After the heavy earnestness of my last post, I thought I’d chip away to reveal a different facet of my thoughts today, to highlight the equal importance of silly randomness in this world. So, here are some observations that I made over the course of a day out in London last week:
Last Friday I was in London for a Biodiversity Offsetting workshop – a fascinating day, but too serious a topic to feature in this post. However, on the way there, on the brilliantly eclectic and random Caledonia Road near Kings Cross, I saw the following sights:
- The winning establishment of the national ‘Best Adult Store’ award. This sign was proudly displayed outside the standard kind of voyeurism-denying shabby blind that veils such places, creating an odd mix of clandestine seediness and joyous proclamation. I tried, and failed, to imagine how this extrapolated to the awards ceremony. Did everyone appear in their glitzy dresses on the red carpet wearing balaclavas?
- A ‘Vegan Junk Food’ shop. Sadly, my hurried ‘almost-a run’ gait, due to tardiness, precluded any kind of perusal of the wares on sale, but I was absolutely intrigued by this apparent oxymoron.
- A homeless man with cap laid out on the pavement waiting for change, who was tapping away suspiciously adeptly on a smart-phone. As I reached in my pocket to see if I had any loose change my hand closed on my ancient, sharp-angled, almost defunct phone and I changed my mind. What is it with Caledonia Road and confusing contradictions?
On my way back to the station after the workshop, I had my i-shuffle ramped up loud, listening to some kind of brilliant folky wailing (or ‘monk-music’, as one of my friends calls it). As I was waiting to cross a road, I found myself watching intently the silent drama of a couple arguing. My eyes grew wider as their gesticulations grew wilder. Suddenly, and awkwardly, they both turned and stared at me furiously. I quickly dropped my eyes to the safety of the London pavement and blushed. As I wandered on my way I realised that, when my tunes are up loud and I can’t hear other sounds, this translates in my mind to a feeling of invisibility. It’s a slight bastardisation of the ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me’ naivety. I am a nosy-parker at the best of times, but combined with loud tunage it apparently tips over the edge of being socially acceptable, particularly in the notoriously antisocial insularity of London. Good to know…
Then, on my way back from Warwick station to my car (I really feel like I’m taking you on a journey today), as I was singing along loudly to Jeff Buckley, I further mused that it is perhaps an indication of my advancing years that I seem to have shed, perhaps unwisely, the inhibition of singing loudly in public. They say that the thirties is a good decade because you come to know yourself well and feel comfortable in your skin. Well, I’m not sure I’m quite there yet, but I certainly seem to be much more comfortable with shameless public behaviour. I am still hoping that I will screech into my thirties with comprehensive self-knowledge at some point, better late than never, and performing a dramatic and very cool (but not ‘mid-life-crisis’ cool) hand-brake turn.
Finally, as I reached home, I shed the confines of the day by ceremoniously changing from city-smarts into my oh-so-comfortable Thai fisherman pants. The silky feel of the fabric and liberating freedom of movement took me right back to those balmy days of meandering through the streets of Koh Phangan, feeling warm sand between my toes and enjoying being pummelled by various miniscule masseuses. However, then I caught sight of myself in the mirror and guffawed.
What had seemed to be the height of relaxed traveller chic in Thailand now looked like the enforced clothing of an institutionalised escapee. It struck me how perceptions can shift so quickly. I remember when I first returned from Asia, and the traveller magic was still flowing through my veins, I wore these very trousers out in Leamington Spa. The thought that I did so now made me feel faint nausea as I imagined how I had been perceived. One of the wonderful things about hitting the backpacker trail is the ‘anything goes’ approach. However, back in the ‘real’ world I seem to have irritatingly allowed myself to become once again constrained by convention. So, another thing to work on in my thirties is the self-belief to not care about external judgements that are dictated solely by convention, i.e. judgements for judgement’s sake rather than carefully thought out judgements. So, if you see a lunatic in baggy pants wandering down the street singing loudly and tunelessly in the Warwick area, it may well be me… 🙂