I had a great day, yesterday. It was an early start, that took me to the mac, in Birmingham, then a drive up the M6 to a school, for some head-on talk with a headteacher and two of her colleagues.
Throughout the day, I spoke with several people who I find - found - interesting. These outshone the couple of drones who I had to endure. These earlier folk - their ways of thinking and talking, were the essence of the great day.
During one early conversation, with Kay, a former colleague who'd worked on a difficult project with me, a few years ago, I enquired as to how she and her sidekick, Leon, were.
Kay: Well, you did know that we were partners - we lived together - you knew that?
Shane: (it had never been spoken out loud, but still) Yeah.
Kay: (straight-forwardly) Well we're not together any more.
Shane: Ah. And how are you?
Kay: It's been difficult. He was the love of my life, really.
Shane: (admiring the candour) And do you know how Leon is?
Kay: Oh, Leon will always be Leon. He'll work out who he is, eventually.
Shane: (oh lordy and gulpy gulpersome) What does that mean?
Kay: I think he looked up to me, a bit too much. He looked to me to tell him what to do, how to be. He's attractive, intelligent, he's good at what he does, but I don't think he understands that.
Shane: (some of this pricks me into reflecting) (a quiet sigh) How long had you been together?
Kay: Twelve years.
Shane: That's an amount of time.
Kay: It is.
And we talk on for a short while, easy enough, and move on to covering why we are where we are - the work stuff.
During the drive out of Birmingham, some of Kay's comments echo over the top of Radio 4. I find myself wondering - but not so much wondering as perhaps grimly knowing - how one particular old flame would have spoken of me, to those in her post-Shane life. Mentally, I wince - the past is the past, some things change, some things don't.
Later, as my working day draws to a close, I'm gathering papers and a notebook, at which point I am lauded with a grand, public gesture of thanks - for work that I'd taken for granted as par for the course that I play, and for (in my view) being in no way better than that work that I've done for others recently. The gesture is pleasing, though it raises feelings of bashfulness.
Driving home, I think back to Kay, and to Leon, and to where they've been, and where they are now. With this, I'm thinking about myself, and I'm wondering about where I've been, and where I find myself. And I sleep.
Today, I had another early start. At the point of departing this morning's meeting, a colleague says, 'I want to get you something' - a statement which I query. As I begin to wonder whether there's been something in the air or the water around these parts, she explains - unprompted by any personal knowledge of me - that she feels that I deserve some reward, and bluntly adds, 'Tell me what you want, and I'll get it'. It's an entirely straight-forward point - no subtext, no subconscious anything. I feign dismissiveness, say that I look forward to seeing her and colleagues again, and I move on. There is much that I could have said that I wanted.
Today should have felt better than it does. Today is my birthday. I reckon that in a week or so, I'll work out what I wanted. I'm reminded of Leon and I know that I'm being a self-defeating idiot.