Monday, 9 November 2009

What do you do?

Today is one of those September in November days. The sky is a deep blue and, after an early white frost, the sun is shining and the air is still. Although there is a bite to the day, in the sunshine it is quite warm. Tess and I soak up the sunshine on our lunchtime walk. Well, I soak up the sunshine more than she, as I spend a lot of time waiting for a tail sticking out of the hedgerow. Later on, as the sun is beginning to go down, we walk again with a friend and this time Tess "goes to earth" and we walk home without her. A quarter of an hour later she turns up having been rabbitting in the pasture - wet, muddy and pretty tired. This will not do, we tell her - she will have to go on the lead for a day or two to learn her lesson.
I have been re-reading Ronald Blythe's River Diary - a wonderful book to just dib into at odd moments. Reading one of the October entries he brings up a subject which sets me thinking. He remarks how often at parties or gatherings where there are people we don't know, someone will chat to you and say "And what do you do?" Blythe says how crudely people's lives are simplified by their being pigeonholed like this. We are all the sum of many parts, not just by the job we do - or did.
Up here in the country, I find that people are not particularly impressed by whatever job you might have done. They are much more interested in what kind of a person you are now. When I first moved up here in 1987, upon retirement from teaching, I don't think anyone ever asked what job I had done, and I certainly didn't tell anyone. This was my retirement - my teaching career was in the past - and I wanted to explore new avenues. Someone (a local) paid me a very backhanded compliment when they remarked that they knew we would settle well up here. When we asked how they knew - the astonishing answer was "well you don't wear posh clothes and you don't have posh furniture - people who come with those rarely stay long!"
I don't quite know what I would reply if anyone asked me that question today. Maybe I would say "farmer's wife", or "dog owner", but what I would really like to say would be something along the lines of "I don't DO anything, I just AM".
Lovely sunset here, golden sky, no breeze, Tess home and safe, the farmer just off for his walk round the fields - what more could anyone wish for. Have a nice evening.

37 comments:

PurestGreen said...

If you have never read anything by J.A. Baker, try to find The Peregrine. I think you would love his writing. He also wrote The Hill of Summer, which I love most of all, but it is out of print now.

I look forward to when I can just be. I have a hard time with that now - too many labels to wear.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

When I retired I was worried that I wouldn't be able to occupy myself. A friend that I worked with said not to worry that he knew I would do ok because I could just be. I hate to have that question put to me. In this community (I didn't grow up here) there is always the question of Who are your parents? or ARe you related to so and so? Like that is a big deal. No one would know my parents if I told them. Small town familiarity is not so good sometimes.

Kim said...

I too am not comfortable with the 'What do you do for a living?' question. Like you say, pidgeon holed and classified in one small sentence. People are so much more then the sum of their job titles.

Rachel Fox said...

Being a stay-home parent I hate the 'what do you do?' question (and then the confused/pitying look that sometimes comes next!). If I say 'poet' as an answer (just for a change from Mum) the looks are sometimes even more confused but every now and then someone says 'oh, how wonderful!'
x

Crafty Green Poet said...

I hate the 'what do you do?' question, not least because its obviously meant to be answered by the wnat you're paid to do answer when that's the least interesting part of what i do....

We've had a glorious day today, though it has been bitterly cold,

gleaner said...

I've written about this too - I like saying to people I'm a student and if that perplexes them too much and they want more information - I say student of life. Thoreau wrote about the same topic - he said ask not what a man does but what he dreams about.

Heather said...

I love your 'backhanded compliment'. My husband received one many years ago when he was a bank inspector. His job had taken him to Whitby. He was enjoying a quiet pint in the hotel bar one evening, wearing an old Arran sweater and casual trousers and was mistaken for a trawler skipper! He was absolutely thrilled!! I have to say I am a retired housewife, except that housewives never seem to retire.

jinksy said...

'Just Being' is a full time job for anyone. It covers such a multitude of sins along the way!

Reader Wil said...

That's a coincidence! The other day I was talking with one of my neighbour. I confessed that I really don't know what kind of jobs my neighbours have and that I am more interested to know if they were kind and helpful people. I had taught adults for more than 10 years and only knew what a few of them had been doing for a living. I have very nice neighbours and I am glad I live in this neighbourhood!

elizabethm said...

You are so right about the way in which people who live in the country are less interested in what you do. This is a bit strange for me, having been defined by what I did for a long time, but I find that just being takes up a lot of my time and energy and no one here asks me what I do anyway!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I wouldn't define any of my friends by what they 'do', but I am always interested, because it can be such a fascinating source of conversation! But I guess that's because a lot of my friends work at what they love doing, rather than for prestige.

I think I would be at home where you live, Weaver, I've no posh clothes or furniture, though my neck would probably not go un-noticed! :)

jeannette stgermain said...

I like that about the country, that you count because you are a human being, not because you do a certain kind of job! In that, I'm very misplaced in the city and go in a circle around for who that is important (I can smell them a mile away, LOL).

Golden West said...

Sounds like a glorious day thereabouts, Weaver. Tess obviously couldn't resist a chase across the meadows - the little mischief maker!

Cloudia said...

"What more could anyone ask for?"

You posts often leave me feeling just that way. I too, just "am."


Aloha, Friend!


Comfort Spiral

Bovey Belle said...

Several years ago now, a friend called, bringing her m-in-law with her as they were going on to do shopping somewhere. The m-in-law looked around my kitchen, taking in the fact that I had too much clutter to notice the cobwebs, and that there was even clutter one end of the kitchen table (magazines, post etc). Obviously I was seen as a Failure as a Housewife. She looked at me and said, "And what do you DO all day?" (with, "obviously not housework" longing to follow that question?) Well, I was nursing my mum then, still running my offspring round all over the county, I had three horses to care for, gardening as usual, craft work, cooking everything from scratch, all my own baking, winemaking, preserves etc. I weakly said I was a mother and a carer, but I don't think it cut any ice. Not quite a reply to your "what are you" but it illustrates how some people are incredibly judgmental, and don't leave much room for being an individual.

Elisabeth said...

You could perhaps respond to the question, 'So what do you do?' with a simple reply,

'I blog'.

You do that very well.

Poet in Residence said...

For me it often goes like this:
"And what do you do?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, do, you know what it is you do."
"I don't DO anything"
"Oh, I see ..." (by now she, sadly it's almost invariably a she, men tend to ask about something specific) so now she has takes me for an idiot and is wanders off to nail her next victim which suits me just fine. I like to be a people watcher at cocktail parties. There's a wonderful scandalous book Holzfallen (Wood chopper) where Thomas Bernhard sits in the corner and eavedrops on other's tittle tattly and so-called conversations. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool cocktail party small-talk hater, Weaver! I think it's because my ears are too sensitive.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you Purest Green - I have made a note of that book title.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sorry about that small-town familiarity Lisa - it is not like that here on the whole.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Kim - I do so agree - we are all so much more than our job title suggests.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Rachel - it is sad that the terms stay at home mum and housewife now seem to have such bad connotations.
Poet certainly adds a bit of credibility.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Juliet - yes you have hit the nail on the head by saying "what you are paid to do."

The Weaver of Grass said...

Gleaner - I like that Thoreau quotation.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Heather - you are certainly right that housewives never retire, says she who has just put a casserole in the oven.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Jinksy - sounds to me as though you thoroughly enjoy just being.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Reader Wil - having nice neighbours and living in a nice neighbourhood is wonderful. You must remember that you personally make a contribution to its niceness. I would love to live next door to you - what lovely conversations we would have.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Reader Wil - having nice neighbours and living in a nice neighbourhood is wonderful. You must remember that you personally make a contribution to its niceness. I would love to live next door to you - what lovely conversations we would have.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Elizabthm - that is exactly how it is here too.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Raph - we would all be far too polite to mention your neck and we would all be delighted to welcome you to our lawns - it would save a lot of mowing. I am assuming here that giraffes eat grass.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Jeannette - they are easy to pick out.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Golden West - Tess has obviously learned the word naughty. If I say, who was a naughty girl yesterday she immediately goes into melt down and lays on her back in submissive pose.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Pleased to hear that you just ARE Cloudia - that is all the really matters, isn't it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Bovey Belle - lovely story. m-in-laws can be quite a trial. I must remember that I am one too though.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for that Elizabeth - I shall try it in future.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh Poet - that made me laugh. I have this lovely image of you at a cocktail party, drink in hand, skirting round the room looking bored.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Just lift your eyes to the sky and say, " I walk in beauty like the night. Of cloudless climes and starry skies;. And all that's best of dark and bright. Meet in my aspect and my eyes".

That will give them pause, I think.

Gwen Buchanan said...

That is the life!!!