Herded

Work sometimes gets in the way so today it was just a short afternoon spin to remind my legs that pedalling’s what they do best – the roads between Reading and Maidenhead. If work hadn’t been intrusive I probably wouldn’t have bothered, it wasn’t weather to entice anyone out – relentlessly grey, fairly windy and on the cold side.

The roads were busy and I admit it took me a while to realise why – Easter. I’m not cursed with the dreadful arrogant certainty of any religion, one that recognises Easter or not. So, as a significant event, festival, rite, fable or whatever you want to call it, it’s not on my horizon. And working for myself, with no kids, means I’m not overly alive to the rhythms and routines imposed by bank holidays, school holidays and the like.

Easter – the first break of the year and with it all the grief and aggravation that’s associated with trying to compress presumed pleasures and imposed duties into a few precious days. The family holidays that half the family don’t want to be enduring; the visits to relatives that all agree are important but for half of those going along are always tarnished by the nagging knowledge that free time’s precious and there are almost certainly better pleasures to be had.

I’m very lucky in that I like my family; they are people I’d socialise with as friends if they weren’t relatives. Perhaps my cynicism about Easter – or any other holiday – is unfounded. But it’s all too easy to think of so many examples of far less happy family situations amongst friends and acquaintances, let alone the stories abounding in popular culture. It’s quite possibly unwise to trust popular culture, but that doesn’t account for all the anecdotes and moans that you can hear first hand.

Even with questions of family set aside, it’s at times like this that I feel sort of defeated. I don’t understand how we can have organised ourselves so that we’re so pressurised; so herded, corralled and controlled; so squandering of our time, our lives, our riches. We – Joe and Josephine Average in the West – are incredibly well-off. We have so much – health, longevity, possessions, security, the basics and all the comforts and luxuries. But, for so many us, too much of life is screwed up, wasted. There are options, but thinking of them and then taking them is rarely the path of least resistance.