Hard Work Making This Look Easy

Time to kick back for a little siesta

I awoke on the sofa post-snooze, glancing down at my watch. Half six in the evening. The feeling of a siesta well-sojourned I went to the fridge, cracked some cold gold and resumed my position. Twenty minutes into No Reservations: Love in The Professional Kitchen I walked back to fish out number two. As I did, something strange happened. It began to get light. In the manner of the sky outside my window it slowly dawned on me my siesta had lasted 15 hours.

It was 7am on a Wednesday and I was on my second beer watching Aaron Eckhart seduce Catherine Zeta Jones with some Tiramisu.

Life was very sweet.


When I work I relax, doing nothing makes me tired.


All very original Pablo, but let’s be real. Nobody thinks this.

I’d go so far as to say doing nothing makes me feel like a man.

We all have our areas of expertise, our zones of interest. In an Apocalypse-type situation, I feel no hyperbole in attesting I’d be the guy everyone looked to when the imperative was staying put. All eyes trained on me. He’s been through the mud, they’d nod gravely.

What you know about hitting the snooze button every fifteen minutes til 3.08pm. What you know about being on first names terms with your Uber Eats delivery guy. What you know about sitting with saltNsweet popcorn waving to the usher in a 300seater Vue waiting for a Thursday matinée to roll as he pokes his head round the door to check if the screen is empty.

Leisure should be approached like any other serious occupation. To be refined and sculpted into a fine art. Everyone should dedicate themselves to something, to really apply themselves to one thing, to touch base with the realms of mastery, over said chosen curriculum. The wandering Samanas of the Indus valley learnt three virtues, to wait, to fast, and to think. I know a little about fasting and more or less about thinking, but give me a wifi connection and a L-shaped sofa and I can wait.

Every man is, or hopes to be, an idler.

Dr Johnson

Thumbing the faded pages of this book of life by the fire in my carpet slippers, I see much time spent doing what I loved. The time you enjoy wasting, said Bertrand Russell, is not wasted time. I see a babe sleeping tranquilly, giving his caregivers peace of mind and pride. I see a young teen rolling homeward, once home alone, just inside the door stripping down to his pants with panache, leaving trousers and socks at the door. I test-drove my only ever pair of silk boxers for eleven days straight until I wore a hole in them. Felt good.

Felt like integrity.

It was an extended sojourn in Argentina just recently, where I found myself in the habit of cracking a brewsky at midday on the bell toll, consecutively for a fortnight, that got the cud of the chill-out zone ruminating in my gut.


When did we decide we had to busy ourselves in order to justify our existence. To what end. In the present day madhouse of relentless connectivity, do we need to do the exact opposite. Flip the script. Own the idleness. Take pride in the nothing.

Cavemen knew about the chill-out zone.

When they weren’t starving or traipsing hillsides for berries, or protecting themselves from saber-tooths they went hard. Our fascination with fire, the hours we spent gathered round it staring into its dancing spirit, was route one to some hardcore relaxation. Analysis of the day, the weather, space for light humour.

Do we have it skewed these days. This whole idea of action for action’s sake, mopping the sweat off our brows at the behest of some task, in order to then dissolve on the grounds of a job well done. Projecting the idea of a busy morning to put our feet up. Where’s the dignity in that.

It’s not the chilling that’s the problem, it’s the guilt associated with hardpound relaxation.

This isn’t even original thinking.

The Greeks vaunted said lifestyle. They thought idleness the greatest of all goals. Epicurus believed in the idea of atraxia, which means peace or undisturbedness. He thought the good life to be about pleasure, about being happy with what you had. Socrates warned of the barrenness of a busy life. Around me now, the world, busy as a humming meadow of spring, is it in need of a chill-pill.

Somewhere along the line we lost the knack. A friend of mine took a sabbatical once and told me he was losing the plot, didn’t know what to do with himself. How do you do it, he asked despairingly, his eyes thrumming with existential angst. I took a deep intake of breath, hit him with the thousand-yard stare.

Hard work making this look easy.

Getting to the place where hours can drift by in calm insouciance, where one no longer feels the shuffling off the mortal coil nor the guilt associated with levels of inactivity more commonly paired with poor health, takes willpower and concentrated fieldwork.

I have often said that the cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.



Leonardo da Vinci broke his day down into mathematical fractions and slept fifteen minutes out of every hour. In this way he stayed up around the clock, 24 hours a day, designing machines capable of flight, mapping out the human body, painting the Salvator Mundi. Relentless progress to one side, did he fall short. Was he on first name terms with his local ragazzo delle consegne di pizze.

For who are we ear-marking this grandiose achievement. This need to make our presence felt, mark our territory. Be valued as a constructive arm of human society. It takes gumption to gaze at the sky and mull over some lunch options.

All the labor of all the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction. So now, my friends, if that is true, and it is true, what is the point?

Bertrand Russell

I take it as a badge of honour how little can get done in a day. You start sluggishly, assess some mitigating factors, before you know it you’re well into the afternoon. Our passage through time. We grow older, through the latter part of our life, we look back and think, that guy knew how to go hard. There lies a man who could press pause on life’s remote.

Does anything really have a point. Does all of this thickness within which we reside matter. Are we inordinately tiny specs on a spinning rock in the middle of a vast nothingness. And mulling all this over, what better idea does anyone have than to hold up our arms in the face of our irrelevance, prop up the bar, and crack a cold one.

What exactly is doing nothing, asks Pooh.

Well, replies Christopher Robin, I’m told it means.. going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear.. and not bothering. It’s when people say, what are you two doing, and we say, oh… nothing. And we do it. This is a sort of a nothing thing we’re doing right now…

What if Simba had kept chilling with Timon and Pumbaa on the Hakuna Matata breeze. Scar would’ve got old and rickety. The rains would’ve come and gone. The Russians beat Napoleon with tactics of non-engagement. They were onto something. All of time is a tide moving in and out, in and out. Forest becoming sea, mountain to desert, aeon.

The Greeks were right.

Life is for the living. Life is for the chillaxing. Enough of this constant striving. If we all get on with it, we can all chillax together.

The chill-out zone wasn’t some mythical place a taxi driver at Bristol Temple Meads came up with in his head once my brother and I had got in the cab, the chill-out zone is a state of mind. He knew it then. I know it now. He validated me, saw the longing behind my eyes. I owe my life to that man.

Everything is seasons. The cold of winter requires a crankage of the thermostat from under the blanket. The spring cacophony needs a take5, a pause outside the maelstrom. The beating hum of summer requires the shade of the lilac tree. Autumn, a refrain we hum along to in the backseat. Relaxing is a round the clock vigil.

A friend of mine Mim alerted me last year to the idea that this wasn’t just all whimsical baloney steaming off my keyboard, that people like me actually existed. There was a whole community. I was stunned. There was a magazine called The Idler, there were books, a manual, there was even a festival.

It was almost unnerving. Finding your tribe.

I’m yet to commit. In the meantime I’ll bide my time in the way only I know how, sat there on the fence swinging my legs in the spring breeze.

Waiting expectantly, to see whatever this or the next life might bring.