On This Day …. my plan became reality.
On this day, thirty-odd years ago, the thought came to me. Not for the first time. A commuter, in the midst of a heaving, shoving throng of people pushing their way onto an already crowded tube train in the bowels of London’s Oxford Circus underground station, I thought: I am a sewage rat — amongst a thousand other sewage rats. All of us scuttling underground in a bid to feed ourselves. Filth and germs everywhere. I glanced about me. No one else appeared perturbed or disgusted. I was. Everyone else bore an expression of grim determination. A look that said: I must get in this train or I’ll be late for work. And so, in order to achieve this aim — both to get on the train and not be late to the office — people pushed forwards like a hungry pack of wolves smelling meat. There certainly was plenty of meat on those trains. Humans. And they smelled. Of sweat, last night’s curry, of sickly concoctions of cheap aftershave and expensive perfumes. The latter did nothing to obliterate the former nor, indeed, did it hide the ever-present odour of urine and unwashed bodies of unfortunate homeless folk who, as long as they could, sought warmth by huddling in corner seats of trains, until they were thrown off by ticket inspectors. How did people put up with the horrors of the daily commute? I never ceased to wonder. Until that day when, once again, it struck me how similar to a sewage rat this behaviour was. And then I snapped.
I could say it was a moment of enlightenment, an epiphany. But no, it wasn’t. I had been planning to leave my job and relocate to the relative tranquillity of Orkney, where I had spent wonderful holidays, for the past three years. I could genuinely see myself living there, finding a job I could walk to, becoming involved in the local community, picking up my writing which I hadn’t touched in twenty years. Whenever I had voiced my intentions, my friends and work colleague had told me I was mad. What will you do for entertainment? they asked. You’ll miss going to concerts and the theatre, they said. It would not be an exaggeration to say, some actively prevented me from leaving — to save me from myself.
But, on that day, thirty odd years ago, I never felt more sane. On arriving at work that morning I turned on my computer, typed my resignation letter and sent it to my organisation’s Human Resources Department, without a word to anyone. A mandatory interview with my personnel manager followed, but by that stage it was a mere formality. He knew that nothing he could say would change my mind.
The rest, dear reader, is history. I have lived in Orkney for twenty seven years, worked in interesting jobs and found time for writing, too. Retired, now for the past five years I am writing full-time and have never been happier.