I’ve always written something of a journal. Today, dusty travel-diaries have been replaced by notebook keyboards, websites and blogs.
Much of it I don’t share, and perhaps I don’t always get the balance right: when I re-read past blogs I sometimes find myself embarrassed at their self-obsession. And melodrama.
Over the last fortnight I haven’t been well again. The summer-season is turning into autumn, so this is par-for-the-course for me.
I’ve been bedbound. I’ve been off-work. I’ve felt empty and sapped – dizzy and tired with incessant rumblings of vertigo and blurry vision.
10 days off my bike.
These symptoms aren’t that easy to articulate. “I’m not feeling great,” is the lament my wife keeps hearing, so I did some writing in an effort to find the right words.
There are more good days than bad days. It’s the surprise of a bad day that means it gets written about. It’s when I start writing about the good days that it’s time to start worrying.
It feels like there’s a glitch in the matrix, or wrinkle in space-time – and it is clicking like a badly indexed rear derailleur searching for the right gear to run smooth again.
Like the emperor’s new clothes, everyone else seems to be continuing as normal, so I question whether it is only me that senses we are all in a dream….
Like when the soundtrack to a film falls slightly out of line with the scene at play – it takes a while to work out quite what’s wrong…
Like I’m dreaming a series of deja-vus.
I feels like there’s a dark spot in me. Which is ironic. Because the MRI scans highlight them as spots of brilliant white – like they are cleansing drips of something pure; rather than dotted warnings of decay.
As the fall-out from another house move this year settles, I unpacked another box of old photos.
Pictures of me as a child. Pointing at ice cream in the garden; wrapped up in gloves in the snow.
I show my own children. That was me. The very same me, many dreams ago. I remember a memory of seeing those photos before. And I remember remembering how they were once taken.
I show them photos of me backpacking around the world. I remember those places too. But I look so young. My skin seems so translucent compared to now. And, although I could never see it at the time, it’s now clear how much my eyes look just the same as my cousins’.
I remember being hungry as I tightened my budget. And remember eating pancakes on the beach.
But I was a different person then. It seems like a world away.
London in my twenties now blurs with my days at school. One of my flatmates from that time was also one of my best friends from my teens. He visited me here, at home, a fortnight ago, which somehow added to this feeling of other-worldiness. I couldn’t catch whether his face had changed from when he was 13 or 27. I hugely enjoyed his company – but we weren’t the same people as we were then. There’s photos of us on night’s out that I don’t remember being taken.
There’s also a photo of me taken minutes before my son was born. I don’t remember that being taken either – but, again, what strikes me is how young my eyes are. How young my face was. I catch myself thinking, hasn’t that just happened? But it was almost 10 years ago – and those days of living in Cardiff now feel like a dream.
We lived in Australia. I remember the smell of my favourite coffee shop, and the sign on its door. But not what it looked like inside.
I remember cooking Lemon Cheesecake with my son – but the fact that he was only 2 years old feels like a disconnect. In photos I look tanned. And don’t have a beard. I muse that I will not have known then where I would be living now.
Living in Bristol was only 2 years ago but it seems no more recent than my days in London. I check again, puzzled that these memories are not fresher as they are more recent. But they all feel like a bit of a haze. I remember feeling very, very tired. And lying down on the kitchen floor. Or maybe I just remember a photo I’ve seen of me doing that, my boys laughing that I should get up.
We have lived in our current place for 2 years too, but I can’t picture in my mind’s eye what it was like when we arrived… or what we were like. I do some mental arithmetic which confirms that we had our two boys then. But these memories could easily sit a decade ago. Before, or after, London. Or Cardiff. Or Australia.
Then last week, I was cycling to work. But this memory seems no more recent than those times I used to ride along a beach outside Fremantle, WA. I had a moment when I almost ‘came to’ as I pedalled, like I’d just woken up. Momentarily I couldn’t remember where I was going – and, at that point in time, I could have been on that Western Australian cyclepath. Or riding across Battersea Park. Or in bed, asleep, having this dream. I stared at the road in front of me and the sensation passed after maybe 10-15 seconds – it was a Wednesday in Bristol. I checked my back-pocket – and, yes, my Staff ID pass was still there. The early morning darkness was of late-September, not February or March.
I feel that something isn’t quite “right”.
Like I’m dreaming a series of deja-vus.
The school run today was fairly standard. I battled with my younger son for 10 minutes to get him to wear his jumper, and we eventually kerfuffled out of the house a few minutes late. Upon arrival at the school gates, he was just in his T-shirt again.
I walked back home, got the jumper, and back to school again.
Nothing had really moved on. The same parents were there. Those I made eye contact with I smiled. I couldn’t remember whether I’d already said hello to them. Or thought that I was about to, or just had. Or was I just remembering the sight of them 5 minutes before?
I think I’m tired. And need to sleep. Trying to think clearly is making me more so – like the thoughts that I’m trying to catch keep accelerating, tantalisingly just beyond my reach. I forget what it was I was trying to think of in the first place- so return to a mental list of tick-boxes to satisfy myself once again with where I am (and when). I lost my mobile phone – left, I think, at a playground in Corsham as I pushed my boys on a swing.
Those photo albums don’t seem to make much sense, let alone matter anymore.
The past of bright eyes and youthful face.
The trees outside this window have turned autumn yellow just this last couple of days.
The seasons are turning.
I remember spending a week of a summer holiday up in Scotland with my Granny.
“Weeks go by so quickly, Granny”, I said.
“At my age”, she replied, “it’s the decades that disappear.”
I google quotes from Buddhism: “do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment,” and, after 10 days off, I get on my bike again. I felt very ill.
Saito: Have you come to kill me? I’ve been waiting for someone…
Cobb: Someone from a half remembered dream.
Saito: Cobb? Impossible. We were young men together. I’m an old man.
Cobb: Filled with regret…
Saito: Waiting to die alone…
Cobb: I’ve come back for you… to remind you of something. Something you once knew…
Cobb: That this world is not real. To take a leap of faith. Come back… so we can be young men together again. Come back with me…
I’m young still. These murmurings of discontent must pass.