Sunday, 19 October 2014

Visiting Mundanity

My Assistant Head of the English Department, J, asked me what I've been doing during my non-school time lately. I told him I had been up to Great Yarmouth recently.

I received a grimace and a sound of disgust.

"That place is a horrible beach town. If you want a beach come to Norwich. Or even Lowestoft is better!"

I replied, "well it was last minute and it was the closest beach I first came up with."

That was where the conversation ended.

Since that moment I have really been questioning (more than usual) the "wise" use of my "time" here.

After all, I came here to experience England and to see Europe. So far I have seen lots of regular old English towns, between Cambridge and London but mostly, it's stuff that locals would consider about the level of Kelowna or Vernon back home. In short, yes there are nice bits but nothing that stands out as different from much else.

A street in Great Yarmouth

Just a pub in Great Yarmouth.

Or at least, that's the way it is if you are a local. If all the castles, the moors, the seascapes, the brick building materials are just part of your backyard. All you have then is a backyard.

The same goes for if you move to somewhere else to live. Yes, it is somewhere else. Yes, it is new and exciting and different. Yes, you walk around in a state of awe. Yes, you snap photos of silly things like bread or chocolate or the train platforms.

But then you get back to living. Which means numerous trips to the grocery store because you don't have massive fridge space and things generally last only as much as three days, or at most a week, unless, they are things like chocolate and therefore very much not entirely natural. It also means work, of some sort. That could be at a local chain restaurant like Wetherspoons, as a teacher at a secondary school or as a copywriter in London. Whatever it is, you've got somewhere to be early in the morning and somewhere to stay at for the timeless work hours of at least eight (or more). They mean ridiculous meetings in which people argue silly things and others keep checking the clock. They mean not wanting to get out of bed in the morning because it's warm and cozy but on the weekends when you can lie in it as long as you'd like, you've got plans to go at do things that are "worth it," or you just can't sleep, so you're rolling out at 8am and joing the retirees at the market or out on morning walks.  

No matter where you go in the world. Eventually, all you have is a backyard.

And so you need an audience through which to blab about the wonders. An audience through which you can notice that the rows of garage's down that back alley which are painted varying shades of primary colours, are hilariously quaint. Or that pub by the name of The Barking Smack, in Great Yarmouth, has got to be the most random, nonsense ever. Even The Nutshell, which is Suffolk's tiniest pub ever (it literally can only fit a maximum six people) and resides in Bury St Edmunds, isn't half as odd.

Maybe I have yet to visit Paris, or Rome, Stonehenge or any one of those other million locations which land on the "100 Place You Must Visit Before..." lists but I have had some experiences of getting lost, run across some literal characters and made some wonderful friends who make this place feel like home.

An old favourite author of mine who is known for taking faerie tales and myths and retelling them in some fashion or another once said this in a novel of hers:

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.”

-Robin Hobb, Fool's Fate
Home can be anywhere we want it to be. Home is just where we feel safe. I get anxious at the end of a day's travel as the train rumbles closer and closer. Anxious to be back in the warmth wafting from the radiator's heat by the arched windows. Happy to see my landlady's exciteable dog, Bruno come panting up to me or Sophie, the quiet cat, to beg for pets at 6am as I trundle downstairs to grab breakfast before darting out the door, coat half on and directing a quick "good morning" to another one of the longer term tenants in this safe haven of a BnB. It's a place where you get a text inviting you downstairs just because the sunlight is better nextdoor and it's nice to have people moving in and about rather than plonking yourself on your bed all day. 
Home is finding a postcard from a relative on the floor of the hallway because most doors here have actual mail slots still. Home is eating almost all the 300 gram jar of peanut butter over the space of four days because it tastes like the cracks and peanut butter that came along with after school snacks in those days back at your first home. Home is sitting at the seaside on a sand dune and forgetting you are in the wrong country from where your memory just went because in that memory you were sitting on the giant logs of driftwood.  
Home is even as simple as the smile which cracks your tired face as you trek down the institutional walls that only ever belong to schools and spy the door decorated permanent to look like the Tardis door, that actually just leads into the ICT classroom.
Home is made of a lot of mundane things and each varies from person to person. What are your ideas of home right now? They probably change day by day and year by year. Mostly. 
I wanted to travel here to experience life. I am experiencing it. After all, life is just a series of mundane events which occasionally happen in peculiar orders. Though mostly they occur in clock tick tidiness that means you don't really want Monday to come because you Sunday essentially dribbled its entire litre down the drain without you realising it, just because each moment which it was comprised with came in the packaged form of something small and expected. 
Just some fish 'n chips.
 Take for example, fish and chips. Regular, quick and dirty fare here. Absolutely Thanksgiving-levels of tasty and stuffed-stomach inducing and perfect for a missed Thanksgiving dinner last weekend. I'm here to live yes, but that doesn't mean I should stop seeing the mundane as brilliant just because it's everyday fare to the average Briton. After all, I grew up with a view from my bedroom window that had those same British individuals assume was an image of the Scottish countryside. 
Enjoying the mundane things of living. 
P.S: Today's post was inspired by the following bit from a deleted scene in Series 5 of Doctor Who:
Amy: Then why am I here?
Eleventh Doctor: Because...Because I can't see it anymore...
Amy: See what?
Eleventh Doctor: I'm 907. After a while you just can't see it anymore.
Amy: See what?
Eleventh Doctor: Everything. I look at a star and it's just a big ball of burning gas, and I know how it began, I know how it ends... and I was probably there both times. You know, after a while, everything is just stuff. That's the problem. You make all of space and time your backyard what do you have? A backyard. But you can see it. And when you see it, I see it.

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