Today is a day of special significance for me. It marks the end of a business relationship that I was extremely lucky to build. I’m sad, of course, but happy at the same time to have known Randy and worked for him.
Why devote an article to a job, of all things? If you are a freelancer, you will know how important your first client is. Much of your perception about freelance work will be shaped by that person. OK, maybe not for long, but it will definitely leave a mark.
I couldn’t have been luckier for Randy is an amazing person. The man is a financial expert. That in itself is impressive enough, but only a fraction of the whole picture. He is also an accomplished poet, with several books to his name. He knows Japanese and, if I’m not mistaken, Chinese as well. He is engaged in all sorts of projects and it never ceases to amaze me how he finds the time and energy for them.
I can’t really tell you more about Randy because, frankly, I don’t know him all that well. You could say I don’t know him at all. I just have some random facts and my impressions from our work interaction. He’s also a very private person so I’d better shut up.
But there are things I can tell you without fear of crossing any boundaries. Last November, I decided I’d had enough of my corporate job and would pursue a freelancing career. This is the point where I should thank my friend Mona, who had already embraced the self-employed lifestyle. She was working for Randy, who was then in need of writers for his website. Mona recommended me, I got a job offer and my life took a different course. About bloody time, I’d say!
It’s not my intention to bore you with details of my work. I merely wanted to pay a tribute of sorts to Randy. People pass through our life and most fade into oblivion. Others remain firmly planted in our memory. I’m certain I will always remember the first client I got as a freelancer.
It gives me pleasure to think that I exited the stage in style (or so I believe). I chose carefully the subject of my last article and put extra effort into it. I’m sharing it with you now to celebrate a great business partnership, a wonderful client, old successes, new beginnings and whatever else you think appropriate in this case. A word of caution: this is not exactly light reading and targets a specific audience. Still, it’s not snooze-inducing stuff and may actually hold your attention. Enjoy!
Well…not quite. But I am sort of there, in a place where old-fashioned ways are alive and positively thriving. Where the stars shine blindingly bright at night and the quiet is so pervasive you can hear your brain cells working.
Do I like it? In general – not that much. Not that I mind the clear night sky, the stars and the quiet. But I’m not a village person at heart. I’m also not a big city girl. I gravitate towards the middle ground so I feel happy in the town where I currently live. It’s modest in size and you get all the conveniences of modern life minus the crowds, the traffic jams, the overwhelming distances and the general feeling of isolation we associate with big cities.
But this place where I’m at right now…It’s special for me. This is where I spent the best summer of my life. My heart still aches when I remember those days. It’s partly because the person who kept me company all those years ago is dead. It was my grandma, who needed constant care because of her poor health. The two of us spent three months here, with family members visiting once a week or so. I was essentially tasked with looking after her but I think I got the better deal.
So, a quarter of a century later I’m back here, all by myself this time. The assignment: housesit for my parents. Oh, I think I forgot to mention this. Yes, the house belongs to my parents, who are in Italy right now. Being a freelancer, I have no problem packing and relocating temporarily. As long as I have an Internet connection, I can work anywhere. Lucky for my parents, I guess.
I should explain a couple of things. I’m not a people person. No, I’m not some rude cow who delights in insulting people and behaving like a jerk in general. No, I have proper manners and I’m perfectly civil to strangers. It’s just that I’ve always been a reserved person and I don’t make friends easily. I am quite content to spend time alone and I never get bored.
This peek into my character has a point. It’s meant to tell you that I don’t mind being here alone. In fact, I relish it. I just miss my cats but I have made friends with two other felines. There are other animals around but I’ll tell you more about them in a minute. As I write this, one of the kitties is sleeping in my bed. It must have come through the window last night because I woke up with it curled at my feet.
I’m not telling you the name of the place because it won’t mean anything to you. Administratively speaking, it’s not a village. It was declared a town in 1984. But that’s just a label. It’s a village in every sense of the word. It’s very modest in size. I think it only has two blocks of flats and those are four or five stories high. The rest of the population live in houses. They all have vegetable gardens, animals in their barns, and hens and roosters roaming in the yards. Each house has at least one guard dog and horse-drawn carts traverse the streets. People here make their own wine and hard liquor, as is the case in every Bulgarian village and out-of-the-way town.
And you never have privacy in such places, not really. Sometimes it’s annoying. Other times, you can’t help but marvel at the bond people have in such places. You get folks dropping by every day, sometimes several times a day, to check up on you. People bring you produce, ask how you’re doing, offer to take care of this and that in the yard. You look at them and you think, “I wish they’d leave me alone!” Then they go away and you actually start feeling happy that you matter enough to these people, who are essentially strangers.
You know what I smell of right now? Donkey shit. No, I’m not joking. About an hour ago, I was shovelling donkey shit. My father has one of these animals. A friend of his takes her out in the morning, ties her somewhere (no idea where) to graze and brings her back in the evening. There is also a massive dog, another girl, who I rely on to guard me at night. The donkey is called Marussya, which seems to be a very popular name for donkeys around these parts. The dog is Maya. The cats have no names so I just call them all Kittie. Two are constantly around and a few others pass through every day, mostly to get fed.
Almost three decades ago, I had my grandma for company here. Now it’s these animals. Over the years, the village has changed. Not in its essence though, just some physical upgrades. It’s cleaner, the centre has been spruced up, and some nice shops have cropped up.
But you can still sense that the spirit of the place has remained intact. I like that. I couldn’t live here all the time, no way. Still, I’m blissfully happy right now. More important than the preserved spirit of the place is the spirit of the past I can feel. My own past. A time when I felt useful and needed because a frail human being depended on me. A time when the peace and quiet of this place were a welcome respite. A time when I was truly happy.
As melodramatic as it may sound, it feels as if traces of my past happiness still linger here. I walk around the yard at dusk and it’s as if no time at all has passed – I’m young, beautiful, free and full of hope. I look up at the clear, starry sky at night and it overwhelms me in a good way. And I can’t help but think that we really don’t need much to be happy. As long as we’re open to it, happiness will find us anywhere.
I’ll leave this place in a few days. When I visit my parents, it doesn’t feel the same. It’s not my place then; it’s theirs and I’m just a guest. But I’ll keep hoping that my future holds more of these solitary retreats. Maybe I won’t have to wait for another 26 years before it happens again…
It could be because I’m inexorably moving towards senior citizen status that childhood memories seem to become clearer and dearer. Sometimes I suddenly remember things so deeply buried into my mind that I almost feel a jolt when they break through the veil of oblivion.
There are, however, events and people that time never coats in the dust of forgetfulness. Like that one special childhood friend – you know, the kind that feels like an extra appendage. You go to school and play together, take turns dining and spending the night at each other’s place…in short, you skip and hop through childhood hand in hand.
Then you grow up and life often gets in the way of these precious friendships. You do your best to keep them going and sometimes you succeed. We couldn’t. The reason? The most banal of all – distance.
My childhood appendage, Mariyana, was a golden girl. Blond locks, sparkling blue eyes, a brilliant smile, a feisty and compassionate nature. We spent our early years joined at the hip. The first crush, the first cigarette, secrets and lies – we shared them all.
When my family moved to the other side of the country, I was devastated. Children are resilient, as we keep hearing, but some things you just never get over. Even though time dulls the searing pain these memories used to cause, you still feel a stab through the heart whenever you remember. The spasm goes away quickly but never stays away for long. It will likely keep coming back until the day you check out for good.
After our paths diverged, I only got to see Mariyana once in the span of a decade. Then the trail grew totally cold and stayed that way for 27 years!
As the title indicates, we have a “happy ending” story here. It features Facebook (what doesn’t these days?!) and has Mariyana in the starring role. I’m a humble extra whose only contribution consists of finally succumbing to herd behaviour and joining the Facebook swarm. This is how she found me and got in touch. Within a month, she was on her way to my place.
These are surreal moments and people usually lack the words to describe them. In moments like these, you believe that the universe is indeed on your side and there might just be such things as miracles. When I saw her there in the street, with her suitcase at her feet and that brilliant smile on her face, my heart skipped several beats and then all was right with the world. And time…No such concept exists when you find yourself in a situation like this. The years fall away and your heart can hardly contain all the joy, love and relief. The relief comes from having a hollow within close up at last.
We got our happy new beginning, I’m thrilled to report. Life remains in the way but no longer distressingly so. She has been living in Italy for the past 12 years and we won’t be getting together very often. But you know what? It’s fine. At the very least, we have all those social platforms and messaging apps to keep in touch. The truly important thing is that we have rebuilt the bridge riven by time and circumstances. We now stand on the reinforced structure older, maybe wiser and definitely still full of the childhood wonder and devotion of all those years ago.
The “first one” would be this article but I need to make something clear right away. It’s anything but my first! As part of my last regular job, I produced anywhere between 10 and 15 articles a day. With nine years on the job, that’s a whole lotta articles!
This one is the first meant to serve my very own purposes. Hmm…now that I think about it, it doesn’t have that much of a purpose. I just thought I need something to inaugurate this site. It makes sense (or so it seems to me) to have some general piece posted first, something maybe even a bit ramble-y. And I do tend to ramble, believe you me!
Still, I think I need to anchor this text and here’s what I’m going with: Stephen Fry.
I love that man! I want him for my papa! I love watching him on screen, but it’s his writing that floors me every time. The man is a genius, right? Well, I don’t know if he’s taken one of those tests and holds the title officially. But we just know it: Mr. Fry is an Ubermensch!
I’ve caught myself thinking on several occasions that Mr. Fry should be put in charge of the world. Of course, I haven’t got the foggiest how that can be arranged; I just know that we need him ruling. Maybe we can have the United Global States some day and he’ll be president…
I’m not a fan of social media. It has nothing to do with age – I love the internet and consider it the best thing to have happened in my lifetime. Should they find a cure for cancer, I’ll revise that statement, but it holds true for the time being. Twitter plain depresses me; it’s this constant barrage of messages, most of them ridiculous or meaningless. It’s overwhelming and not in a fun way. But I finally buckled and created a Twitter account just so that I can follow Mr. Fry and a few other people I admire.
Anyway, a few days ago vile Twitter spewed the most delightful piece of news! Mr. Fry’s book The Hippopotamus has been made into a film!!! I did the happy dance, shouted from my balcony (the neighbourhood dogs didn’t like it) and treated my cats to that nasty, gooey stuff they love to distraction – you know, the one that comes in pouches and is the equivalent of human junk food.
I should point out that The Hippopotamus is my favourite book by Stephen Fry. I must have read it about ten times and it ranks at number two on my top books list, after Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim.
So you can imagine my euphoria when I found out that The Hippo is now a film. I only wish Mr. Fry had been cast as Ted, but Roger Allam seems like an excellent choice as well. I strongly suspect that watching this film will be the highlight of the year for me. Here’s the trailer:
And go read the book, please! You’ll roar with laughter, cry, marvel, cringe, gasp and then scream in protest that it’s over. I don’t know how well it has translated to the screen, but even if it’s a marvellous adaptation, it can’t possibly capture all the magic and madness of the book. You know what? I’m off to read it again, must be a couple of years since I last immersed myself in this glorious maelstrom of a story.