Friday, 18 February 2011

Voyage I – Travelling man

I’d always wanted to travel but I never got the chance in life. When I was in the sixth form a few intrepid souls were going inter-railing or working on a kibbutz, and then, in the eighties everybody was off to India or Thailand, or Australia. Everybody travelled back then. Cheap air travel was virtually a human right. I missed it all of course, along with everything else exciting and glamorous. And yet now here I am, on the deck of a ship going who knows where. Everything visible right now is cold and inhospitable but apparently it’ll only be a few months and we should be arriving on some exotic foreign shore, from whence we travel over land until we arrive at the far shore and rebirth. Apparently they provide camping equipment. Somehow I expected more of an ordeal, this being the afterdeath and all, but in fact I’m very much looking forward to it.

I never wanted to go to Asia myself – everybody went there. I could just picture the toilet paper flapping in the bushes all the way up to Anapurna Base Camp, and the merry tinkling of the broken coke bottles in the pure mountain streams. I’d like to have gone to Mexico or Brazil perhaps. I remember as a kid seeing pictures of the tops of pyramids emerging from the rainforest with those bizarre crests, like petrified seventies bookshelves set on top. I remember having a debate with a chap at Womad about extraterrestrials and the whole ‘Chariots of the Gods’ thing. I don’t necessarily dispute that there may be life on other planets and they may even occasionally visit us by some, as yet undreamt of method of propulsion, but this chap seemed to think he had inside information on who they were and what they wanted of us. I’d always considered such people fair game and there was something about the passion of his conviction that just forced me to try to demolish his entire belief system. Of course I failed because whereas he knew that the crystal skull was the work of aliens, I could do nothing better than suggest that there might be alternative explanations. One of the main planks to his belief as I recall, was the ‘extraordinary’ coincidence of form of the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids which was of course proof that the ‘Gods’ had had something to do with both. We argued long and hard about whether it had been adequately demonstrated that such technologically primitive peoples could have built such structures. We inevitably went on to discuss Nazca lines and crop circles. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me until later that if you want to construct a truly massive edifice and your only technology is slaves, then a pyramid is pretty much the only shape to go for.
I know I should shut up and let them get on with it, but when people are talking crap at you, as if they know what’s what and you’re just a naive fool, well, as life goes on, sooner or later you just have to say something, if only for your own self-respect. I’m quite certain I never changed anyone’s mind about anything whatsoever.
That’s why I like it here. Nobody except the guides claim to know what the heck’s going on (and the guides don't claim to know much). Nobody knows anything about anybody else – except what they choose to tell. It reminds me a bit of hospital – with the staff in their greys and this hushed, almost narcotic atmosphere. On the other hand there’s an excellent menu and counselling and a library, and at least some sense of going somewhere. I go up on deck and sit and look at the ice flows passing in the fog, or watch the cormorants in the rigging. Other times I go and sit in the bar or the lounge with a good book and a strong cup of coffee. Maybe I’ll get bored but I don’t think we’ll be sailing for very long. I probably should be feeling bereft but to be honest I’ve never been happier, not in the whole of my life.

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A life backwards

It's in the nature of blogs of course that you come across the latest postings first (or you find yourself in the middle.) Normally it doesn't matter but if you want to read my novel in order, the first installment is as you'd expect, the oldest posting.
Thanks for your patience.