In the last four years I’ve made three visits back home — once by overland transport, once by hitch-hiking, and finally by bicycle. Last week I arrived back without any plans to leave again — the idea being that Tenny and I will now (at least attempt to) settle here.
I always have mixed feelings when I touch down on British soil, but first amongst them is that I really don’t know anything about this country. Like so many, I’d taken the world I’d known and inhabited — the little drop of experience I’d gleaned during 23 years in small-town English Midlands, combined with a handful of headlines — and extrapolated it to represent the nation, the continent, the planet. Travelling long-term by bicycle brought my error to light. We all know so little about life on this planet, yet so many of us assume so much.
That’s why I can now answer the question I’d flung about derisively, even sneeringly, while I was preparing to leave back in 2007: Why would anyone, having cut all their ties and gone off into the world, choose to return to this place?
I’ve written recently about adventure as a state of mind. With this in mind, the lure of the unknown — something quite intangible and which I feel will never leave me — can be satisfied, or at least tempered, in my back yard. Literally. It occurred to me yesterday that I couldn’t remember watching a sunrise at home in the summer. So this morning I awoke in my bivvy bag on the lawn and watched the pink light creep over the horizon — a strange mixture of solitude and privilege, surrounded by sleeping bodies hidden in warm houses.
Sometimes you only need change your perspective to see something new. The coming summer is already filled with day-dreams of micro-adventures on home turf, not necessarily all involving a bike…
London, too, represents a potential lifetime of exploration. We’re a socially diverse bunch here and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into life in the capital I know so little about — for the people more than for the place itself. Now Tenny has obtained the requisite stickers in her passport in order to live here (the main aim of our last three months), London, as with all new places, will be an experiment; a temporary place for us to be during this time when I want to put my book at the top of my priority list. I’m more than half-way through the first draft, and I’m keen to press on.
Work has also finally begun in earnest on the feature film which I never allowed myself to imagine would ever materialise. Actual, physical work, in a real editing suite (OK, in kindly-donated office space). I’m sitting on the sidelines for this, as I know nothing about the process. The world of independent documentary is completely new to me; fascinating, exciting, immensely promising and completely devoid of cash.
Being where the action is makes sense this year; the film’s publicity, at least, is something in which I can get involved. And I’ll be on the look-out for opportunities to get involved with future expeditions in a communications role (please do get in touch if you know of any).
I’ll be blogging more regularly on the production’s progress as producer-director James and his editor Rich spend the next 6 weeks pulling apart and sticking back together the endless hours of me rabbiting at the camera. Sorry guys, I know I tend to babble…