Back To The Desk

Back To The Desk

By Robert Lynd

There is something peculiarly restful in returning to work after a holiday. After the rigours of doing nothing for a month, how peaceful it seems to be sitting once more before a desk in an armchair!

The first thing I do when I return to work after a holiday is to have breakfast sent up to me in bed. How different from all those miseries of early rising which are almost inseparable from a holiday! It may be retorted that it is perfectly easy to have one’s breakfast in bed in any seaside hotel in England; but the fact is, when I am on holiday, my conscience will not permit this. If I lay late in bed at the seaside, I should feel that I was wasting the best part of the day. In London, I am thankful to say, there is no such thing as a best part of the day – or, if there is, it occurs at a much later hour than at the seaside.

Apart from this, the hotel breakfast is a much more formidable affair than breakfast at home. The menu which the waiter hands you is an invitation to gluttony before you are quite awake. If you were in full possession of your senses you would wave the thing away and ask for a kipper or a boiled egg. As it is, your will is so weak as a result of the effects of early rising that you yield to temptation and go through a breakfast that would satisfy a heavyweight after a week’s fasting.

From that point on, your troubles multiply. After breakfast, since you are on holiday, you cannot sit down in a chair, like a rational being, and work or otherwise enjoy yourself. Some demon inside you drives you out into the open air. The best view of the bay may be from a chair in a window of your hotel; but, when on a holiday, you cannot help believing that it is round the corner, and you set out for it, however steep the local hills may be. The bay was certainly extraordinarily beautiful, with white sails moving across its ruffled surface under the sun, but, as I trudged along its coast road on foot, I could not help wishing at times that some less strenuous form of exercise than walking had been discovered.

Golf is an innocent-looking game; but I must say that if I felt as exhausted after a day’s work in the office as I did after a day’s golf in Cornwall I should denounce my employers as tyrants. I think the most exhausting part of golf, perhaps, is the stooping required to take the balls out of the hole. And the dreadful thing is that, when once one has begun, one cannot stop playing. There is no hope of relief except in a return to work.

Yet there was plenty to occupy an indolent man, if one had had the strength of character to be indolent. There were buzzards mewing overhead and a raven croaking, but who with a wild and never-to-be-fulfilled dream of getting on to the first green in one has time to pay much attention to buzzards and ravens?

I used to be able to take a restful holiday when I was young, but, now that I am middle-aged and believe in the virtue of fresh air and exercise and all that sort of thing, I can no more take a restful holiday than I could fly the Atlantic.

Now that I am back at work, I am beginning to feel much better. I am borne lazily from place to place on the top of a bus instead of working like a navvy in pursuit of a small white ball. I can watch the pink clouds above the setting sun from the office window without regarding them as an invitation to take yet another unnecessary walk. I can do all my work sitting and even with my feet on the table. The only muscles that I need exercise are the muscles of my fingers and my wrist as I guide the pencil across the paper; and a great golfer or oarsman would think nothing of this. A lift is provided to save me from the drudgery of climbing, so common on a holiday. I can go home in the evening and not budge out of the house again till bedtime with a perfectly clear conscience.

Who can deny that there is much to be said for the working life? To have escaped from the tyranny of fresh air and exercise – is not this, perhaps, to have gained something? Once more I am my own master – more or less. More, at least, than during any holiday I have had for years.

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