I didn’t think the summer would be so much about routine, but it is.
K gets up early for work and nowadays I (half) wake up with her. In less than thirty minutes she looks spectacular and I have put my first foot on the floor. We leave the apartment at more or less the same time. Sometimes me first, usually her; off on her coast road commute to the Rock.
I take the rubbish and perhaps some recycling to the bins and head for the promenade – when I get there I break into a run. Up through the exercise machine square, along the warehouse wall towards the blue apartment block, past the cluster of trendy bars and on to the ice cream kiosk.
Before I reach it I pass the sports centre where there is always a door swinging open, visible through the mesh fence that fronts onto the promenade. They’re in there on running machines – with the beach and the Straits and the coast of Africa just outside under dramatic skies; they’re in there like hamsters on wheels. Presumably the door is left open to let some fresh air in. Can anyone spot the insanity?
At the kiosk the promenade ends and there is a wooden walkway to take the runner or walker across the scrub grasses of the bird sanctuary that begins here. A kilometre further on I reach the little bridge that spans the rio Jarra and turn back.
At home it’s a shower, a coffee and some toast – then I spend around thirty minutes avoiding work; “checking” emails, “social networking” and all the rest of it. Then I write. Slowly and tortuously, fearfully and doubtfully – but I write.
I have four options – the story about the beautiful drowned girl, the one about the furious has-been singer, travel pieces or these; my dispatches from Spain. There are days when I fail to make a decision and scribble a little on all of them. Then there are the other, better days when I pick one and make some real progress.
At lunch time I have some (have you guessed yet?) lunch, and a bottle of beer. I will often watch an episode of The Daily Show, or Black Books, or whatever. After that I do what any self-respecting writer would do after a beer and a sandwich – I take a nap.
In the afternoon I process photos and perhaps read another chapter of an excruciatingly translated history of Cordoba. Then I’ll put a Michel Thomas Spanish lesson on and sit back. According to Mr Thomas it is important to relax so I will often have another beer at this point.
His schtick is to start with words that are similar or identical in Spanish and English and to teach the student to build sentences with those words. We’re talking Latin and Greek, mainly; words that end in ant, ance, ible, able, ary, ion and so on. The sentences produced tend toward the idiosyncratic. If it’s very important to you to be able to say something like “But why do you not have it for me today? It is necessary because I need it and it is very important to me. This is not acceptable”, then he is basically the go to guy. The lessons will doubtless prove their worth if I develop a crack habit or manage to locate an unreliable dry cleaner.
In other situations results may vary.
And since I am on a break and K isn’t I stay (just) on top of the household chores. At half six she gets home and we hit the beach for some cool water and hot sand. We might go to Playa Chica for the quiet but more often to Los Lances for the waves.
I miss her during the day, being unused to such swathes of undemarcated time. I am only just beginning to learn how to exploit it effectively and productively. If one isn’t careful one gives in to boredom and aimlessness. It’s a struggle, I tell you.
I’ll be back at work soon and no doubt bemoaning the lack of time. But I know now that time itself is not enough – it’s more a question of will. To write our own story, and not have it written by others; to eke out our own paths and patterns through the void.
In the evenings I take immense pleasure in feeding K. I am not a great cook, but I am a good one and I go to some trouble to put good food in front of her. I have never understood people who complain about having to cook and not having the time and so on; for me it’s therapy. Even when I’m working I like nothing more than to get home and get into the kitchen. It’s food, for heaven’s sake; you get to eat it afterwards. What’s not to like?
What many find a drag and a bind I find a joy and a liberty. Funny thing routine; when someone or something imposes it on us it’s a prison, but when we create it ourselves it’s the rope we use to escape.Follow @RobinJGraham