Yesterday, I was away from Southampton and its environs for most of the day. There were at least two interesting events in the city and a very tempting option on the Isle of Purbeck – which would also have enabled a triumphant return to the site of my fourth-form geography field trip – which I missed out on. I can only hope that I can still keep up with the missed plot threads of my extended life story.
This choice to abandon my adopted home for the day came about after I was struck by a whim (fortunately without injury) as I was cycling home from the cinema on Saturday afternoon. As I write this, I have come to realise (as I did not then) that the whim may have been prompted by the film I had been watching – Ladybird – with its primary theme of the coming-of-age of a teenage girl. The parallels with the author’s own life will be clear to all, but to keep the word count up I shall mansplain them anyway. Certainly, I will admit that the attraction to our heroine of one male character, who spends most of the time with his head in a book, did not speak to my own teenage experience: then again, it must be admitted that I did not then (nor now) look much like Timothée Chalamet. Perhaps more relevant, was the conflict between the heroine and her mother which is threaded through the film. Again, I don’t recall that much of that sort of conflict in my own teenage years, but it may have prompted me to consider what a terrible son I am. As a result, I decided that I should use the stimulus of Mother’s Day to return to the bosom of my family and thus provide my mother with a gift she might actually want, viz my physical presence (there’s no accounting for taste!).
Having ascertained that my sister could handle an extra mouth at the lunch table, I then looked with mild horror at the impact of rail-replacement bus services on my planned route (or any even remotely feasible rail-based alternatives). I could have driven, but I was already feeling rather tired and driving really takes it out of me – which I think we can blame on lack of practice – so I decided to persevere with the public transport option. This did mean devoting almost five hours to travel a mere 100 miles, which does not speak well of the UK’s transport infrastructure (Southern, we are looking at you) but, as I noted during the journey, is still well ahead of anything achievable by my Paleolithic ancestors with their (allegedly) faddy diet. The journey worked as advertised – including a longish layover in Brighton giving me a chance to wander its Laines to snigger at its more hipster denizens (and discover the existence of the bongo cahon – which I suspect is a marriage made in regions infernal) – and my rail-replacement bus was a very comfy coach which took me on the final leg of my epic voyage through south coast sunshine.
I was so glad that I made the journey as I had a really lovely time with my family, even though I did discover that several of them had been hiding a rather worrying Homes under the Hammer habit (you think you know people…). I don’t see them – or any friends outside the Southampton area – as often as I should. This failure is probably down to the sheer number of local friends and obligations to support them and my local scene more generally. There is also, as recently diagnosed by one friend, a fear of missing out – or FOMO as I believe the young people would say. Finally, I think there is the inconvenience of travelling any extended distance (and the scope for it to go horribly wrong) and the love of a short walk home to my own bed after any excursion. Still, I am sneaking up to Edinburgh at Easter to see my friends up there – so I just need to try and fit in a visit to Cambridge to assuage the few surviving tatters of my conscience.
The journey did also enable me to collect my birthday present from my sister who knows my rather better than I though (or hoped!). While wrapped, the size and weight suggested she had bought me a house brick but when I opened my gift back at home I discovered it was very “on brand”. It was Cards Against Humanity – which I have been vaguely feeling I needed to own for a while – and describes itself as ‘A party game for horrible people’: so ideal for me!
I was offered a lift back to Polegate on my return, thus cutting out rail-replacement buses (or coaches) and speeding my return home significantly. As a result, I was able to catch some jazz with the Sound of Blue Note at the Talking Heads by stopping off on my walk home from the station in the pouring rain (I did hope the sky might run out of water during the gig, but that hope was in vain). Initially, I didn’t expect to stay: I was feeling very tired and had been watching a BBC4 documentary on west-coast minimalism on the train and the jazz just felt odd after it. However, the chilled jazz tunes quickly worked their magic on me and by the second set I was totally under their spell. One should never under-estimate the reviving power of culture and its ability to convert a dozy drone back into a productive member of society!