Falling in love again Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss
What am I to do? Auf LIebe eingestellt
Never wanted to - Denn das ist meine Welt
I can’t help it Und sonst gar nichts
‘eingestellt’ – ‘focused’? ‘set’? ‘tuned in’? The German is better: a sense of being entirely given over to the business of loving, hard-wired for love: because ‘that is my world and absolutely nothing else’. Even so, the English version captures the deliciously involuntary nature of the experience, that precipitous toppling into the altered state which makes surrender so irresistible – or madness to resist. For who would turn away from the opportunity to lose oneself in another, to be enfolded in the arms of the beloved, especially in the later years?
I seem to have developed a falling habit; only the love aspect is missing. A couple of spills from my lovely New Hudson (almost as old as I am now), one unbalanced by a massive bag of shopping, always from standing, although there have been several near misses while moving. I am especially vulnerable when attempting to get going on even the slightest incline and my wobbles haven’t escaped the attention of frustrated motorists. One morning I fell at home when transitioning into ‘Warrior Two’, simply tipped sideways and en route to the floor crashed onto the stool which held my glasses and a mug of cooling tea; yoga not always the healthy option, it seems. Floor, mug and spectacles all survived more or less intact – and bones, thank goodness. Then, late last week, after an overlong wait at a cold and windy bus stop, crossing the street on the way to the Picturehouse. I landed in true old lady fashion at the feet of a handsome young man who hauled me to my feet and dusted me down with considerable charm. I had a little cry in the dark while waiting for the film to start!
My friend Aileen tells me that we used to use ‘fall’ for autumn in this country, before we came to regard it merely as an americanism. It makes sense, I suppose. Lovely as the season is, though, its mellow fruitfulness is somehow always tinged with melancholy, as if the downward direction of the falling leaves has a similar pull on the spirits, unlike the upward thrust of spring, all that new life emerging into the light as the days lengthen. Or is it just my inability to stay upright which disheartens? I don’t know: the glass falling is a sure sign of worsening weather; a fall from grace has negative connotations across a range of contexts, religious and otherwise. If falling into disrepair is what buildings do, I’m beginning to feel architecturally challenged.
Perhaps it’s unwise to dwell on such things although there is much to be said for being prepared, I think. A recent conversation with Cumbrian friends, all of us in our sixties now, drifted inevitably perhaps to how we make ourselves ready for whatever challenges might lie in wait for us. ‘Don’t leave it too late,’ seemed to be the consensus which I’ve heard repeated several times since. With this in mind I succumbed to impulse at the start of the weekend and bought a large red three-wheeler, a potential solution to the cycling problem. The transaction, in the dark outside the sociology department on Mill Lane, was a sobering affair which rendered me infuriatingly shaky, too shaky in fact to try out the bike – trike, I suppose – properly and subsequently side-swiped by a brief burst of sobbing on the way to the cash machine. Fortunately Jack was there to soak up the worst of it. I’m still rather cowed by its size and its shiny redness, although it’s not unlike the tricycle which was my passport to five -year-old freedom. It reminds me of a long ago bid for liberation when I bought a motor bike from a colleague. Not huge by motor cycle standards – it was a Honda 175 – I never conquered my fear of it and, after a few secretive sorties up and down outside the garage, I sold it back to its previous owner. Now, I’m hoping I’ve found my big yellow taxi (‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’) in time.
So yesterday Hudson and I embarked on what might be a last outing together for a while. Not really a sentimental journey although pedalling along the river into town and then across Midsummer Common and along Riverside was pleasant enough in the autumn light despite my wobbles. The outer limit of the expedition was the Cambridge Retail Park, my destination B&Q for a tub of tile grout. Not the way I would normally choose to spend a Sunday afternoon – years of Sunday tango practicas have saved me from such a fate – but it wasn’t pleasant being reminded that this is what a large proportion of the population do with their precious free time or being part of that throng. Not much of a journey in real terms but by the time I headed home I was exhausted. ‘Don’t get old,’ I overheard a woman trying on sports shoes advising the young assistant. I know what she means.
And then there’s my beloved tango. Whilst I’m not exactly falling out of love with her, she’s never been a forgiving mistress and she doesn’t get any kinder. These days I have to dig deep to muster the energy to get myself to St Paul’s on a Tuesday evening. I don’t always make it. When I do, my balance has become so wonky that reluctantly I’ve had to settle for flat shoes much of the time and even that doesn’t guarantee safe passage round the floor although I haven’t actually fallen mid-dance yet. In my head I still dance beautifully, of course, but the reality is frustrating in the extreme and naturally the number of partners I can rely on to take the risk is shrinking. I have absolutely no patience with those followers who rock up and sit on the edge of the floor looking miserable and then go home complaining that they don’t get any dances but I’m aware I’ve found myself in that position a time or two recently. Hanging on to confidence and dignity in the face of attrition is a challenge but the possibility of losing what has been a lifeline looms large and feels more than anything like an impending bereavement. So, like a lover slow to accept the inevitable, I’m clinging on.
Something I’ve read recently hovers on the edge of my mind: something along the lines of how life sometimes seems to last for ever, whilst at other times, like a shirt hanging on a washing line, it’s whisked away by the wind and gone in an instant. I love that image and I’ve tried and failed to track down the source. Meanwhile I’ll take my cue from a Nick Pemberton favourite, Prince Buster’s recording of ‘Enjoy Yourself’ which he chose to play him out, as it were, at his funeral. Whilst the words carry a sober enough warning, it sounds like a party. Thanks to all the incredible support from friends, family and strangers, the book is happening: definitely something to look forward to and a dedicated celebration and thank you is coming soon. This morning I was up with the birds and out for a jog round to the pool before breakfast without disasters. And later today I might just go and get the red monster out of the bike store and give it an airing. ‘Big yellow taxi’ is a bit of a mouthful for a nickname. Perhaps I’ll call it Grace (as in ‘Saving…')?