Saturday, 9 January 2010

The breath of life

My new year’s resolution – apart from spending less time in the gym, obviously - is to spend more time talking to people by the photocopier. Before Christmas I developed a pain in my right shoulder which, after our season of enforced idleness, seems to have corrected itself. And since my right shoulder tends to tense up when I am moving the cursor on my computer, I have now self-diagnosed my former ailment as a form of RSI hereby named ‘mouse arm’. And if it isn’t nature’s way of telling me to stop fiddling with my cursor and do something more creative and enjoyable, I don’t know what is.

I’ve been reading Roy Mayall’s account, in his Christmas bestseller Dear Granny Smith, of how the postman’s pleasant exchanges with his customers have been thwarted by those evil time-and-motion modernisers at the Post Office (ok, it’s a bit of a fairy tale, but for anyone working in higher education, which now comes under the auspices of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, a pretty convincing one):

Time is spending time on the things that matter, on the brief exchange of words that is the breath of life itself, sharing the air, shooting the breeze, enjoying the moment, taking a little time.

Thank you, Mr Mayall (not your real name, one assumes) for reminding me of the obvious. And there I was congratulating myself on doing all my printing for the week on a Monday evening when I don’t have to queue and there is no one around to interrupt me – forgetting that the photocopier is the office equivalent of the parish pump and inconsequential chatter about Dancing on Ice is the breath of life itself.

Yes, now is the time – in fact, it’s past time - to gather ye rosebuds, to kiss the joy as it flies, to tear our pleasures with rough strife through the iron gates of life etc. etc., or at least to spend less time reading unreadable articles about rational choice theory. For ‘the study of books is a languid and feeble process that gives no heat, whereas conversation teaches and exercises us at the same time’. (And I don’t know how this blog has managed to get through a whole year without quoting Montaigne before, because he is practically the founding father of everydayology.)

So if you happen to see me by a photocopier this year, feel free to interrupt my cursing-at-the-paper-jam reveries and give me the breath of life. Because, as I really should know by now:

Study is like the heaven’s glorious sun,
That will not be deep-searched with saucy looks;
Small have continuous plodders ever won,
Save base authority from others’ books.


  1. One from the 'saw this and thought of you' department: this seemed to be the most appropriate place to add it, what with talking about Roy Mayall...

  2. Thanks so much for sending this Kim - I love it!