Tag Archives: bad times

It’s The Great 2014 Round-Up!

Photo copyright of Gunnar Guðjónsson

Photo copyright of Gunnar Guðjónsson

This year has been an extraordinary one. A corker. There have been some ups and downs, some round-a-bouts, a see-saw, one of those wheel-of-death jobbies with the motorbikes. I may be getting carried away with myself a bit here, but trust me, it’s been that kind of year.

I’ve traveled more in 2014 than I think I have done in all the years leading up to it – Normandy and Iceland and Paris and New York – with friends where I could, alone if not, in love where possible.

I saw the northern lights with a group of strangers outside a porter-cabin hotel in the Icelandic highlands, and spent an hour under the dancing lights, smiling until the wind had chilled my teeth to a painful hum. The aurora borealis is the sort of thing that makes you want to hug the person next to you or tell someone you love them, and to see it alone was a bittersweet thing, but perhaps it was right. Was it eerie, my friends asked when I came home – was it weird? Gunnar, our guide, had explained earlier that day that the aurora, just like the volcanoes that loomed on every horizon, was a sign that the earth was healthy and alive. A planet without tectonics is a planet that is dead.

But even so, there was nothing remotely eerie about the lights. They were beautiful, and magnetic – they pulled us from our beds to stand in the frozen midnight air, miles from home. It felt….significant. It felt like a sign. Good things, dancing there in front of me. Good things, pole-to-pole. Maybe I’m naive, and hopeful, with a leaning towards sweeping spiritual statements, but I don’t think that matters. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe the act of hoping is as good as getting what you’re hoping for. Maybe.

2014 was also significant – for you all I’m sure – as my thirtieth year on this planet. I know, I know, my youthful face and collection of Doctor Who toys make me seem much younger. But it’s true: thirty bloody years old. I suppose I can concede that I feel more like an adult now than I ever have before, but, that’s not really saying that much, is it?

This year I dabbled in the mucky world of Tinder, briefly. Dating often made me feel like a lone lost astronaut in an alien world, where I understood neither the rules nor the reason for them (“So…okay…you might reply to my text messages – three days later, yep, okay – but we mustn’t speak on the phone? We can have sex with each other….but we mustn’t be facebook friends? O…okay….”). The whole thing ended not with a bang but with a whimper, like a sad little fart in a next-door room. But out from my slightly pathetic foray into the world of internet dating came the desire to keep the momentum going, after years of professional dust-gathering on the shelf. I’d been hammered into shape by this point: I understood that love was about feeling constantly afraid and unsure and unattractive, it was about compromise and hiding, little bits of yourself shoved down the back of the sofa and under the carpet, control underwear and pretence and omission.

Most of all, it was the finger-wagging voice in your ear telling you you can’t have everything, you know.

Until, of course it wasn’t.

This year I’ve learned that love can still be terrifying, but instead of the lost, confused wandering of before, it’s a joyfully overwhelming thing. It’s free-wheeling headlong down a hill on a bike, someone with you, sat on your handlebars – you hurtle along, neither of you ever really knowing how high this hill is or if you’ll crash horribly at the bottom or land safely in a life you’ve built together along the way. And that’s it, isn’t it? You can never really know, no one can, but it’s the trying, that’s the thing. That’s all any of us want, surely? Someone to say they’ll try with us.

And now I’m with someone I would never have expected. Who knows what will happen, and it’s not perfect (living 3000 miles apart is a little inconvenient) and neither are we, but sometimes I look at him and marvel, because it seems as though someone stuck a pipette in my ear and sucked him right out of my brain when I wasn’t looking, three-piece suit and fedora and all.

And of course I haven’t really learned anything about love, because this is the first time I’ve known it, and it comes in many guises, and I’m only thirty. Perhaps when I’m old and grey and eighty I’ll know, or perhaps I won’t.

A week or two before I went on the first date with him, and began the slow, tentative process of falling in love, I wrote a piece about what I wanted in a man and published it on this blog. If I was going to be picky I had a long list of qualities, ending in his looking exactly like the actor Kit Harrington. But I wasn’t being picky, I didn’t want to be picky. I just wanted someone kind. Well, I think I’ve found that. And as he recently told me after coming back with our drinks in a soho pub. “I just stood next to him at the bar. That guy from Game of Thrones. You know, your boyfriend. And I’m taller than him.”

So, suck it, Kit Harrington. I’m off the market.

FUCKING FINALLY.

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Cosmic rebates

Everybody goes through those times I suppose, when not much of anything can give the day-to-day of your life a sort of trudging backing-track of misery, or loneliness. You can hide it quite well of course, because it’s nowhere near the surface. It squats at the back of your mind like something dark and heavy, and taints the edges of your day, worries the edges, frays the ends. There’s nothing to put your finger on, nothing to blame, which adds a nice bagpipe-drone of guilt to the the whole affair.

It’s not depression – not quite that. It’s just….hard to breathe deep.

But then, sometimes, if you’re lucky, the universe can thrown something so bloody fantastic at you. And it’s small and insignificant and won’t change your life. You might not even remember it tomorrow, but it might help you through the right now.

I’m trying to make a real effort to see these things. It’s easy to be blinkered enough, especially in the city, that you don’t notice them passing you like little lay-bys on the hard shoulder. And it can be anything. The other night I was feeling pretty crappy, when, walking along Carnaby Street in the evening rain, I noticed the blue neon lights reflecting in the puddles at the exact moment that ‘Sound and Vision’ started playing in my headphones. “Blue blue, electric blue!” sang Bowie. Bloody brilliant, I thought.

My first summer of university my friends came to stay with me, back in Wales. We hiked up Cadair Idris, swam in the lake that was carved ages ago by a glacier like a bowl beneath the summit, then drove home for a barbeque in the front garden. We ate fresh fish and drank cider and watched the sun set out to sea, over the dark blue smudge of Ireland (the conditions are clear enough, once in every fifty years or so, said my Grandfather). That night we stuck our heads out of tent flaps into the night to watch a meteor shower above. An utterly perfect day.

There’s a 1930s bath-house in Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island. I spent three evenings there, nine years ago. I floated on my back in their open-air pool heated by the natural hot-water vents of that volcanic area, my two best friends beside me, Glen Miller piped out on the speakers, watching the steam spiral up into the starry sky.

Once I was walking to work along Regent Street when a coach full of six-year old schoolkids pulled up at the lights. Their sheer bloody joy when I waved back at them carried me along for an entire day. Imagine, being that genuinely giddy, just because someone waved at you, I thought. I can just about remember when life was that small and simple and days came one at a time, with no worrisome future to pull you back down.

That’s what it’s about, I think. Finding the little things, stand-alone moments with no past or future. That’s what being a child is, living your days with no notion of consequence or understanding of how cruel or stupid or unfathomable life can sometimes be. But it can still throws these little gems your way, every now and then. The trouble is keeping your eyes open wide enough to catch them.