Unfold anew: follow the reflective bookseller contending with life as time accelerates. Self renewal looms large on his agenda.
Beware of beanstalks : they grow to dangerous heights.
My earliest recollection of the story of Jack and His Beanstalk is my childhood role cutting the beanstalk down. Imagining something ferocious, I would energetically cut and chop away. Egged on by a tipsy father reading the story aloud, I had to topple the fearsome, uncouth giant. Soon outgrowing my fear, I longed to climb to the top of the beanstalk and touch the sky. My father later suggested sending away to John Mystery for some magic beans on offer at the book’s back page. The magic beans never arrived, presumably because dad decided not to send for them. Today, recalling his kindly smile, my guess is he did not want my dream shattered.
Many years later, the beanstalk grew again. I climbed it throughout much of my adult life, ascending to the height of arrogance. Self indulgent in an ivory tower of illusion, I was for decades blissfully unaware of my aggrandisement. Eventually the peril of living to such a height was drawn alarmingly to my attention. That was the day I started to climb back down. I have been in descent ever since. Should I ever reach ground level, I will chop the beanstalk down once more, this time at its roots.
How to fulfill your gap year .
Those fortunate enough to achieve a gap year are often compelled to overcrowd it with work. Circumstances make it difficult to take a leisurely gap year, if it can be taken at all.
Henry David Thoreau’s gap year communing with nature from a log cabin lasted two years and two months from 1845 to 1847. Borrowing an axe to build the cabin, he carried most of the materials on his back. His solitary sojourn led to publication in1854 of Walden, a book remaining in print for over a century and a half. Walden records Thoreau’s wise counsel to those of us who do not keep pace with our companions. Recognising we might be hearing a different drummer, he suggested stepping to the music heard, no matter how far away it sounds.
Observing lives frittered away by detail, Thoreau loved living to what he referred to so brilliantly as a broad margin. Why, he asked, should we live with such hurry and waste of life? Some would answer that we have no choice, but there are always options. Read Walden to get the most out of your gap year. Read it even if, like me, you cannot see any prospect of attaining one.
Sheer dogged determination.
My back yard has an early rotary clothes hoist. At first I held the hoist accountable for an adjoining mango tree’s failure to produce more than one mango. But the tree's fixation on the hoist did not cause its crop failure. A seasonal phenomenon put Kensington mangoes in short supply.
Dad used to walk the streets on Saturdays selling rotary clothes hoists. My mother, my three brothers and myself would watch dad setting out on his Saturday ventures. His suit and polished shoes distinguished his appearance. Anxiously awaiting his return, we hoped he would make a sale, but he rarely did. On Sundays he worked vigorously in the garden.
There was no public library where we lived. The shopping centre had a privately operated commercial lending library where adults paid to borrow books. I remember sitting outside on the footpath while dad spoke to thelibrary owner suggesting she stock books for children.
Eventually, dad quit his day job sugar coating tablets in a pharmaceutical factory. He went into business for himself removing rubbish and mowing lawns. Never more content, he regretted not doing it earlier. He retired in his seventies after falling through the roof of a customer's shed. Mum conscripted him as her driver for the Meals on Wheels charity.
Dad never said much. But I benefited greatly from observing the determined way he always went about his work.