Redundancy acquaints a man with the back yard of his mind. This is the part of ourselves that gets scant attention when we go to work every day and always have more urgent things to bother about. But when the distractions of urgency have been removed, one can see this yard and its contents more clearly.
I once spent a week with the British Army in Northern Ireland. This was in the 1990s when the ‘Troubles’ were on and the IRA was still active. I was allowed to see inside a bunker which I shall describe only vaguely but it was a sort of co-ordination centre where there were maps and so on to show what was going on in that troubled province. It was a highly stressful environment because soldiers on the ground relied on information from that bunker. If the information was not correct, was not correctly interpreted or was not passed to the right people at the right time, that could result in people being killed who might otherwise have been saved. Everyday work in this bunker was literally a matter of life and death. In this bunker was a large poster. It did not say ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, it said:
Don’t do what’s urgent – do what’s important.
I don’t suppose they put that poster up on Day One. It will have been put there after someone had focused on immediate (and relatively trivial) issues instead of the main job and, as a consequence, lives were lost. In the civilian workplace, a total cock-up at the office rarely means anything worse than a lost contract or a tedious job having to be done all over again. This means we can ignore the ‘Do what’s important’ message for year after year without any lives being lost. Except our own.
So, in the back yard of my mind there are three things – poetry, a shed and a motorbike. The poetry survived, rather like a rose bush in my actual back garden which I discovered after removing a mass of brambles and bindweed which the previous owners had allowed to grow there. The long-term yearnings for a motorbike and a good shed were there as well, obscured by ‘urgent’ concerns.
Yes, it’s a Royal Enfield. More about my motorcycle adventure in my next post.