Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Road To Nowhere

One of my low-energy activities involves looking at the pictures in books about Art and Photography without doing any actual reading. I also like looking at maps. I am positively enchanted with Google Earth and I must warn you that if I know your postcode, I have probably been spying on you from above. I have looking at any places anyone has mentioned, such as Sefton Park Library, which happened to be photographed on a day that Lady Bracknell paid a visit (well there’s a nearby dot which I have decided is Lady Bracknell and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise).

And then there’s the ordinary Atlas. All this is very childish, but I am not, as they say, a well man. I like to look at somewhere on the map and imagine what it is like, some little village somewhere I have never been to, especially if it has a comical name like Thwing, Pity Me or Six Mile Bottom. And I also like to plan fantasy journeys. Only sometimes these things get out of hand and lately, well I have begun to think, maybe, possibly…

I want to go visiting my netty friends. I have done this before, but really it is crazy even to think and talk about it given my current limitations. I haven’t even been out in my electric wheelchair since last August for cripe’s sake. But I did manage the journey to and from Suffolk all right – we were only delayed by one day because of me, and I am much better now than I was then.

I really ought to put the thing away. Yesterday I was looking at Underground routes across London and timetables! The Tube is completely inaccessible to me, even if my mobility was a bit better, I have only been on it twice since I got sick. And I don’t much like London. It is way too big and smells funny. Paris is very nice. You can sit outside the Les Deux Magots and talk to people about the meaning of life; “Je te plumerai le bec, je te plumerai la tĂȘte” I would say and everyone would be stunned into an awed silence. Dublin also seemed to be full of existentialists, musicians and people who could string words together in a random order and call it a tribute to James Joyce.

Glasgow smells a little bit funny, but I was there less than twenty-four hours and two complete strangers told me that I was beautiful. One of them was a rather camp waiter who thought I was romantically attached to the friend I was staying with, even though I was eighteen and she was forty something. My friend was extremely embarrassed and apologetic, but I kept thinking I could be whoever I liked in this place. The other person who told me I was beautiful was a drunk we met in the lift on the way up to her twenty-sixth floor flat. My friend had to translate his every word due to his inebriated state and extreme accent. And there were lots of seagulls. Seagulls are a good thing. I have been to London very many times and never seen any seagulls.

Naturally I have spent most of my time in London wandering round the City, which always seemed like a terribly exciting place to be.
So many people, all packed close together. So many different people in pinstripe suits and so many important looking buildings, embassies and banking organisations, so much power. And then there's the West End, which once held all sorts of extraordinary fantasies for me. I'm sure my appreciation of the Barbican was blighted by an RSC performance of Romeo & Juliet; the worst dramatic production of any play I have ever seen in the whole world ever. But these places are all very exciting, that can't be denied.

But of course nobody talks to you in London, even to tell you that you are beautiful (unless perhaps if you are). There is the occasional homeless person who might engage you in conversation and in places like the National Gallery an uninhibited European tourist may invite your opinion on the nature of someone’s expression in The Umbrellas. But the worst thing is that if you smile at a native, they sneer back and after a few visits to London you begin to suspect that they don’t mean to be unpleasant, only they’ve been so long in that place that they’ve lost the use of the necessary muscles to do otherwise.

There, that’ll get me hate-mail. I am sure it is a lovely place really and indeed I know many very pleasant Londoners, but it is like being in a completely different culture and I don’t know the rules. Like in some parts of the world where it is rude to make eye contact or eat with your left hand. And since clearly my judgement might have been swayed the compliments of camp waiters and drunks, my opinion is not to be taken too seriously.

But why I am looking at Tube maps I don’t know. Why I have plotted out a three week itinerary of my journey around the country when I have neither the health nor the financial resources to achieve such a thing, I don't know.

I need wings. I shall start collecting feathers.


BloggingMone said...

Very nice to read that there are other people around who also look up places mentioned in posts or mails or wherever. I always had a bit of a bad conscience... Google Earth is absolutely fascinating.
I like London, even though there are places in Great Britain I like much better. But I think people in London are very friendly and relatively talkative, especially shop assistants, taxi drivers and waiters. I often see people smiling in the tube. Maybe this is just my impression because I am from a country where people seriously seem to believe that smiling in public will be fined and talking to a stranger will make them drop dead on the spot. Well....there are exeptions!!

marmiteboy said...

I don't like 'up that London' much either. People are rude and/or reserved there. I travel to London nearly everyday for work and you see the same people everyday on the train etc and never a word is passed between us. However this will all soon be in the past when I move jobs permenantly back to Southend where people don't talk to you either but is 1½ hours less travelling time away.

If you ever come to Southend on your virtual trip Goldfish I'll take you on a virtual train ride down the longest pier in the world.

Anonymous said...

Oh, rest assured that you won't get hate-mail from me about your opinion of London. I couldn't agree more. However, there are a few nice (and for that reason, usually hidden) bits, so I'll gladly follow up marmiteboy's comment and offer the virtual London tour guide of the bits that are worth seeing (many of them will involve museums and galleries on Sundays, I think).

The Goldfish said...

Mone - great to meet another Google Earth fan. Hamburg looks quite nice from the sky - not much grass, but lots of trees everywhere and plenty of water.

It is rather surprising to hear you regard Londoners as more friendly than most Germans, but I have never visited Germany - I naively imagined all Europeans were somewhat friendlier than us lot!

I am very fortunate to live in a small town in North East England where most people you pass on the street smile and say "Hello".

Marmite and Vaughan, I very much appreciate the offer of such virtual adventures. In fact you've given me an idea... if I can't really do it, which I probably can't, maybe I could pretend to do it, and write up each day on my blog for a couple of weeks. But those who live in the different places I'd like to visit would have to tell me what we would do and where we would go when I got there...

Does that sound like a very silly idea? I am such a child.

BloggingMone said...

I have found my office in Hamburg with Google Earth, but I do not live in Hamburg. I live in a small village close to Hamburg, which called Schwarzenbek. Unfortunately it still is just a blurry spot with not much datails.
Germans seem to think that it is only appropriate to talk to people you know, regardless of the fact that if you do NOT talk to people you will not get to know them. There is also a constant fear that people might fell disturbed when being talked to and a gerneral believe that everyone should mind their own business. this is especially ture in the northern parts of Germany. It is different around the Rhine area, like in Cologne where people are more talkative.
I have been to Great Britain quite a lot and I always found people very friendly, tolerant and open minded.
If you virtual journey should bring you somehow near to my place, tell me and I'll make you a virtual cup of tea or coffee!

marmiteboy said...

Great idea Goldfish,

First of all I'd take you to our 'lovely' pier. It is 1½ miles long and really does have a train that you can catch to the end of it. One of my friends (Keith) is the train driver. After taking in the bracing estuary air, with the stunning views of Kentish Power Stations I'd take you to the nearby town of Leigh On Sea where I'd treat you to some jellied eels, or cockles if you'd prefer. A short drive away is Hadleigh Castle which although much ruined is of some historic interest. I would also take you to Canewdon, where they used to burn witches and where, allegedly there are still quite a few witches in residence. There is a saxon burial ground nearby too where a recent discovery of loads on jewellery madethe national news.

Obviously we could laugh at the abundance of chav's in the town and marvel just where one would purchase a burberry duffel coat. Also, we could do some chav name spotting. This is like train spotting but involves writing down the names of chav children as their mothers yell it at them in Sainsbury's. Taylor-Ann and Chantelle-Michelle are tops for girls and Spencer and Casey are tops for boys.

In the evening we'd go to TOTS 2000, A delihtful nightclub where we could drink alco-pops and fight with the locals to the sound track of dreadful R&B music.

Before retiring we'd have the local dish of a pinapple cheese burger and red sauce, or, if you are feeling adventurous, a large doner ( hold the green stuff, cos I don't like vegetables!!).

How does that sound?

Anonymous said...

Sounds great MB, can I come too? Seriously, I think Goldfish ought to come on from there to Dorset. You skip round the London mess onto the M3 and head down through the New Forest, one of the most beautiful spots in the UK; at this time of year there are plenty of foals and lambs to be seen, as well as the rare bulbs coming through.
Course, if you're into history, you can see the oak where William Rufus got shot in eleven-hundred and something, or you can go to Beaulieu where ships sailed against the Armada and Napoleon.

Come off the motorway at Ringwood and take the A31 past Christchurch and Bournemouth. Beaches too cold this time of year! though there's plenty of night life in Bournemouth. Keep going west parallel with the coast and you pass the Jurassic Coast, site of The French Lieutenant's Woman, Chesil Beach, Portland Bill, all smuggler country. If you're very good I'll show you the church the smugglers used, some of whom bore my name, and their memorials are still there.

Studland and Shell Bay are super for walks and nature- hunting. Poole Bay holds Brownsea Island (National Trust) and other private islands, or you can hire a small boat and just piss about.

Corfe Castle is still standing, where Lady Bankes defied Oliver Cromwell in the cause of King Charles: they had to blow the place up to get her to surrender.

Inland we're a very rural county: mainly sheep. The other hobbies are real ale and grumbling about Defra. My chickens are off lay at present so I can't offer you any eggs, but how does some fresh bread grab you? And Dorset Vinney Blue Cheese? Or fresh-caught fish and shellfish?? The Farmers' Markets are very good as well.

Dorchester houses the County Courthouse and Jail (so I am told, I don't know about such things myself) and the Plague came ashore at Melcombe (some say Weymouth) but let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. From here you can get to the Channel Islands, Somerset, Devon and Cornwalll, northern France....

The Goldfish said...

All this sounds wonderful, thank you so much!

I must say I would expect my stomach (and general sense of aestheicism) to take better to Dorset than Essex.

Marmite, what is a pineapple cheese burger? And do we have to go to the nightclub? The thought appeals to me on one level as I have never ever been in a nightclub, but R&B after jellied eels? Ew.

If I am to do a pretend trip, should I do it pretending that I am completely well and can keep going all day and walking any distance, or should I just pretend to be better than I am just now?

It all sounds like great fun though. Thanks again :-)