Monday, 30 June 2014

I Hitch A Lift

In an episode of  Radio 4's 'Four Thought', Jono Vernon-Powell talks about the long-lost art of hitchhiking.  He found that the majority of those in his audience who were over 45 had hitchhiked, whereas the vast majority of those under 45 never had.

Fortunately, I am over 45.

I loved hitchhiking as a student.  I loved the risk and the freedom of it.  The risk of meeting people. The freedom of cost-free travel and uncertainty.

I have memories.  Of Brendan, his careful answers to my questions from the back of his sage green BMW whilst, unfortunately, my boyfriend sat next to him in the front.  Of John's red umbrella on  the seat next to me, whilst, unfortunately, my friend Helen sat in the front, chatting with him about the pleasures of Newcastle upon Tyne.

And I've never forgotten the lorry driver and the moment he produced a long knife.

Last August, I gave two beautiful women a lift from Edinburgh to Church Stretton.  Chatting to Lien and Marit rekindled my desire to stick out my thumb, take a ride.

On Sunday, I went for a walk that turned out to be longer than expected because I couldn't work out which way up to hold the map.  By the time I reached my destination, I was running late, had marking to get back to.  I decided to try to hitch a lift. It was a rural area.  Local traffic.  Low risk.

My thumb felt awkward.  I couldn't remember which way to present it - should it point up or out?  My arm be extended or bent?   Once I'd worked it out, I grew more confident.

In the next ten minutes, thirty or forty cars went past.  I became less hopeful.  Then a 4x4 passed, stopped a few yards in front of me.  The familiar feeling of triumph.  The trot to the open passenger side window.  The brief exchange of information.

The driver shifted stuff off  the passenger seat, apologising for the mess.  She was on her way to visit her father in his new nursing home, and she talked non-stop about his move: about how she'd eased the process by telling him the home is a posh hotel, that the staff provide room service; about how happy he is.

When she dropped me off, I felt the loss of a parting.

Friday, 20 June 2014

I Lose My Way

I don't often go into town on a Friday night, but last night was the badminton club social so I made an exception.

We met in a nightspot, or was it a club, or a bar?  I'm not sure.  I'd never been there before.

Because the drinks were paid for out of the kitty, I drank too much.  My Protestant upbringing has taught me two things: to drink in moderation and never to miss a bargain.  In a situation where these two things are in conflict, I've learnt that the latter imperative has moral superiority.

I tried to leave the bar / club / nightspot at about 11.30 pm, an hour after my usual bedtime.  Due to the lateness of the hour, I was confused and couldn't find the exit. I ended up on what I can only think was some kind of dance floor, because within seconds I found myself swaying from foot to foot opposite a man who looked far too young.  "How old are you?"  I shouted.  "Forty-five," he lied.  I felt claustrophobic and scanned the glass walls, looking for a way out.  I spotted the exit.  "Got to go to the toilet," I said.

I made it to the cool air outside and walked home through silent streets, relieved and giggling.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

I Pitch My Tent

Last week, I camped on the Lleyn Peninsula, overlooking Bardsey Island.  I was with Helen, my longest-serving friend: separate tents.  It's our secret of great camping: 2 x two-person tents.


My tent does not have plug socket, Wi-Fi or shower.  My tent has a library, a cellar, a wardrobe, a narrow bed. When, in the morning, I let out the body fug of my night's breathing, it has infinite space: cubic yards of the stuff, all the way up to the sun, and all the way to the moon which rose each night through strands of cloud, growing to fullness by the week's end.


Camping transforms cooking, washing and dressing to play.  We walked the coast path in the day and in the evenings, drunk on air, played house, played at dressing up, played with water.  We cooked risotto for nights in a row with decreasing ingredients and increasing imagination.  We wore tea towels on our heads to keep off the sun, tattooed our arms with dragons and anchors, called each other names, rolled Welsh place names and old stories around our mouths, and, laughing serious, made plans about dancing to ward intruders off our sacred territory.













Thursday, 5 June 2014

I Squash A Banana

When I emptied my rucksack this evening, I found a blackened banana at the bottom.  I put it in this morning firm, bright and yellow, intending to eat it with my lunch.

Montaigne advised that we mustn't regret, only reflect.  

I have squashed bananas before, and reflected on them. I have considered buying a yellow plastic banana-shaped case to protect my in transit bananas.  When I've squashed more than one banana at a time, I've made cake from them, counted my good fortune.

But try as I might, looking at this squashed banana: its skin split, its flesh oozing out, its smell tainting everything that had been in my rucksack: my purse, my pack of tissues, my Patti Smith CD,  my umbrella, my book about lemons, it's regret that I feel.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

I Start A New Poem

Somewhere, this flight ended
It comes back to what I can’t work out: when exactly did I lose
control over the Atlantic?  You give me no explanation 
and I don’t think I've given you anything that amounts to a reason, yet
something unnamed has been lost though there is no evidence
except in my body which is scattered with messages
(I have come to understand they will never be read).

I sorrow this sorrow though I am not insensitive.  I believe 
the lives of the disappeared have an infinite significance.  And this? 
This is just love, love, which I've always feared - and you've known - has
a trajectory.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

I Question My Identity

I went swimming earlier and I swam faster than the swimmer in the lane next to me.  At first I thought I'd made a mistake, that I was much slower, that he'd been lapping me.  I swam breaststroke for two lengths with my head out of the water to check what was going on.

At certain times of day there are three lanes in the pool marked: Fast, Steady and Plodder. I used to choose Plodder every time.

Labelling theory says that our identities are influenced by the terms used describe them, and that words like Fast, Steady and Plodder can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Another of the ways in which we construct our identities is to notice the ways we are similar to and different from each other.  That's why our identities shift depending on the context we're in.

When I went swimming with Lucy last week, we chose the Fast lane, because I felt more daring in her company and didn't worry what people would think about my relative speed.  All the time I was in the fast lane with Lucy, I felt fast because, though she has to rein herself in when we go walking, we're well-matched in the water.

On the way out of the pool today I looked at myself in the mirror.  I was wearing my swimming costume with its go faster stripes.