Anyone who says they’re not prone to self-reflection from time-to-time is full of shit. We all think about ourselves and where we’re going and where we’ve come from and who we used to be in comparison to who we are now.
I’ve just got back to Leicester after a weekend chilling out up north with my folks. On Saturday night we went to a restaurant near to where they live in Sandbach. Dad had a few glasses of wine and when we got home again there was a bit of half-remembered reminiscing and attempts to piece together some sort of timeline for my Dad’s side of the family tree. You know those conversations: “Was her name Mabel or Millicent?” “So was that before or after they went back to Canada?” “No, he can’t have been living in the hobo-camp during the Depression, he had a family by then…” That kind of stuff. Legend has it that my great-grandfather had something to do with Al Capone, and various details make that sound quite convincing if I’m honest.
More recently, there has been contempt and melodrama within the Vaughan clan that has made it much harder to reconnect with old stories. People will always die, but a string of circumstances (either upsetting, infuriating, or tediously boring, depending on your personal affilliations) have meant that we can no longer look through the photo albums or cherish the few items that survived of my grandfather’s childhood near Toronto, or my great grandfather’s time as a REAL-LIFE FUCKING GANGSTER. My Dad remembers hearing stories and remembers seeing the photos that have now disappeared, but I only remember my Dad hazily mumbling after a few too many glasses of wine.
The reason I’m writing about this is because Alex Kelly from Third Angel went on a trip to Cape Wrath a few days ago, retracing the steps his own grandfather made on a similar trip to the most northwesterly part of the British mainland. He hitch-hiked up there, looked out to sea, most probably thought about some stuff, then went back home to Walsall. There is a magnificent romance to this story, and it’s made me think about a few things.
Firstly, we don’t just connect with our ancestors and relatives by looking at old photos and pretending to be Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (although that is also a worthy pursuit). We can go out and do the things they did in the places they did them.
Secondly, there are two distinct types of solitude. There is being on your own, and then there is spending some quality time with yourself. (No I’m NOT talking about wanking, you filthy bastards.) I mean removing all the work and traffic and screens and headphones and hassle and going somewhere where you can recalibrate yourself in relation to the fucking WORLD. We don’t put nearly enough space between ourselves and all the stupid, worthless, fabricated bollocks.
Check out Alex’s trip via this Third Angel blog and then book yourself a train ticket to somewhere big and empty.