I knew perfectly well that today was going to happen, but it still feels like a punch in the gut. I am sad, furious and scared and I wish I could give everyone else who is sad, furious and scared a big hug.
It is quite odd trying to reconcile the lovely weather with all the doom and fury and fear and uncertainty. To put it in currently fashionable terms, my cognitive function stack at the moment is a bit like:
- Ni: doom doom doom doom doom
- Fe: Doom DOOM DOOM DOOM
- Ti: la la la la not listening, let us attempt to exert control over something we might be able to have control over, how about GARDENING
- Se: Ooh, what nice sunshine
For the first time since I planted it three and half years ago, one of the blackthorns is flowering, which portends (finally) onsite sloe provision. This was the whole point of making the hedge out of blackthorns, but I was a little naïve about how long it would take for sloes to appear, and I'm dubious as to whether the current amount of hedge will provide sufficient sloes for e.g. one bottle of gin. We will see.
Last night I did not get to sleep until 4am, for absolutely no good reason. The upshot of this was that I woke up at a quarter to eleven, and that wasn't a very useful start to a day that I had really been intending to use to get some work done. Very quickly it was 2.30pm and I'd emailed some customers and faffed around and needed to have lunch and everything was feeling like a Failed Day and it was all sunny outside and I thought, "Right. Let us abandon today as a day of achieving traditional work-things, and instead complete the comparatively frivolous but potentially useful task of figuring out how to cycle to Durham" (except I thought it rather less elegantly and with fewer words and more grunting because why bother doing anything more than grunting when it's just the inside of your own head, frankly?).
I had done the groundwork for figuring out how to cycle into Durham, using a)maps, b)talking to a man in the pub and c)Google Streetview. But Google Streetview does not cover cycle paths and really the main way of finding out how to do something - if you're me - is to try actually doing it. I had been considering doing it in order to get somewhere I needed to be, but that seemed a little risky given my innate talents for getting lost. So Failed Day + Sunshine seemed about the right conditions, and a little way along the cycle path I realised it was the spring equinox as well so this was actually a perfectly reasonable kind of celebratory thing to do, and maybe bunking off work was not so very terrible. (Also I had permission from my boss because that is ME.)
It is not very difficult to get most of the way to Durham from my house, because there's a cycle path that goes for eight miles and you don't have to do anything other than not ride off it into the forest/river/farmland. The difficulties arise on the edge of the city where there is a Picnic Area, and three new different cycle paths which go to lots of different places. There are signposts to the places. None of them say Durham on them, which is extremely unhelpful. However, in all my smartphone-resisting glory, I had a paper map with me. So I looked at it, presumably causing everyone else in the picnic area over the age of about 27 to experience feelings of nostalgia, and everyone under the age of 27 to wonder what that strange woman was doing with the really big bit of folded up paper.
There were two different ways into Durham that I wanted to figure out. I took a path that I thought looked most likely to be one of them, and went down a spirally very steep hill, over a bridge, up a very very steep hill and down a slightly less steep hill and ended up in Definitely the Wrong Place. At this point I felt very, very glad that I had used a Failed Day for this mission, because otherwise I would by now have been panicking about being late for Gamelan or something.
I turned round, went up the less steep hill and started riding down the very steep hill. Two teenage boys were pushing their bikes up it. "Big drop!" one of them said to me, I presumed in a helpful and friendly terrain-alerting way, so I said "Thanks," and then they both took the piss out of me (Boy 1: *repeats word "thanks" in high-pitched voice, presumably doing impression of me*; Boy 2: "Your back wheel's following you!"). Which, you know, isn't e.g. violence or racism or threatening or anything but it's really, really annoying because those sorts of boys have been doing that to me for my entire life and I still don't know what I'm supposed to do about it.
It has been explained to me that this kind of behaviour is, in an evolutionary/societal context, them trying to assert dominance over me (by making me look/feel stupid) and/or each other (each by being better at making me look/feel stupid than the other one managed). Which, given that most teenage boys in rural Co. Durham (or anywhere) probably don't have a great deal of power in the grand scheme of things, explains why they might feel better about themselves by taking the piss out of a lone awkward-looking woman on a cycle path. So maybe it wasn't entirely personal. Well, I hope it made their day better. As for me, I was lost and alone and boys were taking the piss out of me, but this time I was not e.g. in Year 8 and I had not walked into the middle of a Year 9 German lesson because I'd read my timetable wrong after a viola lesson at the beginning of a new school year, and I definitely wasn't going to see today's teenage boys later in the school canteen to have the piss taken even more, so relatively speaking it wasn't so bad. Although now I had to go back up that really steep spirally hill, but having to travel up hills is way, way less of a problem to me than having to be twelve years old.
Back in the picnic area, I re-consulted the map, observed by two old men having a chat on a bench. I ascertained that I had indeed gone the opposite way to the one intended because I have no sense of direction and am terrible at map-reading, so rotated 180° and tried that direction instead. This time it worked; I found the beginning of the Route to Gamelan Rehearsals. But that wasn't the way I wanted to go today, so I went back to the Picnic Area for a third time.
The two old men on the bench then asked whether I was lost (which I had sort of predicted, given my repeated use of a map and frequent returns to the same spot). I wondered whether years ago they had been like the two teenage boys, and taken the piss out of people for no good reason other than basic human instinct instead of kindly asking whether they were lost, and whether the two teenage boys would one day grow into kind old men who asked people if they were lost instead of taking the piss out of them.
But what I actually said was, "I'm exploring. But also lost." They appeared to find this amusing. Then there was a lot of talking about where I was trying to go and telling me information about routes and answering my important questions about whether I definitely have to go actually through the farmyard (affirmative) and then I thanked them and headed off and it was not very much further and there were signposts for the cycle route and off-road cycle paths for the busiest roads and everything and then I GOT TO DURHAM, HAVING PROPELLED MYSELF FOR THE ENTIRE JOURNEY.
The only stupid part was a one-way street which had an opposite-way cycle path sometimes, but it cut out occasionally so I had several five-metre bursts of totally breaking the law before the cycle path reapparated again and it was all right. What.
It took two hours, but I'm pretty sure one of the hours was spent being stupid/getting lost/exploring/talking to old men and really it only takes one hour. Which is about the same time as the bus takes, and £5.70 cheaper and effectively includes free gym membership. But I spent the difference in food and tea and beer in the Elm Tree immediately upon arrival so I guess that is probably cancelled out on this occasion.
I went to a ceilidh in York a week or so ago and had a very nice time and my friends are the BEST HUMANS. But here is an unrelated photo of some crocuses because I was too busy having a nice time to document any of it (which is sort of a shame because it was in the Guildhall which is extremely pretty, but: priorities.)
Later on, back at home, I did that thing where you think of something you should have said, twenty-four hours after the fact, which is usually something that happens in arguments but in this case was two jokes I could've made but didn't think of them in time. But both of them were a)highly contextual and b)a bit rude, so they're not going on here either. So this is, essentially, a really uninformative blog post.
Actual Conversation Topics from Gamelan This Week
(because we don't need instructional listicles, hear us roar)
- How to detox snails before eating them. Apparently the thing to do is put them in a bag of rice for ten days, because they eat the rice and it cleanses their systems of toxic plants they may have eaten previously. (A very good thing about this conversation was the casual inclusion of the word 'radula'.) I'm not intending to put this newly acquired knowledge to use. At least, not pre-apocalypse.
- Detailed discussion of different types of Rawlplugs. I kept fairly quiet during this one but I was glad it happened.
- One person's fear of frogs; relatedly, my fear of introducing people to each other. After I disclosed this fear, the other three people in the conversation very kindly introduced themselves to each other so I wouldn't have to. They already knew each other, but that's not the point.
Talking of things from 2015: a post from Belgian Waffling which still makes me cry-laugh. (In sympathy for all involved.)