Steal back time

Week seventeen in 'wake up'

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Week seventeen in ‘wake up’ and Chris was asking us to steal back time through our busy lives to reconnect with ourselves and the planet we live on, not to do more but to be more, to reflect in silence and get back some lost time. “Interesting” I thought whilst rolling my invisible moustache like a cross between Dick Dastardly and Terry Thomas, “Very interesting.”

My initial thoughts of stealing anything took me back to being eight years of age and robbing a Hulk sticker book from Asda and when my mum found out (the same day) she threatened to take me back to the shop to see the manager and understand the police would get involved. I think I cried at the thought of prison at such a young age and my mum took the book off me and put it in the bin. My mum didn’t miss a trick. Stealing wasn’t the thing for me, never has been and never will.

However this was different. I asked myself where and when would be the ideal time to steal time for myself but was unsure of the answer. I was tempted in the evening but felt a fraud or I was letting the team down even though we were having a slow Friday thanks to the weather and if I disappeared for a time they would not have missed me anyway. But something felt wrong about this. I decided to let my stealing of time occur as naturally as possible. The opportunity arose the following morning.

I woke earlier than normal and decided this was the time, my first time at stealing time. I walked into the living room and without thought switched on the electric fire and grabbed a throw-over fleece from the back of a chair and sat in front of the fire. I would have preferred it to be a real fire but eh oh. Bobby followed me into the room and wanted to play. We had a wrestle before I focussed on the fire, Bobby retreated to the sofa. I looked into the fire at its fake fiery flames and drifted off to the tunes of dawn chorus playing in stereo in my ears – it was a magical moment. I had a thought that I hadn’t sat in front of a fire for decades which was true. It was all cosy and safe. It felt like I’d stepped back in time. Brief but touching flashes came back; trying to get warm before going to school, college days wondering what the bright new day had in store for me, a few ex-lover’s flickered passed in this glow and it was truly wonderful, beautiful and touching, melancholic but uplifting at the same time.

Afterwards I had two major thoughts; sitting in front of a fire is so fundamentally primeval it must be the cornerstone to who we are as human being’s, and focussing in this way can seriously steal back time. After gathering my thoughts I thought how beautiful some of my innocent past was and I felt more in tune with what was around me; I could almost feel the rain on the damp grass from outside, I could almost smell it. The birds chatter was getting louder and louder. It was a magical first day at stealing some time back, I’d almost recaptured the past. Then Bobby begged to be fed and I was back in the real world. Oh Bobby I love you so much!

I didn’t want my stealing of time to become a ritual sat by the fire reflecting, so on the second day I decided to go for a walk on my own in the early part of the evening. Whilst walking I could hear the sound of birds very loudly again and I realised I feel so connected to them. It is truly bizarre. I feel a real connection to them since ‘wake up’. Whilst I thought about this deeper I realised I felt more connected to the spinning of the planet – it felt like mid-April, it always feels like this around this time of the year. I then thought of the changing of the seasons and the life-cycle of the year and they are always the same but I don’t always notice them – running on autopilot I guess. To notice this was extraordinary, I thought. Although the walk was short I was so in tune and connected just by stealing time.

Third day and a different approach to stealing time – this time I proper stole time – in work. After my official break I relieved Ricky of his duties but before he left I confessed to him and Sarah my plan; I was stealing time from work and sitting in the back yard of the pub to carry out my ‘wake up’ challenge. They both thought it was funny – I just chilled. To help with my reflection I happily ate a juicy orange. Through my reflections I remembered I used to steal minutes here and there in our last pub – sat outside and waiting for the sun to set. In Somerset the sun sets in a magical way. I often saw fantastic skies of pink, burnt orange and blood red. For me Somerset is the best place for sunsets. It dawned on me that in those times when I was sat in the yard of that Somerset pub that I was connecting to myself and the nature around me – truly connecting in a spiritual way and that’s probably the reason Somerset holds a massive place in my heart. When I go to Somerset it feels like I’m coming home spiritually speaking.

Sitting in the yard I could smell the oil from the fryers deep ingrained in the fabric of the yard. I could hear traffic here and a there and buzzing from the electrical equipment in the kitchen. This wasn’t the greatest place to reflect but in a funny kind of way I felt connected and content. For the briefest of moments there was a dark shadow of feeling I’d wasted years trying to find ‘something’ but then focus was brought back into view with the creaking of the yard door and the nearby chatter of small birds. It was then a smile returned to my face. Suddenly it felt great bunking off. I hadn’t bunked anything since school. Bunking from school were the highlights of my school years. I saw Paul McCartney get the freedom of the city of Liverpool when I bunked school and prayed to god that my kipper wouldn’t show up on Granada Reports (the local news station for the North West). My mum would have had something to say about that I can assure you (I wipe sweat from my brow even though it is more than thirty years ago – phew).

Then during this reverie I became aware of the beeping sound from one of our walk-in fridges and the moment had gone and bunking was over. After phoning the problem fridge through to the people who fix these problems I went back to ‘bunk-land’ but within a minute the sound of a food order hit my ears and I went back to work. I stole some proper time today (10 minutes) and although there was a glint of guilt I was happy I’d done so.

On my final day of the challenge I struggled to steal noticeable time until after work, it had been a long day. I found refuge outside, to the side of the pub with the moon shining down on me. The moon was doing good things and I spotted the secluded spot whilst taking the Bobster out for his late ‘toilet-time’. The almost full moon and his celestial friends were shining tonight. Looking up I couldn’t help thinking how small we are and if every despot, dictator, ‘hard-man’, crook, slime-ball and arse-hole looked up at the moon on a night like tonight they would realise how small we are and the world would surely be a better place!

The rest of my thoughts seemed to be set around the present and the very near future – things were happening – good things – all good things. The smell of burning wood drifted through the air – I love the smell of burning wood, it always makes me feel relaxed. Once again it’s got to be a primeval sensation. With my nostrils filled with burning wood my worries about the ills of the world had to wait for another day. Looking up at the moon – forever silent and still – I had to wonder why pettiness, jealousy, hatred, anger, torture and pure evilness existed.

I’ve found during this challenge that there is a place of glory when you steal time.Our days are so full that we miss some true enjoyment and magic that can be unlocked from within when we steal time. This challenge made me realise stealing time back was good. See mum, stealing can be rewarding (the Hulk sticker book clenched in my hand as tears roll down my cheeks, flashes back at me – sorry mum). Stealing time from each day for ourselves on the other hand can be rewarding. I had to wonder had Chris made a thief out of me? In this context I was happy to be one because not stealing time was criminal!

Mark Cuddy

Someone who learned to wake up


Go to the profile of Fiona Dolben
over 5 years ago
I really enjoyed your post. I find myself staring into my fire a lot and have never thought of it as a primeval instinct which it might be. i'm also with you about birdsong and moon gazing. The invisible moustache made me giggle too.
Go to the profile of Mark Cuddy
over 5 years ago
Fi, I swear birdsong is so loud now - it's amazing!
Go to the profile of Chris Baréz-Brown
over 5 years ago
Love that. Tough one for you Mark to find your 'bunk-land' in busy pub. Sunsets do rock and I reckon you are right Somerset is the place. C x