A week ago I turned 55. I remember writing something similar when I turned 25. Would I keep writing a diary. Thirty years ago I did, it took me through the ‘final encounters’ and misadventures of my youth and into coupledom, marriage and children. The diary died when co-habiting gave me something better to do before my head hit the pillow.
A lifetime later, the children are adults, I crave the daily exhalation of words onto a page. I do this no longer as means to check or reflect on my actions, rather it is simply a record of them.
Any day, let alone any week, will during waking hours involve a good deal of reading, cooking, dog walking, writing, researching, thinking and drawing. It may include sailing, or teaching swimming. It used to include a session at the guitar singing to an empty house … but it is never empty.
I get up within minutes of becoming conscious. This can be instigated by the light (in summer), one of the young adults coming in from a nightclub, the dog trying to get into our bed, or bedroom, or precisely, in winter months, the various aquaria in our neighbour’s house needing a boost of warm anywhere between 4.10am and 5.30am. Deep sleep down my senses are extraordinarily alert.
For the last couple of days, yet again. I make the effort to improve my French. School failed me, an exchange kind of worked, working in France helped a lot, returning to the UK did not … an OU BA in French was a false-start that had me back at school, while I enjoy Rosetta Stone which has given me an accent that suggests I know what I am talking about (I don’t). I have to write French legalese once a year which I am dreadful at. And five nights a week we watch a French movie … even going to the lengths of putting a book in front of the TV to cover the subtitles.
And then along comes ‘Les 300 Jours de Verdun’. It is in French, of course. It is about the First World War. It helps to know the context of the words being used. This, French and ski resorts is the sum total of my French vocab. My wife ought to be far more fluent, a year in a French speaking secondary school age 13 in Montreal, a year or two working in Fance and 17 years analysing French medical experts on every drug the pharmaceutical industry can muster. Her vocab is no less specialist than mine: she can hold down a meaty conversation with a consultant heart surgeon but struggle to grapple the idiosyncracies of French property law.
Meanwhile, should I ever require conversational French on artillery strategy during the First World War, my vocab is building.