I’ve spent the last week or so on trains. Or so it seems. I’m quite partial to train travel and enjoy staring vacantly through a window as the world passes me by. I need to be more efficient in my booking though and be sure that I get the quiet carriage because the one-sided phone calls I’ve had the dubious privilege of overhearing have bordered on inanity. Honestly, people, ye need to up the ante a little and talk about something a tad more interesting than your colleague’s BO, last night’s drink count, or whether Penny really does look good in fuchsia.
It’s been a while since I’ve had so much face time with any public, let alone the great British public. And while I’m ready to get back to my burrow, it’s been quite the experience. And most all of it good.
In Cornwall, I came across a young girl busking. She couldn’t have been more than 10. And she was well on her way to raising £50k for the local children’s hospital. An amazing way to spend your Saturday afternoons. In Durham, I had the privilege of sitting around a dinner table with four South African friends with a combined age of 270+ years. Talk was not of pains and aches and pills and potions. There were no complaints, no regrets. Instead the conversation was futured with new opportunities, new travels, and new friends. No one was even close to being ready to sit back and retire to suburbia. Aging gracefully is truly a case of mind over matter.
I’m lucky in that my friends run the gamut from late teens to early 90s. They come from all over the world, bringing with them their different perspectives, viewpoints, and upbringings. In their own way, they add immeasurable richness to my life and are not shy about pulling me up when I approach the abyss of self-pity, when I waste time measuring my life against the successes of others. They’re a constant reminder that life is there to be lived. And that if you can make a difference, you’ve little if no excuse not to.
At the end of a week that has been restorative and much-needed, I’ve reconnected with old friends and have been reminded of the agelessness of age. I’ve come across my fair share of romance, too. I’m a sucker for a good story and while in one of the many charity shops I visited this week, I saw this framed note:
I wonder if Cedric-in-the-camel-coat ever did get his phone call. I’d have liked him. I’m partial to that venturing forward, that casting of the die, that empty-handed leap into the void. Life is way too short to carry the weight of regret.
Back in Cornwall, while scoffing a couple of Cornish pasties, I sat on a bench overlooking the sea. The memorial plaque spoke volumes. I can’t imagine going to the same place each year on holiday. That would do my head in. I even have trouble dealing with the concept of one two-week holiday a year. I had difficulty imagining myself occupying any one of the myriad lives of the other people I came across this week. If I had a friend Penny, would I really care if she looked good in fuchsia? Yet I’m sure that many of my friends look at my life with nothing approaching envy either. But it is mine. For all its ups and downs, its uncertainties and its possibilities, it’s mine. And it works. For me. Comparing it to the lives that others lead is a waste of time. Amazing what comes to you when you spend hours looking vacantly out of a window. For this and similar revelations this week, I’m truly grateful.