Today, I claim executive privilege and repost one from a year-and-a-half ago. It’s a personal anniversary, and I’m in a bit of a reflective mood.
I don’t think any of my sentiments have changed in the intervening months. I haven’t been to any “far away places,” since I wrote the following, and–truth be told–I’m glad of it, given the catastrophic failure of the airlines and the airports to get people through the turnstiles, onto their flights, into the air, and down again with any semblance of punctuality or organization, either with or without the luggage they brought with them, which more often than not seems to end up God-only-know where, lost, perhaps forever.
No, thank you.
For the time being, I’ll visit the far away places of my memories, and perhaps enjoy them vicariously through books and film. Maybe I’ll even write some reviews of my favorites. Stay tuned.
But just today, without further ado, from December 2020:
I’ve been in a few, in my time. In fact, I spent most of the first ten years of my life in several of them, and what I remember most, all these years later, is the warmth, the tastes, and the smells. Never having the tip of my nose freezing and feeling as if it’s about to fall off. No chilblains (a hazard of British winters, but apparently unknown in America until something called “COVID Toe,” which looks a hell of a lot like chilblains to me). The scent of bougainvillea and moonflowers on the night air. Fresh mangoes, and pawpaws, right off the tree. Fairytale gardens full of exotic flowers and fantastic beasts (eat your heart out, Jo Rowling), playgrounds for my childish imagination:
The local markets, rich with herbs, spices, and more varieties of peppers than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio:
Then there are the not-so-pleasant memories: Gangs of large African men sent to kill us. Poisonous snakes put in the bed. Car chases. Armed guards. And some of the not-so-pleasant smells. (If you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your distance from Camelus Dromedarii. Not only do they spit; they stink.
Not too many far away places over the past few decades of my life. A trip to Chiang Rai, Thailand a few years ago. Beautiful, generous people. Gorgeous landscapes (what I saw of them). Spectacular food and foliage. Some nice memories. Lots of pollution, jammed and dangerous streets and alleys. (At least they drive on the proper side of the road. So there’s that.) Impossible to find one’s way around without a guide. Some not-so-pleasant memories there also, although nothing to do with Thailand or the Thai people, both of which are lovely.
And here I sit, as 2020 finally wends its way to a close (please God), thinking about far away places.
I’ve always loved the song. Perhaps my favorite cover is from Vera Lynn–a lady who did her bit in some very far away places, sometimes with considerable privation, and in considerable danger, singing to her beloved troops.
But today, I’m going with Willie and Sheryl. If you don’t like Willie, I’m not sure I want to know you, and I’m willing to extend a probably undeserved amount of credit to Sheryl for her preoccupation with the state of the planet’s toilet paper inventory long before the rest of us gave it a thought in the early months of this sad and stupid year. Besides, like me, Willie’s a geezer, his voice is more reedy than ever, and I just like that he plows full-steam ahead and appears to be on course to do that all the way to the end. (He released his 70th album, First Rose of Spring, in July of this year.) He’s 87.
It’s snowing here today, the first real sign of Winter, and perhaps a sign that this is going to be a good one. And I’m loving it.
As are the two Great Pyrenees, who spend the entire rest of the year dreaming of this part of it:
I love the view out the window:
But most of all, I love that I can roll up the drawbridge, make myself a mug of hot chocolate, and settle in front of the fire with a bit of knitting, dreaming, toasty warm, peaceful, grateful for home, and knowing that, right now, I’d rather be here than any far away place on earth.
Wishing all of you contentment, no matter where you find yourselves today.