40 Days in 40 Minutes

40 days in 40 Minutes. Written and presented by Nick Holloway. Performed at mac birmingham on 20 February 2016 and 1 October 2016.


Allowed myself to get lost coming home. Felt overwhelming tiredness on the long walk so detoured to take bus off unknown route, but in the right direction generally. Came a point where I knew bus was veering further from home than closer, rang the bell and alighted. Walked perpendicularly to come across another bus route and another bus, round and round the houses, but circling around my patch. Dropped me at local supermarket, took opportunity to get the milk. Then a familiar bus down the road, then walked up the final hill home. Still. Lost. Somehow.

Toe curling. My toes literally curl when I’m anxious, tense, stuck. It’s human. Child like, innocent, a forbearance, patience, a kind of giving, a kind of love. Example: Sunday morning, carrying pints of milk back from shop, it’s only 20 minutes to walk, but a small burden with the weight of the milk. But there’s a bus, comes once an hour on a Sunday, it’s 5 minutes from now. Perfect, only four stops to my door, perfect. Here comes my neighbour towards me, can talk until the cows come home, I love her, I do, but I’ll miss that bus. Stop and talk with her. Toes. Curling. Love.

Writhed through days of unease, lack of peace, rising bodily tension that seemed to layer on. Functioned alright, which is a sign to me of the resilience I have in this the middle part of my life, built on the long hike here (so to speak). Still and all, very tense, something deep boiling and trapped. Noticed in the office my legs were thumping like a pulse, it was new for me. Kept going though. Through the day, the unsettled evening, the broken sleep. Tried all manner of cures. In the end something unexpected gave relief, holding and repeating the word ‘love’ in my imagination. “Love, love, love…”

Lost my temper with myself. Small, persistent nudge in me all day long that I don’t want to acknowledge. Don’t understand, certainly, can barely detect, and certainly don’t want to acknowledge. Is there a fly in the room or isn’t there? Make up your mind. Be or don’t be. Got my attention when I snapped at myself the way I sometimes do in unsatisfying customer service exchanges. To my shame. But this evening spat it at myself. Then quickly begged my own pardon. It’s like there’s a Saturday afternoon Western playing in me. It’s high noon. Fingers twitching at guns in slings. Surrender us.

My compadre came to me today, told me he’s become aware I help moderate his world view. As soon as he said it I recognised it was true and then said, with the same truth, “As you do for me”. Shifted the value of the word “moderate” with that riposte. For he meant the sense of soften, but I recognised the underlying reality, of “moderated”, of two world views that balance and inform each other, create from the differences a greater whole, something more whole, something “wholer”, calibrated, attuned, our perspectives and temperaments, potentially at odds, instead dancing in each other. Yes, dancing in each other.

Might have nothing for you. An empty fuel tank. Emotionally spent, if there is such a thing. Scooped out, the oyster in me, the kernel, the corn hacked from the cob, the marrow sucked, the vein dry. How is it we never truly run dry though? Not of this, not of spirit, or heart, or mental push or whatever you call it. For whenever we detect that horizon, zero, null, void we discover in the black nothing . . . something. Human progress has always, will always turn in this black corner, from this dark night to . . . dawn’s light, to life, to love.


Could be that life writes us into dramas that we would never consciously pen ourselves. Scenes that seem clichéd. Dull, obvious acts. Tired, pointless, unsatisfying tragedies. Dreary, flat, hackneyed comedy. They say there’s only about seven stories, in all of literature. All those movies what get made, all boil down to one of those handful of human stories. Done a bit of stage acting, didn’t enjoy it, rehearsing the same ground again and again. Prefer new ground in my living as well. But will play an old drama if necessary, for you, for us, for love.

Dreamt I was in the kitchen, making a smoothie, trying to sedate myself. Added tablets to the smoothie to numb the pain, ease the anxiety, I was blue, uneasy, suffering, but bearing with it. Behind me at the sink was my father (or was it my partner? Or a version of my self?). He kept his back to me, conscious of what I was up to with my groggy smoothie, but he wouldn’t turn to face me, to deal with me. I remonstrate with him, call him out on his failure to respond to me in my need. His back remains to me. We remain immobile, but my focus has shifted now off the smoothie and onto us. I wake up.

Leaving the supermarket out of the corner of my eye I catch glimpse of chap moving just purchased box of beer bottles into his trolley, then hear a crash of glass as one or two bottles have slipped through bottom of box to floor, then the whole bottom of box collapses emptying bottles onto floor in sharp mess of beer and broken glass. Immediately felt for the chap, nothing he could have done, shabby box. Then thought if it had been me I’d have felt shame, felt the blameful gaze of fellow shoppers, when all I felt for him was a mild humoured compassion. My heart may come free, one day.

Gorgeous morning, sunshine filling the canal. Sunday morning. Glorious. Found my way to quiet, unkempt stretch of the tow path. Solitude, quiet, solace. Came upon, and then overtook, lazy narrow boat. Slowed to allow it to overtake me, wanted quiet, to be undisturbed. Must have been walking about one mile an hour, it was still behind me. Was annoyed. Turned back the other way to come upon it then leave it behind me. Heard him whistling, of course he’d slowed to enjoy what I had slowed to enjoy. How did I break this experience for myself? Why did I? Remorse.

Had that thing where one mishap plus another unrelated mishap collide in such a way as to make rendering a meaningful narrative of the situation completely hopeless. It’s because attempts to tell the story of what actually happened, to lay everything out with proper detail and context, somehow creates a fog of its own. This is human affairs. Have got a little bit better at accepting this as the years have gone by. A little bit. At one point, confronted by the tangle of knots I said to my compadre “I’m stumped”. Somehow this seemed to free us.

Dropped my cap on the walk home. Ambling along, unwinding from work, regarding parts of the day, snatches of conversation, balancing bits of maths and logic that had got caught in the glut of the day. Unwinding. Breathing a little deeper. Then dropped one of those big thoughts. Those once a year, once a decade, once in a lifetime mental keys that unlock the whole mind, untangle every knot, recreate creation in us. Stopped still, took my cap off, instinctively reverent of the moment. My eyes dazzled by the sun on the canal, for a moment I disappeared. And dropped my cap.


Reckon there’s something about to come into my consciousness, just now bleeding through the threshold. Bleeding is no accident, for I can see that colour if I look into my mind’s eye to glance at it. Blood red. Glancing is all I’ve been up for, because anything further will open the channel and the thing will flow. Not just emerging so that I might see something heretofore hidden. This something will tear the walls of the dam as the torrent of red blooded energy is let loose like new wine in old skins. Cheers.

Had a moment this morning where I felt in the groove, busy morning of tasks, balls in the air, batting each of them precisely, one at a time, feeling satisfied where each landed. Going at just the right pace, running on clean fuel, no junk in the fuel line, nice and smooth and clean and lovely. In the groove. Then this afternoon, left the office but forgot to change into my walking boots, decided I’d walk the long walk home anyway, then turned back, no I’ll get the bus, no I won’t, went back, thought I might as well get bread. Just missed a bus. Thought I’ll get bread now before bus. Missed another bus. Decided I’d walk after all. Turned back. Got bus. Delayed. Road works. Felt out of the groove.

“Wherever there is comfort there is pain”. It’s a lyric from a pop song written in and about the city where I grew up. “Four Seasons in One Day”. That’s what they say about Melbourne. Changeable climate. My sleep was disrupted, broken in and out of dreams, that song in my ear. At work, it was busy today, that song in my mind, at times the room melted out of focus. Still, suspended, out. That song in me. This evening I found it on YouTube, when that lyric came it woke me up. I spoke it out loud afterwards, three times “wherever there is comfort, there is pain”.

Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. That crotchety character in the old house at the end of the street, keeps himself to himself, kids in the neighbourhood pester or haunt or make a monster of him. The hermit. A misanthrope, is that what he is? A hater of men. For if he liked people he’d want to talk with them. On the face of it that’s a fair proposition. Which I’d have bought myself, if there wasn’t something of The Hermit about me. It seems to me I love human beings, cherish them, fascinated by them. Very fond indeed. But would go months without conversation, given my freedom.

Made a colleague bleed today, tore his flesh, cut him, wounded him, watched him lick his wound afterward, literally lick his skin and blood, like a wounded animal. Well, he’d scratched his thumb, when a ladder we were handling together closed and caught his skin. It was like a paper cut, so wounded animal exaggerates it, a little bit. His phone rang, he took the call, it started to rain, we moved in a clumsy shift and he caught his thumb. It troubled me that I was involved, but not because he was in pain, for he wasn’t really. It wasn’t the physical harm, it was the potential harm to our good relating that worried me. I hugged him. All was well.

Resisted a biscuit this evening, after tea. A small sign to myself of surrender, by which I mean inner freedom, surrender of attachment. After the evening meal I try to have only water, until sleep, until breakfast. A tiny desert in the night, dry, empty, clear. It’s imaginary, the desert, its affect only whatever affect the imagination can weld in us. But what does that suggest to you? Seems to me the imagination is a fire that can eviscerate the flotsam and jetsam, leaving a scorched but shining beach. That’s where I seek to wake up in the morning.


My colleague took a photograph of me today, inadvertently. Accidentally snapped me while fiddling at buttons as I passed by offering a cup of tea. Didn’t see the camera, hidden in hands, the image captures me not self-conscious. Love the image, strange angle thrown up from the circumstance, captures the office we spend the day in, gangly chap with sleeves rolled up, shirt about the place, empty cup in hand, warm expression. Interiorly I felt as I often feel in the workplace, pending tasks writhing about my mind and muscles, in the image I see Huckleberry Finn in a tie.

The dream had me trying to play a golf stroke with an acorn and a spoon, as time went on and as I was weakened by the difficulty of the situation, and the exertion of my efforts, it became stranger and weirder. The golf ball became a pizza, the green became impossibly narrow, compartmentalised and hemmed in, required ridiculous, impossible exertions. All the while my compadre looked on impassive and detached, even vaguely satisfied with the lack of progress/flow. Others looking on recalled my past ingenuity, lovingly. And I kept going, trying, despite how difficult it was, and the public humiliation. He wore his Mr Groovy persona as we remained stuck on the tee, unable to move off.

Was in a car today, rare for me. Don’t drive, often walk the hour to and from work, otherwise busses and trains rock my world. Work meeting today in adjacent town, the boss drove us. Beautiful, gorgeous, English, Summer, blue sky, green leafed trees day. He had the windows down. Couldn’t help myself, put my head out the window to feel the air rush over me, like a boy, like a puppy. At some point in my life I consented to this kind of freedom, this kind of folly, this kind of heart, at the cost of status, of coherence, of self. At great cost. Worth the rub.

Slept in yesterday until the last possible moment. Meant I got the last possible bus. If that bus not too delayed then enter office five minutes before start time. Local Motorway junction closed. Traffic banked up all the way to notorious local bottleneck, which then snaked it’s way to – my bus stop. Ten minute journey took thirty. Walked in office nearly twenty minutes late. This morning got slightly earlier bus. Sailed along the road like a chap in speedos on a water ski. Ten minute journey took seven minutes. Walked into office nearly twenty minutes early. Didn’t mind. Both times.

There’s a shape in me forged when I was in my early twenties, really in a single year in that period. Was in a spot in my adolescence, no doubt about it. Made the best of an apparently inescapably bad night. “Made the best” here means I got through that teenage night alive, at the cost of love for myself and others. Battled on in the years ahead. Until it was time. Until love took its chance, once it came, at the age of twenty two. Then took that year of my life to unhide me, to cease the war, but more, to render peace. The mechanism by which that feat was achieved is the shape that year formed in me, in my life, in my living and you will find it in these words, in us.

In my sorrows last year, there was a place in the woods I’d walk to. Off the road, into the park, across the field, through the fence, over the bridge, into the woods, along the trail, down the embankment, across the stream, the first glade, step across the wooden steps, through the close, thick nettles, the second glade, sit down for pause in the third glade, take my cap off in the fourth glade, deep breath in the fifth glade, find the hidden path that opened into the sixth and final glade. The inner sanctum. The holy of holies. The heart. Here, all my defenses fell, my rationalising fell into silence, love came upon me as a seismic, tsunamic wave. Utterly vulnerable. And healed.


Walking on the canal, suddenly felt the earth rumbling beneath my feet, came to an instinctive halt, whoosh ran past a large German Shepherd, straight up the canal path ahead. We exchanged smiles, the owner and I, as the ground rumbled again and a train and the dog came back at me, one on either side. The owner hung his coat on the rail, between the train line and the canal towpath, took a radio out, says the dog loved to chase the trains as they came by, got his exercise, while the owner could enjoy his music. I went on to walk much further than I would usually, on the way back had image of the psychological ground we inhabit, its tremors and quakes and fault lines, the shifting ground beneath us.

Walking along the canal today, I see a couple ahead. She’s young and spritely and sneakered, his hair is thinning, lounge suit, long umbrella, someone you’d see on the village green during a cricket match. But this is Tipton. On the canal. Near the train station. She asks me nicely how to get to the train station. I say “a couple of minutes up this way, follow me”, but I walk a little ways ahead of them, I don’t want the shallow conversation of strangers, even though I know there’s always the possibility of authentic relating, even in these fleeting moments, I don’t want to risk what may be pleasant but meaningless – somehow false. We come to their junction, I give precise instructions and there is genuine warmth in their thanks and my farewell.

Walking home from work, leafy back streets, the trees were beautiful and full, and suddenly I felt them, like I did when I was eleven years old, that unbridled sense of joy in things just as they are. Haven’t felt this for ages, the sense of the whistle blowing, as the kettle boils, as the steamer glides down the wide river, the eleven year old’s sweet disposition. It was, if only for a moment, like waking up in Eden, in the undiluted, clarified heart of hearts. It was lovely, easy, good.

Our destination is constantly towards home. We go out to work, or shopping, or for a walk in the morning, but ultimately we’re on our way home. We’re conceived in the womb, but nine months later the destination is home. We go to school, to college, to status, to a place in society, but ultimately, when the day is done, we head home. We grow up, we leave home. What are we looking for? Our home. We fall in love, our hearts are broken, so that we might find our home. We fall away from love, in our search for home. Our old selves die, coming home. Our children born and raised, they leave us, and we leave them, to sleep, to death, to home.

Had several images flash into my mind throughout the day. Apparently random. But as the day went they formed a list in which I sought a pattern. They were all memories, which seems obvious, but I note it anyway. They are from various chapters in my history. Again, of course they must be, but I note that I use the word chapter, or I almost thought junction. They are all memories of streets in my life, outside scenes, all in the Summer, all in bright lit evenings. As this day ends and I collate them here in my imagination I see I am standing at a crossroads.

Life has whittled me down beyond a shape I think is useful. Seasons of wear and tear, and worse, have left a weather beaten fixture on the landscape, but there’s seems to be no particular function for this wrought structure, this folly. As if pioneers will come one day, seeking the new world, or adventure, or worse, and come upon this strange sculpture and read something in it, some sign or portent. Well I wish them them well, but it’s all a bit of a mystery to me. I stand like a leafless tree ready for the lopper. Come.


Inhabiting another’s experience or perspective is one of the most difficult and generous acts we can surrender to others. To walk a mile along our compadre’s path is at least to lose a mile of our own, and more, to never again walk as once we were. If that is true, it must be rare that we truly walk a mile in another’s shoes, because which of us would sacrifice a mile of our own life for another simply to know life as they know it. Further, if such an act forever changes our own journey, well, what’s in it for – was going to say “us” and then realised the question included the answer. If “us” is the destination, our compadre’s mile is the only path there.

Had half an hour until my blind date. Did what I love most of all, went for a walk to the park. Planned to find a bench there, sit in the warm afternoon, to peace. First park had yobbos shouting nonsense, a menacing air, kept walking. Second park gated off for reconstruction works, chaps in hard hats milling about, moved on. Third park had the bench. Sat down. In the registry office adjacent a wedding party flowed out, a silver band draped across the waiting car. Sunshine, high heels, waistcoats, handbags. Time.

Was crying this evening, later on it rained a little, enough to wet the windows. It’s been that kind of a day, dark clouds, overcast, warm, didn’t think it would rain, though it seemed full and willing to. Did two rounds of washing anyway. Got it on the lines to dry. Had a snooze. Woke to wet ground, it was drizzling ever so. Got the clothes in. Went for walk on the canal, didn’t know this way or that way, umbrella up then down, jacket on then off. Had bath, but thought twice about it, but went with it finally, came to the sadness that had been sitting in me. Let it come. Wet the windows.

Found myself constantly arguing in my interior, anything would do, anyone would do. A couple in a car stopped and asked for directions, a mapless couple, was my immediate thought. That was how the whole day was in my thinking. Put it into evidence that they were in a car, without a map, asking the wandering man on the footpath eating his apple if he knew where Laburnum Rd was. Wondered if they’ve heard of the new fangled gadgetry of smartphones, GPS and map apps. This isn’t 2004, was the sort of thought that came into my head. They more or less give these things away in cereal packets now. This is how my thought ran today. And showed them the way to Laburnum Rd.

Chap pulled out on his bicycle, sharp and sudden from a driveway, around an unseen bend, into the footpath, at speed, just ahead. Brought myself to an instinctive halt, gave way. He slowed and as he swung around and past said “Thanks mate”. Responded with “Alright”. Felt human. What might have been moment of conflict, became moment of peace, honour, respect. Felt love for him, really did. The moment had a fluency, a lot happened, almost in a single, swift movement. Good will surfaced somehow. A moment, literally one moment, snapped us as strangers and brothers, conflict and peace. In those softly spoken words there was (honestly) intimacy.

Welcomed guest into the workplace, had a bit of business to transact. Her hands were full of notes and bits, said sorry she couldn’t do the handshake. Smaller than me, she was, and older by a generation. Moved suddenly on an instinct, a creative pulse, infused by the warm character of our greeting, the good will in our exchange, placed my hand gently on her head and said “here’s a blessing in its place then”. For a moment we were still, the business transaction disappeared, the man in middle life rest his hand and humanity upon the elder woman’s crown. Sun streamed down the stairwell, we were a still painting. The moment passed and stayed with us, all the same.