Nylon sheets and melancholia

February 11, 2011

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain

Today was an odd sort of a day. I found the above lines from Robert Frost running through my mind along with the penultimate line of the same poem: Proclaimed the time was neither wrong not right. My late afternoon I was thinking of the questions raised in The road not taken and in a mood to embark on it.

DSC_1856.jpg The day started well with that Victorian Bath and a breakfast which understood and was informed by black pudding. As I set off through the Trough of Bowland the clouds were low and a there was a fine driving rain. You get a sense of it in this photograph from the view point at the end of that drive which normally provides stunning views back over the Bowland Fells, and forward over Morcambe Bay to the Lake District. Now I normally enjoy this sort of weather but the route I was taking was one through the memories of almost forty years ago and my mind locked itself into a series of memories of regret. A lack of confidence/experience at a undergraduate party and a decade or so later the same issue on a long road trip up the A65 and M6. A failure to keep to a resolve, repeated in the same context, taking instead the easier path.

Sins of omission always frustrate me more than those of commission as they seem to represent a passive indifference, allowing events to unfold around you. All of this was compounded by listening to Anthony Powells Dance to the Music of Time which has and continues to be my companion on long car trips. I have 15 hours to go of the 90 off hours it takes. The narrator Jenkins seems to drift through interactions with some of the best drawn characters in English Literature.

DSC_1879.JPG I wended my way through Quernmore Park, to Rydal Road Lancaster, then to the University and finally to Morcambe. My mission was to take pictures of each place I had lived and I completed that with the except for Marcambe where my memory failed me. Digs there for half a year, in what must be one of the most depressing towns in the world, had all bad memories (although I broke everyone of the rules that were pinned to the wall by our very pious Catholic Landlady) and I suspect I had blotted the location from my mindOn an impulse I diverted via the old mental hospital, built to isolate the mad in a different age. When a new University was being mooted this was one of the sites considered. The architecture was right but the idea of converting a mental institution into one of learning did not appeal. It was however considered more plausible that Preston, or worst still Blackpool which were also on the short list.DSC_1893.JPGIn the end we had the new campus, on Bailrigg of which the Chaplaincy Centre (where I de facto lived for one year) is the iconic building. The picture is from the stations of the cross in the Catholic Chapel.

In an effort to cheer myself up I decided to divert from a slog up the M6 to take the slow road by Kirby Lonsdale, Sedburgh and Kirby Stephen; I love the Howgills. That however just brought back other memories, some good however; reading and rereading Jane and the Dragon to my daughter while attempting to potty train on holiday. However the A65 is the end point of that route and the memories came back, the Cautley Snout incident had been forgotten for twenty years until I passed it and then the Fat Lamb Inn was unavoidable and the sight of the road to Keld reminded me of a 15 mile walk in the rain pushing the bike up hills with what turned out to be a broken wrist. At least that one was physical pain.

Around half way I realised that I had forgotten to bring a coat; now this is foolish when you plan to attend two evening rugby matches in Scotland in February so I pulled over into the outlet village in Greta Green to find something. In that I was successful, but in turn it brought back the memory of a family holiday to the Gairloch. In those days the M6 was the preston bypass and the roads and journey were long. We did the trip in two days, just and stopped just over the Scottish Border for the night. The Bed and Breakfast location is still scared on my memory for one simple reason, it was my first encounter with nylon sheets. I was only 14 at the time, but I still remember that. Thank God the Blues won, or I might not have made it to write this post. Listening the the choir (we take one to away matches) I remembered that we are after all a melancholy race, our songs reflect it and with that thought I am to bed.

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