If you’ve taken even a cursory interest in my drivel over the past however long, you will know that I wander around a lot both actually and metaphorically. A friend from my teeny tiny tot-rearing stage recently commented on FaceBook that she never knows where I am. Tempted though I am to serenely claim that I am being mysterious and elusive, the truth is that I generally have no idea quite where I am, what I am doing nor where I am going.
Appearances are often deceptive and I know that I am a confusing condundrum. I present as ultra-outgoing and sociable but the truth is, that although I find it quite easy to be the happy-go-lucky life and soul of the gathering, I am in fact rather the hermit and I certainly need time to recharge and that time is generally taken alone.
Enter my wanderings. I walk muchly and often as a solitary bee (with the noble and frankly ego-centric exception of The Bean and of course, when available, a goodly dollop of husband) and I find my re-set button pressed gently and effectively when I do.
Friends, true friends, I have few and, in keeping with, I believe, many, Social Media has interfered with this natural equilibrium. I partake less and less in the babbling noise, the king for a day, something to say because I am a self-invented expert-ness of it. I will flatter myself that I was rather good at it but it is akin, I think to rather good at tooting cocaine … it falsely bolsters you up and erodes your olafactory receptors to the detriment of having a decent pair of nostrils with which to twitch and inhale sensitively your surroundings. It has a place, of course it does (Social Media, not cocaine) but I think we really do need to be a little careful of this creeping addiction. And the way in which it induces behaviours that we would not normally indulge in. Think selfies and I will rest my case. For the avoidance of doubt there are those of you here in this blogging place, where we actually give some thought to what we are spewing out, that I do consider friends even though we have never met.
I do have a few lifers. I use the word wisely, for it surely must be some sort of sentence to be embraced wholeheartedly to my bosom and kept there. One such is JimPig. He came to me through a husband who was to prove diabolically damaging but The Pig stayed and I am glad he did. When we met, I already had a daughter and he had a son. I taught his son to skateboard. This made them both happy. My girlie was shy of 18 months old when we met and I made him her honorary Godfather. He bought her a chocolate stegasaurus from Harrods which stood on her special things shelf for years until she took it to a ‘show and tell’ aged 6 and the teacher confiscated it because it was chocolate, stashed it in her cupboard from where it fell on the floor when the door was opened and smashed into irrepairable pieces. The head teacher gave the 6 year old a ruler from Australia as a consolation. It didn’t work. My daughter is still stinging from the loss of her precious dinosaur – the scars will stay for her lifetime, doubtless.
JimPig is probably the greatest waste of academic talent I will ever meet. I hope he is because any greater would be dreadfully sad. Not that he is sad. His grandfather died when he was a Trinity Dublin under graduate and left him a legacy which was just enough to live a simple life on. A selfish life some would say. He is a linguist. He speaks eight languages fluently. Not that he will ever admit he is fluent. Linguists are like that. He looks like ‘Where’s Wally’ (that’s Waldo if you are from the US side of the Atlantic and as I am reminded by the quite marvellous Mel (of France Says) in the comments and one whom I certainly consider a friend ‘Ou est Charlie’ in France). Uncannily like him to the extent that when Wally was at the height of his sneaky powers sometime in the 1990s I walked into a large bookshop in Oxford and asked for the lifesize cardboard marketing Wally which they duly allowed me to bear delightedly away and stash in the boot of my Volvo three weeks later. The Pig feigned delighted when I presented it to him as a gift. I am sure it was feigned because I don’t think he either knew who Wally was or cared to find out.
It was the aforementioned daughter who christened him JimPig and no-one, least of all she, knows why. She was two years old at the time which is forgiveable. The rest of us were clearly not concentrating which may be less forgiveable. On her eighteenth birthday she had an interview for a London college and I suggested that we have grown-up lunch at the place of her choosing and invite The beloved Pig. She chose a very fashionable Italian restaurant for the flimsy and entirely defenceable-at-eighteen reason that it was known as a fertile celebrity hunting ground. We were late. There was a blizzard and we were tottering on foolish heels on frozen Mayfair pavements which I find iron hard and unforgiving at the best of times. When we arrived there was a rather tatty bike chained to the railings outside. We made eye-contact, nodded and mouthed ‘Pig’ in unison. Inside we were relieved of our chic designer tweed coats in which instants before we had been proud to be seen but which all of a sudden made us feel like hulking hicks from sticksville on account of the frankly frightening volume of furs that adorned the unfeasibly high-cheekboned, skinny thighed, sky-scraping legged Slavic ladies being lunched by slavering red-faced pinstripes quietly drooling across tables far too tightly squooshed into the odd interior of this modish canteen which included an incongrous porthole with views of raging seas behind it. It had the effect of inducing a sort of hypnotic nausea which seemed rather inappropriate in an eatery. In the midst of this, entirely oblivious to his contradictory appearance was The Pig. Wearing worn to softly transparent chinos and battered converse high-tops and with his shiny anorak on the back of his stylish but clearly, from his air of sitting on a wasp, wholly uncomfortable chair and his wreck of a rucksack stashed on another he was reading Herman Hesse in Italian. Because he could and because it was an Italian restaurant. The staff were clearly bewildered by this apparition. Was he so rich that he simply didn’t need to care what others thought, or was he truly a tramp? We sashayed over and joined him, landing proper smackers on his waiting cheeks – no air kisses shall pass on my shift absorbing but ignoring the collective startled intake of breath from the other, clearly far more sophisticated than we, diners. As it turned out lunch was mediocre but the company was divine. The Pig is hyper smart and raises you to levels of mental agility that are simultaneously stimulating and exhausting. When the bill came I was rendered white at the gills appalled … I was paying and it was twice plus some what I had expected. Of course I seamlessly effected nonchalence but kept the receipt and on checking at home discovered that each and every one of the small bottles of water we had drunk had cost £10. I counselled the daughter earnestly and urgently that in future it would be far better if she always insisted on the finest vintage champagne … I know for a fact from her friends and her husband that she took this sage advice earnestly to heart.
PS: The quote is from Herman Hesse’s 1920 work Wandering:’Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.’ My picture is of Grenoble which is my home for the moment. I have read Wandering only in English, The Pig has, quite naturally, read it in several languages. It is only when I consider the cover now that I realise The Pig looks rather like Hesse.
The Pig, by the way, like my two brained husband has no Social Media accounts. Interesting. Perhaps. Do we think?
PPS: I couldn’t possibly write a piece in response to a challenge called ‘Wanderlust’ (the full library of noble entries here) without adding this moment from ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ … I quite simply couldn’t – enjoy.