Doors to Manual

This week’s blog post is just a thought, really.

The way this blog works, usually, is that I think about something through the week and I decide that this thing will be the subject of that week’s post. Then I let it steam gently in my brain for a day or two and then I write it down. If it’s a story or a memory, I can usually tell if it’s passable or not. When it’s just a thought, though, it’s harder to ascertain whether it has any value. The only thing to do is to write it and see.

So.


Life is like a journey on a commercial flight.

That’s the thought.

The danger is that it’s one of those lines that a priest might throw out at the start of a sermon and then go on to flog it to death in a yawn-inducing litany of awfulness. I’ll try not to do that. ‘Get in and get out quickly’, that’s the plan.

‘Life is like a journey on a commercial flight,’ I though to myself this week. 

Here’s why.

On a commercial flight, most of us sit in the regular seats, Economy Class. We cram in to undersized accommodation, beside people who we don’t want to know, and (if we’re lucky) we get fed little containers of stuff that we wouldn’t look at twice at on the ground. Oh, and a hard bread roll. Let’s not forget the hard bread roll.

But there are other people on the plane. Up the front. People you don’t see much of, unless a curtain gets parted or momentarily left askew before being rigorously tugged back into place. These are the First Class people, the Business Class people. Call them what you will, their lives are better than ours. They get better food and drink, and more of it. Their seats are wider and comfier. They get smiled-at more. Life is just a darned-sight better and easier for them.

This analogy would be better if there was a class behind us too. A sort of ‘Airplane Steerage’ where folks in flat caps are made to sit on wooden benches and are prevented from breaking into impromptu jigs for reasons of safety and health. These steerage people would regard me in my Economy seat with ‘envious eyes’ just as I would be staring up at the Business Class bods with the same green-eyed ire.

There we would all be, flying along, envying each other, in our airplane… in our life. 

Then turbulence hits. 

It hits hard.

It doesn’t matter what seat you are in then. It doesn’t matter how comfy the cushion is, how fizzy the pomade. Everybody in the plane is rocked the same way. Everybody becomes aware of their heart beating in their chest.

Push the thought to the ridiculous extreme. The plane loses control, tumbles to the ground and crashes. What matters it then who is in First or who is in Imaginary Steerage?

This week, I thought that life is very much like that. 

Some of us sleep on feathers, some on cushions, some of us on hard rocks. It matters little, in the bigger picture. We are all on the same ride and the things that make the poor tremble make the rich tremble too. The things that devastate the steerage man will surely do the same up in that rarefied place where the grapes and the linen serviettes are.

It’s all window-dressing and it isn’t worth our envy. Whatever seat you find yourself in, bring along a good book and enjoy the view and the interaction as best you can. Don’t waste time worrying about the dude in front of you with the caviar. When it all comes crashing down, as it inevitably must, it won’t be about the quality of the ride. It will be about how well you enjoyed it.

That’s it.

There are no original thoughts or very few at best. I know this. These thoughts I have won’t ever be new or startling or revolutionary. The only real value they have is that they are mine and I made them myself. 

It’s like the difference of you eating your corn flakes out of a bowl you bought in the shop and eating them out of a bowl you crafted  yourself, with your own fair hand. 

There’s no difference, not really. Not to anyone but you.

That’s enough thoughts and comparisons for this week, Ken. Ta very much.

Any chance of a funny story next week?

For a change.

Last Night of The Proms

There was other stuff I was going to write about today but those great bombastic anthems are still ringing around my head, from watching it on the telly last night, so I might as well stick with that.

I’ve always watched the Last Night of the Proms. It just one of those things that has always drawn me in. Mostly I tune in for the second half, when the party atmosphere reaches its zenith and the hits come fast and loud.

Last night’s was a good one. Ruthie Henshall sang a Mary Poppins singalong medley and Roderick Williams beamed his way through ‘Rule Britannia’ in a most amiable fashion. The conductor speech by Sakari Oramo was as smiley and top-lip-sweaty as is required and the Promenaders bobbed and weaved as only they can.

As usual, I really enjoyed it.

Hang on.

Am I not Irish? Shouldn’t all that rousing British patriotism rile me just a bit and make me want to switch over and watch something else instead?

Well, no. It never has.

And I am Irish.  In fact, I'm about as Irish as they come.

I don’t for an instant see why any of the flag waving and patriotism should alienate or threaten me. It’s my neighbour country, partying-down and singing some of their big songs, waving their flags and strutting their waistcoats. They’re having great fun doing it and I’m having great fun watching them. 

What wins me over most is the positivity of the whole thing. I love positive things and the Albert Hall is replete with positive people on that evening. They love the music, the silly traditions, the pomp, the circumstance. It doesn’t have to be my ‘thing’ for me to enjoy it. I just do.

This all goes to something I was thinking about myself over the last few days. I always tend to react positively to stuff whenever I can. If it’s bad, it’s bad and there’s no getting away from that but, if something is even half-good, I will tend to focus on the half-good part and run with it. It’s a thing I like about myself and I also think it’s rather a good thing. I see a lot of people, out in the social media world (and in the real world too) who seem to sit quietly in wait of something negative to come along and then it is their meat and drink. They tear at it and chew it until they find they nourishment there. Then they retreat and wait for the next negative thing upon which to sup. 

I don’t envy them. I’m glad I am the way that I am.

One year, back when I lived in London, Patricia and her sister Una and me took a journey to the Albert Hall to watch the last night promenaders go in to the concert. There was a great vibe outside and we really enjoyed seeing everybody in their garb. 

When most of them had gone in, we set off around the circumference of the hall to head back home. As we passed a rear exit door, it swung open and attendant stuck his head out. We were the only ones around.

“There’s some room up on top,” he said, exactly like a bus conductor might.

“Really?”

“It’s two quid in and it’s standing only, I’m afraid.”

We took it, of course we did. We watched the whole 1992 Last Night from the highest balcony in the room. The overview was simply tremendous. Kiri Ti Kanewa performed that aria from La Wally. You know, the one used in ‘Diva’. She sang ‘Rule Britannia’ too. It was a tremendous, memorable evening, made all the more special by the shock and surprise of actually getting in. 

It was twenty two years ago, last night.

So thanks for letting me in, London. To the concert and to everything else too.

The best of times.

The worst of times.

The best…