Twelve years ago I was working in Slough. My daily commute to work involved a stop-start crawl along the most congested sections of the M25 and M4, culminating in the roundabout that appears in the intro sequence to The Office. It was a dark time.
If someone had told me that one day my drive to work would take me through the South Downs to a road that hugged that coastline, I would have dismissed the idea as an impossible dream.
But every weekday, that's what I do. Within five minutes of leaving my front door, I'm driving through beautiful countryside, listening to podcasts of Radio Four programmes, before the road suddenly turns south and takes me down to the English Channel. It's the best commute I've ever had, but to my great shame, within a fortnight of beginning my new route, I took it all completely for granted. These days I barely notice the sea.
This evening, for the first time in ages, I actually noticed my surroundings and bothered to stop the car so that I could enjoy this:
Seeing this view and comparing it to my time in Slough makes me frustrated at my lack of gratitude. Why do we get used to things so easily? Why the constant feeling of dissatisfaction?
Perhaps I'm just being maudlin because it's been a bad month, full of financial worries and various life-changing decisions. It could be worse. At least I'm not working in Slough.
Maybe I need to have a drink with this man:
There. He's cheering me up right now. Just looking at that face, with its hail-fellow-well-met expression and twinkling eyes. Of course, he might have been a terrible bore. We'll never know.
The mystery gentleman was one of several photos that were found in books during the last few days. Some were rather mundane pictures of babies and animals, but the majority were fascinating.
Take this triptych, for example. There is a whole novel in these enigmatic images:
The woman looks a bit of a femme fatale - I can see a literary novel with a bit of sauce.
From one extreme to another, I also like this photo of a young nun in front of a fairly horrible, modern building:
I didn't know that nuns had handbags. I wonder what's inside it?
I've always been prepared to die for my country (illegal wars excepted), but I really couldn't stand the harsh physical training regime that accompanies military service, see it's nice to see a more "portly" gentleman playing such an important role in our coastal defences.
This isn't the most interesting wedding photo that I've posted, but what interests me is that like all of the others, it features at least two people who look pretty miserable. What's that all about?
I love these random photographs that fall out of books and now have a whole drawer full. But what I can't stand is the mystery. The best pictures give us tantalising hints and clues, but the puzzle will remain unsolved.