Saturday, May 15, 2004

rates of exchange

Some more thoughts on travel, having read Geoff Dyer's super Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do it and written a little about it, about the author's conception of a zone - not a physical space which can be travelled to (with the exception of Black Rock City), but the moment of absolute, peaceful pre-occupation which occurs sometimes, which is sudden and temporal. Dyer, we sense, is a good traveller; a traveller who does not go looking for something, but who goes hoping it will find him somehow.

I'm re-reading Malcolm Bradbury's hilarious Rates of Exchange at the moment. His protagonist, the hapless Petworth, waits for his plane to board in a Heathrow departure lounge, about to head to an unknown European city somewhere 'east of the Rhine'.

On the digital clock, flight time comes and goes; Petworth orders another Scotch and finds himself caught by and old and nameless fear - the fear of being trapped here, for all eternity, in the unassigned, stateless space between all the countries, condemned to live forever in a cosmopolitan nowhere, on clingfilm-wrapped sandwiches, duty free whisky, tiptree's jam.

Not the stateless space that Dyer writes about, this...

It is a fate he knows he deserves; he is a man who has spent his life circling around and away from domestic interiors, hovering between home, where he sits and thinks, and abroad, where he talks and drinks.

Travel is a manic cycle, with abroad the manic phase, at home the depressive; there is some strange adrenelin that draws him into the fascination and the void of foreignness, with the plurality of sensation, its sudden spaces and emptiness. He travels, he thinks, for strangeness, disorientation, multiplication and variation of the self; yet he is not a good traveller...

I've been discussing with my parents the many holidays we went on when I was a child, trying to sift between them and work out which happened when, and in what order. It's very difficult to make each its own and put it into context. All our holidays, many of which were in repeated destinations, blend together like an unsorted collection of photographs. The only bits I remember, if you like, was when I was 'in the zone'. I have a particurly strong memory of a weekend in Evesham with my grandparents when I ran my hand along the side of a cobbled house, for instance

Other memories are significant because they represent moments when I struck out for myself; my first drink of beer (actually a french shandy called 'Force Four'); the first time my parents let me out on the town in the evening without them, the time me and Zoe escaped altogether and made for the motorway... Mostly these memories are fragmented and the circumstances which surrounded them are hazy. This seems oddly fitting, though, because they were strange, dislocated moments which together form the plurality of sensation which made up my childhood. I'm torn between working out more - fitting dates together - and leaving them where they are; like torn pages from an old scrapbook I fleetingly kept.

No comments: