Sunday 26 January 2014

A Wandering We Shall Go

Lovely photo of me and Fred from March last year. Which reminds me, I need to take her out of my car before Cathryn and I make our annual trip to Belgium.

I know I haven't posted much on here since Christmas.

I've been going through a bit of a funny ol' time. Work has been very busy, brain has been otherwise engaged, and, to be honest, I just didn't have an awful lot to report.

I received the above photo from Paul, with the message:

I probably won't see you again for a few years then. We might both be old & grey when next we meet.... Well, you will be anyway! 

Cheeky bastard.

But yes, 'tis true, I've decided it's time for a change of scenery.

I do this now and then. Like Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, when the wind changes, you just gotta go with it.  

The past few years have been, shall we say - odd.

A few hideous moments with car crashes and shit jobs. A few bizarre moments with theatres and sacred Scottish hills. Some fabulous moments with friends and family. But there comes a point where you find yourself asking whether you are where you are because of where you've been, or whether you are where you are because of the places you haven't been to yet. If you don't feel as though you've arrived, it's probably time to leave.

This time last year I made a pact with my friend Martine. We agreed that if she got on a plane and fulfilled her ambition of seeing Vietnam, I would get on a plane and see a few sights of my own.

Well, not only did Martine fulfil that ambition, she got remarried and moved (permanently) to Laos!

I, meanwhile, remained where I was.

Which isn't a bad thing. I've had some lovely experiences, as you can plainly see from this blog.

But now I'm running out of excuses.

So, I have renewed my passport.

Always a hideous experience. Since they don't allow you to smile anymore, everybody looks like a convict. I had to get the pictures done twice because apparently the first time I was 'too close to the camera'. But, honestly, I don't understand why the picture has to be so meticulously clear when all they do is cover it in holograms? Think it looks eerily like a ghost.

I quite like my last one, which was passport #2. A twenty-four year old me, fresh off the plane from Australia, facial piercings, working as an Advocacy Administrator for a charity in Cardiff. I still remember that coat: cream faux sheepskin with a big fluffy collar to keep out the Welsh winter. Nice house, long-term relationship with a lovely fella, great group of friends. A long, hot, lazy summer of drinking to come. Then the end of the relationship, the loss of the house, an attic above a gypsy jazz musician, rediscovering my freedom, a lot of clubbing, booze, and wild times to be had. A change of jobs, walking out on the job, a Master's degree and then... Africa.

Back when that photo was taken, a passport cost about £50, and the photos £2.50. Now, it's about £80 to renew your passport, and the photos cost £5 a throw! £10 total with the resit. No wonder so many people want to leave the country. Too expensive to stay. 

Passport renewals are always a time for reflection. You don't get many of them issued in a lifetime. It's funny to contemplate what happens between one photograph and the next. This new one's valid until 2024. I'll be 43 then, provided I make it in one piece. Then again, if retirement figures are to be believed (buy into it with me for one moment), that's only half a lifetime spent. Maybe they'll have figured out cryogenics by then, or how to prevent telomeres from eroding.

Who knows. All we have is the moment. The future and the past are always occurring right now, and at no other time. Rather more comforting than looking too far in either direction for a reality you can't connect with.

Isn't it odd though, that a passport to the world is also a document of our ageing?

I wonder whether my old face, granted the power of speech, would pass judgement on how I've spent all that time since then? I think if I met myself in 2024, I would simply be extremely proud I made it that far. Especially with the size of the spiders in RuairĂ­ & Martine's garden in Laos (I'm a little worried they might eat me, Lord of the Rings style). Any adventures along the way would be a bonus.

Golden Orb spider in RuairĂ­ & Martine's garden.
Apparently it takes one million of these to spin a dress.

I don't think I look very different now to how I did then.

Certainly less of a smile, though.

Curse you bureaucracy!

At the end of the day, everything changes. Back in December I was in Covent Garden and there was a levitating elf.

Now it's Yoda.

That's a big change in a short amount of time.

A reminder to us all that, just like Matilda, you have to get out there and write your own story.

I may well be broke and back in the UK in a couple of months, but unless I go, I will never know.

So, prepare for the mother of all road trips. 

I've booked my flight to Laos for 10th April. Hopefully I can get a one month visa to enjoy Martin & RuairĂ­'s hospitality (and spiders). Then I thought I'd head back to Africa. Booking that flight this week. 

Honestly, I don't really have much of a plan. Simply gonna hold out as long as my money does, maybe write a few more stories, see some old friends, make some new ones. Figure it out as I go along.

Of course I will be blogging as much of it as a USB dongle can cope with.

Plenty of updates before then.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Musical Matilda

Went to see Matilda last night. Tim Minchin's adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's classic.

It. Was. Brilliant.

You knew it would be, because it's Tim Minchin, but it was excellently cast, and so well acted. As for the stage design - too clever for words. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was extremely clever too, and it was certainly along those lines, but that's quite a tough story that you really have to think about, whereas Matilda is unadulterated fun. It was wonderful to hear the whole audience laughing along. So much imagination went into everything. It was a story about telling stories, and how much we all love stories - until we grow up.

Or, even when we grow up, in this case.

Bertie Carvel, who plays The Trunchbull, is just spectacular. It's hard to believe it's his West End debut, he completely embodies the character in all her cartoonish, larger-than-life terrormongering wonder.

The whole thing is really well paced, just the right balance of slow songs and big numbers. Especially liked the ticker tape and the laser net - completely joyful.

Possibly the thing I like best is summed up in the number below, with the lines: Just because I find myself in this story, doesn't mean that everything is written for me. It's such a healthy, strong and important message for both young and old in the audience. If you don't like the story, change it.

Ending on a fun A-B connection. Tim Minchin wrote the music and lyrics, he performed on Jonathan Ross with Jamie Cullum, who is married to Sophie Dahl, who is the granddaughter of Roald Dahl, who wrote Matilda.