Thursday, April 8, 2010

A near-perfect day

by Ashley Lister

It’s dark when I wake. Spectacles. Yesterday’s jeans. Pee. Coffee. Cigarette. Computer.

This is a near-perfect day.

Some mornings, some less than perfect mornings, I find the dogs have provided me with a cleaning chore to start the day. On the most imperfect days my bare foot makes that discovery.

On waking: emails are the first task of the day. Sipping black coffee, responding to friends, enquiries and general minutiae breaks me into the habit of sitting in front of an ergonomic keyboard whilst bracing myself for the day’s challenges. Then, after another cigarette and another coffee, it’s onto the current WIP.

The family rise three hours later. I’ve got a few thousand words under my belt. I’m pleased with the direction of the story. Session plans are completed for the afternoon’s teaching. I take my pilot’s case, heavy with support materials, and head for college.

And the lesson is a challenge.

On an imperfect day the lesson could go one of two ways. It could throw up questions I haven’t considered. Or it could be dull and uninteresting.

This day, this near-perfect day, the lesson has had a few laughs scattered amongst the learning and there have been a couple of occasions when I’ve had to hold up my hand and say, ‘I can’t answer your question. I’ll have to get back to you on that point.’

The evening, on a near-perfect day, ends with poetry. I’m a member of a poetry group who occasionally meet in front of a constantly growing audience. When we first started meeting there were a dozen of us in a classroom. Nowadays there will be near on a hundred people gathered in the café or club we’ve commandeered for the night.

My son sometimes reads his own work. He’s also responsible for the technical side of the poetry events including the microphone, amp and speakers. As a father, it’s hard to imagine much closer to perfection than sharing a literary interest with your son.

And the day ends well. I haven’t yet attended a meeting of the poetry group that didn’t finish on a superb high. We pack the car with the speakers and amps, like the world’s most unrepresentative roadies for a middle-class rock band.

Then it’s home, an hour’s worth of TV, and I’m ready for bed after another near-perfect day.

Perfection is, in my opinion, scary and overrated. The idea of a perfect day – one that is intrinsically superior to any other day before or to follow – frightens me.
If I spent a day on the set of Buffy; coaxing a wanton Eliza Dushku into the right mindset to play the character of Faith at her most sultry; then giving Joss Whedon tips on how to improve his dialogue; then signing a contract with 20th Century Fox to write a handful of blockbusting film scripts: I know the day would prove a disappointment.

If I was ever to look back on a day and think ‘there will never be a day better than that one’ I would have to acknowledge that every subsequent day was tarnished by a layer of consequential inferiority. And I don’t experience inferior days: only near-perfect ones and the occasional imperfect one.


  1. I really like your point about "there will never be a better day" than a past one. Recently I was having a conversation with friends in which that concept came up. It was in the context of one feeling offended that what she considered a particularly important day wasn't proclaimed to be "the best day" in the life of someone who had experienced that day with her. I shared, quite sincerely, that it was hard for me to imagine wanting anyone to have experienced or felt s/he had experienced the best day of his or her life. I would always want that to be now and/or the case every day.

    As for your description of your day, I found it inspiring in its simplicity. And how delightful, by the way, that you have experienced such a supportive audience at your poetry readings. I participated in poetry readings years ago and did enjoy it. Were I on, well, the same continent as you, I would certainly be interested in attending one of yours. :)

  2. Emerald,

    If you did live on this continent, you know I'd be badgering you to turn up for one of the poetry events. And, if you ever travel to the UK, try and time it so that you're available for a shot on the mike ;-)

    I can understand why people would want to have 'the best day ever.' And I strive to make each day the best one for those over whom I have influence. But I would be truly devastated to think: there will never be another day as good as that one.



  3. A hundred people for a poetry event! How delightful!

    Thinking about Em's friend's comment about "the best day ever" - I would never hope to have one of those, because that would mean than none would ever be as good or better going into the future. I'd never wish that on anyone. Thinking that the best is past is a very sad thing.

    My oldest daughter is fond of saying "this was the worst day ever" or "this was the best day ever" - I don't think she really thinks about it, hahaha. I probably do enough thinking for all of us.

  4. Erobintica,

    The invitation extended to Em also applies to you. If you're ever visiting the UK give me a shout in case we have an event occuring.

    I've also got relatives who like to say things like, "this is the worst day ever." My favourite response is: "No. It's the worst day so far. But, if I try hard enough, I'm sure I can make tomorrow a lot worse!" ;-)



  5. Good point. But you're still invited to my Tuscan picnic.

  6. Hello Ash (et al.),

    Struggling into consciousness, fighting against jet lag... I have to say that I was tempted myself to write about an "ordinary" day. Because in fact, everyday life can be so wonderful...I think it's critical that we stop and appreciate it.


  7. Kathleen,

    I've already packed the picnic hamper for Tuscany. I'm bringing cigarettes and coffee to the party ;-)



  8. Lisabet,

    Thank you for saying that so adroitly. We do need to appreciate each day: even the ones that aren't quite as perfect as they could be.



  9. "I would never hope to have one of those, because that would mean than none would ever be as good or better going into the future."

    Yes, that was(/is) exactly what I meant. That's why I would always hope it would be now or every day for everyone.

    Nicely put, Lisabet; I agree entirely.

    Robin, want to plan a trip across the ocean with me? ;) (Though I will say, Ashley, I have been known to feel nervous enough just knowing you've read something I've written—I don't know if I would manage reading such in your presence, lol! I would still, however, love to attend.)

  10. Emerald,

    If you and Robin can't organise the trip, we ought to try and organise a 'virtual' poetry reading: an online get-together of poets from around the world.

    Wow! The more I think about that, the more appealing the idea sounds.

    I think I might share this idea with my technical son.



  11. "a 'virtual' poetry reading" - oh, how very cool!

  12. The poetry reading especially sounds like a perfect day. Someday we all have to try that.


  13. Robin & Garce,

    This idea is so good I'm genuinely tingling. Or maybe I've had too much coffee. Either way, I'm looking into the technological side of things and will report back.



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