A Working Man

Having ‘retired’ at the beginning of the year I, like the majority of our benighted nation, have spent the last few weeks at home, doing things that I have been putting off for months, but in two weeks time I start my new, part-time job and, having worked full-time without a break for the last forty plus years I suddenly find the prospect quite daunting.  I was adamant that I was not going to return to ‘pressure’ situations and my new employer assures me that this will not be the case.  There will be no pressure in what I do – except that there will be a thousand new things to learn, and it occurs to me that it is a long time since I last did that.  Am I still capable of learning, not an odd thing – how to peel an onion without crying, for instance; how to pull my socks up without putting my back out – but many, many new things, all at the same time?  I am seriously concerned about it.

Have you ever stopped to think what you have learned recently?  ‘Every day’s a schoolday’ is my mantra.  I love to learn.  I learn new things – all of them useless – every day, but I learn maybe one new thing at a time, not dozens, and I am increasingly aware that my brain is now operating a ‘One in, one out’ policy.  Every time I learn how to set an electrical gadget, I forget the name of one of the grandkids.  I look at those grandchildren and I realise how much they learn each and every day.  They have brains like sponges, I fear mine is probably more like a pickled walnut: the content just as unpalatable.  Pickled walnuts are soaked in vinegar, and we all know what that does to conkers.  (I have only once eaten a pickled walnut*.  It tasted like pickled coke**.  I could not think of a single sane reason why I would ever want to repeat the experience.)  Will I be capable of learning even the rudimentals – which key goes where, which button rings the till, which button sets the alarm off – let alone the more complicated stuff: whose turn is it to make the tea, who has milk, who has sugar?  My brain is very good at what it does – at least that’s what it tells me – but how will it be at doing what, to date, it has not done before?

I wonder if I should somehow test it, maybe force it into doing a Sudoku, learning the chords to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on a ukulele, making sense of the gas bill.  I’m good at quizzes, but I always have been, I need a new mental challenge.  How much of a stretch would it be for me to sit through an entire episode of ‘Eastenders’ without searching for something more interesting to do, e.g. researching how to pickle a walnut?  I can only hope that my need to understand everything that I find puzzling is a good thing, that it shows that I am still curious, and not that I am stupid.  Everything is a puzzle to me, but I know that curiosity does not necessarily equate to intelligence – I have looked it up.  I am curious about how the universe works, but I do not understand any of the workings of it.  Forget The Big Bang, I do not understand how come all of the planets do not just sink down to the bottom.  (Also, come to think of it, where is the bottom?  If there is no up and down in space, how on earth do you avoid spilling your gin?)

I still find the same things amazing now, as I did as a child: a butterfly, a snowflake, the way that animals find their way home from the other side of the world, the way that paint always drips in exactly the one place you don’t want it to.  I have stopped trying to understand politics, but that is only because I have grown to realise that there is nothing to understand.  It would all be so much easier if I could choose what to forget every time I manage to remember something new: the name of my next door neighbours, ‘In’ – the atomic weight of plutonium, ‘Out’; the names of the people I will shortly be working with, ‘In’ – the nicknames of the people I went to school with – ‘Out’; anything even vaguely important, ‘In’ – the kind of pedantic crap my mind is full of (‘aitch’ not ‘haitch’, ‘may I’ not ‘can I’, ten thousand incorrect uses for the apostrophe, ‘we were’ not ‘we was’) ‘Out’.  It’s the knowing what to let go of, that’s the problem.  I‘m sure there’s a place in my brain that is set aside for making such decisions – I’ve just got to clear out the junk so that I can reach it.

*Just for the record, I have never eaten a pickled conker – that way lies madness.
**The stuff you put in furnaces, not the stuff that makes your teeth drop out and your manly chest drop to just below waist-level.

37 thoughts on “A Working Man

  1. My manly chest has already dropped to just below my waist-level, and that was without the assistance of any fizzy drinks. With regards to animals and birds finding their way home, what amazes me is how I find my way home after 7 or 8 pints… However, that probably explains the overhanging gut!

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  2. I’m with you on most of this post but I feel I must stick up for pickled walnuts! I have to admit that I’ve never eaten eaten one raw, but they are a key ingredient in an excellent steak pie that my wife cooks, so they can’t be as bad as you are making out. Also … erm … I’m afraid that it’s one in and one out in my head too so I’ve now forgotten the other point I was going to make … 🙂

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      1. but Colin, it is imperative (oh wow I spelled it right first time), like I say it is sometimes imperative to hold ones breath in some situations e.g. the aftermath of mushy peas and beer.

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      2. I reckon yer gonna like this, but Mama says that somedays one has to hold on to ones breath and t’only sane thang t’do is run like the wind, no Son, faster Forrest, run faster!

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      3. p.s. That song was written here in Wales at Bron-Yr-Aur. Wait, I think a better challenge and one of my favourites The Immigrant Song 🪕 now we’re talking:

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  3. You ask, so:
    This last week I’ve learnt off by heart how to say “Hello” in Georgian, it’s “Gamajoba”.
    There’s also “Thank you” attempting to stick and that’s “Madloba” and “Cheers” which is “Gowmajus”.
    So, this is how I make words stick: I try to see an image or word association. For hello in Georgian is now Gamma rays and jojoba oil “Gama joba” (yeah, yeah I know jojoba is all H’s, still it works for me). I think you can guess 👂 “Mad lobes” 👂 and as for cow ~ ma ~ juice “Gow ma jus”.
    So there we have it, maybe these new names of people can be written down in a really little private pad and placed in a secure pocket (I always wear cargo pants to work with small metal snap buttons on the leg pocket). The amount of names of people I’ve had to remember and the way I’ve done that, well I’m keeping most of the naughty ones to myself, but some of the hints and prompts are hilarious. Thing is, don’t we all know someone with annoyed eyebrows like the eagle on the Muppets or “Muscles” 💪 or someone who always looks like they’re chewing a wasp 🐝 or lots of lipstick 💋 or gesture guy 🖐 👍 and I’m sure you are going to have fun with your thinking.

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      1. “Mnemonics” see now what you did there sensei for now I have to look up that word. You know I’ve learnt how to say 1 to 100 in French using some really wacky images in my head. Oh a pen name, like “Over Soil” or John Thomas? {{{giggles}}}

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      2. Come on, you cannot say that one time, it goes “Bic, bic, bic, bic, bic, bic… ” and there you have it, the universal language of chickens all over the world.

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      3. Having once spent most of an entire Boxing Day trying to recapture an escapee chicken I can honestly say that not a single ‘Bic’ was heard

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      4. My ladies come to me each and every time I call, no, wait, t’other day one of them must have been stuck somewhere for a while, for she didn’t until I asked the local kids if they had seen her, they then ran into their house and a few minutes later she was back in the garden like a miracle, unharmed, quite happy. Mmmm I wonder where she had been and what adventure she might have had?

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      5. Oh and cows too, when they can be Ninja. For I’ve heard of one that was so detirmined (see the spelling has gone again) to keep a calf bless ‘er, she had twins and brought one back to the farmer and kept t’other one safe from the usual fate, right down in the hollow of a field. 🐄 To think they only get to be teens in this day and age, so that was one clever teenage cow. Geez, I do hate animal “Husbandry” what a load of Shull Bit!

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  4. Wow! What a lot of debate and You Tube action this one provoked! Particularly love the way that musing75 feels obliged to “stick up” for pickled walnuts! Reading your observation about one new fact remembered = one grandchild’s name forgotten reminds me of the old filing cabinet analogy – ie a brain can only retain so much, just like a filing cabinet, and if you overfill it, a ‘file’ falls out the back of one of the drawers. There’s a new book out called ‘Beginners’ by Tom Vanderbilt that I intend to read as it’s apparently a paean to lifelong learning and how happy it can make us – reminds me of the time I once amazed myself by learning to ice skate quite well (backwards and all!) having always believed I had terrible balance. Having done the square root of bugger all for more than a year now, I fancy a bit of mental development! Another good one, thanks!

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      1. They are like pickled onions in that they are pickled. Nothing more. They are the wicked uncle of the pickle family: nobody really likes them but every now and then they have to pretend to – eg when the olives have gone off. Personally, I would rather eat the olives, rancid or not.

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    1. I am of an age when I can ill-afford stuff dropping out the back of my drawers. I used to roller skate back in the day, although I never managed the ‘backwards’ business – at least never intentionally. I come from a council estate. We skated once a week for an hour session which culminated in a fifteen minute game of be-wheeled British Bulldog. The ambulance was on permanent standby. In retrospect, I think the ukulele is a bad idea. I have never properly mastered the guitar despite years of effort. Perhaps I could learn Whole Lotta Love on kazoo.

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      1. As a fellow council estate boy, I hear you! Once knocked myself out cold trying to roller skate on our cracked pavements, tripped and nutted the fast-approaching slab.

        Personally, I also think ukuleles are rarely the answer… (btw ukulele is the second word you’ve taught me to spell correctly today, the other being ‘micturition’!)

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