I was expecting to be travelling through a faux post-apocalyptic world last Friday, as I was booked on a BA flight back to London in order to pick up medication for my own particular virus (Hepatitis C). Instead of which, the trip was aborted and I now await the meds to be delivered by way of courier.
Shame. I was looking forward to writing about the experience, envisaging a K Dick-style journey of emptied buildings and more-than-wary fellow human beings. A kind of envisaging of humankind’s great dark future. Hmmm…
Whereas, my current book…
Well, I better not give the plot away…much as I would like to…
With a Ryanair flight and the ferries similarly cancelled, there is much time to be spent here in the mountains preparing the garden – which is starting to look like a Hawkwind album cover – ready for spring and summer and the time when hopefully this worldwide COVID-19 virus will have been totally eradicated.
A week ago I arrived in the Midlands feeling a little apprehensive and concerned about the prospect of having an MRI scan on my abdomen. Owing to the fact that I couldn’t book a return flight for the following weekend, I have stayed around my old hometown and am leaving later today. In a way, the extended time here has been a blessing. I have re-connected with the area and some of the people who are important to me. As a result, I now feel more grounded. It seems to me that all I really want for the rest of my life is to be in close contact with my family, have access to nature and learn foreign languages. Oh, and have perfect health. Not too much to ask, surely?
We have made it back to base, a little later than intended. The ferry crossing was brilliant – calm waters, a good meal, the new Tarantino, an excellent night’s sleep – and the get-away straightforward, despite the extra security following Brexit. The roads were fine in the sunlight, and we had an audiobook to distract our attention away from the dull high plains. But as we approached the border, I began to feel very tired and the prospect of driving another 200 kms became increasingly unappealing. Instead, we pulled off to the small medieval town we had stopped in on the way up, knowing the hotel provided secure car parking where our over-stuffed vehicle would not be interfered with. A break-in we suffered in Soviet era Warsaw has made us very alert to the possibility of an overnight theft of all our goods.
As a consequence, the return was an almost exact mirror image of our departure ten weeks earlier: five weeks either side of the UK winter festivities, a consultation at the hospital the day of departure with unexpected and unwanted medical results, and an overnight stay at the same hotel. The main differences are that I no longer feel unwell and the UK is no longer a part of the continent. Maybe the two are interlinked!
We obtained a permit on arrival and just before dinner lit the bonfire left behind ten weeks ago. Pasta is set to boil on the hob and the log stove is ready for lighting, thus ensuring a cozy first night back.
Docking in northern Spain at around midday and driving straight down to our place in the Santa Maria mountains on the Iberian Peninsula, about seven hours away. Because the drive through the high plains tends to become extremely tedious, on this occasion we are sharing the driving and have downloaded an audio version of Peter Hitchens’ ‘The Phoney Victory: The WWII Illusion’. A few years ago, I would never have thought I’d be reading this author’s work, but his integrity and desire for the truth have really come to the fore concerning the OPCW / Syria cover up, so that I am now more than willing to give the old boy a try.
Other avowed conservatives I now have time for are the Americans, Ron Paul and Gareth Porter, who also seem concerned that the truth regarding events in the world are more important than ideological positioning or presented in such a way to further the aims of the rich and powerful.
On the ferry right now and feeling good about having some time to catch up with reading Graham Greene’s ‘The End of the Affair’, as chosen by our book club. It’s not a text I’d personally have chosen to select. I read pretty much all the Greene I wanted to experience way back before I began writing myself. Of all his books, I enjoyed his first published novel ‘The Man Within’ most because you could see the writer really working at his craft. Not that it was a particularly good end product in this instance. Our previous choice was Jose Saramago’s ‘Blindness’ which, for all its failings, did at least have the distinction of being written by a foreign writer with whose work I was unfamiliar. I’m not sure that I want to keep going over the same old ground when it comes to literature, no matter how distinguished the expired writer.
Thinking of Englishness and how much I love and dis-love it at the same time, my own account of the matter particularly comes to the fore in DEATH AND THE DEAD
A bit later than anticipated getting away today. Expecting to be given a clean bill of health from the consultant at the hospital, instead I found out there is probable scarring of the liver, very likely caused by some infection. The consequence being that it was necessary to queue for an hour and a half to provide blood samples for a whole battery of tests.
Then, just as we were leaving the house with our bags packed and the car loaded, our solicitor sent an email with a big bunch of documents attached which required to be either printed and signed or scanned and returned. We just made it to the post office in time, before continuing on our way to the south coast in the dark.
Right now, we are in our budget hotel, having just eaten sushi washed down with ale, and ready to settle down and listen to an audible version of the Graham Greene novel selected by members of the book club.
Tomorrow we board the ferry for a 24 hour crossing.
I shall probably have to fly back soon for an appointment at the hospital – which makes me feel quite modern, but also wishing (and hoping) I didn’t (won’t) have to.
PS I thought of a new word today – Bucosmic (adj) living off the land while studying the universe
Two more days before we catch the ferry from the south coast and leave the UK behind. That means washing the old campervan and keeping an appointment at the hospital with the consultant. The day before we returned last December, I was informed that I had diabetes and Hep C. Neither of which diagnosis made any sense to me. Now it looks as though the trouble has been bruising of the liver all along, caused by some kind of impact. Maybe the two cycling accidents I experienced just prior to falling ill were somehow responsible. Anyway, I look forward to regaining full health once more.
Things Britain seems to do well: fashion, music, food and drink (yes, really). Which means great High Streets, classic pop/rock, great food counters and terrific ale. South Bucks has all of this aplenty and it’s been a real joy to discover how many of the old ways continue to exist behind the façade of modern housing projects and post-1980s affluence. Likewise, visiting Hungerford in nearby Berkshire for the weekend and walking beside the Kennet and the Avon canal towpath was a treat. I think the old hairies/hippies of the late sixties/seventies got it just about right with their combination of rural living and space rock. The perfect duo. Made even better with their desire for peace and love. That all seems a long while ago now, of course. But, even so, could yet prove realisable. Our departure from the shores of the UK is in many ways an extension of this dream – with the reality actually awaiting us.
Today is largely about getting ready for leaving next week: clean the car’s interior, re-instate the ‘boot-jump’ camping block, purchase windscreen-wipers and tags for the wheel caps.
Whenever I dream of being in a car it always relates to present-day conscious life. Last night’s involved crossing a main road and then having to choose a turning, being unable to take the bend at speed and flying off the road to end up on top of a pile of mud about fifteen feet high. Enough said. Though a solution to getting back on the road did emerge in usual symbolic fashion.
It’s going to be quite hard leaving the old place – yet again. While out walking in the woods yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me that only two more opportunities would be available before our departure. I have done that walk thousands of times and it always leaves me feeling revivified. Yesterday the feeling was one – not of sadness but – of a slight melancholy. Not a bad emotion to experience on such an occasion.
I have confronted the emotional difficulties and complications of removing oneself from one’s family and past, and thereby allowing the opportunity for spiritual growth, especially in ON RELEASE.
All the veterans from the Royal Artillery and their guests were so nice and warm and friendly yesterday. They revealed a huge birthday cake made in the shape of an old war cannon to celebrate the birthday of my dad and another veteran, their ages adding up to 185 years! Prior to that we had a lunch of fish and chips washed down with a pint of ale, all in the British Legion hall. So old-fashioned (and maybe a perfect manner to say goodbye to Blighty). All my reservations concerning their motives for belonging to the organisation evaporated as we became engulfed in their hospitality. They were so welcoming and, as part of the year ahead, were looking forward to a peace talk to be given at one of their meetings. What’s more, we won three prizes in the raffle!
Today is given over to resuming my Russian language studies, by way of Duolingo to get back in the groove. This is all in preparation for a proposed trip to the country in 2021 to mark the bi-centennial of Dostoevsky’s birth. I was there in 2001 and actually attended all the events as they occurred in Staraya Russa, the small town where he both set and wrote ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. That was the best individual trip of my life and a video I made from the stills taken on my rubbish camera during the stay is up on my Amazon Author Page. Or just click on NOVELS below. More particularly, an account of the visit – and my relationship to the writer more generally – is included in my book DOSTOEVSKY’S PLACE.
In that vein, my intention is to make videos based around my novels and have them made available on YouTube. Quite what format I’ll use is yet to be decided. In the meantime, I hope you might enjoy reading some of them.