An Unplanned Life

I’ve lived an unplanned life. I never had plans about what I wanted to do with my life. I never had any goals or ambitions. There was never anything I was particularly trying to achieve.

I think that what I always really wanted was simply to be as free as possible. Free to do what I wanted to do.

When I was a university student I turned down good job opportunities simply because I wanted to continue to live the undemanding student life. I didn’t want a full time job, however much I was paid.

When I finally, unwillingly, left university, I pretty soon became a freelance, self-employed software engineer. They were in demand at the time, and were highly paid. But it wasn’t the money that attracted me, but instead the freedom that came with the freelance life. I’ve really only ever wanted enough money to survive. And I’ve always had enough.

I’ve been an opportunist. I was offered the opportunity to go to university, and I took it. After I left university, I was offered the opportunity of becoming a freelance software engineer, and I took that opportunity too. They were always snap decisions, not part of any plan.

And in the idle time that I had (and I always had a lot), I pieced together Idle Theory, in which idle time – or free time – was the One Good. It’s a reflection of my own values. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to publish it anywhere, but when the internet came along I took the new opportunity to create the Idle Theory website.

A lot of other people seem to be very different from me. They want everything planned out in advance, with nothing left to chance. I remember once reading with horror, in New Scientist, someone’s entire detailed lifetime plan from age 30 to 70. It even included enough money set aside for their funeral. I could never have done anything like that: I would have felt imprisoned by the plan.

And in many ways it’s these planners who’ve become my enemies. Because it’s not just that they plan their own lives, but they plan everybody else’s as well. They’re always planning ahead to the end of their lives, and everybody else’s lives as well. They don’t live in the now, but in an imagined future. They don’t smoke or drink at age 20 because they’re planning to still be alive at age 85. And they don’t think anybody else should smoke or drink either.

Their ideal world is a completely planned world, from which all uncertainty has been removed. And this usually results in them wanting planned socialist economies in which everything is held in state ownership. But what they want is the very opposite of the freedom I’ve always wanted. They don’t want freedom. Freedom is fraught with uncertainty, and they can’t stand uncertainty. So they can’t stand freedom. In fact, I’m not sure they know what it is. They want a secure prison in which all the prisoners are well fed, well housed, and with their own assigned places in the prison graveyard.

I strongly associate smoking with freedom. I think I always have. It’s always required a certain amount of defiance to smoke. Particularly these days. Smokers are mavericks who prefer certain pleasure now to uncertain pleasure in 40 years time.

Whenever I see anyone smoking, I see someone doing what they want to do, rather than what somebody else wants them to do, and thereby demonstrating a degree of personal autonomy, or personal freedom. And so to me “smoke-free” really means freedom-free, and therefore unfreedom. So does “alcohol-free” and “fat-free” and “low-salt” and all the rest. For those things too are a part of what freedom entails.

The antismokers are planners. So are the global warming alarmists. And so are the politicians behind the EU “project”. All their thinking entails forgetting about right now, and instead thinking 40 or 50 years ahead.

I used to go on holiday with an antismoking friend. She’d always come up with the plans for where we’d go next, and what we’d do once we’d got there. I used to go along with all her plans, because I never had any plans of my own. If it had been down to me, once I’d arrived on Skopelos the Algarve, I would have just found a bar in which to sit, with a beer and a cigarette. And in fact my most vivid memory of Skopelos was sitting outside a breezy sea-front bar watching the ash flicked from my cigarette bounding away across the concrete floor into the distance, like little planetisimals vanishing into a concrete universe. I can get mesmerized by little things like that.

And when I visited Barcelona, and mi amiga was at work, would I visit Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, or the Picasso museum, or any of the other tourist attractions? Of course not. I’d head for the little café beside the hotel where I stayed – the one that had big mirrors on opposite walls – and sit with a coffee watching my reflection vanishing into the distance, curving away in arc I once estimated to be a kilometre in radius. What more could anyone possibly want?

I still don’t plan anything. I didn’t plan to write this on my blog tonight. In fact I wrote it precisely because I didn’t have any plans for what to write. I never do.


About Frank Davis

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44 Responses to An Unplanned Life

  1. The Blocked Dwarf says:

    . I’d head for the little café beside the hotel where I stayed

    Now you’re singing my song. One of the moments of perfect happiness in my life was sitting outside a café on the Gobelin, in the early morning sunshine with a coffee and a gitane just watching the world go by and the Parisians to work, with a roll of cash in my pocket and a girlfriend back in the hotel who thought i was the best thing since sliced baguette.

    Another was sitting outside an Autobahn service station, again early on a sunny morning with a simple half a bread roll with cheese, a coffee and filterless Roth Haendle, watching the traffic.

    …in Montmartre, in the baking July heat, outside a cafe with a coffee and a cigarette…do you notice a pattern emerging here? Frankfurt Red Light District, standing drinking coffee outside a cafe with the bankers (the red light zone is also the Banking Quarter with the Sky Scrapers) , the tarts, the non-banking villains, the pimps and the junkies with a cigarette or maybe a portion of Beef Fried Rice from the MCsweetnsouralasatian place…..with a cigarette.

    If I wanted to see the sites of some city, well that’s what God gave us Google images for. If i go somewhere new then I just want to ‘take it in’. Watch, smoke and drink coffee.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Yes, that’s me. The greatest pleasures always seem to come from the simplest things. And sitting outside a cafe somewhere, just watching passers-by, cars, bicycles, dogs, fountains, even bits of windblown paper, is often one of them.

      I remember once standing in a gas station somewhere. There were rusting bits of metal lying scattered around everywhere, and iridescent oil on the ground. But that junk yard suddenly struck me as being astonishingly beautiful.

      Or walking down a street in Spain or Portugal, just noticing little things like the door handles on doors, the fading paint on walls, a motorcycle propped up on a wooden frame, its back wheel missing.

    • beobrigitte says:

      Gitane? Rothaendle?
      These cigs were a dare for us in my youth!

      Talking about Autobahn… I got stuck in a standing queue back in 1980. The weather was great, so I got out the car and watched a farmer ploughing his field for a while.
      The guys in the cars before and after me got out of their cars, too and I shared what was left in my flask of coffee. One of the guys had a pack of cards, so we played Mau-Mau on the bonnet of my car for about 1 hour before the queue finally got moving again.
      Perhaps if I had planned to get to the place I was going in x hours I would have been annoyed. But I had passed the message on that I didn’t know when I’d set off, so I’d get there when I did.

      • beobrigitte says:

        And, naturally, in this standing traffic queue we all shared our cigarettes, too. Some Spanish guy had the worst I ever smoked! The only cigarette in my life I could not finish! I remember the silver-ish stripes on them – and the feeling of being hit across the chest with a plank of wood when taking a drag. It was funny, though.

        • The Blocked Dwarf says:

          The only cigarette in my life I could not finish!

          I wish you could recall the brand so I could investigate. Recreating the ‘real’ cigs of my youth is a hobby horse I ride. You know, back when cigarettes were still made from actual, REAL, tobacco …before the EU emasculated them. Tried some ‘Schwarze Hand’ last time I was in the Heimat and dear God, it is now so weak it needs crutches to get it out of the packet!

          I gave my Youngest (24? 25? something like that) one of my own ‘brand’ to try the other day. A subtle mix of Black and Brown tobaccos…very black tobacco. Dark air Cured tobacco is so full fo ‘tine even I wear gloves when I handle it and I’m a 60 a day lifer. Youngest is a 1 1/2 pack a day man himself….two drags on “Papa’s Kippe” he had to rush upstairs and vomit. I have passed the recipe on to others and , no joking, always put a health warning on it. There is a serious risk of nicotine poisoning.

        • beobrigitte says:

          Dwarf, I have no idea what the brand was called. I think I will have to ask my friend’s husband (Spanish). All I remember is that the cigarettes had silver-ish stripes… and that smoking it felt like being hit with a plank of wood across the chest.

        • beobrigitte says:

          BTW, Dwarf, we are talking about our youth….. What happened? According to Tobacco Control we should have died long ago…..

        • The Blocked Dwarf says:

          According to Tobacco Control we should have died long ago…..

          I assume the principles of the Homeopathy are at work. If, as the #NoSafeLevellers assure us, the tiniest, microscopic amount of nicotine MUST cause every disease known to man then a greater amount will heal all and guarantee, if not immortality, then a looong life and bushy coat.

        • The Blocked Dwarf says:

          (1Mark at the time)

          Reichsmark or Deutschmark? :P
          (Just how old are you?!?!?) When I started buying cigs in Germany they were 4 DM a pack (infact Rothhaendle packs out of the machine had a 10pf coin wrapped on them to make up the change) and always had been….

          My kids always fought for the job of going to the machine to get daddy’s smokes…probably because the Stielkamm trick still worked even in th e80s so they got to keep the next 4 marks.

      • The Blocked Dwarf says:

        These cigs were a dare for us in my youth!

        Wer Juno raucht…
        …die Gräber dort im Tal? Das sind Raucher von Reval!

        (2 German joke rhymes, from both Beo’s & my childhoods, about infamously strong German ‘caporal’ cigarette brands ‘whoever smokes Juno also eats small children’ and ‘See the graves there in the valley, there lie the smokers of Reval)

        Anyways Beo, if you haven’t read this already (I may have linked to it before) it might be worth a read…it certainly woke memories in me and my ‘time’ was a decade or more later.

      • Reinhold says:

        Reichsmark or Deutschmark? :P

        Deutschmark. :)
        That was the price in the late 60s and maybe still in the early 70s but a package contained only 11 cigs. A 21 piece pack was called Doppelpackung then (1.80 DM IIRC) and wasn’t available at the Automat yet.



  2. jaxthefirst says:

    I’ve never been much of a planner, either, Frank. Maybe not quite so much “unplanned” as yourself, but “unplanned” nonetheless. I remember, some years ago, an older colleague asking me if I wanted to get married and have a family (not with him, you understand – he was asking in relation to the boyfriend that I had at the time!). When I said that, no, I didn’t, his instant response was: “Oh, so you’re a Career Girl, then?” And he was truly baffled when I said, no, I wasn’t a “Career Girl” either. It was almost as if one had to be either one or the other. The idea that there might be a third alternative – just to go with the flow and do what felt best at any given time or place – had simply never occurred to him. And that was DECADES ago. So the “planned-life” mindset has clearly been around for many years. No wonder people are so happy to accept, wholesale, the “wise words of experts.” It makes ALL THAT PLANNING just so much easier – or so they think …

  3. cherie79 says:

    Can’t think of anything worse than a planned life. My late husband was a freelance IT guy too, I gave us a good life here and abroad for many years and only took a permanent job for the last 10 years of his life. He figured we needed a bit of security then, we loved the freelance life and I am
    still in touch with many of his old colleagues, it was quite a small world. We both smoked of course! his death was not smoking related. Shame IR35 ruined the market.

  4. Harleyrider1978 says:

    I ain’t never had no plan other than a snap decision. Even joining the military was a snap decision or reenlisting 3 times. Even 4 marriages later each one was a snap decision. Seemed right at the time but who ever heard of marrying someone with the fore thought of divorce….. I’ve always been able to repair about anything under the sun myself and also studying subjects just enuf to have a good grasp of them. Either way life is never truly planned its simply a path with many roads to travel. I’m still traveling……let us all continue the trail of freedom as that’s why we are all here.

  5. I tend to plan vaguely, with lots of room for change and amendment, and generally not plans that stretch into even vaguer and less certain far futures. I like having a list of things I’d like to get done in the next week or so, but if some of them don’t happen because other more pressing or interesting demands come up, the following week will be fine. I pay attention to the “must do”s because they usually represent either obligations of commitments to others or obligations that will result in discomfort or expense if they’re not attended to in a timely way.

    When it comes to projects, I can vaguely plan the entire outline, but in order to carry the projects out effectively I find I work best if I can break them down into smaller chunks. That way I can sit down and tell myself, “OK, this’ll take me an hour or three, and then I can do something else and come back to the next stage later on.” That kind of planning gives me lots of little rewards/incentives along the way without the need to make a sizable commitment all at once.

    My writing reflects that approach to some degree. Yes, I’ll have a plan for an overall chapter that I expect will spread to cover 25 to 40 pages, but the chapter will often have two or three main sub-areas, and within those sub-areas they will often be broken up further into easily graspable discrete chunks of a page to three that people can read, finish, and then digest mentally for a moment or look back on before diving into the next chunk.

    – MJM

  6. malagabay says:

    Excellent food for thought over coffee and a cigarette…

  7. Clicky says:

  8. Roobeedoo2 says:

    Personally, I never plan anything; however, until recently I was employed planning another’s diary/life… The only thing I’m planning on now is collecting on our bet ;)

  9. Rose says:

    I plan a lot, I’m patient too, my plans sometimes run over a number of years, I do not plan my life though, life is too variable and you have to be able to react swiftly to new circumstances.

    Sometimes brilliant ideas take a lot of planning and research before they manifest in the real world.
    I’m usually designing something or other and can feel really lost when I don’t have something in mind. January is especially bad, so now I plan new projects to start me in the New Year.

    Entirely OT

    I think considering our current circumstances and having been used as scapegoats for government policies for so long, entitles us to a moment of sangfroid.

    China follows Britains lead.

    Smoggy Beijing sees lung cancer cases soar – 2013

    “They show the number of lung cancer patients per 100,000 people was 39.56 in 2002, but had jumped to 63.09 by 2011.

    The article gave no reason for the increase in patients.”

    “Beijing health officials said lung cancer was linked to lifestyle choices, with smoking still the top cause. But they said passive smoking and air pollution could also be a factor.”
    http: //


    Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution

    “The toxic haze blanketing cities could be clearly seen last week from the international space station. Last week it was also revealed that several streets in London had exceeded their annual limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions just a few days into 2016.

    “We have a public health emergency in many countries from pollution. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with horrible future costs to society,” said Maria Neira, head of public health at the WHO, which is a specialist agency of the United Nations. “Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous,” said Neira.”


    Anti-smoking agenda ’caused air pollution problem to be obscured’

    “Governments concealed the huge threat to public health caused by air pollution in the wake of the great London smog 50 years ago, and attempted to shift all the blame on to cigarette smoking, a medical historian will allege today.”

    “An estimated 12,000 people died from the effects of the smog, but there was a shift in the public health agenda from the 1950s onwards towards the individual taking responsibility for his or her own health.”

    In 1957, Prof Berridge will tell the meeting, the Medical Research Council was planning to issue a statement saying that although smoking was a significant cause of lung cancer, up to 30% of it could be caused by air pollution.

    A cabinet committee, she claims, fearful of political embarrassment, asked the MRC to reconsider.

    On May 31, 1957, a modified version was published, which stated that although it was likely that atmospheric pollution did play a role in lung cancer, it was “a relatively minor one in comparison with cigarette smoking”.

    In 1959, the Royal College of Physicians set up a committee to examine the effects both of cigarettes and air pollution on health.

    In the event, and with the connection between cigarettes and lung cancer having recently been firmly established by the Oxford epidemiologist Richard Doll – now Sir Richard – it was decided that smoking must have priority”

    “What was happening in this committee was a shift away from a concept of health and wellbeing related to an individual’s environment, occupation, class or work, towards one focused strongly on that individual’s responsibility for his or her health… Smoking was something which the individual could do something about; air pollution was not,” she says.”

    Makes you wonder how many lives have been lost and how much time has been wasted due to that bit of misdirection.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I plan new projects to start me in the New Year.

      The winter months, when I stay home even more than I usually stay home, certainly benefit from such projects. Last year’s winter project was to get 3D views of my orbital simulation model working. This year’s winter project looks like it’s going to be solar dust cloud shading, again using the orbital simulation model. All my ideas seem to be mathematical ones, and yet I’m no great mathematician. I’m not even a not-very-good mathematician. So my mathematical projects can last for months.

      But this latest mathematical project still hasn’t been planned. I got the idea just before Christmas. And I will pursue the project with intermittent enthusiasm. And I’m not even sure whether I can possibly complete this project.

    • garyk30 says:

      Most flower growers/gardeners are planners.
      They have to be.
      One gets very little success from just throwing out a bunch of seeds and walking away.

      Cooks too must be planners and also carpenters.

      Planning to not plan your life is still living a planned life.

      being obsessive/compulsive about planning is a sickness.

  10. Loved this post. When people “flow” – go with the opportunities offered to them, rather than PLANNING rigidly, it allows for luck and new possibilities. It also often switches on synchronicity. Depends what you believe of course, but in my life, I flowed. When I look back, I find that the directions I flowed into, have all made an overall picture that only now makes sense. It made me a wise woman in shamanistic terms. And it produced a very interesting life of surprises and delights – and some bad times too. My most peak experiences have been with my friend, my cigarette.

    I am an avid Frank Davis fan. There is something magical about your writing – especially when you are talking particularly about yourself. There is a purity and clarity in your writing that nurtures other people. You couldn’t plan a better thing and you can’t artificially produce it!

  11. garyk30 says:

    Life is what happens while people are planning what they are going to do.

    One cannot plan on what others are going to plan on.

    Every one is going to die;but, since one can not know when, planning is useless.

    Life is ‘Chaotic’ and madness comes from trying to plan the unknown that will happen.

    I am enthralled by the charming/frustrating little quirks of Life.

    I dislike ‘Boredom’ and a planned Life would be ‘Boring’.

  12. prog says:

    It’s strange how planning authorities impose strict guidelines on modern developments that almost entirely turn out to be crap pastiches of the traditional local vernacular. Often mock ‘cottagey’, Georgian or Tudor developments. Particularly in and at the edges of Anglo Saxon villages whose charm and architecture were actually the result of minimal official interference.

  13. Jude says:


    Endlessly asking, constantly basking,
    In the light of uncertainty.
    Always devising, ways of deciding,
    What the future will be,
    When all the plans of mice and man,
    Have dissolved like salt in the sea,
    The Earth spins in the skies,
    The Moon moves the tides,
    Regardless of you or me.

  14. magnetic01 says:

    Having problems accessing the website for commenting on the proposed HUD smoking ban:!searchResults;rpp=25;po=25;s=FR-5597-P-02;fp=true!submitComment;D=HUD-2015-0101-0001

    Anyone else having problems?

  15. emilycat88 says:

    magnetic01, there was a message on the site that they will be doing maintenance from 8 AM to 4 PM EDT on Monday the 18th so that may be why you are experiencing problems. I would try back later after 4 PM EDT.

  16. nisakiman says:

    The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
    Gang aft agley,
    An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
    For promis’d joy!

    My life has unraveled in a quite spectacularly unplanned fashion. I seem to have been swept along by circumstance all the way. And it’s been great – never a dull moment, as they say. Sure, there have been bad times, but as I’ve always said, ‘it never gets so bad that it can’t get better’.

    I tend to be very impulsive, too, which adds a soupçon of spice to life. Things like “let’s go live in Greece”…., or “let’s open a bar” etc etc. At the moment, it’s “let’s buy a property in a completely unknown city and do it up”, combined with “let’s build a couple of bungalows for rent in the backwoods of Thialand”. The last two are current projects. My problem is that I’ve always been what’s commonly known as a ‘butterfly brain’. I’m half way through one project, and I’m already getting bored and moving on to the next one. Which is why I’m not wealthy, and never likely to be. But I’m very happy, which is more important to me than wealth, so I have no regrets. :)

    I have to agree with BD and yourself, Frank, that to sit at a sidewalk cafe sipping a coffee / beer / wine / ouzo / tsipouro or whatever and smoking a cigarette, watching the world go by, that is truly blissful. I do that quite often, particularly in the summer. And some of my best (craziest?) ideas come to me then. My brain is just freewheeling and open to anything.

    Long live Idle Time!

  17. Joe L. says:

    Beautiful and powerful post, Frank. Social engineers have defined a Utopian model of a “perfect” life and have mapped out exactly what each stage of such a life should entail. This concept is forced upon children from the moment they have the ability to communicate, and the planning begins shortly thereafter. At least here in America, career choices are discussed as early as preschool; by the time one enters high school, they are expected to know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives so that they can take courses that will count as future college credit toward their eventual degree. Once they graduate college and enter the working world, they must immediately begin saving money for retirement 40 years on, etc., etc. Of course, throughout this process, one must limit their salt, sugar, fat and cholesterol intake, never smoke and only drink moderately and occasionally (or maybe not at all, now). All along the way, this “perfect” model of life is a yardstick to measure oneself against. Even if you don’t subscribe to this ridiculous concept of a perfectly planned and executed life, you are subconsciously forced to compare yourself to examples at practically every turn (movies, television, the web, books, magazines, billboards, etc.). As only a small (and shrinking) minority of the population actually “measure up” to these standards, it is my belief that this Utopian model is responsible for the continued increase in cases of generalized anxiety and depression. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore it and enjoy a truly free and unplanned life. I know because I occasionally suffer from it.

  18. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Well 2 comments made it on the HUD commentary. I saw mikes and Audrey’s along with several others from OUR ranks too. The usual Nazis were in there also including glantz 2 times. Theirs 39 pages so far.

  19. beobrigitte says:

    I think that what I always really wanted was simply to be as free as possible. Free to do what I wanted to do.
    Ditto. That until I was 8 years old and my teacher wrote into my personal poetry collection book a poem which told me that in life I’d better do what I must and not what I want.
    I argued with her about that. A lot.
    I continued doing what I liked doing at the time – after I tore that page out the poetry collection book.
    Nevertheless, What I learned very quickly from doing what I liked was that I also had to make sure I wasn’t upsetting/hurting anyone. So empathy was the most valuable learning experience.

    When I was a university student I turned down good job opportunities simply because I wanted to continue to live the undemanding student life.
    Long before I went to university I packed in a well paid job to do a maths course, having to live on 1/5th of what I earned before. It was a great year!! Sure, I was seriously broke and therefore had to hitch-hike a lot. But I learned a lot, too!

    A lot of other people seem to be very different from me. They want everything planned out in advance, with nothing left to chance. I remember once reading with horror, in New Scientist, someone’s entire detailed lifetime plan from age 30 to 70. It even included enough money set aside for their funeral.
    Ouch!! How weird and boring – and waste of time….. This person is incapable to ad hoc come up with a plan B, plan C, plan D, plan F(uck off) etc. etc. etc.?
    I take the view that the more you plan the more opportunities you miss and on top of it, you fall foul of your own planning.
    I learned that, too. When at some point I decided to plan a future in which we siblings would be best man/chief bridesmaids blah-blah-blah all was good. I didn’t plan to have to go to my little brother’s funeral, so when the “unenvisaged” happened, I was lost.

    I gave up the little planning I decided to do to 95%. Perhaps this was the bit that made me take up opportunities (university being the most surprising) that set me up with all I need.

    The antismokers are planners. So are the global warming alarmists. And so are the politicians behind the EU “project”. All their thinking entails forgetting about right now, and instead thinking 40 or 50 years ahead.
    Shhhh… don’t tell them that they are going to fall foul of their own ideas!!! A lot happens in 40 to 50 years.

  20. petesquiz says:

    An excellent article, Frank. I planned to write this earlier…but other things got in the way. I also plan little beyond the next few days ahead and I’m always open to change if circumstances dictate. And maybe that’s the point, we are flexible people who will modify our actions to get along and generally ‘do our own thing’.

    Where the world is going wrong is that there are too many people who have a plan that they want to impose on us. A plan that doesn’t deviate despite contrary indications, a plan that must be followed because…well…because ‘we’ believe that it is right, a plan that must be followed to the letter because ‘we’ve’ got a vision! The Plan for a Tobacco Free World, the Plan for a Federal Europe, the Plan to Control the World’s Climate are all doomed to go the same way as the Soviet 5-Year Plans for Industry or Agriculture. Its just us poor sods that have to take the pain for this institutionalised madness.

    Long live the unplanned life…says the man who got a science degree and is now an artist!!

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