Wednesday, 4 March 2015

May you be ordinary

I sometimes think that my life isn't really exciting enough to write a blog. Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all (as the band Del Amitri might have put it). If I'm to write anything, I generally have to stick to my interior life. You can do some clever things with your imagination.

A front door opening out onto a driveway
Safe in our bubble
When I look round at the comfortable existence I lead with my husband, our two children, the dog and the cat, I wonder if this is what we were striving for all those years ago. Hours of essay writing at university, playing office politics during our twenties, running drunk through Soho... it was all leading to up this: domestic humdrum in a Home Counties bubble.

But that is the trade-off when you have children. Any appetite for risk diminishes almost overnight. I love that scene in the Paddington film when groovy Mr Brown drives his pregnant wife to the maternity hospital on a motorbike and then picks her up the next day in a new Volvo estate. Safety first, wildly fulfilling life second


Catching of happiness


The dynamic will shift eventually as our children turn into thrill-seeking teenagers (my seven-year son is already telling me that his life is too boring) and we parents make one last-ditch attempt to rediscover our youth. In a rather sad indictment of our current circumstances, both my husband and I admitted we were looking forward to retirement the other day, if only because of the freedom it promised us!

But until my rip-roaring retirement comes around, I shall seek excitement in the minutiae of daily life and give thanks for my ordinary existence. Safe in my bubble, I can watch my children grow and take succour from relationships with friends/family. The poet Philip Larkin, always so adept at celebrating the ordinary, expressed it rather better in a poem for the daughter of his friend, Kingsley Amis. "May you be ordinary," he told the newborn girl.

In fact, may you be dull - 
If that is what a skilled, 
Vigilant, flexible, 
Unemphasised, enthralled 
Catching of happiness is called.

('Born Yesterday' for Sally Amis.)


FURTHER READING

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin
Poems that range in tone from the scurrilous and satirical to the sentimental. Larkin exhibits a knack for elevating ordinary experiences through poetry.