Saturday, 15 November 2014

Long Ago and Far Away.





A strangely flat world where the horizon fills only a quarter of the train window. Wind turbines, their thin grey arms slowly slicing the air, and the flat grey estuary merges into a flat grey sky.
Low tide in the Humber estuary and pale ochre sand shows through white water. The elegant bridge arches gently over the huge estuary, supported by cobweb thin threads. A small blue boat forges steadily over the broad expanse of reflective water.
The sun comes out just after Goole. (I have wanted to use that sentence for some time). There is sudden vivid illumination of  vast distances of corduroy fields, fresh acid green growth on dark brown earth.
Vastness, when I am used to hills and valleys and trees and steep twisting roads.

This is my first venture away from home in eight months, and it feels as strange and remote as if I'm crossing the Central Asian Plain. I  think I am reconciled to my inability to travel abroad, and this tentative venture into time away from home proves it to some degree. The British Isles are full of enjoyable, weird, beautiful things, even in pouring rain, and I am determined to make the most of what I can experience, rather than hanker for what I can't.
The Humber Estuary may not be everyone's vision of delight, but it is mine.
Everyone else in the train seems to be playing with their phone or asleep, while I revel in light and distance and differentness.
I love train travel. I especially enjoy going through the outskirts of towns where you can look down into gardens and even into bedroom windows. Then I remember that I live in such a situation myself and make a mental resolve to close the blinds when I turn on the lights. But the glimpses you gain are fleeting and often tantalising - unless the signals are on red, in which case it is probably better to close the blinds.

I am travelling north into this different landscape to visit old friends. Very old friends. We met as teenagers and are now Senior Citizens with bus passes and free television licences (I can't wait! Only about a month to go for me). We pick up conversations where we left off many years ago. Sometimes we get confused and slightly argumentative over who said what in 1959, but so often the same idiosyncrasies emerge, and I see clearly the people I knew nearly fifty years ago. The gesture of a hand, the tone of a voice seem absolutely unchanged.
Are we really fixed as people in our late teens?
Life and experience have added layers, but it is fascinating how often it seems that the teenager, even the child, still lurks just below the surface. 
Only just below, sometimes.
It's hugely reassuring.

13 comments:

Jee said...

I certainly see the 11 year olds I knew in my oldest school friends . We may look our age in our sixties and seventies but, ignoring the aching knees and the greying hair, aren't we all still teenagers at heart?
So glad you enjoyed your time away. I've never had the chance to go that far north - there are still enough places in the British Isles that I haven't been that I don't have to hanker after foreign travel, nice as it might be occasionally.

Marigold Jam said...

As always a lovely thoughtful post that I can identify with! Who needs to go abroad when there is so much of this country we haven't yet explored or seen! I think we all forget that we are now OAPs and inside we are still the youngsters we used to be. I once asked someone I knew who worked at an old people's centre if all old people got cantankerous and obstinate and she said that she thought they just became a slightly exagerated version of what they'd always been. Not sure if that is reassuring or not! According to a fridge magnet a friend gave me "It takes a long time to grow an old friend" so I guess the old ones are often the best!! Glad you enjoyed your trip and your get together.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jee: I think I'm about 27, and always get a shock when I have to realise my real age. There seems no sense in the aging process and our acceptance of it - or otherwise.

Marigold: I wonder just how early in life our personalities are formed. With my own children I was aware of them as real people from birth, and possibly even before that.
Your lovely travels around local areas always reinforce my appreciation of England.

Elephant's Child said...

Some people do find who they are early, and stay with it. Which I mostly find reassuring, and occasionally frightening.
And some of my very best friends are people I see rarely - and when we do we pick up just where we left off.
Love that view. Open eyes, mind and heart pay dividends don't they? There is rather a lot of England I would love to see - and enjoy vicariously. Thank you.

Zhoen said...

Sounds beautiful to me, all the world is right where you are.

pohanginapete said...

'...determined to make the most of what I can experience, rather than hanker for what I can't'

I admire that attitude and will try to follow your example.

I,too, find it hard to believe I'm as old as I apparently am. I sometimes tell people I'm more immature than I seem.

Relatively Retiring said...

E.C: yes, the continuation of the conversation is a good indicator of solid relationships. I appreciate what you say about open hearts, eyes and mind.

Zhoen: beauty is absolutely everywhere if we can but see it.

P.Pete: fairly easy to write, but not always so easy to do.
I agree with your comment. I am also much slimmer and prettier than I appear.

Fire Bird said...

ah, the Humber Bridge! Brings back a few memories. I was at university in Hull. Another world or the end of the world depending on your point of view. I remember it cold and smelling at times of fish! I have an abiding fondness for the local accent with its exaggerated vowel sounds. 'Oh no!' sounding more like 'err nerr!'

Relatively Retiring said...

Firebird: yes, 'Ull as the end of the line. I like the way the trains have to reverse out of the station.

Isabelle said...

I hope you have a lovely time. I do think that we're more or less fixed by 11 - but we can develop in various directions from that point.

Since retirement, I've started meeting for lunch with three friends all of whom started school with me at the age of 5 (and continued till 18). That's currently 59 and a half years ago! And we're all the same, really. Underneath. Not so keen on skipping, perhaps.

Leslee said...

Sounds like an enjoyable trip. Lovely writing (love the line about Goole!). I love the train, too, though I rarely take one - you have a much better train system there. I also spend a lot of time contemplating the dislocations of age as I'm surrounded by young coworkers during the week and young urbanites on weekends. Yes, our young selves remain inside, with some layers, especially that outer one that others see. Our contemporaries at least can see in each other our younger selves.

Relatively Retiring said...

Leslee: can that be true.... that UK train system is better than American? Trains here seem over-crowded and often delayed or cancelled, but the scenery is lovely once you're on and moving.

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: it's lovely to have friendships that go back to Infants' School. Perhaps now is the time to take up the skipping again?