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Posts Tagged ‘motorway’

snowyIt’s been a curiously unsettling week. Twice my commute home was disrupted by serious accidents and motorway closures, turning a thirty five minute journey into an hour and a half marathon, where the normal free flow of things was choked off at every turn, blocked, impeded, restricted, stymied. On the last of these occasions, having finally made it home, exhausted, I left the car on the driveway and set off across the village on foot to get my hair cut, but the ginnel I normally use was blocked, the path being dug up, the way impeded, restricted,… the alternative, a long detour.

I returned home and did not move from the house again until I had slept long and deep.

And in my sleep I dreamed of road closures, of blockage, of the wreckage of trains and vehicles piled high into monuments of destruction. Thus in its own way the universe reflects my inner feelings, feelings of being stymied at every turn, at my lack of progress in terms of psychological and emotional development, my confusion – one path after another blocked, the wreckage of false hope and dreams piled high

The ego will make way at all costs, even if it ends up going only in circles.

And yes I’ve begun dreaming again, unbidden, and  vividly. I used to remember my dreams most nights and write them down in the mornings. It was a Jungian thing, interesting in the early days of my initiation into the way of the soul, but I was too much in earnest in my search for meaning, and those dreams, so lovingly recorded, remain to this day enigmatically opaque. Then for a long time I have not recalled any dreams at all – except suddenly this week I am dreaming vast landscapes, and vivid encounters with archetypal characters. Nor am I making any effort to recall them, yet they remain burned into memory, their feeling tones equally vivid and not a little disturbing.

Then there are the coincidences, trivial things yet astonishing in their persistence and their infuriating meaninglessness: I saw a dog on Instagram, a cute little fox terrier, and though I have never desired to keep a dog in my life, I was suddenly taken by the desire to keep one like that, and I would call him Snowy. Then within the hour I was watching a snippet from a banal TV game show, and the question was: what was the name of Tin Tin’s dog? Answer of course: Snowy.

Such things are only a coincidence if they happen once, but when they cluster they speak to me of other things, of something shifting, a curtain opening, the normal laws of time and space blurring at the edges. I am turning in of a night now expecting to dream next a mystical revelation. Except, I know from past experience this is not how it works. Stability will return, the old ways will open up again, the old grooves. I am left thinking I miss my turn each time, that I fail to grasp the symbolic significance of a motorway closure or even of a cute little dog called Snowy.

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PS_20150130152500Heavy rain this morning, driven in great curtains by a roaring wind that had even the stoutest of trees swaying. The Motorway was shiny-slick with an ominous standing wet, visibility down to as far as the end of old Grumpy’s bonnet, so we crawled along at a cautious fifty, buffeted by unpredictable gusts while the fast lane streaked by pretty much as usual, sending up smoke.

It was turning to snow as we approached the borders of Greater Manchester, translucent splats landing like suicidal moths upon the screen, to be brushed away at once by Grumpy’s fussy, squealy wipers. The wash I’m using is all smeary, though it advertises itself as Super-clear, and Streak free! But like much in life our words these days boil down to little more than shallow promises. We have to look deeper for the truth of things.

Visibility clears but slowly, and by then the wipers are crossing again, dragging out more smeary mess. They mark time, mark the blurry rhythm of my life: forty miles a day, two hours drive-time, and a day job shift between. 38 years, this year. Winters are the hardest. There is nothing else to do but buckle down and weather them.

The car was a warm cocoon against the elements, against a season that is characteristically bitter, laughing at our scurrying haste, at our fragility. There was an accident here, some weeks ago, four cars caught up in what I guess began as a nose-to tail-ender. It finished with one car crushed beyond recognition, the others bent and spun off at dizzy angles. I was two hours late that night, a night lit up with the combined electric blue halo of a fleet of excited cop cruisers. The whole filthy, roaring ribbon of road was hushed, three lanes bottled down to one, the rush-hour tailback ten miles long. Meanwhile, the coppers brushed furiously at crystal shards, as I waited my turn at the clearing-gate. Others stood guard over the fluorescent coned perimeter, brusquely waving on the rubber-neckers.

I was two hours late home last night too. I don’t know what the problem was; it’s often like this now – just the way things are. I waited out the gridlock on a shopping mall carpark rather than inching bit by bit along the road. Depressing places, shopping malls on a cold winter’s night, but they do at least have food of a fashion, and toilets for the marooned. While I was there, I wandered into a swanky bed-shop, thinking to kill time by browsing pillows. I’ve had a stiff neck lately, and I’m thinking my old saggy pillow might be the problem. The lady sat in this cavernous emporium, presiding over rows of inviting divans – she was middle aged and smartly uniformed in the livery of her employer’s brand. Her smile dimmed only a little when I told her a pillow was all I wanted.

So she showed me her pillows, and I liked the way her hands patted them down and fluffed them up. She invited me to try them out on one of her beds, to lay my head upon them and feel their quality. There was something sweet in this, my fatigue lending the encounter something of a surreal quality – just she and I in this vast palace of beds. I said I would be embarrassed, which was strange, and she laughed, said I mustn’t feel that way. But I also felt unwashed and unshaved, too dirty from my day for any of her nice clean beds, and this of course was a thing not for explaining. She was, I think, in the briefest moment of our exchange, proxy for a curious kind of muse, and my sense of unworthiness was itself a telling thing.

I was persuaded there is much to be said for a quality pillow. It is, after all, where we lay our heads at the end of the day, their comfort a balmy isle, oner would hope, from which we set sail each night, on course for the more distant land of dreams. She did not tell me this, of course, but I was thinking it. And as I handed over my card I noticed her nails were shapely and painted different colours, and I fell momentarily in love, as an adept with his priestess. But I’m an old hand at spotting the faerie and I know such creatures are not for loving, living as they do inside our heads, and only pretending to be at large in the world. I crawled home at going up for eight; indigestion from my McBurger-tea, and a coffee hardly worth the name, but I slept well on my fresh duck-downy pillow, dreamed of windmills blown flat, and crumbling towers spilling grain into the wind like vast murmurations of tiny birds.

So,…

Where are we now? Coming up to my junction.

A motorbike roars past me, doing seventy. I’ve ridden a bike in the long ago, and I know the rain stings at forty, that it mists your visor so you can barely see. A twitch, a sneeze, the slightest unexpected thing, and down you go. I know; I’ve gone – hit the deck and rolled – the bike one way and me the other; walked away, then ached for years.

If he would only back off a little, tuck in behind me and old Grumpy for a while, he’d surely be safe. At least I hope so. Pray God, don’t let me die on the commute! Let it be on a warm summer’s day with a vaulted sky, on a hushed mountain top, or laying down among the bee-buzzed heather, with the larks rising; not here on this filthy stretch of miserable road, grovelling for a crust. I’m reminded though the Reaper rarely works to a time-table that permits us such dignified exits, that he has a penchant for hammering in the full stops. Before the sentence is properly ended. It’s wise to be cautious, not to tempt fate in the teeth of a howling gale, but he’ll get you however he likes in the end, so maybe we should just say to hell with it? And crash on recklessly.

Not a good choice of word when driving on the Motorway: Crash.

Mornings are a fraction lighter now, dawn advancing to the drive-times, so I arrive at least in daylight. The nights are still a hopeless case though, darkness overtaking before I’ve even joined the tail end of the red lighted queue that’ll ever so sluggishly lead me home. It’s at home my flighty little rag-top dozes under a dust-sheet in the mouse-scented garage. She only emerges these days, sleepy eyed, when the rare dry spells, and that pale winter sun, coincide with a weekend. Then she gambols in the brief openings such short days afford, while Grumpy sleeps, his week’s commuting done. She’s waiting for the spring, dreaming of a summer like the last one. And so am I. A part of me rests with her now, warmed by the memory of other times, while the remainder of me sits in this rain-washed traffic yet again, buffeted by the wind, a dull chatter coming from the radio, a voice bleating on about all the snows yet to come.

mazda in garageI think of the feel of that quality pillow, and I think of the woman who picked it out, sitting alone among her beds, late into the night, each night, and I wonder if she remembers me. I fancy the pillow has a comfort now charged with meaning by those hands that so nicely plumped and patted as if to bless, and will surely guide me safe to much warmer, and more fertile climes than these.

Sweet dreams.

 

 

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fire engineMy morning commute was interrupted earlier this week by a lorry on fire. I saw the funnel of smoke from five miles away, a great ominous plume rising thousands of feet into the air. Fire Engines and police vehicles tore past me, and then the motorway slowed to a halt. My heart sank. I’d a feeling this was a big one, a terrible accident up ahead, and we wouldn’t be going anywhere for a long, long time. I switched the engine off, opened the window a crack, settled back and took a deep breath.

To the right of me was parked the great shiny white whale of a coach. The driver was a bulky fellow, shirt-sleeved, leaning forward a little over his wheel. His muscular forearms were perfectly relaxed, resting lightly on the rim, his fingers drooped, his posture empty, his expression impassive. This was a face used to staring out at an endless ribbon of road, in all weathers, day and night. He barely moved from that position until the traffic cleared. Some people are naturally meditative and calm. I admired his stillness, and adopted him as my guru for the morning.

Behind me, through the rear view mirror, I spied a Mercedes, all corporate black and shiny. It carried a lone occupant, a suited man, grey and of late middle years, apparently talking to himself. Now and then he’d shake his head in vehement disagreement, then drive home his point with sharp little nods and jabs of his fingers. I presume he was using one of those hands free things. It was barely eight fifteen but his business was already running at full tilt, and very important business it appeared too, at least judging by his tense expression. He was an eminent meetings man, no doubt, a finger-on-the-pulse type, dynamic, assertive – all the things I am not, and am consequently quick to notice in others.

To my left was parked a red Ford family saloon, a man and a woman, again middle aged. The woman was very still, the man by contrast very twitchy. His window opened half way and he lit up, releasing a great gasp of smoke. Neither spoke. She seemed withdrawn into a place of deep silence, her eyes inexpressive, resting in the middle distance while he appeared more quick-eyed, prowling and irritable. He was a caged and hungry lion, his patience sorely tested by the interruption of his routine – she a docile rabbit. I felt a tension between them – unspoken and probably imaginary on my part. I felt also a passing and quite peculiar sense of compassion for her – in all likelihood entirely misplaced – but interesting all the same.

In front was another Ford, a small, squat little Ka. Its occupant was a young woman who had the immediate urge to remove her jumper, then comb her hair, then check her face in the mirror, then put her jumper back on, then apply some lipstick, then slide her seat back and recline it, then pull it forward again, then check her ‘phone, then pull her jumper off again, then comb her hair a different way, then check in the mirror to see if she preferred the hair up or down. All this and we’d only been stationary for five minutes – any longer and she’d be getting out to have a walk around! She too lit a fag and a great gasp of smoke leaked from her window. She was indeed a terrible fidget, the little vehicle rocking impatiently on its springs as she wrestled gamely with her restlessness. I tried to remember if my own energy at her age had bucked so fiercely against such imprisonment. I know it had. It was only in my thirties I discovered the damage it was doing and began groping my way back to some sort of stillness.

Eventually, her window came right down and she stuck her head out. Her body followed. I was thinking now she might be trapped and was trying to escape, but then the ‘phone came up and in a couple of little flashes we got the “selfie”. I wondered at the caption. “Me stuck in traffic?” Heavens, love! A little dull?

The traffic began moving again after thirty minutes or so – not a severe delay by any means, and a sterling effort by the emergency services. I was lucky – those stuck at the tail end of it were delayed by a couple of hours, and the motorway was down to a single lane all day. The lorry was a terrible mess, the forward half of its cargo, some 20 tonnes of pet food, all gone and the cab burned to a shell. When the engines of these monsters overheat, they really overheat! The driver was unhurt, but it was a sobering scene all the same.

I carried with me into the day the stillness of the coach driver, but also the memory of the fidgety girl, and her diametrical lack of any stillness whatsoever. Of course for the Facebook generation there can be no such thing as inactivity, with even moments of forced inaction necessitating the reactive “action” of capture and comment. There seems nothing mindful in such a culture; it’s definitely a “look at me” kind of thing, more self absorbed than self reflective, and a little childish. I hesitate to criticise though, because I was young too, once, and remember being more painfully aware of myself with the world as my backdrop, trying to be seen as “cool” and likeable, as I made my first hesitant steps into manhood. Who’s to say I would not have been a Facebook fan, had they had it in the 70’s and 80’s, when, let’s face it, I was trying to attract girls?

Nowadays I think I look more at the world itself, in all its shades, perhaps seeking to catch glimpses of myself reflected in its sometimes quirky, sometimes mysterious traces, but without bothering much about the picture of myself within it. Is that true? Or do I delude myself? Is blogging not the more mindful selfie of the older generation? There I was, stuck in traffic, and here I am now, writing about it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s about what I’ve written here. Perhaps I should have saved myself the self reflection, joined with the fidgety girl, and taken a selfie, just two faces in ten thousand, the pair of us held up by a lorry on fire.

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