Friday, 30 March 2012

Random thoughts from my trip.

Looking out over Findochty.
Followers of this blog will know that this week I’ve been to see one of my ancestral homes: Findochty, Scotland.  The trip was about two things: visiting the place itself, and going on a long train journey – something I fancied doing. 

Below are a few of my thoughts during the last few days.  Some of them are a bit personal, some a bit morbid, and some of them a bit amusing.  Enjoy.

In Findochty:

  • I wonder if the increased desire to discover my family of old is due to me getting older and beginning to accept the decreasing likelihood of ever starting a new family of my own.
  • In writing, it’s easy to feel constrained by the ‘canvas’ we choose, such as the tense or ‘person’ we’re writing in.  But each one has its own advantages too.  Life can be a bit like that as well: we might not always be happy with aspects of our selves/lives, but there may be advantages we’ve missed.
  • There’s a strange feeling when you finally do something you’ve been planning for years.  Now you’ve done it, what now?
  • Making a trip like this isn’t just about the trip, it’s about the stories you hear from family.  Stories that probably never would have been told had you not gone.  Like the one about my Granda as a 14 year old boy, jumping off the quay at Buckie and running away on his Dad’s fishing boat...
  • I didn’t remember anything about Findochty from my last visit as a ‘wee bairn’.  But I am proud to have my heritage in such a beautiful place.

On the train:

  • In the time I spent travelling to Findochty on a train, I could’ve been in Beijing by plane...
  • Sometimes things can feel like destiny or fate – like being sat near the same person twice on different trains.  But really, it’s just Maths.
  • There’s a certain unspoken trust between people on trains.  You can leave your bag to use the facilities and be fairly sure no one will touch it.  Coffee shops are similar.  Why is this?  And why do we fear the worst of people in other places?
  • I seem to listen to music or read books by people I wish I was like.  Do other people do this?
  • There’s a certain way that we novel-readers on trains look down on the magazine readers...
  • On trains, planes or other public transport, we’re all thrown together. If there was an accident, these are the people we would spend our last moments with.  We spend years looking for the right person to grow old with, to die with, when it could all come down to random chance in a moment like this.
  • And last, but certainly not least, this: 

(Apologies for the long clip, but it’s all I could find!  
You should watch the whole movie anyway, it’s truly beautiful.)

Monday, 26 March 2012

Down memory lane...

About a month ago I wrote about things I wanted to do ('What do you want to do with your life?' and 'Why are we waiting?').  This week sees the trip to my ancestral home I mentioned.

Tomorrow I’ll board a train (or several), spend all day travelling North, and arrive in the town of Keith, where I’m staying before spending the day in Findochty on Wednesday.  I'm very excited about it, and about seeing the town my Dad’s side of my family is from.

I have been before, apparently, when I was only two years old.  My mother confirmed this yesterday and it seems my earliest memory is a snippet of that visit.  I found this really interesting and started wondering: what are people’s first memories?  Can you remember much from your early childhood? 

During these few days away I’ll be doing some writing, taking some photos and doing some thinking about life, where we come from and how it all adds up to making us who we are.  When I get back, I’ll share some of my thoughts.

I think it’ll be fascinating to see if I remember anything else while I’m there and find out whether anything feels familiar to me, nearly thirty years on from that first visit.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Life through a rear-view mirror, and a telescope. (Or, what will you wish had happened this year?)

Recently I caught myself thinking, I wish the last 12 months hadn’t happened. With my redundancy, having to move away from friends and the life I had (and enjoyed), and generally things not working out as I’d hoped, I guess I have good reason to look back and wish things were how they were before it all.

But life’s not like that.  And, honestly, when I really think about, I think that’s a good thing. 

I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for all that so-called ‘character building’ stuff.  Each situation taught me something, changed me, took me down a different path – and that process goes on.  Things might be, frankly, pretty shit sometimes, but nothing lasts forever – ‘This too shall pass’. And sometimes that can be a great solace, I find.

 (I love this video - any excuse to include it!)

Having said that, I don’t want to have another year I wish I could erase.  Obviously, some of that isn’t in my control, but I started wondering if I can live life with a sort of reverse perspective: imagine myself in 12 months looking back at something, and then decide whether I want to do it or not.  Will I regret it?  Will I regret NOT doing it?  Will it even matter to me as much as it feels like it does now?  If not, why worry about it so much now?  (I think Don Miller wrote something about this a while back on his blog, but I can't find it.)

And, I also want to look ahead too and think about what things I’ll wish had happened in this next 12 months*, and what can I do now to help make them happen.  And then ‘get on it’, as a good friend of mine says.

So there you go – life through a rear-view mirror and a telescope.  Too weird?

*Perhaps the biggest problem with all this is which tense to use!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Love while you can.

Good memories: make some.
The other day I started thinking about things I love, and was dismayed that the first things to come to mind were material:

Like, my Kindle.
Or my guitar.
Or my laptop.

So I thought again, and realised that the things I really love are things I actually take for granted:

Like, cool places I go to.
Or happy memories.
Or being creative.

Because I take these things for granted, I never imagine living without them; I would hate to.

Which, of course, makes them far more valuable than the other things.

And now I want to spend more time/energy on those stuff I really love – and develop more – because, here’s the thing: they may not be around forever.  Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, or a good old fashioned bulldozer (I couldn’t think of an appropriate ‘A’ word...!) could easily wipe them out.

And, if they were to go – be they things, or indeed people* – then I’d wish I’d ‘loved’ them more...

You can’t relive times gone by.
You can’t recreate memories.
You can’t replace people.

So make the most of them: love them while you can.

*I deliberately left ‘people’ out as a category in my original thinking, because I think that’s something different, and more complex.  Although, the advice probably still applies...