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.