye-opening. And not always comfortable.
Without giving you my full Myers Briggs or 16PF results I like a balance between order and creative chaos. So I am surrounded by various lists I have put together at odd times during this redundancy adventure.
There’s the ‘What do we think is important’ list giving details of what we want as a family. Over there is the ‘What am I good at’ list to help me work out the sort of things I should be looking for. Then there’s the ‘And in three years time it will look like this …’ sketch envisioning a perfect RPS world. (Scarily like Dorset with mountains.)
It’s been, in part, a restoration job. However hard you try to separate the professional from the personal, redundancy is always personal. Not getting shortlisted or interviewed for jobs is equally personal too. Rationally you know that it’s your skill set or experience that is lacking. But. And it’s a big but. There’s the slow erosive drip of doubt that plops ever louder on the carapace of confidence you’ve built. It can make a very empty sound indeed.
But I have been inspired by a friend of mine who rebuilds cars. A little while ago he was showing off his new pride and joy. ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘it had to have a new chassis. Gearbox. Suspension – that was rubbish. Wings and rear body panels. Wiring loom. Passenger seat and recloth the interior.’
Then, without any trace of irony, he thumped me on the shoulder and said, ‘You don’t get true originals like that anymore.’
So I have been applying that childlike enthusiasm for ‘restoration’ to my good self. I’ve avoided a respray – I’d just look silly. And I’ve also decided against uprating my chassis in any way. But I have been trying to re-tune my engine.
De-greasing my mental apparatus from the accretions of years has been interesting. As has been trying to work out what sort of engine it is. A chugging Perkins diesel that can get anywhere but only at 10mph or a V8 gas-guzzler fit only for one-off parades and specialist shows? Or something comfy and mid-range that is very model of modern motor vehicle?
I’m not quite certain myself until I reassemble all the cogs and pistons, cranks and wiring that makes it go. I suppose it all comes back to what sort of expedition I’m embarking upon.
Now I’ve a list for that somewhere …