Milking the Weekend

I think I have something to say about Time and Duration and Enjoyment but I haven’t exactly figured out what it is yet so I will just have to take a run at it.  

Some bits of writing are like a wall. To get over them successfully, you have to step back a bit and then take a run at them and jump and just see if you manage to do it or not.

(Steps back, takes a run...)


I love the weekend. Like a lot of (lucky) people, I work through the week and so I look forward to the weekend and love the moment when it comes and rather dislike the moment when it goes away again. Nothing unusual there, I hear you say.

My point is that I think I now have my weekends rather sussed. I seem to have made them work for me so that it feels like my working-week/weekend ratio is more 4:3 than the actual 5:2 that it is. The span from five thirty pm on Friday to eight am on Monday now seems quite lengthy and good.

There’s no rocket science here so don’t be expecting any. It can all be pretty-much summed up in one simple sentence. I start my weekend early, I finish it late and I stay awake for quite a lot of it.

Of course, I would never tell you what to do. You know that, right? It’s not my style. Besides, the things I do would not suit everybody so, if I tell you a bit about what I do, don’t feel that I’m trying to get you to do the same. I’m not. Although, if you find something here you can use, be my guest.

The breakthrough was the jogging. As some of you will know, I like to get up early and go jogging down at the lake before other people get there to see me make a spectacle of myself. I do this on Saturdays and Sundays. That’s the key. By nine o’clock I’m all done, showered, dressed, looking forward to some breakfast. I’m awake and buzzing and my battered old frame feels stretched and utilised. The day lies ahead, long and free.

What I do during the day isn’t relevant to the point I’m trying to make. Among other things, I try to get my writing done, it’s a time to bulk up on words and pages, to consolidate the stuff I managed to grind out during the week. Like I said, it’s not relevant so let’s just fast forward to the evening. No rocket science here either, I’m going to stay up late, that’s all there is to it.

The weekend is a precious thing. Why waste it on sleeping and general insensibility? I will turn fifty later this year, the majority of the best years of my life are doubtless over. It’s time to relish the days, hours and minutes that remain, be they five thousand or only one.

I think of a line from a Tom Waits song (as I often to). This particular one from ‘Shore leave’. The guy in the song is on temporary leave from his ship (the ‘Ticonderoga’) in some steamy exotic city and, as he says,

“…I was pacing myself trying to make it all last. Squeezing all the life out of a lousy two day pass.”

That’s all we get, we weekend-types, a lousy two day pass, and while, as I said, I don’t want to tell you how you should use it, I suppose I do want to say this much: Use It.

There’s a pretty obvious question that arises now and it’s this, “If you get up early and stay up late and work all week then when do you sleep, Ken, when do you sleep?” Easy. I sleep a little more during the week and I sleep a little less at the weekend. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The weekend waking hours are more fun, more ‘yours’ that the weekday ones so why spend so many of them akip?

I also believe we need less sleep than we think we do and this lounging in bed beyond a reasonable hour is like staying in a bath for too long. The positive effects get reversed pretty quickly. If you don’t believe me, try staying in bed all the time and see how that works out for you. Indeed.

My drinking habits probably help with this too. I don’t drink very much, hardly anything at all, in truth. A can of beer here and there, a glass of wine, a sip of whiskey, I like it all but not enough to want more of it. That’s got to make this weekend routine of mine easier, I know. But I would suggest, if you like a weekend drink (and why wouldn’t you?), try a weekend off it sometime. Avoid the hangover, get up early, have a big pre-breakfast walk out in the cold air. See how marvellous the weekend can be.

Gosh, I’m starting to sound preachy now so I better stop.

There is a point though. This stuff I do, this getting up and jogging and staying up late, I couldn’t/wouldn’t have done it as a younger man. There were parties and drinking and sleep-ins and debauchery to be had. So I know, I do know, this isn’t for you. I get that. I just wanted to set it down as the place where I am at and how good I am finding it. It doesn’t have to be for you. Go party, you’re young.

Okay, so I’ve run and now it’s time to jump.

Here goes.

We tend to value our holidays more than our weekends. Why? Because they are longer, that’s why. They are more valuable because they last longer.

But I no longer think this is true. Weekends, I reckon, are just as valuable and lovely as a whole two week holiday, if you can approach them as such. The two week holiday goes in daily increments and all too soon it is gone. So it is with the weekend, exactly the same.

I think there’s a useful thought here and I am still struggling to nail it down.

It’s a bit like the way I approach chocolate now. I love chocolate, man I just love it, and I could eat a few bars in one sitting no bother at all, because I love the taste. But now, now I eat one square of chocolate and all the taste, all that is good is right there in that one square, if I can only take the time and the concentration to know and enjoy that. After that one square, totally enjoyed, the rest is just excess and empty calories. It was all in that smallest of tastes, everything I needed from the chocolate.

If I can grasp this truism and apply it to my weekends. Then every week can contain a holiday, an adventure, something to love.

Perhaps this mentality can even be pressed down into every single day. “Work is over now, your time is your own for the next fourteen hours. What are you going to do with it?”

I’m working on this.

Can’t you tell?


Jim Murdoch said...

An odd memory from my childhood, one that’s not really attached to anything (I’m not really sure where it took place or how old I was) but it’s stuck: I had a bag of chips—real chippie chips, wrapped in newspaper the way chips ought to be—and my dad asked for one just for a taste. (Vass ees this 'taste' thing?) I remember at the time not understanding this—how can one possibly only eat a single chip?—but, with some reluctance I should add, I let him have one which he relished and somehow managed to restrain himself from looking for a second and then a third.

It took me a long time to realise that you didn’t need to eat a whole bar of chocolate, that you could stop when you’d had enough, that the ‘point of enough’ could actually arrive before the end of the bar of chocolate did. I have to watch what I eat nowadays. I’m nowhere near as good as you. I do not jog—not sure my knees could stand it—and, if I can help it, I rarely leave the flat (today’s been the first day I’ve been out in over a week and only because I had to post a letter and wanted to get a loaf in case the snow hits the west coast too); I’m full of good intentions but exercise has always seemed to me such a waste of time. It’s a mindset but one I struggle with. Mindsets can be changed though: I no longer take milk or sugar (or caffeine) in my coffee—I know, what’s the point?—and I only have one portion of chocolate a day, the equivalent of a dozen Maltesers , at 6:30 when we stop for the day and sit down to watch TV but getting dressed and going out in the cold or the heat (the temperature’s never perfect) feels like so much effort and it’s never just a half-hour; there’s the time getting ready, making sure I’ve peed, making sure I don’t look like a tube and then when I get back there’s the changing and the obligatory cup of coffee to unwind before I’m fit for anything.

When I was younger I could switch from one thing to another but now I need to ease myself into things and my day’s just slip from under me. I’ve no idea where they go. Carrie’s been in the States not for just over a week and it feels like she left a couple of days ago and what have I done with all my free time? One of many fabulous one-liners from The Dowager Countess of Grantham (yes, we’re Downton Abbey fans) is: “What’s a weekend?” I’m afraid that’s very much how I feel these days. My daily routine varies not a jot at the weekend—most of the time I couldn’t tell you what the day is—but I do remember what it was like when I worked and, to be honest, as I worked so much from home the sad fact was that my weekends for years and years were just opportunities to catch up; holidays were set aside for projects like writing databases. And yet the writing got done and—to my eternal embarrassment—more than I’ve done in the last six years.

Ken Armstrong said...

Downton fans here too, Jim, although I fear the heyday is gone. That 'what's a weekend' line made me laugh out loud at the time. :)

The 'one chip' story illustrates my point rather well. Thanks.

Jules said...

Nicely and concisely put.

Of course, the ideal would be to convince my boss of the chocolate technique. If I just do a very small amount of work but he ensures that he squeezes every last bit of enjoyment and value out of it...

That's never going to float, is it?

Karen Redman said...

So enjoyed reading this, Ken. Weekends ARE precious but can also be a part of a totally fulfilling week.
I had two long-term jobs and a busy social life when I last lived in London. I treasured the weekends but by the time Sunday bedtime came around I was looking forward to the working week. Of course ... I also had one or two other howlingly awful jobs that used to fill me with the screaming ab-dabs on Sunday nights but as time passes it's the good jobs that I remember rather than the awful ones.
I thought the analogy about chocolate was superb - on so very many levels. Priorities change as we get older. I thought 50 would be horrendous but it's not and neither is 56! (Although once I turned 50, it did seem - and still does - that years only only 6 months in length rather than 12!).
These days I work from home and there is no clear distinction between the working week and the weekend. So many people say to me how lucky they think I am. I am not lucky at all. I feel an enormous sense of loss and miss the contact with real life human beings to a very great degree. That said, I am very rarely at a loss for things to do and I am at my happiest when everyone's at home and my son has a crowd of friends here.
We evolve. We can deny that evolution or grasp it with both hands and make the most of every single last bit of flavour from that particular square of chocolate.
As ever, your blog posts always give me a chance to think. This one has too. I thank you for that!