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.