On truancy


There is a certain jubilation and truancy at the heart of an inspiration […a] liberation and abundance which is the antithesis of every hampered and deprived condition.

-Seamus Heaney, The Government of the Tongue, xviii

I went to a thing the other day, but was told to go home, that they had got it covered.

On my way home I stopped for cakes and bought the paper, making straight for the coffee pot on entering the house. This was a cause for celebration. I could do anything I wanted.

The previously hampered day opened up in front of me, full of possibility. No matter that it was chucking with rain. No matter that the Rugby World Cup had ended. I could do anything I wanted. That film I had recorded? That book I had been meaning to finish? Even that poem?

I could do all of it! All of it. Anything I wanted.

I put my pyjamas back on and sat with my cake and coffee, savouring every mouthful. Fika, the Swedes call it.

And then I thought: now what? I dutifully read the paper, scowled at some tweets while marvelling at some others, and suddenly it was nearly dark and I hadn’t eaten lunch. So I went for lunch. I really should treat myself, I thought. So I treated myself. It was delicious. Loved every mouthful.

But even as I chewed I realised something was wrong. I was not using my previously constrained time to the best of its potential. That poetry send-out I had been planning. That script idea. That quote I needed to copy out. That letter. None of them had occurred. All was resistance and pyjama, croissant crumbs on the bedroom floor. I felt like taking a shower, but did not make the move.

At which point from nowhere I thought about Seamus Heaney and his idea of poetry as ‘truancy’. Suddenly I felt much better. From there I was reminded of Ted Hughes outwitting his inner policeman. I persuaded myself to justify my sloth in terms of Keats’s ‘diligent indolence’. I put my pyjamas back on and made a large pot of tea, which I drank plain, with honey.

I had done no work at all, and felt great.  What shall I eat tonight, I thought. Something you can dial, came the reply.


  1. I read this in a sort of horror. Like when I watch mountaineering films or films with men on the ledges of very high buildings. Because I suffer from verigo. Vicarious empathic vertigo, additionally. And I suffer from puritan work ethic. Also vicariously. I know you had no intention of distressing me. I forgive you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Expert truant here. I have to schedule my truant days (also take those that fall in my lap like a bit of grace from the universe!) Without them I would lose my mind! Haven’t stopped by to comment before, but love to stop by here and read often.

    Liked by 1 person

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