I thought quite a lot while I was away on holiday.
We went on a five hour drive to the middle of the North Island to ski and sit in hot pools on and around Mount Ruapehu and by Lake Taupo for four days. This was a holiday with one other family with a daughter Eleanor’s age, and a son a little younger than Rosamund, so it was also a holiday about getting up very early, but somehow always being late for everything, and endlessly preparing or cleaning up after meals, and taking forever to get all the kids through their baths and stories and into bed, and about falling asleep on the couch afterwards wanting to savour parental freedom but being far too tired to do so.
That kind of holiday.
Probably the highlight of the house we stayed in for me was the bedspread we had on our bed. Pictures painting a thousand words and all, here is a picture:
Let me tell you, I had been counting on some pretty awesome dreams in that bed, but if I had any I forgot them, and the one I remembered was about Matt and feeling sad, and had nothing to do with riding a wild white horse across a velvety red background.
In the few moments I had to myself I shut the door on my room, lay across the equine bedspread, and read most of a book called Looking for Alaska by John Green. I read it because John Green is very popular with the girls at my school and I wanted to know why. The book is good, but to an old codger like me it seems a bit like another rewrite of Catcher in the Rye, or a S. E. Hinton book. Still, it’s pretty good and at times hit a nerve.
For example, the narrator of the book likes to read biographies and learn the last words of famous people. He can tell you the last words of most famous people. It’s like a party trick. Some B list historical figures have had memorable last words. The American president McKinley took a long time to die after he was shot, and his wife – realising that the end was finally coming – cried out that she wanted to go with him. He said: “We are all going. We are all going.”
We are. It’s true. There is a lot to ponder in that idea, but against it I would like to add another thing. From listening to Martin Luther King jnr’s speeches I have noticed that he has certain phrases and ideas that he likes to come back to. His I Have a Dream speech, for example, was based on ideas and phrases he had used before, but – in that tremendous moment in Washington D.C. – became transfigured into something greater. Another phrase he used a lot in his speeches exhorting people not to wait, or delay in the struggle was about “the fierce urgency of now”.
The fierce urgency of now must be set against the fact that we are all going.