Month: January 2016

You can’t easily revisit houses from your past

This is a weird thought I had last week while driving from Wellesbourne in Warwickshire to Cheltenham. On this drive, I passed the exit to Worcester. I wanted to stop. But I couldn’t. I had to carry on. I always feel a pang of nostalgia when I pass Worcester as it was the home of all of my grandparents and for many years a place I used to visit either for the day on a Sunday about once a fortnight or sometimes for a week during the school holiday. As a child, it felt like my second home. As a family, we were often whizzing down the motorway between Stafford and Worcester and back again.

The M5

The M5

Then, things changed, as they do. Times passed. And it got to the point when I had no reason to visit Worcester again. I think I have been there twice since it used to be a second home to me. Last week I passed it by with no reason to stop.

My weird thought came shortly after passing the junction for Worcester: how unfair it is that I can’t just drive into Worcester and visit the houses that my grandparents’ lived in (either side) and ask to look around. All I have is my memories of those two houses. I can’t go back. We can’t revisit houses we once lived in or spent time in as a relative. At least, not easily and without suspicion from the current owners. To me, that is so unfair. We are free to go almost anywhere in the country, but not into other people’s houses.

I often dream about my grandparents’ houses. My mum’s parents lived in a lovely 1920s bungalow which was elevated up from the road on a road of similar houses. My memories of that house are very vivid. I remember the smell, the furniture, the colours of the walls, the carpets. I remember the games I used to play in my head whilst there. I remember reading the Reader’s Digest, playing in the garden, stroking the random cat that used to visit (the cat that didn’t have a tail), playing in the bath with the bits of soup they refused to throw away and washing conkers in the bath. But I can’t go back and revisit those rooms and relive those memories and remember more.

Thanks to the Internet I've found a photograph of my maternal grandparent's house

Thanks to the Internet I’ve found a photograph of my maternal grandparent’s house

My memories of the house of my dad’s parents are also very vivid: again, the smell, the colours, the furnishings. I remember the donkey at the bottom of the garden, the cold meats and fruit cake for Sunday tea, the boxes of smarties Uncle David used to give us, the apples stored the front room, the old cars in the garage and the snapping of the coal fire. But I can’t revisit the house and remember those things afresh.

I think this is the house next door to my parental grandparent's house

I think this is the house next door to my parental grandparent’s house

Equally, I can’t revisit the houses I have lived with as a child or an adult: in Stafford, Exeter, Japan, Oxford and Charlbury. I wish I could. I dream of those houses too. They now belong to other people.

We lived in the left-hand cottage

We lived in the left-hand cottage – behind the tree

If I were the Prime Minister, I’d make it law that you have to let previous occupants (or their relatives) visit your house on request (perhaps at a time mutually convenient to both parties).  Would you vote for me?

Ten Things I love about a day trip to London

Yesterday I had to go to London to go to a meeting at Bloomsbury Publishing by Bedford Square. It’s a long way to go from Shrewsbury but I only usually have to make the journey about once a year. I look forward to this trip for weeks. It is a very exciting thing for a freelancer to have to do: travel, attend a meeting, and act important.

While in London yesterday, I came up with Ten Things I love about a day trip to London and some may be a little odd.

Where I had my meeting yesterday

Where I had my meeting yesterday

The Dirt

Starting with this one. I love the fact that London is grubby. To me the grubbiness is part of its history and tradition. London has been grubby ever since the Romans named it. It was grubby during the dark ages. It was grubby in medieval times. It was grubby when the Victorians were roaming the streets. And it was grubby during the war. It is grey, dark and drab. But that is what makes it so special. It smells of metal and dust. After a day in London I return home feeling as if I am covered in a layer of grime. Have you ever picked your nose after a day in London? You may not be surprised to find that London turns your snot black.

The People

London is a people magnet. It is full of the weirdest and wonderfulist mix of people from all over the world. They are a huge source of inspiration to me. The city is a complete stew pot of the human race. It is a Boxing Day meal of whatever you can find in the fridge. I love it. I love the clothes the people wear, the books they read, the way they walk, the way they talk. I love everything about them. If I were braver, I’d bring my camera with me and take photos of the people. Shrewsbury isn’t so cosmopolitan. It is a cheese and ham sandwich. So for this reason London fascinates me.

London people

London people

The Smells

Besides the metallic smell mentioned above, London also smells of food, in a similar way to New York. It smells of pubs, smoke, chips, BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, curry, chips and frying.

The Shops

London is dangerous. It is full of shops. Luckily for my bank account, I didn’t pass any bookshops yesterday. Unluckily for my bank account, I did pop into the ginormous Top Shop on Oxford Street.

I remember my first visit - 27 years ago

I remember my first visit – 27 years ago

The Art

London is full of art. It is full of art galleries and museums which display art. Besides the famous and the biggies, it also houses many medium-sized ones, little ones and tiny ones. Yesterday I went to exhibition of digital-inspired art at Somerset House called Big Bang Data. The exhibition was very thought-provoking. At home, I’d have to travel to either Liverpool, Manchester or Birmingham to come across an exhibition of that size and scope. Londoners are so lucky. They don’t have to go far.

Big Bang Data exhibition

Big Bang Data exhibition

The Art Part Two

London is also full of inspiration for art: mostly because of The People (see above) but also the history, the architecture, and also, to some extent, the smells.

The Chaos

If you were to compare London to Tokyo you would be struck by two major differences: Tokyo is clean and Tokyo runs smoothly. London seems to be quite messy and a little chaotic. Crossing the road is quite scary in London. Everyone else seems to know where they are going. I don’t. I feel like the lone lost wonderer when I go to London. I wear my country-bumpkin status on my coat.

In Tokyo people cross the road when the green light is showing, not in London

In Tokyo people cross the road when the green light is showing, not in London

The Tube

I love the tube for many of the reasons above – it is dirty, it is full of people, and it is smelly. The tube really is very grimy. But when I think of the London Underground I think of wooshies of warm air, people who don’t exchange looks, people on phones, people reading, people kissing around a pole and people slumped in seats looking depressed. All good fodder for an artist like me.

The grimy but fascinating London Underground

The grimy but fascinating London Underground

Walking

London, despite having such a good underground network, is all about walking. Travelling by the Tube may seem like a way to get to the place you want to get to quicker but actually it isn’t. It’s a myth. For two reasons. Firstly, the distance you may travel on the Tube around central London isn’t that far and wouldn’t take you that long to walk. There is this illusion that to get from, say Euston to Leicester Square you must catch the Tube. Secondly, catching the Tube entails a huge amount of walking, to the platform, from the platform, between platforms if you have to change. Walking direct from A to B is often much quicker.

Escalators

Nowhere else I’ve ever been to has escalators like London. They are fast and they go on for ages and ages. They could take you up to the top of the Wrekin. If you have a fear of escalators, London is not the city for you. I like to read the posters on the walls as they slowly wizz past me. I also like the fact that the overtaking lane is on the left-hand side whereas on a motorway the overtaking lane is on the right . Why is that?

Escalator up to heaven or down to hell?

Escalator up to heaven or down to hell?

But would I ever want to live there? I’m not sure. I think New York still wins.

I see dead toasters

I see dead toasters because I keep breaking them. Why do I keep breaking toasters? That’s a good question. And not just toasters, why do I keep breaking watches and kettles too? This is a weird thought I’ve been having lately. We recently bought a new kettle. The old kettle wasn’t yet a year old. It stopped working. The new kettle has already started to malfunction. It doesn’t know when to stop boiling. It’s not yet a month old.

Other examples of our electrical breakages:

  • The last time I used an iron it just stopped working (and the time before that). I’m now not allowed to iron anything (I know, I should be happy!)
  • The toaster recently stopped knowing when to pop. We ate a lot of burnt toast before we got a new toaster.
  • Our household electrical circuits often trip for no reason.
  • The wifi wobbles on a regular basis.
  • A watch lasts me on average 8 months.
  • My phone behaves very sporadically, the battery especially.
  • The TV speakers in the sitting room recently decided to stop working.
  • The passenger side window in the car doesn’t wind down.
One of many...

One of many…

Is this just coincidence, clumsiness on my part, bad luck or do I have magical powers? Although science does not have a logical explanation for this phenomenon, non-scientists and those with one foot in the teeny tiny possibility theory world think there is something going on with certain people which causes electrical issues with household devices.

The term energy field (also electrical field) is used to describe the magnetic fields created by electrically charged particles. As people contain electrically charged particles, the body’s cells and tissues generate electrical fields. This is often called an ‘aura’. Some people have a stronger aura than others, the former being those people who break things without deliberately causing a malfunction. Science might argue that this is just an excuse for being clumsy. However, it is believed by those non-scientific open-minded types that things break when electric people are feeling particularly emotional or stressed.

So, what should I do about this, if indeed this explains our high turnover of kettles and irons? Try to chill more often? Wrap myself up in bubble wrap? Buy some crystals? Regularly rub a balloon? Apparently, any of those options would indeed help matters (and make life a little less expensive). Otherwise, I think I will just have to keep buying new kettles and toasters and hope I’ll start seeing ghosts too.

I need to wrap myself in this stuff

I need to wrap myself in this stuff

It is reassuring to know that even if science isn’t so sure, I’m not the only person to go through so many irons, toasters, and kettles. If you google ‘electrical people’ and you will see that this is well known problem.

The next time the toaster breaks I can say ‘well, it isn’t my fault, it’s my aura’.

I hope they have TV in the afterlife

This is a weird thought I had today whilst driving to B&Q. The weird thought came while listening to The Archers. I don’t get to listen to The Archers very regularly, but if I had the time I would. I grew up listening to The Archers. I’m very fond of it. I’d also watch Coronation Street more often as well if I had time as it featured large in my childhood. There are a lot of people who do listen and watch these on-going programmes a lot. Some people make sure they are available for their favourite soaps (or they record or catchup later). Such programmes bring great joy to many. They are a comfort. Although I love my busy life, I miss that comfort sometimes. At least I could watch Coronation Street if I wanted to.

Where I was going when I had a weird thought

Where I was going when I had a weird thought

My worry while driving to B&Q was: what happens when devoted fans die? They won’t be able to find out what happens next, or after that, or even after that. In fact it all stops. That thought makes me terribly sad. I hope that there is access to Sky and Radio 4 in the afterlife, or at least the Internet. I’d like to think of my grandma listening to Gardeners’ Question Time somewhere as she listened to it with religious fever every week when she was alive. As children we weren’t allowed to make a peep of noise at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. I still find it hard to listen to that programme now as an adult for memories of her love of it.

The Archers

The Archers

This is a weird thought that will ever remain weird, at least, that is, until it is my turn to pop my clogs. If so, I would like to think that I’ll be able to catch the odd episode of The Archers or Coronation Street on the other side.