So many expressions have entered the language from the world of ships, sailing and the sea that most people would recognise and be able to complete the sentence : “time and tide waits”……it doesn’t of course and it’s not quite the line i was looking for today.
What i was looking for was a few lines, half remembered, which actually come from Shakespeare although i didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t know the lines fully because i have never read or seen the relevant play, they are from Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar incidentally. I almost had to drop a question on my internet friend Demirep’s page to ask her just as i did with some lines from Joseph Conrad recently and then remembered just enough of them to enter a search term…..the internet did the rest.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Here’s a little thing as a ‘by the way’…..so we were down in nearby Truro having a day out for my birhday. There’s a good bookshop in the city and i had ordered a book to be delivered within Waterstone’s system and to be left the Truro branch . I had some book gift cards to use from various Christmas’s and birthdays. Anyway i went to the desk and picked up my order and while i was there thought to ask the assistant if they had a copy of Conrad’s ‘Nigger of the Naricissus’ in stock, as i couldn’t find it on the shelf. The shop assistant gave a definite moue of distaste : what sailors and bikers would describe as a ‘cats-arse’ expression and explained that they don’t normally stock it because the title ‘can cause offence’.
Back to Shakespeare and Julius Caesar though.
Most people would have a grasp of what Brutus (not Caesar) is saying to Cassius in the play with those lines : that now is the timeto act and that to delay might be fatal. In fact the lines have a similarity to other expressions : strike while the iron is hot for example and naturally “Carpe Diem” which is usually taken to mean “seize the day”.
When i did my short internet search for Shakespeare’s lines just now i was mildly surprised by how few of the literary critics, whose comments on the play i read, actually understand tides even in relation to the play. Maybe they should have talked to a sailor first…..the tide that is running in your favour now will always turn and run against you in just a few hours time. To run down the river i always try to wait until the flood has run it’s time and go down with the ebb. Flood and ebb are both useful to the sailor but when the tide is ‘foul’ then it’s time to get that anchor set hard in the mud and wait…..tides teach the sailor patience.
Putting aside the ramblings of a tide bound sailor for a moment : WABI”‘ being in the mud right now, those lines from Shakespeare do offer a good metaphor for recognising that we need to do something ‘right now’ or otherwise the time and opportunity will be lost and gone forever. If the lines are a metaphor for recognising that moment then my voyage of work is currently grounded in the shallows and i need to catch the next high tide out of there.
So, i have been thinking about time and tides quite a bit recently.
At home we recently recovered yet another couple of boxes of my outdoors related literature so i have spent a few nights re-visiting Edward Abbey, Gary Snyder and so on. In a separate but related post i’m working on a review of some of those and yes : Hayduke lives !
In this post i just want to talk about time after an old sailing companion of mine commented on a recent project post and along the lines of “impressive but how do you find the time” ?. Well, the first answer is that we were both nurses, we have both been in charge of a busy hospital at night at both know a thing or 2 about time management and getting s**t done !. To be honest though a lot of my projects are spread out over far longer periods than it seems to be the case from reading the blog.
The curious cabinet, for example, has been ‘on the bench’ on and off since about November last year when i first cut the pieces for the centre carcass. The trick, if there is one, is to use jobs like that as ‘filler’ : half an hour here to cut some pieces while i have the scrap ply in hand, 10 minutes there to lay a coat of paint on and hey-presto 4 or 5 months later and the job is done…..sort of !
With many, most in fact, of my current projects, nothing can be done in one work session straight through , from planning/designing, organising the materials and so on to a finished piece. Anything that needs glueing up, priming and painting, maybe a look,check and dry-fit all need several sessions on and off the bench. If it’s aboat project i have to throw everything in the car, get to the yard and negotiate the greasy ladder while hanging on to whatever bit of boat i am working on. Even more frustrating is when i don’t have the materials or usually the right fasteners and it takes 3 days or so to get them via the internet. I try to use my evenings well : if nothing else i might lay on some primer or basecoat or just go out to the workshop and tidy the tools away.
A lot of time that isn’t accounted in ‘tool’ or ”bench’ time, for me is the best, in my mind. The time that it takes me to think about and plan a project i never consider as a waste. Today , as i write, it’s mid month, actually my birthday and i went down to the boat to check her lines (it’s blowing about 40kn) and just sat in the boat with the quilt thrown over my legs just writing up a list of essential jobs that i must do to make my target of being sail-ready by the end of March. Out of that i get a jobs list, a shopping list an search through the bits box list and a list of stuff that has to go to the boat such that next time iv’e got the frying pan, the lantern and my favourite sailing mug…..yes i need checklists nowadays.
At work i had a fascinating talk about the use of ‘time’ at sea and with someone who i didn’t get on with at all at first, but now rub along with very well : a surgeon who has also had to have a joint sorted out which has been a good point of personal contact and shared experience between us. He has often asked me about my sailing as he says that one thing he would like to do is maybe cross the Atlantic and cruise around the Islands for a while. I thought, and said, that in my opinion, that for him the ocean voyage from the Canary islands to Antigua say , he would find intensely boring and frustrating. Of course he asked why i thought that and my reasoning was that a long, downwind tradewind passage ‘nothing much happens’ day after day if all is going well. It can be very hard for the non-sailor to manage that time and it takes a skilled skipper to manage a crew to make that time go well.
I think that sailors understand time differently anyhow, most of us are used to the idea of having to turn out of a comfortable bunk at omigod-dark-thirty to catch a tide , but then will often also enjoy a few hours ‘bunk’ time when the tide is running foul , the boat is safely at anchor and there is nothing that has to be done ‘right now’. Some of my best memories of rest and ease are the times after i have completed a long and arduous passage : 40 hours solo and awake to Roscoff comes to mind.
This is of course my birthday post and from past experience the birthday post can be a bit of a rant so please allow to have a quick one, so to speak.
It’s my observation that i live in a world of work where time-wasting isn’t just the norm, it’s actually institutional. This year just as an example the governing body of my ‘profession’ fully expects me to waste my own time preparing self-examining ‘reflective’ pieces that then have to be discussed and signed off by a colleague in order to allow me to ‘re-validate‘ my nursing registration. Meanwhile they take a fat fee from me every year to sit on their own fat arses having ‘important’ committee meetings and paying their chief executive nearly a quarter of a million pounds a year (including expenses) to turn out politically correct drivel. It actually gets worse within the hospital but i will stop the rant right there before i take the computer outside and shoot it….as writer the late Edward Abbey was want to do with his TV…..TV what a total and trivial waste of time and that so many people will pay a TV licence fee so that the BBC can pay their executives obscene salaries and waste your money on ‘expenses’. **
More seriously though i have been thinking about my time strategically and in the sense of what i should be doing at this stage of my life. Essentially i’m just another middle aged man with a dodgy back, a knee replacement and a very great desire to be somewhere else and doing something other than being at work.
I have written about this before in a previous blog essay, i think i called that one ‘Time’ and used a line from Tolkien’s Saruman as played by the late and great Christopher Lee….what a great man and great actor.
“Time (says Saruman to Gandalf)….what time do you think we have”
Well i wrote that piece what, 2 years ago early on in the life of the blog ? and i’m still plodding up and down the road over the moor to the hospital and the life of dull, repetitive work. I’m really conscious now that in the greater sense of a life-time that i don’t have that many really active years left to play with, ‘spend’ and that i am wasting that valuable , irretrievable resource . My surgeon told me that the knee will last about 10 years before needing a full replacement and ten years is not a long time….by then i will be 70 and i wonder exactly what i will have got done . I think honestly that my personal tide of work ‘time’ is ebbing fast and that now is the ‘time’ to untie the lines of normal life and hoist code flag P.
In my original writing of this post i finished it right there but when i came to do my pre-scheduling typo check i thought “that’s a bit of a negative way to end the post” and so…..
To leave the life of work, sorry did i almost say ‘wage slave’ is of course to take the retirement path. So many middle aged men, when they take retirement, just fall into a soggy heap of not doing very much and every day is the same. Without work, something even to have to fight against, life can and does become meaningless for many retirees. Nice at first to not have to get up early and fight through the morning rush but ease palls quickly….once i have been in port a while and had a good sleep and a good breakfast i want to be up and away again. Without ‘work’ i want to be doing something that i enjoy and that is worthwhile….worth, value and meaning again….i can feel a JBP moment coming on !
For the last 2 years i have been slowly learning and practising a new discipline : that of coming to the computer desk most days and doing some ‘work’. I miss it when i have to go to ‘work’ instead so when i am there i often fire up one of the department’s computers , do half an hour or so and then email myself the file. The fact is, as JBP points out, that we do our best work in the morning and after a decent sleep and breakfast. I often have my best ideas and do my best writing in the morning just as the man says.
Last year i put a lot of time into watching and studying Dr Peterson’s work, i find it amazing to remember that just over a year ago i was sat 3 feet from the man himself listening to his first ever UK lecture….ok, my apologies for being such a fan-girl . My ‘work’ in relation to JBP was first, a whole load of background reading and secondly with his self authoring suite (later with the modified Big 5 based trait questionnaire) . Possibly the most important thing i got out of that whole study was that my use of time was poor : that seemed to be the ‘one thing’ that if i could master i would become vastly more productive.
From doing the Big 5 based ‘Understand Yourself’ i discovered (uncovered) many useful facts about my own psychological traits : and none of that is woo-woo. I knew that i was an introvert, didn’t know that i had high compassion but low politeness for example and had no idea just how high my trait open-ness , which relates to creativity, is. So….i have a creative spark but that is useless without discipline and conscientiousness.
A writer whom i used to know said that to be a successful or productive writer is to be disciplined enough to treat writing as a serious job and to ‘work’ at it, to aim to turn out 3,000 words a day when working on a book for example. I’m getting close to that with the blog now and just recently i have wondered if i could take that same discipline and turn out genuinely creative work…..tell an interesting story perhaps. I have some writing projects in mind and i’m just beginning to look into electronic publishing rather than the traditional route of literary agents and producing books. I actually wonder if it would be possible to run one of the writing projects i have in mind as a Patreon/Paypal kind of deal just as many video content makers do….but as written stories. At this stage i don’t know and it only came about because of one comment on here that suggested that i should somehow monetise the blog. That only seems to work, as far as i can see, with bikini-babes and tropical beaches…..not middle aged men and mud !. Dylan can’t make a decent income from his sailing films despite being a professional film maker so i’m with no chance in that line of work although what i am thinking of is an entirely different idea.
One of my current projects that i am playing around with, just as a spoiler, is to take something that the late Des Sleightholme did (Old Harry) and write the stories of what happened to the new ‘Young Harry’. I have already sketched out the character and some story lines.
For the final, final word for today, i am going to finish with something i just came across on the internet. My feed regularly gives me anything that Jordan Peterson (JBP) has been doing or is JBP related. In a recent video i watched one of the better journalists (David Fuller) who has interviewed Dr Peterson in the past was talking to somebody i had never heard of and from a genre of music that i would never normally listen to : an artist by the name of ‘Akira the Don’
What Akira has done is quite extraordinary….he has taken podcasts from people such as JBP and in this case former US navy seal Jocko Willink and set the words over music. He calls it a kind of battle-rap. In an era when music is demonstrably becoming simpler, less melodic and basically moronic and dull the result is quite amazing. Here is ‘Discipline equals freedom‘ podcast from Jocko Willink set to music.
I began the post with Wild Willy Wordsmith Shakespeare so let me end with a few words from ‘Fast Eddie’ Spenser…..(you might not get that one !)
“Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas, Ease after war, death after life does greatly please.”
**BBC expenses….and regards the ‘working class’ as nothing more than peasants. (John Sweeney)