I feel something is wrong, I spin, and sure enough he is standing there, looking sheepish, and I grab the contents of his hand, my wallet. I rail at him, fists aloft, he cringes, I’m just grateful he has yet to filch the contents. He cowers further, then runs off. I just stopped a subtle pickpocket. Normally, that would be high on my chart of todays weirdness but no, its only about fifth on the Horror Hit Parade. There was also a witnessed murder, a discovery overcoats and hot weather are a stupid mix, a woman breaking down in the seat next to me in an internet cafe and telling me her dad was a filho de puta with such venom she flobbed on me, and more assorted madness. Holidays. Fun.
I didn’t want to write about Spain, so won’t. I will leave out all detail of the 60 cent per litre wine, the sunshine that accelerated my winter into June, the tapas that filled me with so much oil i’m officially a fire hazard…no. I will not talk about it.
Thats for my next blog, ‘Malagia’.
I used to travel loads. I ran away so frequently as a toddler my parents bought and attached reins, so if I did run, i’d out-tether myself, and hang by my neck to escape like an excited dog when the allure of another dogs bum overrides its need for breath. After, I’d abscond from school to my gran’s in Toton, and claim asylum, before she would gently repatriate myself to my homeland, unless my claim was good, whereby she’d nurture me with biscuits and shandy before extradition to a place that would not punish me.
Teenage years, and I was off like a rocket. Aged thirteen, my older brother coaxed me back with a Panini football album after I decided to move to Ireland (never got it though, the sod. Though my sincerity also lacked, sans passport). I ran to Leeds after meeting a girl from a holiday in Ingoldmells, I say ‘ran’, I got too dehydrated on my way to Trowell services where my hitching would begin to go any further and consoled myself that she smelt a bit too much of boiled potatoes anyhow.
Years past, and I got the bug, and run again. Though, exceeding the age of majority, its not running. Its hitchhiking, and its hitchhiking everywhere. First off, Abingdon in Oxfordshire, to see a long term penpal, accompanied by Dean, a St. Apleford Gerald Derpadieu lookalike who was as dangerously spontaneous as I. We set off, ten pee between us (so we could call a girl I knew there), not a care for meals, sleeping arrangements. Its summer, nectar is our food, hedges our duvets. Except we walk down a sliproad, get chased by trafffic police running up the embankment attempting escape, then both get caught when we get to the top and realise the field that guarantees our safety is enclosed with barbed wire, and full of potentially evil cattle.
We get ticked off, dropped off, and go home.
I then became an expert of hitching, with a girlfriend doing the whole country from Penzance to Aberdeen; to Newcastle and back dozens of times; and many, many routes. I couldn’t keep still. To do so would have been stagnation. Thank me I never learned to drive. Peak Oil would have been reached a long time ago.
I then spend a summer in Europe in a Holland-fuelled haze, followed by two years in Spain and Portugal. Then Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Egypt…anywhere. Travelling light: I once went to Asia with hand luggage, travelling without any real plan: I have slept rough in more countries than most people have visited, travelling, always traveling. Until a little miracle happened.
I only noticed the miracle a few days ago. Maybe earlier, I can’t be sure, maybe it seeped in rather than poured.
I discovered Zen Travel.
Woah. I know, I hear the hissing ‘H’ of ‘Hippy’ on your lips, and shame for your prejudice, let me at least argue.
We live in a culture where we are told that to look wider is to see wider, to travel therefore is to, here comes the cliche ‘broaden’s one horizons’. I cannot argue. When I see some of the opinions held by ‘friends’ on Facebook who I schooled with, those who have not moved away and have had their sojourns limited to excursions to English Bars abroad, I see only misplaced pride, clumsy and angry patriotism, and a hubris that leads to the idea that a shaved head, a beer-belly constrained George Cross t-shirt and a desire to upgrade the already weary concept of ‘bulldog spirit’ with ‘pit-bull spirit’. You too have been invited to their ’causes’ their ‘groups’ their ‘events’. Always a strangely angry and borderline take on contemporary events, paradoxically advocating far-right views whilst trying to evoke the Churchillian spirit.
But enough, that is a bugbear, yet one best dealt with by those more eloquent and focused. Back to Beeston.
What sweet words those last three were! On Friday night, I lay in a Pensao in a grimy area of Southern Spain, a room where room service was a hose to clean out the cockroaches, the mini-bar was what the last tenant had left on the bed side table (I left a half-litre carton of Vinho de Mesa, and some stale Madelines). My bedside lamp, the only illumination in the room, was controlled by a switch conveniently outside the room. The toilets were down the corridor, and I shall not knock then for their cleanliness, but paper is nice. Malaga’s multitude of paper tour guides were invaluable here, though I can never see poor Pablo Picasso in the same light.
I lay there, after an impromptu departure from the flat I had been luxuriating in, (two bathrooms, exquisite views, all mod cons) , and all I wanted was to be home. I’d fast-forwarded the future, and this had screwed with my circadian rhythms….those anchors you cast down to understand the year, to feel our environment and climate…to be here was a perversion, a cheat. I felt a Judas twice over: for a betrayal of my previous love of travel; and for traveling away from my rhythms in the first place.
Feel the beat, feel the rhythm. Life best lived recognizes tempo, melody,it recognizes beauty through orchestration. So definitive, the twin bosses of post-Roman Britain have had to lie there claim onto it: no snuggling together to ward off the midwinter cold and lack of provision, no, a virgin birth is so much more interesting, so much more tabloid. No Spring Equinox, no, heres a man coming back to life after his mates dob him in after a pissed-up Friday night out, and for the ladies, heres bunnies with chocolate. This is gilding the rose to the extreme. The Pagans, bless them, had it right, celebrating Solstices and equinoxes with no whistles and bells, unsubtle and natural. They had a thing about goats too. I like things about goats.
I see you nodding sagely. And then turning to myself, Lord Beestonia, and enquiring politely ‘There are an estimated 7 trillion terabytes of information on the interweb, that would, reading backwards, take three Big Bangs to accommodate, and at least two point five of those would be porn….so why should I spend timing reading your incoherent ramblings and not go and do something more interesting instead, like dress as a cat and freak teenagers out on Chatroulette?’
Well, I’m going to save you a lot of money. You will never have to holiday with Ryanair again.
Embrace Zen Travel. Take time to go into your own town, village, hamlet, whatever, and have a closer look. If in Beeston, have a day trip that doesn’t involve tour guides and snowglobes, look deeper within where you are. Have a little mission, to find the most bizarre sign in a shop window (today, mine was one in CashConverters, where an ancient Olivetti wordprocessor is for sale, with the sign ‘GOOD FOR WORDS. NOT GOOD FOR FOOD. £19.99’.
Find little oddities, such as in the precinct by the bus-station where a fascia has fell off one of the derelict shops revealing its previous incarnation as a record shop, sometime in the eighties by the dizzyingly bad logo and graphics. Walk up Imperial Road and notice the weird drainage system of the pavements, punctuated with metal studs proclaining the long-defunct Diamond Cable . It pisses on the Valley of the Kings. Less sandflies.
There are rules. You must have travelled widely before you become a Zen-tourist, for you have to experience the Macro before you allow in the Micro. You must not expect anything; instead of the usual method of going out to see something, seeing it, being photographed next to it, making ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ noises, and buying a snowglobe of it, one must travel without prejudice. Drift, absorb, be careful at traffic lights.
You will discover a world once hidden. Your senses will re-attune to a different frequency, your perception will be flung open. Drugs are not encouraged either, in case you think this is a stoned rant, avoid them, save for a cheeky light ale at The Crown.
Get to know your place, get to know yourself. Rediscover rhythm, rediscover beat. And discover true sightseeing. Wish you were here? You already are.
I will leave it at that. Except to mention, I have my passport to sell, one careless owner, lots of mileage, all sensible and insensible offers considered.
Send us a postcard!