I genuinely enjoy the experience of sitting down and writing. I find the daily practice totally absorbing, and almost without fail, by the time I’ve reached the end of my daily word quota, the five or six hours necessary seem to have flown by. However, after getting to the last page of a (very large first) draft, I found myself suffering from the non-life-threatening ailment of ‘writer’s butt’. So, I am taking a break from putting too much pressure on ‘it’ and getting down to some jobs requiring attention. I’m fairly easily satisfied in what I do, just as long as I’m fully engaged, however, I am incapable of doing nothing at all. One of life’s (many) little pleasures for me is an occasional bout of physical activity, but it has to have some goal in mind other than just being exercise. I mean, send me to the gym for a daily workout and by the end of a month I reckon I’d be a candidate for Prozac. But give me an overgrown garden to dig or tell me to hack off old plaster and I’ll be as happy as a sandboy!
Yesterday, my son Tom came round to help me re-felt the roof on our garden shed. It was a lovely warm, sunny day and really great after so many grey wet months to be working outside again. Judith, over breakfast this morning, clearly enjoyed pointing out that my scalp, once graced by long, thick, chestnut locks, but now hirsutely-challenged and therefore a little sensitive to ‘the eye of heaven’, was looking a bit red and shiny. In response to this wifely mocking I simply adopted a look of noble indifference and attended to my egg and soldiers.
Tom and I have been doing jobs together since he was very small. I recall we built shelves for his bedroom when he was about seven. I let him measure and cut and drill all the wood under my close supervision. It was a very slow process and a bit frustrating as I could have done it all by myself in about a tenth of the time. I recall him asking me with sober concern for my well-being if I’d mind him going off to watch his favourite serial The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on TV - once he’d gone off, after I’d said I thought I could probably cope on my own for a bit, I admit to punching the air gleefully at the thought of being finally able to crack on!
However, when we allow our children to assist and learn like this far more is being given than just a few basic skills - we are really building people. All around our home there is evidence of work shared in this way. It was the same back home in Wales when my Dad and I built a concrete base for his garage and took on many other tasks together. Dad had a great many fine qualities, but was surprisingly ungifted at most jobs requiring even quite rudimentary building or DIY skills - even so, it was still always fun to work together!
M J Johnson
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