There are good days and there are bad days and there are days in between. On good days I tend to be a little more philosophical and inward-looking, on bad days I try to make jokes. I have no idea why this should be, but it has always been this way. On a good day I roll out of bed in the morning and head to the shower with a skip in my step and a song on my lips. (If I’m honest, this is probably not true. My knees are deeply intransigent and after a few night-time hours of non-weight bearing activities, they take much persuasion before they are prepared to get their shoulders back to the wheel, so, whatever my mood, the morning trip to the shower is always a painful, stiff-legged lope. We’ll call it artistic licence.) On a bad day, I confuse my morning tablets with my contact lenses, I get toothpaste in my eye and I wash my hair with shower descaler. I write happy things, but just so that I balance my Ying and my Yang, I do so with a heavy heart. It is how I maintain equilibrium. It’s like packing an overloaded cargo ship with an additional consignment of helium balloons. Like filling a Jumbo jet with a thousand balsa wood gliders, like believing that a ferry would be less inclined to sink if all the car tyres were fully inflated.
Bad days are the days when I set out to write jokes and when I hit the chocolate when I can’t. I make no plans over what to do with whatever I scrawl when it is finished, because finishing it is all that matters and any focus beyond that is a waste of good eyes. Bad days are not the days for revisiting something that could not be finished days ago – if I couldn’t finish it then, why should I be able to do so now? Bad days are for starting afresh and finishing no matter how long it takes: of finding the jokes, even if I have to tie them down to make them sit still. Bad days are magpie days. It really doesn’t matter whether they appear in ones or twos, on bad days, not even the memory of Jenny Hanley can make me smile at magpies. Magpies are creatures of dastardly monochrome perfection – like devils in pied plumage – flawlessly crafted to fulfil their diabolical purpose, devoid of mercy and morality. Definitely not a bird you would invite into your home.
On good days I see buzzards circling on the thermals and kestrels hanging on the wind, their intent equally sinister, but their impression noble rather than evil. I see robins and, occasionally, the wren that my mum always swore she would return as. On good days writing is painless. Words fall easily into place, but somehow they belong in somebody else’s book. My own tome is not so smooth. Run your fingers over it and you will feel the splinters. On a good day, all I want to do is to write like I do on a bad day, but without the angst; without the beard trimmer and the whisky.
And then, increasingly, there are the ok days. Ok days are not great, but nor are they awful. They are porridge without blueberries, but with just enough honey to allow me to swallow it. They are blended, not malt. They are decent coffee: not great, but not godawful Starbucks. On ok days there are no raptors, just wood pigeons walking, Charlie Chaplin-like, across the lawn and looking up at the bird table that does not allow them access. They make me smile although I’m not sure why. They are chased away by a single blackbird who hops up onto the shed roof and ‘chirps’ loudly at the cat on the opposite fence. The cat bares his claws, but does not move because the bird has got his number and, if he’s honest, Kit-e-Kat is much easier to swallow anyway: much less beaky. On ok days, life establishes a stability that just about allows everything else to get on with it. Whatever ‘it’ is.
I’ve grown to quite like the ok days. I have fewer edges on an ok day, but I can still find quiet corners if I search for them. Some days I can stare out of this window and see nothing, on other days I see the vastness of the universe. Mostly I see sparrows squabbling over peanuts and spiders hanging from the eaves. I see oceans of emerald and jade, and I wonder how many shades of green there are. How many shades can a human eye detect?* I can see them all from my little window. Every single one. The ones with a name and the ones that lay between them. Green takes the earth from birth to decay. Green is the colour of being alive and being awake to it.
On an ok day, I roll out of bed with, if not exactly a song in my heart, then at least a note or two on my spleen. I may not sing in the shower, but I don’t howl at the moon either. On an ok day, I can be the kind of man that I would like to spend time with. I am much easier to live with when I’m not swinging like a pendulum – although less efficient in a grandfather clock. These in-between days are most of my life now. I live more than function and I smile more than frown. I feel as though it all makes sense from time to time – and me with it. There are good days and there are bad days, but mostly there are wood pigeon days – and for most of those days, I am happy with that.
*I can’t find a definitive answer to this, but everyone seems to agree that we see more shades of green than any other colour – except for my brother who, amongst millions of others, is red/green colour blind and thence quite unable to decide whether a rose is the right way up or not.