One of the worst parts about travelling is arriving to find that you’re already there.
65 miles. 1,074 miles. 3,547 miles. 5,919 miles…
No matter how many miles away we fly, it never seems to be far enough to escape what’s going on in those brain folds.
Travelling a long way from home always seems to dredge up a bunch of old stuff that should have been dealt with a long time ago. We’re always over that baggage allowance.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
But it’s through a pink-tinted telescope.
There was a rollercoaster that got us very excited when I was a kid.
One weekend, my friends and I mooched the entrance fee from our parents and set off down to Staines.
X No Way Out was at the top of everyone’s list. The queue stretched back up the M3 to Hampton Court Palace; a vast crowd, chattering away in the bright summer grey, flashes of blood-red stanchion posts the only sign it was a queue and not a block party.
When our turn finally came, we groped our way to the carts in the thin orange light. As soon as we strapped in, the lights went out and we were catapulted backward through the dark to throbbing bass lines and the occasional spray of lasers.
It was awesome.
And not unlike life:
Hurtling through time facing the wrong way, twisting over and around fate’s peaks and valleys, clenching the hand of the person next to you and screaming all the way.
Knowing that no matter how bad it gets, it’ll always change; enjoying every single second because it’ll all be over in a flash;
And ready to queue up for eternity, just to do it again.
If you didn’t get the memo, here’s today’s agenda.
Today will be easy, like that test you thought you bombed but actually did pretty well on.
Today will be fun, like when you got chased and thought you weren’t going to get away but then you did.
Today will be interesting, like that weird show your friend forced you to watch that ended up being so good you binged the series later at home.
Today will be fast, like that unforgettable holiday that — after two weeks of — you were quite looking forward to coming home from.
Today is going to be quick, easy, and loud, like that time when…
Well, you get the idea.
If you haven’t already, today is a great day to go for a walk.
Mum would often suggest going for a walk, usually about mid-afternoon on a Saturday, after six hours glued to the screen up to my elbows in cereal.
I, cruelly deprived of television, found this the most outrageous proposition I’d ever heard.
A lively debate about the health benefits of walking would ensue.
Several bouts of growling, groaning, and some light wrestling later, we’d burst out of my Grandmother’s little terrace and descend on the cascading, bloom-laden banks of the Thames.
And before we’d reach the water’s edge, the morning’s gloom would be all but forgotten.
Recently, something the dead guitarist said hit home and I began to wonder why we bother to ‘remember the moment’ at all.
That punk philosopher said:
“I realized that so many moments in my life I’d been trying to ‘capture,’ to remember and enjoy later. But there was no point in doing that anymore because I was going to die. Every moment, I just had to enjoy for itself because that was it. I wasn’t going to be able to remember them.”
We’ve all done this — trying to ‘capture a memory’ to savour later. I thought that was being present but it wasn’t at all.
Because that’s really it.
That moment exists and then it’s gone forever.
But isn’t the fact you got to see it just fucking marvellous? And not just see it.
You got to feel it.
You got to hear and taste and smell and live it all.
Nobody else will ever live what you lived.
Who needs memories when we get to live them every day.
Words are great, but music is the best thing we’ve ever made.
It took me a long time to realize what a powerful tool it is.
We’re the only animal that responds to music at a physical level.
It’s so powerful that it can even relieve the symptoms of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Music fuses to our core. It entangles our emotions and weaves through our memories.
In many ways, the music you listen to is you.
I bet you even know what tracks would change your mood right now; to put a swagger in your step or a tear in your eye.
Or go back to a time in your life. Like time travel— our brains whisked through time hitched to a couple of bars of The Libertines or No Doubt or Bob Dylan.
Maybe people who “don’t listen to music” are a bit scared of its power, and they’re probably right to be. It’s light we can feel — and it’s powerful magic.
Careful how you use it!
When we were children, we learnt to play the tin whistle.
It’s a shrill little instrument that probably blew out the eardrums of anyone who heard us practicing.
Years later, whenever I left to go travelling or university or to move country, my mother would thrust this cold little tube into my hand and say, “Take it with you — you never know when it might come in handy.”
I never took the whistle, but I took the idea to heart. Knowing that whatever happened, I’d be able to earn myself a meal by practicing in public.
It took me a while to work up the courage, though!
You never know when something silly might become useful later, when it merges with something else and that opens up the world.