Jan 21

Smelly shoes, borrowed lives

When I left for university my dad gave me two pieces of advice gleaned from his 50 years on earth. The pearls of wisdom imparted to me were: get into a routine; and never wear the same pair of shoes on consecutive days. I instantly dismissed both ideas. In fairness to dad, he could have revealed the secrets to world peace and nuclear fusion, and I’d still have been dismissive. Maybe world peace would have earned a non-committal nod. It’s 50-50.

Smelly shoes And yet I now concede that dad – and Mark Twain – might have been on to something. Not about the shoes – if nothing else it’s mighty impractical for a life of travel – but routine. You see, in an odd way, leaving our apartment and jobs to travel from house-sit to house-sit has made our routines more rigid. It’s just that the routine changes every month or so.

The first few days at a new house-sit are taken up with blending our lives into those vacated by the homeowners. If the homeowners walk their dogs at 10:30 AM, we walk the dogs at 10:30 AM. Same goes for feeding and a host of other little tasks that make up the life of a pet and home owner. These new daily milestones fit in around our fairly flexible work routines, leaving us with one foot in our shoes, another in those of the homeowners. In another time and place, 18-year old Nick is quaking in his slightly smelly shoes at the thought of having not just one, but two routines.

Yet the little daily rituals of the lives we borrow are among my favourite moments and memories. Opening the shutters in Normandy with the Autumn sun peeking tentatively over the horizon. Using a mixture of bribery and misdirection to persuade Jacob to go to bed. Cycling through Hoofddorp to collect crickets and locusts for the lizards. And, my new favourite, turning a solar panel round to face the rising sun. For the duration of our stays, I enjoy the borrowed routines.

And then, before a routine can turn into a rut, we’re off again.

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