Maybe. Not sure. Perhaps, with a positive attitude and a following wind. Maybe, all things being equal and the ducks lining up nicely in a row.
I’m trying to decide whether to resurrect an old business endeavour. On the one hand it resulted in a little bit of extra cash (which was of course ploughed immediately back into the business with not a single penny taken out, Scout’s honour, learned gentlemen from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) but on the much larger other hand it took up every spare hour of every day and night and resulted in exhaustion, angst and a resigned disillusionment in the sometimes unpleasant antics of my fellow man.
But. But, but, but. I did used to enjoy it, I have to admit, and I don’t much like what I do now, and despite the occasional awfulness of a handful of clients the vast majority of them were quite pleasant to deal with, said the occasional thank you and quite liked what I did.
I speak, in case you haven’t yet wandered off bored, of photography. To wit, I used to go to peoples’ houses, take photos of them, and sell them the prints. Some, if asked, might say I was quite good at it (I couldn’t possibly comment), and there was a slight dribble of mild public fuss when I announced I was going to stop, so I suspect I could pick it up again, particularly as I singularly failed to sell any of my equipment after I did stop, much to the fragrant Mrs Branza's frustration. It’s not the ‘will anyone want me to take photographs of them?’ question that vexes me, or ‘will I have the wherewithal to do it?’ but ‘do I really want to be bothered with it all again?’.
This all stems, of course, from me wanting to tell The Annoying One where to stick it. But freedom is difficult to come by because I’ve no idea what else to do. There are some things I’d like to do, but either I’m coming to it too late (commercial flying would be lovely, but I’m resigned to the fact that I’m simply too old to go down that route now), or it would be too expensive (I refer you to my previous example), or it simply wouldn’t pay enough (novelist? wonderful; the next JK Rowling? unlikely), or it’s plain pie in the sky (form a band, win the Mercury Prize, fame, fortune, cool dad status assured). So, after months of trying to come up with a suitable single alternative I’m slowly coming around to the idea that perhaps it’s the rural community model that I should be adopting here.
A few years ago we went off for a long and drunken weekend to the Whisky Festival on Islay. As communities go, that’s about as rural as it gets. Amongst the drammies, mirror like waters and winding hikes around road hogging sheep to the next distillery, we'd often come across the same people again and again, but in slightly different roles. A chap we first met in the morning as our taxi driver would crop up again as a chef at dinner. We’d say good morning to the lady who ran our hotel and then walk past her later as she led a party of schoolchildren along the road. Being such a small knit community, everyone had to pitch in and often would have at least two jobs, if not more. There was no such thing as a career out there. People would have their little business – say, running boat tours – while at the same time helping out in a shop or a farm or a restaurant.
I quite like that idea. I’m chronically indecisive anyway, so the prospect of not having to stick to one thing but rather do several is quite appealing. Take the occasional photograph? OK. Write the odd article or blog? Righto. Write a book? Will do. Do a few hours in the local off licence? Marvellous. All adds up, all stops me getting so bored that I want to murder people with spoons.
We’re an odd species. We have this odd view that about the ‘correct’ way to live. To misquote Mr Welsh, choose a job, choose a career, choose a family, choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electric tin openers. We’re conditioned to expect that because everyone else does it a particular way, we should all do it that way. But popularity doesn’t make idiocy any less idiotic; you only have to spend five minutes in front of the X Factor to know that. Just because we generally all expect a career to be the pinnacle of success doesn’t make it so.
I came across another Alan Watts gem the other day, a discourse on success. Life, he said, is like music. There is no ‘meaning of life’ or ‘purpose of life’. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Our obsession with school, university, work, the unalterable rise up the greasy pole with the single clear purpose of achieving success is a little like only attending a concert to hear the very last note. It’s not about the climax, it’s about enjoying the entire performance.
It’s all happening a little slower than I was hoping, but I think I’m still on course to start enjoying the performance. I think I will start taking those photographs again.