Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Consider the Lilies

I have been following someone on Twitter who is living, with his partner, a shoe-string existence, house and pet-sitting, couchsurfing or camping out in a tent.  By hook or by crook they earn a bit of money here and there, but mostly they live (quite cheerfully, it seems) well below the poverty line.  It’s partly choice – they don’t want to make the compromises necessary to secure a regular income, and partly necessity – they weren’t earning enough to pay the rent on their flat.  I keep following because I want to see how long they can keep this up and whether they end up making their fortunes, as I think they hope to do, from various projects they have on the go.  It seems to me that they are exercising a kind of biblical faith in the idea that their needs will somehow be met.  My interest isn’t just the vicarious thrill of living through other people's adventures: I feel a parallel situation in my own life. 

If money is a form of energy then perhaps one can look at physical energy/vitality as a kind of money.  If so, then I am also living on a shoe-string.  Sometimes there are long stretches of almost nothing – a few pennies here and there; or there is money in the pot but I spend it all on one activity.  I had a week or so recently when I thought I was flush, but I misjudged.  I went for dips in the sea, did some workshopping, saw people, took walks.  It can be like going into a restaurant thinking that £20 will cover everything and being landed with a bill for three times the amount.  And emotional stress is like the leak in the roof that might cost hundreds of pounds and puts you into debt.  Actually, I am nearly always in debt.  I don’t put hours of rest into the black hole of the energy deficit, I spend what I have when I have it - blow the lot.  I am deep in the red and ignoring it.  Well, not quite.

Last night Mr. Signs and I went to a friend’s book launch in London.  What is it about coming back from the Smoke that always makes the journey feel twice as long?  At Victoria station I bought a special offer large packet of Revels and another of Minstrels, knowing I would need the sugar surge to keep me upright.  We ate the Revels last night and I am making my way though the Minstrels today.  Sugar, chocolate etc. is like borrowing from a loan shark to deal with a pressing debt or to buy drugs (coffee is also a loan shark, but more of a gentleman – there is room for negotiation).  On the train I sat opposite a woman who had a stonking great hardback of scientology guru L. Ron Hubbard’s ‘Dianetics’.  I flashed my slightly smaller hardback of my friend’s new book and saw her look wistfully at it before falling into an open-mouthed sleep.  I noticed that her carefully belipsticked mouth was neat and pretty, and why this should have struck me as poignant in the circumstances I am not sure, but sugar probably had something to do with it.  I was alive to nuance.  A very drunk woman staggered along the aisle wanting to know if the train was going to Balham, which it wasn’t (opposite direction) then pointed ferociously and with intent at the alarm button, but because she was so drunk she kept missing it.  This kind of thing is no more or less than one expects on the late train home. 

Why am I here when I might be working at the novel (it is growing at roughly 1000 words or so a week), washing the pile of dirty dishes (also growing) or lying in bed paying into the deficit?  In part because I recently contributed to Scintilla Poets in Conversation, which put a link to this blog, so it seemed fitting to put up a post.  But also, dear Reader, it’s good to talk.  Why else would I have carried on doing this for six and a half years?  Hang the expense.

On we go – me and the two hippies who are slow-travelling on a journey to god knows where, as we consider the lilies of the field.  I will be doing a reading with the Green Room Poets at the Poetry Café in London on Friday – admission is free, and there will be a ragtime pianist, plus the Daughter who will be singing the jazz and the blues.  So be there – in spirit, if not in body.  And wish me luck and potent chocolate for the journey home. 

(Photograph courtesy of the Daughter, taken at the Petrie Museum where the book launch was held).


Montag said...


Did you Brits give old Flinders Petrie the same type of going away that you gave to Jeremy Bentham!?!?

Montag said...

I am telling everyone to go and look at your picture of poor old Flinders P.


Reading the Signs said...

Montag, that is not Flinders because it is many more hundreds of years old. At least that is what we are led to believe!. Anyway, Jeremy did ask for it, didn't he!

Montag said...


I had thought there was some sort of ancient druidic tradition involved...