Excerpts from journeys

1st January  2019

Birmingham to Oxford

Sometimes I’ll be doing something like riding a train homewards. gazing out of the window at the sun sinking lower into the horizon, listening to David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ at the point where Bowie sounds like he’s going to cry, or like the very act of his singing is going to rip him open, and I think I’m going to cry, or rip myself open, and I wonder if I’m real at all.

In the distance, where low banked clouds look as though they’re blocking out the sun in its final death throws, shafts of light pierce through the gloaming clouds. In the blurred blueness of that middle distance, I seem to see iterations or reincarnations of myself dotted through the landscape. I am tree, I am river, I am field, I am hedgerow. I am out there, instead of in here. Even in here, in the train I mean, becomes less real as I push myself through the glass to be out there.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m gone from these places already, and that every visitation is simply a revisitation in the climb through my life. I meander in a pattern from my deathbed to my childhood and beck again – like how in Quantum Leap Sam Beckett leaps through the loop of his life where the tangles touch. Living isn’t about disentangling one’s life to make it straight and true like some kind of journey. Living a human life is about leaping from point to point, where the tangles meet – or at least I think so.

 

5th December 2018

Copenhagen – London

Flying alone is like leaving the world for a while. You exist on a simulated plain that is somehow disconnected from country, or nation. You are borderless, placeless, personless. Not in the same way that you are on a boat when you’re in international waters, and not in the same way as when you fly with friends. Flying alone is different.

Now, I am aware that I am still tracked with my passport, and it says who I am and where I came from, and which nation state I belong to – but there is something about the disconnect between one place and another that isn’t achieved through any other mode of travel. To do so alone is almost like disconnecting yourself entirely from one kind of music via your headphone jack, and into another.

To be alone in a place of hellos and goodbyes and final moments and first moments is to exempt yourself from the flurry of human experience for a while. In here, I am an other. I entered alone, saying no goodbyes, and I will arrive alone on the other side saying no hellos. In a way, I feel like I will be gestated within the belly of the plane and reborn on new soil – reterritorialised onto familiar terrain.

 

2nd December 2018

Stockholm to Malmö

Watching birds drop off of telegraph wires like flakes of it falling to the ground. Except not falling, but flying. I always used to think they looked like notes on staves and here they are disconnecting themselves from formalised tune and becoming free.

Flying music.

Open notes.

Denoted. De~noted.

Unmarked.

 

21st October 2018

London to Oxford

I hurtle away from the city like an arrow, reaching outwards over countryside as if shot from an inordinately large bow. I am tetherless. I know I will land at my destination and resume an old life, a life that has not been mine for what feels like millennia and, if I’m honest, could easily be mistaken for someone else’s.

This is a leap of faith.

I feel like I’m riding this train into the void. Nothing visible through the windows but the inky blackness of an October evening, stretching into infinity, or not stretching at all. I ride a wormhole home.

I don’t know if I know what I’m doing. Zips of light come out either side. Other trains, full of other people going to other places. We’re void dancing. Tight-rope walking over chasms.

I said a plaintive goodbye to an awful lot of people today. I had an eerie watchfulness whilst doing so, as though I were waiting for someone to jump out and say that I didn’t have to go. I didn’t have to leave. But I left anyway. As I was walking away from my house I thought I heard someone calling my name. Not a voice I recognised, but I still turned and looked back at it. Not my house anymore, thought I. Whilst this filled me with a modicum of happiness, for I have not been happy there – it is more the locale of the house itself which upset me, and I was reminded of all that I was leaving within that tiny little terrace on the outskirts of London suburbia. I entered into melancholia – nostalgia is a drug. Yet, I didn’t feel like I was leaving. I felt like I was going about my normal everyday life, wandering down to the bus stop to take me into town to see a friend, to laugh, and to have a final beer.

This was a day of finals. The final train, the final ticket, the final goodbye.

 

29 October 2017

London to Oxford

Sometimes I think that it is not I that moves, but the world instead, on some unseen track whirling beneath me. You don’t really get the same feeling in a car; you can see everyone else bumbling along in their cars in the same way that you are in yours, and it shatters the illusion.

In a train it is as though the countryside unfolds from the inner city. High rises collapsing away into suburbia, that too melting into hills and fields. The track that I travel on, unfurling from the front of the train, cuts a narrow furrow through the familiar green-brown countryside.

All at once, the hedge sided track bursts forth from the sky reflecting flood plains by the M25, untangles itself from the charred bones of industrial graveyards, and I am struck by the overarching sky. Every shade of blue encapsulated in a late autumn landscape. I come, this time, on the tail of the turning year. The last day of daylight saving time. Some leaves still cling to the bare branches of trees in a last-ditch attempt to fool the innocent onlookers that summer still reigns.

Yet there, standing alone in a field emulating some drab scare-crow, bare arms impeaching the sky: a leafless ash.

 

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