Sunday, 18 March 2012
Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 17. Ennui on the Mountain
Life in England was now in stark contrast to Corsica. The everyday realities of commuting into London to an uninspiring job had started to chip away at Di’s newfound joie de vivre. Working as a ‘size model’ for various high profile high street designers seemed a glamorous career to folk looking in. The humdrum reality was different. A cross between a mannequin and a fashion technician, she laboured long hours in cramped conditions with designers, buyers and technicians who stuck pins into her, bitched and moaned and invariably forget that she was there; she was but a living breathing template. Di withdrew and could feel nothing but diminished by her windowless working day; the pay was excellent, the payoff was an increasingly derelict soul.
Life was pretty good for me; I was working for a large international school in central London, as Director of the extra curricular activities. In the summer I ran the school’s summer camp. The school, a successful independent, provided a privileged environment for wealthy families, mainly Americans. As such it was an easy place to be; the problems of most inner city schools did not raise their ugly heads there. I was surrounded by an intelligent, urbane faculty whose sole motivation was the well-being of a happy, healthy student population.
I loved the company of the lower school kids, aged between four and ten; it was a constant reminder of the wisdom of children and the joy that their lack of cynicism can bring. If you’re ever feeling jaded just sit with a group of five year olds and ask them about the colours inside their heads. I learnt to trust children. I wish I could invest my writing with their sense of wonder and clarity of thought; they encouraged me to keep gazing at the stars whilst staying focused on ‘the bleeding obvious’.
Gradually this side of my life was deviating me from my expected route, that of a recording songwriter. I needed to work to fuel the fire but, where once I could happily wear the two hats, it now felt a misfit. I was marking time instead of fully committing to the muse; still creatively inspired but feeling vocationally impotent; I lacked luster; perhaps work at the school offered too much of a comfort zone. Contentment kicked in alongside a vague ennui; if this was my lot I wasn’t too unhappy in my underachievement.
I started to drink; not to excess, just more regularly and more eagerly, eventually turning to single malts to give some culture to my craving; just to loosen things up and blur the edges a little. This of course dulled any edge that I had. Di wasn’t happy and let me know it, wincing at the sound of the ice machine; she’d be spending another evening in my compromised company.
“Whiskey makes you sour.”
Increasingly it seemed that we were at our most relaxed in Montemaggiore and for a while we thought seriously about selling up and moving to Corsica. The short lived plan was to invest any meager savings that we could realize, alongside profit made from selling our cottage, into a property near Calvi. Initially this would be as a holiday let, but possibly as an alternative to Chez Diane, should we find that life in the valley beckoned us down from the mountain. Di would develop her passion for photography into something more lucrative, and I would sit atop the mountain and write my songs. We had Lisa Cottage valued and were set for a life change This, in turn, set us towards some serious soul searching. We eventually recognised that our happiness was founded on having the two bases; one ‘ideal’ enhanced the other. Only then did we truly count our blessings; in England we had good friends and a lovely home on a village green, where we woke to birdsong and the footfall of horses in the meadow behind us. Buckinghamshire offered up what pleasures remained of ‘Olde England’, with easy access to the excitements of London.
The pleasures of Corsica were obvious.
We had two good lives; why not make the best of both worlds?