Certain things will always take you back, just like Proust’s madeleine. Often it will be a taste, a smell, and for me it is usually a piece of music that will transport me instantly to a particular place and time, often very specifically.
On a morning such as this, though, when I am up at five o’clock for no reason other than being unable to sleep, and the rain is hammering away outside in the dark, then I am taken back to my days of work as a music teacher, the crazy years. Up at this time, then out to the tram stop in the cold and the deluge to squeeze in among the other lost souls in order to begin at eight and start the day’s teaching, which would normally segue into some more teaching and then a rehearsal.
There was one period when I worked without a day off for seven weeks or so, out of the house before six and back around ten in the evening, and eventually the stress and the strain caught up with me and I fell asleep in a bowl of soup. At that point I made some changes, and that, really, was as far as I went down that particular route. Since then it has been much more about balance, but the decision I made early in my working life to put in the hours in order to earn my relative freedom is not something that I regret.
So maybe I should feel a little less guilty about not quite spending every waking minute at the computer screen, not least because composition certainly benefits from a fresh brain, but that old work ethic dies hard, not least because one of our standard measures of success seems to lie in the amount of work we are prepared to carry. How are you? Busy! Good.
Just as in some other areas, I did my stint as a teacher, and one particular pupil I saw through from his knee-high-to-a-grasshopper phase to a scholarship at my alma mater, which seemed a fitting point at which to bow out. So today, with the rain outside, I plan to do some more work on the recordings of The Book Of Hours and then to prepare the route for some gallant folks to remove the organ from my office, and that will be another piece of that life closed, at which point I might just sit here and listen to the rain.