I often am lulled into thinking things will go on indefinitely, even when I know they can’t.  It’s odd the way things stay the same, or nearly the same, for longish periods and then, quite suddenly, change and are never the same again. 

I used to walk the dog in the early mornings, always leaving the house by 7am, walking more or less across the same fields, meeting and greeting more or less the same people, and getting back, via the newspaper shop, 50 minutes later.  Then, after eight years of sameness, the dog fell ill and had to be put down.  Of course I had always known that one day something would happen to prevent the dog (or me) from continuing with our comfortable routine, but when the inevitable happened it was a wrench.

I kept the illusion of permanence going through the last ten years of my father’s life.  I used to visit him every week and sit and chat about this and that.  As he got older, more accident prone and more dependent on help (such a gradual a process that it was possible to make miniscule adjustments and pretend nothing had changed) I used to do chores and go shopping for him.  He’d sometimes say, ‘I suppose I can’t go on for ever’ (he died in his 99th year).  Whenever he said this I stayed non-committal.  Agreeing would shatter my illusion that he would go on for ever. 

My life has been peppered with long periods of relative sameness; the same house for 42 years, a cottage in the Cotswold for 25 years, my publishing company for 30 years.  And I always found it easy to imagine these things would go on and on, even though I knew they couldn’t.

And now, as we approach the 11th anniversary of living in Central London, I’m experiencing the illusion of permanence all over again. Every morning before breakfast I swim 20 lengths of the swimming pool, followed by some stretching exercises in the steam room.  I meet the same people, one doing 100 lengths and the other 60 lengths (how do they keep count?).  I shower, get dressed and go for a walk to buy the newspaper. Surely my morning routine will never end?       

It’s the same when I see longstanding friends, people I’ve known ‘for ever’.  We are all in our 80s now, or near as damn it, so clearly our get-togethers are not sustainable and my assumptions of permanence are unrealistic.  But still, against hopeless odds, they linger (the assumptions and thus far the people!).

It’s sad to think that my periods of sameness can’t go on indefinitely, but the illusion of permanence comes to the rescue and comforts me.




  1. Hello Peter,

    Enjoyed your Blog, can we perpetuate the illusion of permanence by inviting you join the Pinkneys Green Dog Walkers for a walk and lunch and revive your experience of the foot paths you raced around for the 8 years whilst you had your dog, whose name I sadly cannot remember.

    John (Dog at the time Bigbury, now a Red Fox Labrador called Ralphie)

    Sarah (Dog Ollie)

    Gill (Dog at the time Rexy, now Powys)

  2. While we all know nothing lasts forever, with the exception of major bumps and crashes, (and I’ve had several big ones but while they were a bit traumatic at the time they’ve faded and there is no memory of pain) things do go on “forever” in some sense and it’s a waste of energy to dwell on impermanence. In your case you will actually go on forever through the books you’ve written and the things you’ve done for people.
    The sheds may not make it. I’m reminded of a comment in Harari’s book Sapiens that what we refer to as the stone age was actually the wood age because all the stone implements were held by pieces of wood.

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