Yesterday was essentially a ‘travel day’, i.e. my return home from Palma via Gatwick Airport.
After a fairly crowded schedule spent shadowing my son Barry for 48 hours, it began with me having a light hotel breakfast, checking out and then strolling down the hill to the main drag opposite the marinas to share a bacon sandwich and coffee with him before crossing the road to hail a taxi to take me to the airport.
I’ve alluded to this previously, but a fundamental of life is that we spend it growing (or should that be ‘maturing’?) in terms of our perspectives, goals and directions. As a parent, of course, as they grown physically from babies into young adults, your kids tend to be a constant remind of time passing – this against a background when, left to our own devices, as humans we imagine ourselves to be a certain (youngish) constant age until – sometimes out of the blue – something happens which jolts us into appreciating that we’re leaving our youth further and further behind.
I guess in my own case it was from about the age of seven or eight that I first properly ‘twigged’ that my son and daughter weren’t just flesh and blood play-toys, mine to enjoy as they were, but genuine human beings in their own right with potentially different interests, outlooks and opinions to my own.
Later, of course, your kids grow up, get educated and go off to forge their own lives – whether those be a bit more mundane or indeed a ton more adventurous, challenging or complex than the one you had even in your pomp.
Barry is a strong character who has always ploughed his own furrow. Maybe his chronic dyslexia had something to do with it. He works in an industry I know very little about and has chosen to build his own company from scratch, with his own money. It’s been a tough experience because it’s a tough industry which involves very expensive things, very wealthy people and a cut-throat attitude in which the maxim “It’s who you know that counts most” holds as much sway as anything. He works endless 12-hour days and – with no previous training for the task beyond skippering luxury yachts owned by multi-millionaire businessmen – is now personally responsible for the livelihoods of nine specialist workmen and their families if they have them.
Just recently, after two months of relative quiet and struggle, work is coming in thick and fast, to the point where soon he’ll be flying in prospective new workers for interview from across Europe – this whilst also taking time out for a solo 36-hour trip to Amsterdam next Wednesday/Thursday for a major industry exhibition/show and more very necessary networking.
My point is that – having seen him operating this last day or so – I’m genuinely infused with an increased sense of pride and respect, simply because (erroneously or not) I’m not at all sure that I’d have had either the mental capability or inner strength to ever have embarked on the career path that Barry has done.
He’s under constant stress, endlessly fielding problems and issues and doing all those tens of little things that make a company’s world go around. And he’s doing this as a one-man band because he had to fire his original partner this time last year and hasn’t yet found – or indeed yet had the wherewithal in funding – to take on a replacement.
Two other – more personal – things I noted on my trip.
The first, courtesy of the unforgiving lighting in my hotel room’s bathroom, was that when shaving each morning I was forced to confront the stark realities of my own sixty-something face and body in a fashion that one somehow doesn’t quite have to when conducting one’s morning ablutions at home.
This was a sobering experience.
Echoing the famous quip from Muhammad Ali in the run-up to his 1966 bout with the limited but rock-hard and game Canadian George Chuvalo (“He’s got muscles in places I ain’t even got places), out in Palma I think I noted that I’ve even got stray facial hairs growing out of orifices that I didn’t know I had!
The second relates to smartphones and social media.
To be frank, I have no need to own a smartphone. I only use mine for phoning and texting – and proudly proclaim to anyone who will listen that I have disabled every single app and software application I’ve been able to locate in it, solely on the basis that hopefully by doing so I shall keep the expense of having a mobile phone to the contractual minimum for which I signed up.
However, what I could not escape noticing yesterday – everywhere from my hotel’s breakfast/dining area, to the airport, on my Easyjet flight and indeed back at Gatwick, standing in a 20-minute queue to get through passport control – was how at least 80% of the entire population of the planet is constantly on their phone, whether it’s texting, tweeting, What’s-Apping, keeping in touch, checking their email, or whatever.
Hell, there was even a Spanish gentleman across the aisle from me and two rows of seats further forward on my plane – a man who otherwise looked a perfectly normal, well-adjusted, fairly prosperous human being with a neat beard and glasses, wearing earphones – who, I kid you not, played some form of ‘Super Mario/Indiana Jones-like’ shoot-‘em-up ancient-quest computer game on his smartphone from the moment the doors closed before we even taxied away from our boarding position for the entirety of our 2 hours and 40 minute flight back to the UK until we landed at Gatwick.
The impression that modern human beings – well, except those of us over 60 – spend more time engaging with their smartphones than they do with other human beings physically around them was hard to evade.
I’m not altogether sure that this is a good thing.