10. Look after the pennys

“I ended up at the end of one day with a real gut ache. It couldn’t have been from something I’d eaten that I could think of — everything I’d had seemed very safe from the point of view of whether it could have been contaminated or not. Toast in the morning, sandwich later, that sort of thing. Nothing that you normally think can sometimes go off, like deli meat or eggs or leftover takeaway that’s been in the fridge too long.

“I’ve noticed that this is something that can happen in the run-up to pay-day and a fresh lot of money going into my account, which I’d been waiting on — I’ll start to rely more on the cheaper food staples or whatever is in the cupboard, like pasta or more bread, or potatoes. Generally ‘safe’ foods I would have thought. But this queasy stomach made me splurge on some plain yoghurt as I’d heard that’s good for digestion. I couldn’t tell if it really helped, but by the morning I was feeling a bit better — though I wasn’t sure if it was just the time passing during the night that made a difference or whether the yoghurt’s ‘good’ bacteria did its work.

“Just as well too because I’d planned a big meal out with a bunch of us a day later… after the monthly funds injection into the bank. I’d been whinging about those gut aches and the general opinion was that I should stick to whatever stomach-calming choices were on the menu. I didn’t, as I’d been looking forward to a better dinner. But you know, I felt a lot better after the steak and salad I opted for.”

Benny’s belly situation was up to him to sort out, and he seemed to be getting some perspective on it. But what we did confirm, again, was that other people’s ideas or opinions or view of what’s what did not of course always apply 100% to his own needs. It was up to Benny to work out his own best approach — as we’ve seen him finding lately.

It was more or less a case of him working with what he’s got — taking on the task of ‘Ben in this world’ from the starting point. It might have been tempting to try to improve and refine all the involved elements — such as those we’ve been witnessing — but really, pared back to the core, what was being worked on was himself. Those bits of gravel in his shoe, uneasiness, some anxiety, knotted memories, those feelings of provisionality, regrets, fears, the whole flavour range of what the world dishes out to all of us; Benny felt the stirrings of recognition that getting issues straightened out in anything like a wider context first had to start by locating, and dealing with, those local curly conundrums that are his own.

It seemed certain that the best effort he could make was to make a difference ‘here’ before attempting to make a difference ‘there’. In a very recognisable way, one would of course lead to the other.

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Chapter index and link to slogans