The Idle Scribbler: Something’s in the air

Songs from the Sixteenth Storey.

Something’s in the air…

November in Pattaya’s myriad shopping malls and department stores and the message is loud and clear – Christmas is coming!

Surely somewhat surprising in Buddhist Thailand. Back in the small town Isaan town, home until recently, about the only sign of the festival was in the aisles of the local Tesco Lotus (now post-divorce reverted to her maiden name Lotus) where an assortment of kitsch ‘Christmassy’ tinsel and tat would be on display. Sometimes on the store’s Tannoy there would be juvenile Thai voices – “We wiss you a melly chlisma’ ”! In Pattaya I once spotted a Christmas tree with an angel atop in a Go-Go bar! Blimey, talk about the sacred and the profane!

Anyway the effect of the message was to launch the scribbler on a frantic search for a shop with a decent stock of Christmas cards, a key ingredient in the fulfilment of the festive season’s good cheer. They flood postal systems across the western world every December delivering mirth and merriment, and occasionally a light touch of cynicism.
And there was a time decades ago when the Scribbler would for a couple of weeks function as an essential link in the Christmas postal chain. Being a temporary Christmas ‘postie’ was not only a nice little earner for struggling students but provided a healthy taste of the real world after months of the unreality of college life.

The round in my Yorkshire home town was a journey through Britain’s then still very evident class differences, the whole range of social, economic and cultural levels that at the time existed in northern industrial towns. Starting as dawn broke in snow covered streets of mean  ‘back to back’ terraced houses where a car would, in those days be a rare sight, the round ended in the ‘avenues’ of an affluent middle class suburb where Humbers, Hillmans and the occasional Jaguar graced the lengthy driveways –  a world apart. It was in this environment where you were most likely to encounter the postie’s number one enemy – the postie hating dog.

Delivering Christmas mail in the harsh Yorkshire winter.

Back then our Yorkshire winters were much harsher than in the climate changes present. I would be wrapped in multiple layers of wool, in a way appropriate as this West Riding mill town lay in the heart of the then still thriving wool textile industry, and a pair of tough boots!
Now 60 years on and half a world away here in Pattaya’s hot and sunny days it’s odd how such memories can be recalled so vividly.

Don’t do something, just sit there…
In a world that glorifies frenetic activity and endless productivity, the art of idleness is a slice of sanity surely deserving a much wider following.
Skilled devotees of the art should not be seen as otiose layabouts but as having found wisdom in stillness and deliberately chosen to slow down, unplug, and savour the beauty of simply doing nothing.

When I moved to Pattaya after many years idleness in far-flung rural Isaan a location exquisitely suited to doing nothing, watching rice grow you hear the whispers of one’s thoughts, I was afraid the city lights might jolt me out of my carefully cultivated idleness. Thankfully it hasn’t, at least so far!

Great minds from Aristotle to Leonardo da Vinci, embraced idleness. They knew that creativity occurs when the mind is free to wander. After all Socrates seems to have done little, apart from arguing with people in the marketplace, but that didn’t stop him becoming the world’s most famous philosopher. In a society that values busyness for its own sake, let’s not forget the wisdom of idleness.

In moments of doing nothing you may find a calm clarity creativity.  It’s the elixir for stressed minds and weary bodies!

Merry Christmas to all.