Accept certain inalienable truths   1 comment

ET stay home.

On Thursday I managed to eat houmous without injuring myself. Hurrah!

I also went to Lidl. It turns out I was mis-remembering (shock!); the specs on the British caramel slices are exactly the same as the German ones. And yet the German ones are still better. Clearly Lidl need to send their British ones by international post.

Despite my running out of milk, the most important reason to go shopping was humbugs.

In a few days, I’m going to Cornwall with my mother and sister to visit the Eden Project, as my mother’s 60th birthday present. I agreed to this of my own free will (looks like the “I am an idiot” tag gets another use), but as the actual date of departure approaches, so does a sense of panic and dread.

I hate travelling. I love humbugs. Therefore, whenever I have to travel somewhere, I buy humbugs as my reward. I’m hoping that one day the humbugs will teach me by association that travelling is good, but if the travelling teaches me that humbugs are bad then at least my diet will improve.

It seems unusual to hate travelling, so I’ll explain why.

Firstly is the fuss and bother of it. Before you leave you’ve got all the planning and organising, and then you’ve got all the figuring out what you could need, packing it, and worrying about what you’ve forgotten or the eventualities you’ve not considered. If you’re going to a foreign country you’ve got to desperately fail to learn the language in not-nearly-enough time, and the terror that you might have to try to use it for something whilst you’re there. Foreigners also insist on using strange baubles instead of proper money, so you have to go to all the fuss of changing cash, or buying travellers’ cheques or those pre-paid card things. And there’s probably planning routes and buying tickets and working out timetables. More trials you might have to undergo before visiting Foreignia are travel insurance which won’t pay out anyway, the EU medical card thing, passports, whatever fuss and bother you need to do to visit Yankland (I think it’s a thousand dollars and a blood sample in a brown envelope, to a guy around the back of the embassy at 2am), and possibly even courses of drugs if you’re going somewhere particularly dangerous foolish adventurous.

By now you probably really need a holiday, but tough luck, it’s not over yet. Next you have the actual travelling. This means leaving your nice, safe, comfortable house, abandoning it and its contents to whatever fate has in store. Did you close the windows? Did you lock the door? Both of them? Did you turn the oven off last night? What if somebody breaks in? And so on.
Then it means getting to your destination. If you’re driving it probably means getting lost on the way, and confused and disoriented by your destination’s bizarre road layout that you’d never considered possible. If you’re going by public transport you’ve got delays, connections, timetabling, finding out where you are and where you’ve got to be next…

Right, a rant about buses. Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but when you’re on a bus there is nothing telling you what stop you’re at. This doesn’t matter so much if you’re somewhere familiar, but if you’re somewhere strange and foreign (Oxford, in my most recent experience) it means you’ve no idea when to get off. “Look at road signs” you may think, but not all roads are labelled at all junctions; signs are often on only one side of the road, hidden up on walls or behind hedges, or elsewhere where you couldn’t possibly see them; some roads are very long, so getting off at the wrong end might put you a mile or more from where you wanted to be and out of time to get there; and not all bus-stops are named after roads, or even signposted landmarks. These are some of the reasons I hate buses.

Trains and the tube are much more navigable, and also much less likely to leave you feeling nauseous and headachey. Unfortunately they cost a fortune, and probably don’t go where you’re going, but if you’re lucky they’ll land you within walking distance.

But worse even than buses are aeroplanes. I hate flying. I’m not scared of it, but I hate it. For starters just the horrible, depressing realisation that flying – something humanity could only dream of for millennia, finally realised – has been turned into a soul-crushing ordeal of nuisance and tedium. Queues. Queueing might be the British national sport, but airports are just too much. You have to queue for your boarding passes and security checks and luggage handling and to have some bored bloke laugh at your photo. And then you have to wait for hours in a place that would make Limbo look exciting. You’re there for so long that even Dixons becomes attractive. Why do you have to turn up so far in advance? I can get on a train two minutes after I arrive, one minute after buying my ticket, and a minute before it departs. Yes, putting bags on a plane takes a bit longer, and there’s the kneejerk paranoia and degredation to wade through, but wouldn’t an hour be more than enough? No, they demand you arrive weeks in advance, sometimes before the actual aircraft has been constructed. Frankly, it’s amazing they don’t charge you rent. And then, of course, your flight is delayed anyway. I suspect that this is the real security measure; they’re hoping the suicide bombers will think “Y’know what? Life’s too short”. And then you have to queue to get on your plane.
Eventually, you get to half the good bit of flying; the take-off. The other good bit is landing. These bits, where you get something to look at as you fly through clouds and past still-visible scenery, and all the excitement of the rush of the engines and squeal of the tyres, are almost as good as roller-coasters. Alas, they bookend something that’s essentially an exceptionally dull, cramped train journey. With earache.

One day, a bedraggled husk may survive to reach its destination, and it will discover something: It’s the same as the place it left. Except all the identical components have been moved around to make it unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and to maximise the chance of getting lost. The people are strange and possibly unable to communicate with you, and yet they live exactly the same. When I went to Spain a few years ago, I utterly failed to find any Spanish food – isn’t that half the joy of unusual places, eating strange, foreign delights? No, I got ham, egg and chips. Really.
You’re probably staying in an unfamiliar building. Maybe, if it’s a B&B, a strange person’s house. If not, maybe it’s a posh hotel, and my word I am not made for high-class surroundings. Nobody should have to be waited on at breakfast. Maybe you’re staying with friends. In any case, you’re in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room, and not your comfortable bed at home.

Touristing. I read a book a while ago, The Historian. It’s based on Dracula and all those vampire myths, and at one point they’re describing a (fictional, as far as I know) castle/monastery in the mountains. They visit it some time ago (the sixties, I think), and describe it as being hard to reach, tumbledown, ruined.
It gave me a horrible thought of what it would be like today, if it existed. There would be grey, concrete steps leading up to it. They would have a banister made from scaffolding. There would be metal fences preventing visitors from throwing themselves off the cliff-edges.
And outside the gate there would be a little stall selling postcards, T-shirts and hats, and silly novelty tat for children. The same stall that is outside every landmark in the world.
It was quite depressing.

And that, even ignoring when things go wrong in an unfamiliar place where you don’t know what to do, whom to contact, or maybe even how to talk to them (Learn Spanish In Six Weeks doesn’t have a “help, everything was stolen from the car including my passport” chapter. Thank goodness for ex-pats, especially their bi-lingual children, and a pox on the Spanish police and their useless “can’t call internationally” telephones and malware-infected computers), is why I hate travelling.

The humbugs have their work cut out. At least most people in Cornwall understand English.

Why did I sign myself up for this? Fucking hell I’m an idiot.

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One response to “Accept certain inalienable truths

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  1. God sometimes I do really love ya! You do know how to make me laugh and without even knowing your doing it!

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