In Production on August 3, 2011 at 10:21 am

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.

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  1. Love this! I worked from home all last year (and I didn’t have too much to do, I’ll be frank) after I quit my last job. I had similar routines. I also felt a bit aimless with them. I even indulged in the occasional “I feel like a freak and an outsider for not being in an office right now like the rest of my friends.” Cooking IS great therapy, isn’t it? I can get quite frustrated in the kitchen with certain dishes but others, like soup or lasagna, are incredibly relaxing to make.

  2. Oh, so jealous.
    Reading this from my cubicle, after a horrible commute in. I know you know how lucky you are.
    Would you consider offspring to fill in the hours?

    • Offspring tend to come to mind around about the same times Granada does…
      I don’t envy you the cubicle but I know you are gearing up for an escape bid soon 🙂

  3. Beautiful ode to routine. The best of it is that you can break your routine any time you want. Thanks for your comment on my amber piece. Tell K to persuade you to take her to St. Thomas so she can get a few pieces of the honey colored wonders of nature.But, please not to faint!!

  4. I am a routine type of person. Even while traveling, I establish some level of routine. I like that your routine includes a few beers. Very important 🙂

  5. Oh how I can relate to this post! I have time to write yet I often find myself wasting it. I definitely connected with this:

    “Then I write. Slowly and tortuously, fearfully and doubtfully – but I write.”

    That’s how I feel sometimes. Many times, I am excited – but not lately. Then the days go by and I wonder what I did. I made a commitment this month – no TV. Let’s see how productive I can be. And not just with the writing stuff but the chores that you mention as well.

  6. Robin, I enjoyed this post. The part about your Spanish lesson made me laugh out loud. I am currently taking an online Italian class, so I understand when you say you are learning things that you really can’t imagine being useful. I find there are days I can’t seem to create a routine and I don’t accomplish enough. Other days I work endlessly at the computer and wonder if a so called “Real” job wasn’t less effort. It takes time to figure out a balance. I think being in Spain is probably helpful in that regard. You are immersed in an interesting culture so it is pleasureable to do things other than work. I am currently staying with relatives as I prepare for an overseas move, so hours at the computer writing and working can be a diversion from living with others.

    • Thanks Lisa. Yes balance is a challenge. I function best when there is some kind of timetable to adhere to and I can tick things off as I work through a list.

  7. Great post — loved the insight into your day! Pretty profound comment about “routine”! Totally get your dig at the hamsters on workwheels at the sports centre Even though I’m a regular gym person, I opt for outdoor activities whenever possible!

    • Thanks Cathy. I know people have perfectly good reasons to go to the gym but the one I’m talking about just seems so weird; in that location with all that fresh sea air and natural beauty!

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