Sunday, December 17, 2006

Five things: #1 

It was Christy's idea. She tagged me for the "5 things you may not know about me" meme going around at the moment. I surprised myself; it turned out to be easier than I thought to come up with five things. I got so taken with the idea I decided to dedicate a whole post to each one. Perhaps this was as much for my own benefit as for any other reason - it's a pleasant change to tease my attention away from the pressures of the present. And if I'm honest, it's nice too to have a bone-fide excuse for talking about myself. Thanks, Christy.

We were a car-less family when I was growing up. My father had never learned to drive, and in any case we couldn’t have afforded a car. But you don't miss what you never had, so I never felt hard done by - quite the reverse, in a way: a ride in a car, something quite ordinary for most of my friends, was a special treat for me. Up to a point, that is. Not being used to motor transport, I easily became travel sick. I suspect that were I now to smell again that distinctive combination of petrol, oil, exhaust fumes, hot vinyl and stale air that would wash over you as the door opened and you entered the car, the associations of that olfactory memory would be enough to bring on instant nausea.

It goes without saying that we went everywhere by public transport. I grew up with a curious one-dimensional understanding of local geography. Buses and trains always showed their routes as straight lines, or as a simple list. In my mind, all the places I knew were strung out in a straight line. To get to C from A necessitated travelling via B. It was a feature of my world; we only ever got to C by going through B first. So it came as a revelation to discover a kind of hyperspace bypass, otherwise known as a road, which by some magical, Euclidean-geometry-defying, curved-space means, permitted direct transportation from A to C. But only cars could perform this mystical feat. Buses and trains were constrained to travel in the one-dimensional universe.

Annual seaside holidays became an expedition, worthy of a Giles family cartoon. How we ever managed to travel the length of the country encumbered by so much baggage is beyond me. The suitcase each was only the start of it - and needless to say, this was long before the days of cases with built-in wheels. There’d be a shopping bag with packed lunch in it, an armful of coats (with no car to fall back on as emergency shelter, my mother never went anywhere without some form of protection against the weather, "just in case"), plus the inevitable bag for last-minute extras - we daren’t open the suitcases to squeeze anything else in for fear of not getting them closed again, an exercise which required sitting on each corner in turn and forcing the catches shut. And finally there was an essential piece of holiday gear - a long brown canvas holdall with leather-bound edges, which may have begun life as a cricketers sports bag but as well as the beach cricket gear - bat, stumps, bails and all and a collection of old tennis balls (for some reason all the balls were old and nearly hairless - I don’t think I ever saw a new furry tennis ball until my teens) there’s be blow-up beach balls, quoits, kites, and of the course the ubiquitous buckets and spades. This was before the days of plastic everything - these were metal-bladed spades with which you could do some serious digging - and deliver a serious injury to toes if, in your enthusiasm upon seeing the beach for the first time since last summer, you were careless about when you thrust the spade.

So we set off with all our encumbrances, dressed in our best clothes - or at any rate, tolerably smart ones, because that was the way one travelled, wasn’t it? Something about creating a "good impression", although I never did figure out for whom that impression was being created. Taxi; one, two, three trains, up and down stairs and ramps, in and out of narrow railway carriage doors. We needed that holiday just to recover from the rigours of the journey.

That’s like a bygone age; it’s all so different nowadays. Just throw everything in the car and go. I think in some ways the struggle to get there made us appreciate the holiday all the more.

I have the headings for #2 to #5, and since I have so little else to write about at the moment I’d quite like to expand them to a full post each. That may take a while though, by which time the meme may have run its course and evaporated. So I wont wait until the end before passing on the baton; here are the five who I’m sure must have some interesting tales to tell which haven’t yet seen the light of day: Winston, Brian, May, Miguel and Beth. A line or a page - however much or little you want to share will be equally welcome.

Back to current posts