My second memory of the year is the more important. It’s not so much a memory of a specific event, as of a feeling. The feeling I had when we had moved in to our new flat together, the friend who had helped us move had left, and we were alone in our own place for the first time. A feeling of immense love and unbounded opportunity.
In past years, I’ve usually posted my stand-out memories of the year so far, around this time. Last year there were four; the year before five.
There aren’t so many big, stand-out memories on my mind this year. That’s not because the year’s been dull or empty. Rather, the opposite: there have been so many happy memories that I can’t single many out from the crowd.
This one, though, is from my birthday. It’s getting dark, and I’m looking out of a plane window, at lamplit streets and tower blocks, watching the ground get closer and closer and trying to make out landmarks I recognise from the map. If you know me, you’ll know I don’t fly very often; in fact, at this point, I’ve been up since about 4am, I’m on the second plane ride of my birthday, and also the fourth of my life. I’m scared, not because of the flight or the impending landing, but because I’ve never been to a foreign country quite so foreign before, but I’m also rather excited. We might still be in the EU, but this is definitely more exotic than France or Germany. Latvia at night, as I turn 30.
Last year, I spread my favourite memories over a series of posts, and wrote each one up properly. This year, I’m still feeling rather woozy and fuzzy-headed; but, nonetheless, these are the things I remember most clearly about the year.
The sight of Devon in January. Driving down the M5 in the dark, and wondering what it would look like in the daylight; then the next morning seeing everything clearly.
Getting on a plane for the first time, and feeling it throw me back in my seat on take-off. I didn’t realise, beforehand, just how forceful it feels. I tried to identify towns, roads, railways from the window, but didn’t do very well. From what I did recognise, we took a very sinuous course around southern England before heading out over the Channel.
Driving around town in the middle of summer, trying to find my way to work, via a route that wasn’t closed by flooding. The estates and marshland east of town were being pumped out by the army; not many routes were passable. Thinking: it’s a bit silly making the sea defences bigger and louder, only to get swamped by the rain.
And, finally: at the end of summer, on a Sunday afternoon, sitting on a stile listening to church bells, and all the other noises one hears at such times.
I’ve been tagged, by Dimitra. The idea being, I write eight things you don’t know about me. Which is hard. I mean, there are a few people reading this; and moreover there are different sets of people reading this. Some of you know things, some don’t. I’ll have to think of eight things you might know, might not. I never know who I’ve told what to.
Today, you get four things. The rest: to come. Maybe it will turn into a sort of manifesto.
One: there’s only one of me. Lots of you probably know that: I don’t have any brothers or sisters. I’ve always liked my own company, to an extent. Although I’m a social person, I have to be able to retreat somewhere, on my own, to get away from distraction and obligation. And it has to be on my own terms. Maybe it comes from being a solo person to start with. There’s only one of me, but I’m under no illusions that I’m unique in any one individual trait.
Two: I believe in second chances; but I don’t believe in third chances.
Three: I’m a heavily rational person. I believe in what I can touch, what can be proven, what other people can show from logic. I’m enquiring, and sceptical. But I’m not skeptical.* I believe in the third eye, in seeing things that aren’t yet there, that are going to happen. Or rather: I don’t believe in it, I know it can happen. When I was a teenager I used to dream things that hadn’t happened yet. Whether this means some things are unavoidable, I don’t know.
Four: I have an extremely bad memory. I can remember useless things with a worrying ease, but useful information never sticks in my head. I get by, by remembering how to find things out. Knowing where to find information can often be far more useful that knowing the information itself. Sometimes, though, it’s just a nuisance.
* yes, there is a difference.
Today has been another plain, ordinary day. Nothing out of ordinary in the news. Nothing exciting has happened. Which is, you know, just as it should be.
I didn’t even manage to be awake at seven minutes past seven this morning, to note the pleasing symmetry of the timestamp. I think I was awake at ten to nine, but that passed without notice too. Which is, in a way, just as it should be.
Last year, of course.
“You’re so ticklish, you giggle when people tickle your aura”
There are probably many more things I meant to remember people saying to me, but the memories have rippled away.
…is a bit of a cheat. Because there isn’t one thing I want to add which would round the year off. There are too many moments which would leave it incomplete. The Cat returning. Someone taking me for a quiet walk in the park, so she could split up with me. Going for a first date with someone else, and watching her last train home pull out of the station because we didn’t realise it was about to leave. Someone trying to kick my car windows in, whilst I was sat inside the car. So many people who have made this year very special – in particular, V-
The Plain People Of The Internet: Hang on, what’s this? You’re writing your Oscar acceptance speech now or something?
There’s no point looking back too much. The best we can hope to do is manage not to repeat too many mistakes over again. I’m going to go out tonight, and enjoy myself, and look to the future…
This is just a short one. A romantic breakfast, in a supermarket in Greenock, squeezed between the railway and the firth. Haar is hanging over the firth,* and the far shore is out of sight. I’m sitting, looking at you, and wondering how many times I’ll be back here.
* except that it isn’t, because – according to East Coast people, at any rate – you only get haar on the East Coast. So any sea-fogs you get hanging over West Coast firths, and towns like Greenock, Rothesay or Wemyss Bay, can’t be proper haar. Any Scots reading feel free to correct me on this.
This one is from back in April. I’m sat in the back of a car, with some people I don’t really know that well, travelling off to somewhere I’ve never been before. I didn’t really know where we were going, either. I mean, I knew what it was – a Social Club – what it was called, and vaguely where it was, but not exactly where. I’ve always been closely attached to maps, and not knowing where I was going made me feel a little disconnected and wary.
I was very nervous, and the other people in the back of the car could tell: knuckles clenched, quietly staring out of the window. We galloped along the motorway, and I tried to enjoy the scenery, trying to overlook my nervousness. It only got worse when I spotted the signs for the exit I guessed we’d be taking: “Netherthong, Wooldale A648″.
I found out later that it was quite a historic room, with all its mouldings and recherché cornicing. Back in the 1910s, when equality for women was all the rage, Sylvia Pankhurst held suffragette meetings there. I didn’t know this at the time, though.
W and P looked each other in the eyes, and kissed, and the congregation burst out into a long, long round of applause, so much so that the registrar was almost bowled away with the emotion. So much so, she started playing the Citizenship Ceremony tape instead of the Wedding Ceremony one, and the room was suddenly filled with the National Anthem.
I did write about W and P’s wedding at the time; but looking back ten months later, this is what sticks in my mind.