“For goodness sake!”, I whispered to myself, frustrated, as the customer in front of me at the counter in River Island fannied around with her purse for what seemed an eternity, laboriously counting up the coins she needed to hand over to the cashier to pay for her new pair of plimsolls. I looked at my watch and noticed the time – 11:27am. I was determined to catch the 11:35am bus home as that would be the one that ran nearest to my house. Rain was looking likely and this particular bus ran only twice an hour, so I needed to pay and dash as quickly as possible if I was to have a chance of catching it. The customer continued to take her time resolving the payment, and then a balloon burst inside one of her shopping bags, which resulted in her toddler being terribly upset and only exacerbated the pandemonium. I was tense, and also a little bit frustrated after eventually conceding that there was no way I was going to make that bus anymore.
I slunk out of the shop, later than planned, and wondered what could fill my time up for half an hour before the next bus arrived. It was at this point that I checked my phone and noticed a missed call from my mother. It transpired that she was in town too and wanted to meet for a coffee – something I can never turn down.
Had I got out of River Island when I wanted to, I would have bolted towards the bus, paid my fare and sat down before checking my phone – at which point it would have been too late for me to go and meet my mother. Instead, I met her, we had our coffee, and during the additional time in town I remembered something which I had set off to buy in the first place, but had forgotten about in my frenzy to try and make the 11:35 bus.
I guess it was just like they say:
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Well, perhaps not everything. The example above is a very simplistic and convenient one. There are many other experiences which are a lot harder to understand. For example, I’ll never see a reason for somebody planting a hoax bomb by the station last night, which consequentially evacuated the city and wasted everybody’s time. Though maybe, I do see one positive outcome – that being the first-class response of the police and emergency services, which will surely have made myself and other residents of Canterbury feel a lot safer about living here.
Maybe it is not that things always happen for a reason. Perhaps it is just that there is just good and bad to be found in everything, provided we make the effort to look for it. Things are only ever what we make of them and sometimes it is not about what has happened, but how we react to it. Everything we experience teaches us in some form or another and as such there is always a lesson that can be taken away and used for our next experiment.
Just a short thought anyway…
Song of the Day: Socratic – Diamond in a World of Coal
I’m not usually a fan of these American alt-rock bands that have nasal-voiced vocalists (think Panic at the Disco or My Chemical Romance) but there’s something quite original and unique about New Jersey indie-rock outfit, Socratic. This song is one which particularly grabbed my attention this week. Beautiful.
Any 25-year old female who has a million and one things on her mind deserves at least one relaxing afternoon in a park to escape from it all and read a book. That is my belief anyway, and it has been that way ever since I moved to Canterbury and first caught glimpse of the picturesque Dane John Gardens– a lovely, historic park enclosed within the city walls, adorned with beautiful, colourful flower beds and a pathway lined with lime trees. “I simply must sit and read a book there one sunny day”, I have been saying to myself for the past three months, each time I pass it’s gates on the way into town.
The rather idyllic plan finally came into fruition today, when the early morning sunshine convinced me that today should be that day in which I fulfil my vision, before the impending Autumnal weather dashes my opportunities to. I dressed and headed towards the town, and looked forward to an afternoon of sunshine, a good book, and perhaps a punnet of fresh fruit to complete an altogether rather sophisticated scenario.
Wait, sophisticated? Me?
The reality is – I forgot to bring my book, the blanket I brought to sit on keeps blowing about in the wind, and creepy-crawlies are snooping around the pack of cocktail sausages I’ve purchased from Marks&Spencer (fruit had been an option, but ultimately I succumbed to my stomach and not my head). I feel the very opposite of a sophisticated young lady right now, more like a lumbering mess who’s fringe cannot withstand the wind.
Thankfully, I have a notepad and pen in my bag, so at least I can write. It’s time for another hour or two of earthly observation!
Pen at the ready!
There’s a man to my left who looks very serene. With his hat tilted over his face he lies back, relaxing against the grassy verge that slopes down from the city wall. You wouldn’t for a moment think that just a few yards behind him, over the wall, is a traffic-laden ring road.
This park is also situated right next to the train station, and when a congregation of people appear sporadically, pulling their suitcases through the limetrees, you can tell that one of the London trains has just pulled in, as is the case now. Visitors, or perhaps you could even call them ‘pilgrims’ make their way into the city centre, for what? A holiday? Studies? Visiting family, perhaps?
I just love how touristy Canterbury is. I love walking through the streets and feeling like I could be anywhere in the world. Watford was diverse, but not in the same way that Canterbury is.
A teenage girl strides across the grass wearing a pair of headphones that are clearly based on the retro models, with the frame that goes around the head. She is headed towards the bandstand, where a group of teenagers are sitting, making the most of what’s left of the school holidays.
Serene old man has risen from his afternoon slumber and re-gains his bearings after an hour or two in the luxury of his subconscious.
The wind is doing my head in, and I battle to keep my food covered and my rug on the floor. When it rains, we have umbrellas. When it’s sunny, we have sunglasses, but what protects us from the wind? Maybe one day, somebody will invent something that does just that.
The biggest hula hoop I’ve ever seen passes by on the shoulder of a young girl who walks in tandem with a man clutching a bunch of bright green skittles. I assume they must be from some kind of theatrical school. Oh please, stop and perform! They look to be headed towards the bandstand but the group of teens remain seated and I feel a tinge of disappointment that I’m perhaps not about to be witnessing any displays of acrobatics afterall! I also notice that one of the teens who is sitting in the bandstand has bright pink hair.
I want some candyfloss.
What is it about people-watching that captivates so many? There may not be a great deal going on, but this is infinitely better than watching Eastenders or that silly programme I caught last night about single women competing for a relationship with Gavin Henson. I guess it’s because, this is real life. Forget actors, forget those who seek fame and fortune by masking who they really are and forget television programmes: If you want to enjoy an authentic slice of real life – go outside and look at it.
Two men walk past me clutching picnic equipment. They meet a group of women sat next to the war memorial and the lady wearing pink seems particularly keen to see what food they’ve brought along with them. I get ya, sweet’eart!
I have to strongly resist the urge I have to roll down the steep, grassy slope behind me. Flashback to Mrs Ho telling me off for doing so during school Sports Day in year 8. Thankfully, the sight of a lady with bright green hair sidetracks my mind. Welcome to the 21st century! So men, which do you prefer, blondes or brunettes? Jet-blacks or redheads? What about greens or pinks?
The group of teenagers sitting in the bandstand are smoking and it saddens me a bit. If only they could appreciate how great it is to be young and carefree, instead of trying to be ‘adult’, and do ‘naughty adult things’. Hey kids, want to be an adult? Then why don’t we swap places. You be 25. You enjoy the headaches that come from trying to simultaneously figure out your career and settle your finances whilst feeling the increasing push to fund the move into a place of your own. You do that, and I’ll be a 13 year old again, who has no responsibilities, and can sit around eating sweets all day whilst trying to perfect my rendition of Greensleeves on the recorder in time for Thursday morning’s Music lesson. Deal?
It feels increasingly like it’s about to rain and the flash from what is obviously a very large camera held by a tourist at the top of the Dane John mound which overlooks the Gardens meets my eyes. Where has the sun gone? Out to lunch?
Parks are so under-rated these days. Modern day consumerism is gradually destroying our heritage. We have been stolen by the likes of the internet (I realise the irony of the fact that this is an online blog), plasma televisions, new shopping centres, discounted retail outlets, that we often forget about the great outdoors and the fun it has to offer. It doesn’t cost a penny to go outside, yet there is so much inspiration to see and feel here.
I debate what do next. Stay here and sway around battling the breeze or go home and face the important tasks that – EW, a bug on my shoulder. How long have you been there, darling? Say hello to my finger! Ideally I could stay here forever, but there’s paperwork to fill out and job applications to do, plus, I need to blow my nose. It seems as though I forgot to bring tissues as well as my book.
For the second time this afternoon, a fly has found its way into my drink, rendering the remaining liquid undrinkable. Want to buy me another, Mr Fly? Thought not. Cheeky sod.
I need the toilet.
The park is getting emptier. Come back, sun! We’re losing business, and I’m running out of things to write about. Mind you, I do like that girl’s yellow dress. I wonder where she got it. I’ve been looking for one like that. Oh, how I long to be able to shop again.
I look down and see a friend’s face flashing on my mobile phone. I answer the phone. You’re in town too? Cool, so am I! Let’s meet for a coffee. The notepad goes back in my bag, and, albeit somewhat abruptly, normal life resumes once again.
Song of the Day: Jim Noir – Turn Your Frown Into A Smile
Oh this song is so sublimely sweet, it’s impossible to dislike it. I was listening to this in the park at one point, and it fit so nicely. A beautiful classic from Mancunian neo-psychedelia genius, Jim Noir.
It’s raining, it’s pouring, it’s August, it’s Britain. The wind blows, the trees sway, the sky is grey… and I sit inside lumbered with a kidney infection so painful that if childbirth were to be any more painful than this, you may as well just zip me up now and start calling me the Cat Lady. Yes, this is the epitome of a perfect Summer’s day. Who needs strawberries ‘n’ cream when you can instead have the gourmet lunch of Diclofenac ‘n’ Cefalexin tablets?
There are a number of things I feel I could write about today, so rather than write about just one, I thought I’d do some shorts instead. Enjoy:
R.I.P Amy Winehouse
Last week, I was shocked to receive an instant-message from a friend informing me of the death of Amy Winehouse, 27. I can’t pretend I had ever enjoyed her music, and I had never really found her personality too appetising either, yet despite that, I was genuinely rather sad to hear the news. To me, it is a sad reflection of the ‘other side’ of fame and fortune. Without knowing myself what the celebrity culture is really like, or knowing Amy personally, it would be naive of me to speculate what exactly caused her to start suddenly rolling down the hill of drug abuse, but the biggest shame is that her death appeared to happen just as she was starting to get her health and personal life back in check. I hope that wherever she is now, she is at peace and rest.
In the meantime, I cannot help but laugh at portions of the British press and public, who were more than happy to slate and ridicule her whilst she was alive, only to now place her on the pedestal of being some kind of demi-goddess now that she is gone forever. Such hypocrisy and mawkish sentiment is nothing if not cringeworthy, and you could even draw comparisons between this and the precedent death of ‘The Peoples Princess’ some 14 years earlier. One can only hope that, unlike with Princess Diana, the press can leave Amy to rest without needlessly regurgitating aspects of her life years down the line in order to ‘make a good story’. R.I.P Amy, you leave behind a legacy of a music enjoyed by many, but if the world can take anything from your story, please let it be the lesson that drugs are not the answer to either a problem, nor a need for ‘fun’.
Putting the ‘poo’ in ‘shampoo’
Owing to a recent move a couple of hours South, and a lack of money not helped by the extremely frustrating rarity of available work in the area, I have had to temporarily go to a different hair salon that’s more local for my usual cut and blow-dry, until money becomes available to me again and I can go back to Watford for one. It’s always strange going to a different salon when you’ve been used to attending the same one for three years, and as with any kind of ‘replacement’ you cannot help but critically compare it to it’s predecessor.
There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with my haircut itself, rather, the strange experience had whilst my hair was being washed and shampoo’ed. As I lay back with my head in the sink, trying to relax as advised by the stylist – a spindly young man in his late teens with bleached blonde hair – I closed my eyes and tried to think about soothing images to go with the gushing water trickling down my neck. For a couple of minutes I was at complete peace with the world, until the stylist started speaking; “I had to get the train to work today, and Sittingbourne Station smelt of poo. Then I got on the train, and that absolutely stank of poo too…. I wonder where it goes? Do you know where it goes when people poo on a train? Like it must just go straight onto the track or something. Ewww.” I grinned, politely, not really knowing what else to say, and the young man continued his story. By the time we had reached the second rinse, I had heard all about a school trip he had been on as a 12 year old, when the coach got stuck in traffic in Paris and a fellow pupil had thrown up into a sock because there was no toilet on board the coach, and how the coach had also smelt of poo. Something tells me that the editor of 2011 edition of, “The Hairdressers Handbook” tried to aim for an innovative new approach when it came to conversational tips. Long gone are the days of being asked if you’ve booked any holidays, or whether or not you watched Eastenders on Monday night, faeces-focused folktales are here to stay!
Memories in Waves
On Monday evening we went to the beach at Tankerton for sunset and dusk. This is the beach at which we used to own a beach-hut, some 10-12 years ago, and being back on those pebbles, looking out over that same patch of ocean I used to take my dinghy out on back in the late 1990’s, I felt a strange shiver down my spine. For fleeting moments, I felt as though I was 13 years old again – short bedraggled hair, fringe, braces. I remembered what my personal sphere had been like back then – school, lessons, teachers, my Backstreet Boys posters, my 8-strong group of best-friends. I remembered all those pre-teen dramas, some of which would be playing on my mind during our weekends by the sea. Why did so-and-so sit on a different table in Geography class – I don’t think she wants to be friends with me anymore. What will happen if I can’t find my piece of homework about Mughal India, will I need to re-do the whole leaflet? What if my felt-pens ran out? When will I next see that cute boy I sometimes pass on the way home from school? Have I been invited to Rupal’s sleepover this year?
It’s funny how when you look back you wonder why you spent so long worrying or thinking about particular things that nowadays seem so insignificant. I probably did see that cute boy again on the way home from school, but that’s all that would ever become of him – just a stranger who’d walk the Whippendell Road at the same time as me. And it was never worth me losing any sleep over my piece of homework about Mughal India – I did end up having to re-write it, and as far as I recall I got a ‘B’, but it wasn’t a piece of work that would ever had any bearing on my future.
I compared my personal sphere then to the one I have now and marveled about how life is an on-going process of change. My home has changed, my career direction has changed, my best-friends have changed. Worries have come and gone, people have come and gone, jobs have come and gone. Life is a transient motion which does not stop, and it fascinates me no end. It can also be pretty intimidating to think that things you put a lot of focus an emphasis on now may one day, 10 years down the line, mean less to you. Maybe things cannot be forced, maybe they can only be. I just don’t know, but still, it interests me… what do you think?
Song of the Day: Super Furry Animals – The Turning Tide
In line with my third point, this is an amazing little song about the fascination of change by legendary Welsh rockers, the Super Furry Animals.
“The service was slow, my eyes began to grow into telescopes, that are looking out to a world of quick-sand-castles on their keep, still waiting under siege for the turning tide. Need some inspiration, time to hitch a ride on the turning tide”