A Snippet From “Amazing”


My last few summers have been spent in the beautiful old town of Krk, on the island of Krk, Croatia, entertaining nightly on a magnificent hotel terrace overlooking a stunning Marina. And in most recent years I have been joined by my dear friend Phil, making music together.
Phil and myself are two completely different characters, in as much as we grew up in contrasting environments. He grew up in what he describes as the ‘hood’..the neighbourhood.. Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 

He’s what you’d call a ‘street kid’ with no educational qualifications other than hustling, dodging and surviving… whereas I’m from what he calls a ‘square’ upbringing ..going through school, then college, before getting a ‘straight job as a schoolteacher.
Even on stage we are two completely contrasting voices..but the harmony we create is quite unique. The blend is an array of colours you get when primary colours collide. The shades of the blend are seemingly infinite.
Off the stage we are again so different. I love sport, he doesn’t. I love nature, the countryside, scenery, people , places, culture, customs, different foods, drinks, languages, philosophy, psychology, …life!
Phil just likes to relax. To sleep. To talk about what he used to do. Not so much what he’s doing now, because he’s not doing a lot.

Because of a chronic disc problem , Phil stayed in a room right above where we would entertain, at the Marina, whereas I stayed just outside the town, maybe 15 minutes walk away in another hotel. 

My daily routine was to walk from my hotel after breakfast along the  coastal path and then through the old town to the Marina. It’s a really scenic walk..stunning views of the old town, of the calm blue Adriatic sea, then through the old town itself with its bustling little cobbled streets nestling inside its ancient walls…. Here we would meet on the terrace and make some rehearsals for the evening show.
And just occasionally Phil would walk with me back to my hotel.
Now the walk for me was not what I called a “walk”. Fifteen minutes maximum from door to door, a slight gradient along the way, a few steps to climb…a brisk walk, hardly what you would call strenuous.
This walk for Phil was an adventure. 

A day out. 

An excursion. 

Because of his disc problem he would wear a back brace, and because of his lack of exercise the walk would tire him very quickly.
The pace of his walk would be slower than most really elderly people. And for this reason walking with Phil was for me pure frustration!
When I walked with Phil I had the feeling I was never going to get to where I was supposed to be going. By the time we had stopped for rests, the journey could take up to three times as long as I thought it should. It seemed to me to be lasting forever.
Because we were walking so slowly we would meet just about everyone along the way;
ice cream sellers, excursion ticket sellers, shop owners, bar and restaurant personnel, and ofcourse guests from the hotels where we were staying.
Now for Phil this was quite normal.
For me, this was interruption after interruption.
And this continued to be a frustration for me until one day…..

We stopped at one of the stands where the excursion ticket sellers worked, and one of them said to me, “Well, Ged, this is a nice surprise to have you find the time to stop and pass the time of day with us. You’re usually past us before we have noticed you. We often see the back of you, but we never get the chance to say more than ” dobro jutro” (good morning). We might get a friendly wave from you as you go by, but that’s usually about it. You always seem to be in a hurry. And look at what you’re missing…us!!”
And with that a laugh and a joke , and more comments about what it’s like taking a snail for a walk.
And then we were stopped by one of the restaurant owners, and he said pretty much the same thing. ” Nice to have you stop and chat a while.”
Then from a shop owner…”Hey this is really great, Ged. We’ve never actually really spoken…”
Again..more jokes about what it’s like taking your tortoise out for the day….

It wasn’t really sinking in until later that day when I was venting my frustration story to another friend.But it was their response that hit a nerve..
“You know, for lots of us the destination has more importance than the journey itself.
Just consider all the people in the big cities hurrying, scurrying, bustling, frantically trying to get from A to B. Yes we do have to get from one place to another, and often with a time schedule, but there are many occasions when we just think we have to get somewhere and we forget to enjoy the journey. You see for you today it was frustrating, annoying, and irritating to go so slowly…but for the people you met it was quite the opposite. It was different.. It was refreshing…It was a pleasure ! You probably met and talked to people today whom you would never meet and talk to if you were to only walk at your pace. You will have seen and taken notice of things today that your pace wouldn’t have allowed..you will have had time to look around you, look behind you…your walk today allowed you to take in the journey, not just the ” mission” of getting from A to B. And maybe what we can learn from this is that if just vary our pace from time to time we might just experience more our “journeys”.. however simple they may be.”

Wow, this really resonated with me! 

And it reminded me instantly of a passage in a book called “Extraordinary Golf” by Fred Schoemaker. In this passage he refers to the golfer’s desire to get from tee to green , get that ball in the hole and get to the next tee and get the ball as far down the fairway as possible, get it on the green, get it in that hole, then get to the next tee….ad infinitum until the end of the round…

The message is that if you are just so hell-bent on getting the little ball into the little hole, then you’re missing some vital ingredients… One of them being the beauty that surrounds you throughout your round of golf. Another being the journey, the game itself and all its ups and downs. Another being the company on your journey.

Fred says in his book, “For years, when I was golfing, I walked through some of the most beautiful places on earth , and yet I don’t feel as if I really saw them. Beautiful landscapes, trees, flowers, animals, the sky, the ocean… How could I have missed so much?”

Because , he recalls, he was too focused on his stance, his grip, his ball position, his swing plane, or just trying to win the game.

Now I’m not saying that every time I walked from my hotel to the marina that I was totally focused on just “getting there”. No. I enjoy beautiful scenery. I enjoy people. I enjoy interaction, banter, and all that goes with it. I love talking , taking a coffee, stopping for an ice-cream. But it was just this idea of ‘ varying the pace’ that made me stop in my tracks and take note.

I started to apply this thinking not only to walking and golfing, but to other ‘ings’ in life.

For example, eating.

I’m sure we all eat too quickly. Is the goal to finish the meal or to enjoy the food?
Actually tasting the food. Actually giving our bodies time to digest the food. I’m sure the nutritionists would highly recommend a slowing down of our eating and drinking habits.

How quickly do you eat?
What about talking?
Do we all talk too fast? Maybe without really digesting what we are saying?

Maybe without giving enough thought to what we are saying?

How many times have we said ‘the wrong thing’ simply because what came out was too hurried?
Thinking. Do we think too quickly for our own good? Maybe without digesting what we have seen, or heard?

Do we really take enough time to think things through?
Reading. I think we covered this in the first chapter of ‘Amazing.‘ Do we read to quickly and maybe without really understanding what we have read?
Judging ? Analysing? Criticising? Are we really too quick to make judgements, analyse events and criticise behaviour?

We can discuss all these ‘ings’ in our AmazingGroup. 

I would like to suggest that it might be very good for us all to “Walk with Phil” from time to time. 

One thing is for sure, we will see life a little different. 

And it won’t be easy. It will be frustrating, annoying, irritating…almost unbearable at times.
But for me it’s the awareness of “walking with Phil” that is the essence of its importance. You are not going to all of a sudden walk more slowly than your own pace. 

You are not all of a sudden going to eat more slowly, all of a sudden talk more deliberately, all of a sudden think more clearly, and all of a sudden understand more reasonably. 

You can’t tell someone to “slow down”. 

We all have our own unique pace of life.
But just every now and then your awareness of “walking with Phil” might just alter your pace for a split second.
Whatever you are doing.
 The thought, the awareness will come into play in your everyday life at some point. And make just a little difference. Whether you’re eating, drinking, talking ,walking,  thinking, judging, analysing, criticising, reading, listening, ….vary the pace.

And for me this is the most important thing we can learn from this Theme.

It’s about Varying the Pace.

It’s not just about slowing down. 

Yes, slowing down will come into play more than speeding up, for sure. 

But it’s about taking the necessary time. 

There’s a time to run and a time to walk.

And there’s time in between.

If you enjoyed this snippet from Ged Roberts’ Amazing – A Voyage of Self-Discovery, you can buy the book here.