In 1996 I discovered the joy of Graceland* – the album by Paul Simon, not Elvis’s former home (after which it was named). I remember driving along dusty Kenyan roads with the windows wound right down, staring at the spectacular landscape with its peculiar upside-down Baobab trees and feeling a surge of pure bliss as Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes belted out of the tape player.

I must have listened to that album a hundred times during that trip alone, but when I came back to England the tape was relegated to the back of the wardrobe and all but forgotten. Until a couple of days ago, that is, when Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes started playing in the restaurant where I was having lunch. It caught me completely off guard, but as the first few bars of the song wafted out from the speakers I felt that familiar wave of pleasure – a feeling that the vast majority (though admittedly not all-I am partial to the odd mass-produced ditty) of modern ‘popular’ music these days couldn’t hope to elicit.

How, I wondered in that moment, could I have become so desensitised to such wonderful music? The same applies to so many other incredible songs that I’ve stumbled across, then walked away from, over the years. What at first sweeps you up like a heady affair soon turns from lust to love, from love to like, and from like to mere indifference.

It occurred to me, then, that this was a rather neat analogy for relationships. Just like with music, where true classics may wear thin with constant repetition, but will, ultimately, stand the test of time, so the initial flush of relationship lust can wax and wane when we become used to it – but if the relationship is right for us it too will stand the test of time. It will ‘come back into fashion’ in just the same way as our favourite tracks and we will be all the more grateful for its, as with their, existence.

Put another way, we may not always be overly enamoured with one another – the classic “I love you but I just don’t like you very much at the moment” scenario that comes about when life gets in the way, giving rise to stress within our relationships – but if we are truly ‘meant to be’ we can be quietly confident the situation will right itself before long.

We humans are magpies by nature. We like things that are shiny and new, and get bored of the things we know too well, so start taking them for granted. But, rather than spending all our time chasing the new, it’s well worth taking a moment to look around sometimes. Because it’s only then you can appreciate the many wonderful things and people that you already have – and feel thankful.

*For any other Paul Simon fans out there, Graceland is currently available on Google Play for £1.99-absolute steal).


You had me at first click – Part Seven

“Daddy?” Amy tugged at her father’s hand. “Who’s that lady?”

His trance broken, John looked down at his daughter and attempted a smile. “Just an old friend darling,” he said with as much reassurance in his voice as he could muster. “Right you two, it’s about time you got to class. Do you know where you’re going?”

Jasper, who knew exactly where his new classroom was, shot off like a rocket. As Amy hesitated, John could feel Jen’s eyes on him from across the room. He felt her presence viscerally, and it unnerved him.

“Can I help?” she said, in front of them now. John caught a scent of flowers, noticed a set of delicate beads around her neck. She looked, he thought – though even thinking it felt like a betrayal – radiant. She was still slim, but her face was fuller somehow, her skin pink and plump. A light smear of balm on her lips reflected the light, appearing to sparkle. Apart from that her makeup was minimal, her curly blonde hair tamed with her trademark red bow. John’s stomach clenched.

“My daughter, Amy, she’s, um…” He stopped, unable to find the words.

Fortunately his daughter was less shy in Jen’s presence, unaware as she was of the history and gravitas behind this chance encounter. “It’s my first day in Year One,” she announced. “Do you know which class room I need to go to?”

Jen smiled and knelt down beside Amy. As she did so the material of her wrap dress fell to reveal part of her upper thigh. She quickly rectified the problem, but not before a shock of lust had jolted in John’s groin. “Well guess what Amy? My name is Mrs Marsh and I’m your new teacher.”

As John struggled to register his childhood friend’s marital status, she stood up and rested a hand upon her stomach, where, he now noticed, there was an unmistakeable bump.

His heart sank.


Writing about school made me think of this little chap, who I spent some time teaching in Taliwas, Borneo, last year. Our ‘classroom’ was a covered table and seating area surrounded by lush forest – beats a sterile concrete building!