Monday, July 31, 2006

Let me tell you story...

1. I was cycling home on my bike under a warm early evening sun down a wider stretch of Palatine road; wide enough to allow my mind to wander and think less of the passing busses that otherwise rumble by within 12 inches of my elbow. And as my mind was wandering I got to wondering about my long term goals for life and I realised that, for better or worse, I was driven by the ambition to make some kind (I haven’t worked out what kind yet) of positive difference to the world at large. Now this might sound all very noble, but perhaps it would be better described by the fairly firm belief that if my life was to have any value, that if I was to have any value, I had better do something pretty darn good with myslef. The road narrowed; I dodged some drains and wobbled from the wind of a passing car and my mind moved on to the more mundane.

2. That night I lay awake as my wife drifted into sleep beside me, and I became aware that I was anxious. Suddenly I’m high above and looking at the whole of the world and the whole of time, and everything that was and is and will be (pretty low resolution from that height, don’t ask for details) and my small place in all of it. [I usually attribute an episode of this sort to spending too much time thinking and not enough time being specifically task orientated. If I had a job with projects and daily dead lines and practical applications I would probably be fast asleep by now.] Anyway, so I was thinking about life, the Universe and everything, and my place in it, and it became apparent that I was anxious because I was worried that I wouldn’t stand out enough, that I wouldn’t make a difference, that I would screw up, or worse, completely miss out on the opportunities handed to me. I feared my life would drift along in a mist of mediocrity.

3. This story has a happy ending. I have been skimming through Alain De Botton’s Status Anxiety (rather appropriately) and so I lifted it from the bedside table and crept into another room. Part 2 ‘Solutions to Status Anxiety’, Section IV ‘Christianity’, p.248, de Botton is describing the benefits of gazing upon ruins to remind us of the fleeting nature of human achievements. He writes:

‘We may enjoy local victories, a few years in which we are able to impose a degree of order upon the chaos, but everything is ultimately fated to slop back into a primeval soup. If this prospect has the power to console, it is perhaps because the greater part of our anxieties stems from an exaggerated sense of the importance of our projects and concerns. We are tortured by our ideals, and by a punishingly high minded sense of the gravity of what we are doing.’

And perhaps de Botton has a point. There is nothing like ‘an exaggerated sense of the importance of our projects and concerns’ to keep us awake at night. I needed to let go, to relax, and to enjoy the gift of life without worrying, so much, about the bigger picture, because in the end I’m really not that important. And although this is only one small facet on the diamond of life, rather than a truth to live by, it sure helped me to get a good nights sleep.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A letter.

Dear Geoff,
Firstly, I'd like to say how much I've enjoyed your blog about the 43 bus, it really is the best blog about the 43 bus on the Web, and the Web is a really big place, really big. I mean, the hard drive on my MP3 player is pretty big - but the Web is like even bigger than that. So well done there.
However, let me ask you this, what would be the quickest way to push the self destruct button on this poetical saga of love and hope? A rhetorical question, of course. You well know the answer. Perhaps, say, if you stopped getting the bus in favour of some other form of transport? Like a toy that’s lost its novelty value, you have cast aside the once much loved 43 and began a new affair with your recently fixed mountain bike. Loser.
Now I know what you're going to say: the bike is quicker (for you), more healthy (for you) and cheaper (for who? - for you). It's all about you, isn't it? It hurts.
So what now? Is this the end? There is no WestWing without Jed Bartlet. There is no bus blog without a bus. I suppose you think you can evolve, keep the name perhaps, but vary the inspiration? But what, are you going to write about your BIKE journey? Gee, give me a break. I suppose you think it'll be quirky, people will ask 'Why is this blog called 43?' and 'Why is there a little picture of a bus at the top?' and you will answer 'Well, years ago I used to blog only about the 43 bus, isn't that great?' No, Geoff, it isn't great.
Anyway, soon the rain will come back, and the cold will come back, and you will be remained that you live in Manchester, not Mexico, and you will find yourself crawling back to the 43.
Until then? Perhaps you can pull something out of the bag, something more entertaining than some dumb letter to yourself. We live in hope.

Anyway, lots of love,

p.s. say hi to mum and dad for me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


A glimpse, a glance, lasting a second, or less, and then they're gone, carried away by the earth rolling under the bus. We cut to the next scene, but the residual image remains, pulled off the conveyor belt and fingered by the mind, pressed and prodded and turned:

A middle aged male, in grey pinstripe suit. Hunched slightly as he sits at a bus stop, his melancholy eyes gaze down at a small leafy twig from a privet hedge that he turns in the fingers of both hands. His legs are slumped out before his rounded belly, and a tear roles down his cheek. (I'm aware I may have inadvertently added the tear in post production – I remember what I saw, not necessarily what there was.)

Later, we’re passing through a housing estate, and movement draws my eyes to a garden where a large black dog, perhaps a Labrador, is swinging two feet above the ground, fixed by his teeth to a red rubber hoop, in turn held by a stocky man pivoting on his right foot as he turns. The dog sways up and down around the circular path, legs flailing out behind, and the man catches my eye and grins. Before the dog has completed a full circle they are carried away into the distance.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Boring as a bus ride.

I sit, uninspired, the bus rolls along but my brain is static. It sluggishly struggles for some cognitive state above that of the free Metro newspaper that had entertained it for longer than usual. I have nothing to say. A boring bus journey, yet no different from any other. The difference is in me, it seems. I do my best to make a choice about how I see the world, but it’s not always possible. Is it friendly, or hostile? Is it inspiring, or depressing? Is it as wide and awesome as the galaxies or as mundane and irritating as the chewing gum on my seat? Today, boring. Now there’s a word I dislike- boring. Someone old and wise used to tell me that only boring people get bored, and there’s some truth to it – though don’t let it give you a complex.

Monday, July 03, 2006

On being alone on a crowded bus.

It was grey outside, with a light drizzle playing at the window, not too cold. The bus carried a muted odour of chips and fizzy drinks that wasn’t unpleasant, though grew more tiresome as the journey progressed. I looked out as a small boy hurried past on a miniature skateboard, and back inside a girl across from me took a sip out of a bottle as if the most important thing in the world to her was to avoid letting the rim of that bottle touch her lips. Another guy next to me finished a can of beer and wedged it down in the crack between the two seats in front, while a Front Row Foreigner chatted away loudly on his mobile.
So many individuals surrounding me, each with a unique life, a unique view of the world, a unique take on this thing we call existence. So many individuals, each with a self, an identity, like mine, I suppose, yet as different as I care to imagine.