Patience. It’s a beautiful word. To me, it represents more of an aspiration than something that comes naturally. But I’m learning.
When I was 15, a school friend flicked through my drawing pad, admiring my freehand, felt-pen copies of album cover (chiefly The Smiths) artwork and told me that I “must have the patience of a saint” to copy them so meticulously. Maybe I did have, then; where did it go? I didn’t think my drawings were very good but praise showed me that if something was worth doing, it was worth taking your time over.
My grandfather was the embodiment of patience. It didn’t seem to matter what he was doing: carving something wonderful out of wood for his giddy brat of a grandson; making a giant pot of his legendary vegetable soup or his magnificent porcini risotto; or just spending a good portion of the day in his armchair, solving book after book after book of crossword puzzles, keeping his mind agile and alive. To me, the sound of patience was always his breathing; gentle, easy, never quickening and always, always whistling through his nose.
Patience is a card game played by all the women in my family. My young daughter learned to play it recently and would do well to play it more often, while learning at the same time that it’s not meant to be a spectator sport.
Like the love of crossword solving she inherited from her father, my mother used the game of patience partially to wean her off cigarettes and nail biting. We all need an equivalent, something else I’m learning.
Patience was the translation of the name of the coach driver who, in December 1985, drove a party of gawping Ayrshire school kids, myself included, through the mayhem of Cairo city centre. Although I did see him slap the steering wheel on several occasions, he also laughed and danced as he made the hazardous journey through the traffic chaos and got us safely to Port Said. At the time, this diarist noted that if he ever emigrated to the Clyde coast, he’d never get a job with the eponymous local bus company with a moniker and demeanour like that.
Patience is one of my favourite songs by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. “I get the pressures of life through lack of patience”.
Patience is supposedly virtuous. Again, I’m learning. It’s never too late.