I am sitting in my usual quiet place wanting to capture the morning I’ve had but I am stretched emotionally thin and I suspect I am pushing a little too hard in order to process the experience whereas I should probably try to snooze a bit and let my brain chug along without any conscious awareness.
My wife sent me a text yesterday when I was out showing some German friends around our town. A reporter wants me to answer some questions, my heart sinks, I don’t like being in the media and I prefer to ask and answer my own questions. The problem is that this is a newspaper article which will be promoting an event that is happening soon, and as the only male involved from the start, the journalist really wants my thoughts to balance the article and make it more appealing to a general audience. I don’t answer the text even though I know that despite my inclinations I will probably do what is best for the event which means answering the questions and getting my name in the paper.
By the time I get home, the situation has either deteriorated or improved depending upon your point of view. The newspaper now wants to do a two page spread with photographs. Now they want me in the photographs and just to rub salt into the wound, the number of questions have been extended. This is great publicity for the event, a real marketing success but for me it means pushing boundaries much further than I want to go and it makes the decision to not take part much easy for me. It is something though that I need to talk through with my wife because there is a part of me that knows this is a good thing to do.
And so back at home we talk. Well actually my wife types whilst I talk because she has lost her voice (i.e. her vocal cords are inflamed). I agree to do the questions but we think we have come up with a solution to getting me out of the photos but still have men represented. Before I go to bed, I have a quick look at the questions. I am glad I did because for me at least, they need mulling over.
At 5:45am I look at the clock and groan, it can’t be that early. I feel like I have been awake for ages. I know that I need to get up. I need to answer the questions if I am to find anymore rest. At some point I have agreed to do the photo shoot. I try to reassure myself everything will be alright. I get up and put on the same clothes as I wore yesterday. I will shower and shave later, but for now the questions are calling. I ensconce myself in the TV room, blanket over my legs and dog on my lap; the laptop is balanced on laundry basket to my left.
The first four “questions” are looking for background information. Name and age are easy to fill out but what do I put for occupation? In the context of the event I am the guy who claimed an internet domain name and put up a website so I write “IT Consultant”. The next line has “From:”. I am not sure what the journalist is looking for here. Does she want my company name, my nationality, or where I live now? Not being a Scottish national I am tempted to write “Europe” to emphasis my thoughts on Brexit but then think perhaps “Earth” would be better or perhaps “not an alien”. Try as I might, I cannot see the relevance of this question, so instead write “??”.
I interpret the questions in a way that I want but still being truthful. I am annoyed with the “what was your experience of this issue before the event” because the event hasn’t taken place yet and I sense that the journalist wants me to say I knew nothing whereas actually it is something that had been mentioned in my group of friends though more in a jokey dismissive manner rather than seriously. I email my thoughts to my wife to pass back to the journalist.
Time has moved on. Our German friends are leaving this morning so I join them for breakfast. The husband and I have been friends since we shared a flat at University nearly thirty years ago and we are very relaxed and content in each other’s company. He was there when I was feeling suicidal and I was there to witness his astonishment at the Berlin Wall coming down. It was a transformative time in many ways and my first experience of shared community. We hug and say our goodbyes but it is only when he says, “take care of yourself” that a surge of sadness fills me and my voice breaks a bit as I try to say, “I will”. He is like a brother to me but without all the family hang ups.
I now have time for a rest which will also allow a bit of emotional stillness. I go back to my bedroom, close the curtains, get undressed and get back into bed. I have maybe 40 minutes before I need to get up and have a shower for my photo call.
It turns out my wife and I will be the main photo for the article with three other smaller portraits of other people along the side. I am glad I put on a shirt that matched my shorts. We are in a café where the event will be held and are speaking to Andy the photographer from Glasgow. My wife calls him a “young man” and whilst he is slim and fit, we both note the grey hairs on the side of his hair and I wonder whether he is actually in his thirties rather the early twenties as we first thought. We have to stand and pose first in the doorway to the café so disrupting the flow of people in and out of the place. I note that he is using a top of the line full frame Canon DSLR with a heavy white zoom lens that I associate more with sports photography than portraits.
I thought I was fussy about shots but Andy is meticulous. He tries different poses but my wife seems to get the worse contortions: cross your legs, stand on one foot with the other toes pointing down like a ballerina, put your hand and on your hip, now hold this coffee cup, take half a step forward, face the umbrella but look at me, great now relax and give me a big smile. I too have the challenge of relaxing and holding a coffee cup. As photo after photo are taken and checked, I can feel my muscles in my hands and face start to spasm and wonder if it is noticeable.
From the doorway we move to an old leather seat. Now we are more relaxed and are having fun though still causing some disruption to customers and staff. Andy wants to try one more situation. We are now outside the café standing on the pavement, remote controlled flash guns in front of us, and Andy slowly working his way further into the centre of the road. Now we are disrupting the footfall on the pavement. Drivers carefully creep past and join the pedestrians in wondering what is going on. Strangely enough it is our silver wedding anniversary this year and we joke about not having this much photographic attention since our wedding day. We joke about being film stars.
And then we are media celebrities no more. An hour and ten minutes later, the photo shoot is over and we are driving home in the car. As I reverse onto the driveway my wife suggests that it is now time to do some work but I am exhausted and know that I need quiet rest and space to process. Time to redress the balance.