|I still dream of dung: a metaphore for all the other crap in my life, but will learn to live with it rather than try to irradicate it. As Peter Sloterdijk tells us, 'Those who do not want to admit that they produce refuse . . . risk suffocating one day in their own shit.' |
See Raymond Federman's 'Return to Manure' for more scatological introspections.
If I experienced a culture shock at all, it was returning to Britain after two years of total immersion in African food, music, people, language and the land itself – spending 3 weeks out of every month camping in remote parts of Northern Zambia, trudging through miles of forests and plains, over hills, across rivers and lakes, to collect samples of soil and rock; then back to town and a week off with my monthly subsistence allowance, spent mainly in the township beer halls, after which I was happy to sober up and get back to another 3 weeks of nature. So imagine getting off the plane at Heathrow early one very cold and grey British winter day, boarding a bus with my single suitcase, and looking out of the bus window at streams of shivering workers walking or cycling to local factories, their canvas lunch bags across their shoulders containing cheese or ham sandwiches, probably in white sliced bread, accompanied no doubt by a packet of crisps, and thinking just what the fuck am I doing here.
|Kasama Airport, gateway to the Northern Province of Zambia|
It would be a further four or five years before I’d saved up enough money to go back to Africa, but only weeks later was arrested for an act of terrorism (blowing up the Chinese built TAZARA railway line from Dar es Salaam to Lusaka); a case of mistaken identity as I was the only white guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the white Rhodesian mercenaries who were responsible had long since fled. And so, after a couple of weeks of house arrest (fortunately for me in the house of the local mayor’s daughter where I’d been staying) I managed to sneak back to the capital on a night bus, get myself on a plane and home again. This time arriving back relieved that I had not been tortured or worse, and for the first time appreciating that Britain did indeed have something going for it – security and anonymity.
|Great work prospects in the seventies, but bad haircuts|
|Catacamas, gateway to the Honduran Rain Forest|
But I do want to carry on travelling; not the enjoyable though frustrating (because you know they have to end all too abruptly) 2 and 3 week ‘holidays’, of which we have had many over the last 27 years together, but long leisurely sojourns combining writing with doing nothing in particular, just contemplating everyday life. What I cannot know right now, as I sit writing this post, is do I have what it takes to enjoy doing nothing? How easy will it be to get a lifetime of work out of my system, the expectations of others to produce, and my own work ethic that I should be productive? Well I’m happy to give it a try, as are some of our friends who are also contemplating retirement. I hope that by writing about the art of tramping – as in vagabondage not hiking – which I have discussed in previous posts, that I will learn something about living a more contemplative life, albeit without the privations that comes with real tramping. The starting point will be jettisoning some of the more unnecessary expenditure that compensates for working hard, such as expensive foreign trips and restaurant meals. We have even discussed the possibility of doing without a car and taking advantage of my free bus pass. But one step to retirement at a time. This is a new adventure that I am very much looking forward to, and, providing that I continue to enjoy good health, I hope will deliver a more gentle and sustainable lifestyle that my earlier adventures did – because I was hurtling too quickly towards an uncertain future. That particular future is now behind me, I have found my lifetime partner, my children are now adults and we own the home we live in even if we decide to change it for another. I just hope when I reach real old age twenty or more years from now, that I have no regrets and that nursing homes, if I need one, are a bloody sight more stimulating than they are today – or maybe I should say less stimulating given some of the awful entertainment some older folk are forced to endure . . .