Tag Archive: travel

I imagine a canvas about A3 size, arranged landscape.

In the centre are three magnificent buildings: on the left is the pale marvel of Udaipur City Palace.  On the right is the golden fortress of Jaisalmer.  And in the centre, a gleaming pearl, is the Taj Mahal.  These are large and form the focal point of the painting.

To the left of these is Lisa’s face.  She is wearing brown sunglasses with large lenses, and she is smiling.  The brown lenses reflect the Taj Mahal and a flare of light.

Around her head, like petals on a flower, are several distinct items of clothing.  These will include but aren’t limited to: voluminous yellow trousers; a long purple top; a pink sari.  Woven around these items are splashes of liquid colour that run up and down the canvas.  The splashes have the vague suggestion of flowers or fireworks, which fills the top-left-hand corner of the canvas.

To the right of the three buildings is an auto-rickshaw with a green roof.  It could be leaping out of the page.  Its driver is a scrawny man of indeterminate age.  There may or may not be people in the passenger seats behind.  The vehicle bursts out of another splash of colour, this like an explosion of festival powder, which contains long streaks of Arabesque curls and stripes.  Beneath this are the words TUK TUK.

Above and to the right of the rickshaw, in the top-right corner, is a male Indian face looking outward.  He has a black sweep of hair, thick lips, wide eyes.  Shadows on his features make him appear menacing.  Above him is a street sign that reads: Tourist Information Centre.  These words appear to be enclosed in an elongated sun, but this is actually a speech bubble with twenty spikes, each denoting one of twenty voices.

In the centre of the canvas, at the bottom below the three buildings, is a cow.  She isn’t interested in looking at the viewer.  In her mouth is a bright gajra, the garland of marigolds that can be found in every shop and dwelling during festival time.  Flowers and petals are littered around her front hoofs.  The trail leads ahead, to the bottom-left corner of the canvas, by which point they have merged indistinctly with the currents of a long river: the mother Ganges.

Tiny floating candles glow amidst the currents.  Above the river float several tiny but distinct Hindu gods, in the Indian “miniature painting” style.  Amongst them are recognizably a praying Shiva, a seated Ganesh, Hanuman leaping with a mountain in one hand and his mace in the other, and the dancing Kali.

The cow is not alone.  Standing at her side, almost obscuring her, is a black water buffalo.  His head is picking up grass or garlands from the ground by his front right hoof, displaying his heavy horns.  His sharp hip bones protrude from his flanks.

Behind the cow and buffalo is a longer trail of flowers, which surround a circular fountain in the bottom-right corner of the canvas.  The base of the fountain is decorated with stone birds.  Water sprays upward, glistening.  It almost touches the front wheel of the auto-rickshaw above.

Rising from the flowers by the fountain is a green topiary elephant.  The leaves are painted in minute, exquisite detail.  It is rising up on its rear legs.  Behind this, almost like a shadow, is a realistic depiction of a real elephant.  We see the flaps of its ears; its domed head; the long curve of its trunk; and its tusks.  This is all.

Move across the canvas, past the cow and buffalo and the river, to the blank space that is to the left of Lisa’s face.  A woman is painted here in ochre hues.  She looks from under her orange hood to the left, away from the centrepiece.  Her bangled arm is stretched out; she is begging.  The woman is not too old or gaunt.  Beside her, clutching her skirts, is a young boy or girl.  The child is looking directly at the viewer.  Behind the child may be an emaciated street dog with patchy fur, at the very edge of the canvas.

The remaining blank space is above the centrepiece of forts.  Here in large letters of appropriate font and colour is the world INDIA.  Beneath this in small letters reads: a portrait.  More colour explodes from behind the words.  To the left of the giant “I” are the blue-green feathers of a peacock, the country’s national bird.  To the right of the giant “A” is a faithful reproduction of a kingfisher, exactly how it appears on the label of the eponymous beer.

Where there are small gaps between all these images, the space can be filled with chunky lettering saying one of three phrases: “Tuk-tuk?” – “Hello come inside” – “Namaste”.



The Long Way Home

Hello everyone!

In a few weeks, my other half Lisa and I will be going abroad to travel for nearly seven months.

As you’d expect, posts on this blog will probably be less frequent until we come back in April 2013.  I suspect that the next “Journal RSR” post will be the last one for good.

Until we return there’ll be plenty of updates on our travel blog:


…Where you can read about our adventures in India, Nepal, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Bali, Australia, New Zealand and California.

Don’t forget to subscribe so that you get your e-mail notifications when we make a new post.

Until then, see you in another life.


I found these pages of my journal, which I wrote on scraps in a café in Bracken a few weeks ago.  Having written in my book since I must stick them here, but when I look back at these words (if I ever do) I will see the date and know where it belongs in my personal, private timeline…


~          ~          ~          ~          ~      

Skeinsday, 16 Vernuz

Earned 37 / Spent 4

Savings 18,338

~          ~          ~          ~          ~         

Slowly, our plan of action comes together.

After speaking on the brineline our common goals came into synchronization.  The plan was for me to meet Foist in Metrodon, and from there we would travel the whole of Terrene together. 

Some places were high on Foist’s list; these might be lower on mine.  We both made sacrifices.  But the key places, the important places, were the first ones that we agreed.  Now we have a fine plan, and my map is covered in red dots and dashes, arrows and annotations.  We’ve tracked zeppelin routes and primary train lines, marked the border gates where a certain visa, pass or faith is required to cross.  We’ve researched all the recommendations when it comes to bribes or sacrificial offerings (which it often will).  There will need to be other arrangements: tour guides, translators, equipment, and most of all, seeds.

I have fair savings.  So does Foist.  She’s not been slack in saving either, and together we will have just enough to travel on.  Bless her, she’s been giving up her luxuries one by one.  The brineline was the only strictly unnecessary expense she’s made in months.

The itinerary comes together.  Soon we had a plan.  It’s all written there, in the pages of my notebook, on slips in this journal, or in tiny neat letters in the blanks spaces of the map.

I will leave Kernel, waving goodbye to the Den and the muddy thoroughfare and the endless running.  I’ll pass through Becken by stagecoach, then overland some other way to the edge of the jungle.  A sequence of trains will take me, in days, to Metrodon.

From there Foist and I are together again for the rest of the adventure: a zeppelin flight to Tinder, the land of spice, then by rail and longmule to Shangri-La in the mountains.  It will be cold and the next borders are patrolled by militia, closed to all visitors.  There the maréchaussée will be all over the hills and desert, drawing lines from the Umber Plains to the Jade Reefs. 

The varied landscape of the Jade Reefs will be our home for a few weeks as we move to the east coast, then south.  Beyond Embassy is the stretched coastal landscape of the Lower East, Namma, and turning back west through the deeper forests we’ll make our way to the Regency of Golden Statues. 

By then it will be Torp, maybe even Vernuz.  A few weeks later will see us down the continent’s tapering peninsula to the Scattered Isles, where the sun burns the white sand to glass under your bare feet.  We’ll fly to the Redland and, from there, to the Zeauk islands.  Maybe under those dense canopies I’ll begin to miss Kernel, almost a year from now.  Maybe I won’t.  I’ll see Hollystar before I see these vegesaur-infested jungles again.

The trip will see us from Senescence this year right through the winter into late Pollinary.  Those months will be long and rough and dirty, full of stuffy trains and difficult horses, cramped zeppelin cradles and layers of culture shock.  We’ll require jabs from the apothecary and the courier’s Union will need to know that I’m leaving for half a year.  I’ll be saying goodbye to my life for over six months, but it’ll be worth it.


Bloomsday, 14 Vernuz

Earned 39 / Spent 5

Savings 18,269

~          ~          ~          ~          ~         

Foist and I plot and plan.  Our letters to each other have never been exchanged so frequently.  Volatus, the mail man, noticed the change in me and wondered if I’m now writing to two women, three maybe?

‘You won’t have to haul my letters much longer, Volatus,’ I said, snatching the envelopes out of his hand. ‘In a few months, I’ll be gone.’

He blinked. ‘You’re leaving Capital Hill?’

‘I’m leaving Kernel,’ I said, and closed the door.

Foist is excited.  Her words tremble on the page, or is that just my eyes?  She’s thrilled to be leaving Metrodon, where she’s lived for too long, and that she will see and experience something new.

I unrolled a huge map across the floor.  Hundreds of miles away, I knew that Foist was doing the same.  We traced invisible lines across the whole of Terrene, from Kernel to Metrodon and beyond, moving east, east, across mountain ranges and continents, across rivers and oceans and islands.

But it got too hard to understand one another, in our long, rambling letters.  We talked as though we could look through one another’s eyes.  We misunderstood each other, wasting paragraphs, and started scrawling ungainly maps and diagrams onto scraps of paper to fill the void in our understanding. 

Then I was at the Union distribution centre, waiting for the next packet to deliver (the Queen over in Torment has prepped PMU for an alarming number of impending pick-ups and runs) and Steph Jarvie came to me, expression unreadable, to say, ‘Brineline.  For you.’

The brineline.  It hadn’t sung in a week, and it’s never sung for me.  I climbed the steps to the overseer’s office and found the door open, Grouter leaning back in his chair with his eyebrows raised.  Written all over his gnomic face was some emotion, or mischief, and as always I couldn’t quite read him.  He pointed to the brineline receiver, which was out the pool and waiting.

Silently I picked up the receiver and peeled back its petals.  The veins were wet and pulpy in my hand, and the cord dropped on my feet and the floor.  I’d never used the expensive brineline before but I knew how it worked: breathe into the hollow stem and millions of water cells unfold into a resonant crystalline formation, through which a person’s voice can carry over tremendous distances.


There was a pause.  I had no idea what to expect, but I was still surprised to hear the voice on the other end of the line.  I could almost hear her smile.

‘Hello, Reks, baby.  Let’s talk properly and finish our plan, shall we?’

Foist.  I hadn’t heard her voice, except in my head, for months.

I smiled.

‘Let’s,’ I breathed.


Odosday, 9 Vernuz

Earned 44 / Spent 5

Savings 18,104

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

What is Kernel to me now?  It’s almost a memory.  As it sprang up for me after the Displacement, now it fades when I’m not looking, just a temporary screen thrown between me and the future as a mild distraction.

Foist wrote:  It’s time for me to go and see her, in Metrodon.

It’s time!

It has been fifteen days since I last wrote my journal.  The Disc has gotten closer and closer, and deeper runs the drakeroot infestation in my legs.  I began to feel that hope was dying within me.  At first, like a dark spot of ink, the desperation is noticeable but very small.  But sometimes the ink falls on blotting paper.

Then, as I read her letter, delicately perfumed and sprinkled with detritus from her carpelwork, my hands began to shake.  At regular intervals lately the infestation flares up and dies down, like the turning torch of a lighthouse.  Almost rhythmically I feel the root fingering through the bones of my legs and pelvis, active for days, then relatively calm.  A week or two later comes the rooting again, and I wonder if it’s reached my spine, and whether there are fibres growing in the musculature of my arms, taking deeper hold throughout all my body.

I don’t imbibe the root anymore.  When I run, I do so at my own pace.  The Union can get fucked; I’m burned out.  I wonder whether I’ll ever be able to work as a courier again, or whether I’ll leave and try something else, something completely different.  Will the anxiety stay with me once I’ve run my last, or will it be a slow walk to freedom and peace?  I expect that, like all unconquered fears, I will have to live with it forever.

But the letter, Foist’s letter, is certain: now is the time.  Prices in Metrodon have fallen; the zeppelin companies are in direct competition now that a monopoly has been lifted.  There is no longer an embargo between the neighbouring states, with their strange peoples and traditions.  Passage to Metrodon is available again, and all these months of saving have made travel viable. 

So many seeds, hoarded in my house on Capital Hill – and in that sea of valuable woodchip there drowns nuts and the occasional fruit stone, riches in my riches.

There are moments of uncertainty, now.  I could cash in the seeds for something else – my own house, or passage on the Bridge, or even start my own business.  Is it really the best time to stop running?  Maybe it’ll get easier and the PM Union will become bearable.  If I left for Metrodon then I would have to cancel membership.  The chances of them allowing it to continue until my return are slim. 

Because they recognise, perhaps, that I won’t return.  At least not to them.

I look at the seeds, in their waterproof jars in the cabinet-space under the floorboards.  Nearly twenty jars.  Over 18,000 seeds, nuts and stones! 

Foist!  I’m coming!



Is this a blog or an essay-station?  It’s a blog, so maybe I should blog.

*          *          *

If a city changes and your perception of the city changes with it, has the city really changed at all? 

*          *          *

Sheffield is a different town lately.  There’s an increased bustle around the marketplace, new stalls popping up all the time.  Food.  Culture.  This morning, the last day of September, is the strangest yet.  A market for electronic goods.  There are fridges and washing machines in the street, right now, under green and white awnings.

*          *          *

The big wheel that can be seen from my office window, looming over the surrounding buildings like the Eye of fucking Sauron, is to be dismantled some time in October.  The monstrous thing, so long a fixture of the city centre, will leave a big empty space where it once stood.  On a sunny day, the rotating spokes cast their moving shadows over all the buildings across the street from my window.  I often sit on a bench under the wheel in the morning, if I have time to snatch a few more pages of a book before work.  It’s almost like a giant creaking shield; we may well feel vulnerable in its absence.

*          *          *

The main shopping thoroughfare is routinely packed with charity workers.  They’ve all obviously been taught to apply new techniques to their particular brand of begging.  It’s as though the same workshop leader has been all around the different charities and said the same thing: ‘Say something funny to get their attention.  Flatter them and they’re more likely to talk to you.’

I found it strange the first time I fell victim to this new species of hyenaism.  The guy hopped in front of me, like they usually do, looking like chirpy little gnomes, and said, ‘Rugby player, right?’

I thought, ‘What?  Why would he think that?  I don’t look like a rugby player.  I look like I spend all my time reading and not doing sports.  What’s he getting at?’


I’m usually busy when I’m in the thoroughfare.  Whenever I’m walking, assume that I’m going from A to B.  The only reasons for me to do this are, firstly, I don’t want to be at Place A and intend to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible.  The other reason is that I want to get to Place B, and therefore have something to do. 

Why charity workers think this is the best time to harass someone is beyond me.

I said to the gnome, ‘I’m busy,’ and walked on. 

I caught on properly when I saw the same worker the next day (It was the food market.  I ate an ostrich burger).  He pounced on somebody else and said the same thing, ‘Rugby player, right?’

Another girl, for the NSPCC: “Well-dressed man.  Hello.’

‘I’m busy.’

A guy for OXFAM: ‘Tell me the truth, do you like my beard?’

‘It’s great.’

The latest, for St John’s Ambulance: “OHMYGOD!  No!  Brad Pitt, really!?”

Brad Pitt.

She missed the mark, I think.  Going for “flattery” and throttling “insulting” instead.  My own floppy-haired, pointy-nosed, girly-mouthed phizzog in no way resembles Mr Pitt’s.  In fact, it’s so far from Mr Pitt’s that the comment merely draws attention to just how not-Pitt I am.

*          *          *

Evangeline, the soul-singing Bible-basher who regularly wanders the streets pouring out her heart at the top of her voice, has taken on a new look.

She sports a red and white jogging suit, a red felt beret and–

–and an electric guitar.

With an amp.

Motherfucker’s organised now!

*          *          *

Someone sent this fax to my office:

 Incoming fax

 It doesn’t say who it’s from, or why they want to contact us, or what their business is.

So I sent this reply, to which I have not received a response:

Outgoing fax

I get these little moods.  One time, I put tiny pin-pricks in the bottle of washing-up liquid by the kitchen sink.  The holes are too tiny to let the viscous fluid leak out when the bottle is left standing, but as soon as a hand exerts pressure …

A couple of months ago I drew a giant smiley face on the counter in salt.  It had Tetley tea-bags for eyes.

The other day I made the following wonderful work of art out of sheer boredom.  This happens regularly and nobody’s figured out that it’s me yet.

 Tumbler Tower

 I can’t take responsibility for this one, although I wish I could:

Percy Plant

 *          *          *

One woman in the office apparently has a home filled with contents so pristine and uniformly matching that it’s been dubbed ‘the white house’. 

It must feel like that first step into Narnia.  Blinding, wondrous, otherworldly.

The sight of a single leaf on her lawn is supremely distressing and the situation must be corrected immediately.  Woe betide the birds that keep dropping small twigs beside the tree in the garden – but there’s no way to get them to move on.  This is very upsetting.

*          *          *

Before I die, I want to understand why it’s not littering to drop your fag end in the street.

*         *         *

A therapist asked me once how I feel about the dark.  I said, ‘With my arms out, like this.’ 

He thought that was funny, which made me feel a little better about myself.

*          *          *

The cat with the white-tipped tail that walked so nonchalantly into my flat the other week has not returned.

But a ginger one chased Oscar all around the bushes last night, the little shit.

*         *         *

But if a city changes and your perception of the city changes with it, has the city really changed at all? 

If you are different but the city goes on as before, is this the same thing?

*         *         *

You are one of 6.8 billion people living on Earth.  You occupy one of 195 recognised countries, on six continental landmasses.

There is a lot of world to see.

If there are tides in the soul driving us to travel, then there need be a moon pulling on the tide; any innate need to see the world must be the result of a cause.

Ishmael’s opening chapter in “Moby Dick” struck a chord in me years ago, and continues to do so to this day:

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”


Veils, Waterfalls and the Snooty Fox

I travel with my mother to Kirkby Lonsdale by car.  We were to meet my two brothers, my sister and her boyfriend at a holiday house somewhere up in that general area.  This was a send-off of sorts for my eldest brother, who moves for a year at least to Canada this summer, for work.

My younger brother, who has owned and demolished several cars in the short years he has legally been permitted to drive, set off around the same time as my Mother and I.  He has already arrived.  We have more than halfway to go.

Too far north, missing the ideal junction, has put us somewhere near Wetherby.  To need to go west.  These small towns are congested with traffic and the heat is making me sleepy. More than an hour as a passenger in a car and I get restless and irritable.  I had the inbetweenness of travel.  I suppose this is normal.

A quick stop at the biggest garden centre I’ve ever seen.  It’s like a cavern inside.  They sell everything.  Furniture.  Lots of furniture.  Huge plants fill one partitioned area like a shrine to Skull Island.  The weather has given this place a tropical feel.  Mum goes for the ladies.  I have my heart set on the bacon sandwich I saw advertised on a board outside.

The restaurant – this garden centre has a restaurant – closes at 17:00.  I check the clock on my phone.  It’s nearly twenty past five.  Shit.  But maybe there’s a gift shop?

Shelves and shelves of books.  Three for five pounds!  The urge to spend at least an hour here is strong, but I’ve already told Mum off for dithering.  Better not.  Through the gift shop is a café – this garden centre has both a restaurant and a café – and my mouth waters at the prospect of tasty food.  I check the notice.  It closes at 17:30.  I look at my phone.  It’s gone half past.  Shit.

We leave with discount junk including chocolate chicks.  These make us both a little hyper but biting the head off the sweet little thing upset Mum a bit.

I don’t tell her about the Turkish Delight in the carrier bag.  That’s all mine.

More traffic.  A65.  I can taste it.  The fumes.  The fume-laden ‘fresh’ air blowing through the open window.


Then outside Otley, approaching the A-road, and on it, speeding onward.

The scenery: it is beautiful out here.

When I die I want it to be somewhere like this.

*   *   *   *   *

Pink Flower

Blue Flowers

The directions said something about a road veering sharply to one side and a track shooting off to the other.  We are to follow the farm track a short way to the place we are to sleep.

It’s still light even though it’s getting late.  We drive very slowly up the track.  It is two rows of dusty white gravel split by a hump of rough grass.  The gravel is uneven and the hump is tall.  The path is extremely narrow; bracken and fern brush small insects in through the open passenger window.

It takes us a long time to reach the end.  The first thing I see is a cage of chickens.  This can’t be right.  A collie runs out of a barn of corrugated iron, back in again.  We nose the car into the small open space in front of this barn.  There are geese.  These geese are surprisingly huge, waddling with their beaks up and open, side-facing eyes scrutinising us, their thick tongues wagging.

‘This can’t be right,’ one of us says.

We say this a few times before we get there.

*   *   *   *   *

The next morning I sit in an angler’s chair, the sun beating down on me with incredible warmth and brightness.  I have a now-cold tea and 180 pages of Ray Bradbury.  Birds twitter somewhere out of sight, and sheep bleat to each other about a mile away in the up-and-down of the hilly fields.  A fly buzzes a lazy Spirograph above my head, bees – maybe four of them – a basser tone behind me.

A large spider moves in stops and starts along a line of cobbles.  It runs fluidly over and between them, sometimes disappearing for a few seconds and reappearing further along.  The cobbles are arranged in a square surrounding the central picnic table.  The spider follows the corner and moves towards me.  I realise that I couldn’t care less.  The thing could probably crawl up the leg of my jeans and it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest.

I sacrificed a tiny lion to the Deep Magic on this table.

That is one big pile o' shit. And my mum.

I’m normally good at hiding my dislike of creepy crawlies.  Spiders I will happily crush between a few layers of kitchen roll if they bother anyone, or – in exceptional circumstances – I can stand to capture them with my bare hands.  I release enough critters out the kitchen window to wonder if they don’t have a club there with a charter planning the eventual raid and conquest of my ground-floor flat.

Bees and wasps bother me.  They strike a chord of deep terror in me that I haven’t yet been able to rationalise away.  I hide this terror well, also.  The first instinct an animal has when hearing the noise of something that terrifies it is to run.  I normally suppress this impulse.  The next instinct is to stand stock still and hope that the thing goes away without touching you.  When faced with a wasp in my bedroom, this is my usual reaction until I pluck up the courage to try to waft it out the window.

Today, sitting in my angler’s chair with cold tea, I don’t even look up at the bees to keep track of them.  Normally I would be predicting their flight paths and calculating whether said paths might intersect my own airspace in the time it would take me to get inside and shut the door.  But the bees don’t upset me, either.

I am completely relaxed.


It is family tradition to have huge English breakfasts every morning when on holiday.  It’s rather healthy, relatively speaking: grilled sausages, bacon with the fat cut away.  Apparently baked beans are rather good for you – if you don’t count the salt and sugars.  This fairly uncommitted information comes from my older brother, a doctor.

The shower that morning was weak but warm enough.  The bath has sloping sides and I felt like I was standing in a large tin bowl or coracle.  Unnervingly, the little window opens up at eye-level onto the small paved area behind the house.  In my own home I can take half an hour under a showerhead; elsewhere I’m finished in minutes.

It has been a lazy morning.  Two of Mum’s friends are spending the night here also.  They arrived as I’m writing up the ‘journal entry’ for the day before in the room I’m sharing with my little brother.

This morning we woke up around the same time.  I stretched, turned to grope for my mobile to check the time, and my brother said “morning”.  I said “uuuuuuuuh”, which he found hilarious.

Politely I greet our guests.  They are visiting from South Shields near Newcastle.  From years ago I remember my last visit to their home by the river: shelves and shelves of books, which I loved even then, including Douglas Adams’ ‘The Meaning of Liff’.  We played a lot of Risk, which I had never played before and haven’t played since for lack of an interested second party.

They did not and still do not own a television.

Then, he was a tall man, dark-haired and mustachioed, with a firm grip and deep, booming laugh that always surprised people he was meeting for the first time.  Today I shake his hand: he does not seem so tall, his hair is finer and shot through with grey, even the ‘tasche.  His handshake is not so overpowering.  He speaks more quietly than I remember.

She was a friend of my mother’s back when they both studied medicine.  Like her husband, she is still recognisable as the same person, however slow illness has shrunken her.  They come with a black wheeled trunk like a children’s travel case that contains a portable dialysis machine; a cardboard box containing plastic packets of fluid, like the kind that hang from IV trees.

They are excellent, excellent company, but would not appreciate my saying that for a moment only I am remindeded of the process of age and ailment that brings us inevitably to death.

*   *   *   *   *

We are staying five or six miles away from Kirkby Lonsdale, the second K of which I am told is mysteriously silent.  Rather than being reminded of starship captains, without the K I am reminded of pink balloons.

We go.  As always happens on family outings, we dither over the decisions, bicker, then go our separate ways.  My sister and her boyfriend take one direction.  We three brothers take another.

The eldest and I take a few moments to decide over hats in a small shop on one of the main roads.  I like an Indiana-style number in brown leather that, remarkably, does not make me look stupid.  It’s forty quid.  He settles for a casual Panama hat for less than a tenner; I buy shorts, which I never usually wear, because I have only brought jeans.  I am never prepared for a heatwave.  The sun is ferociously hot this weekend.

Whenever somebody says to me, ‘the sun is hot today’, I can never resist pointing out to them that the sun, night or day, is always hot.

Years of being indoors hunched over a word processor with barely a window cracked has left me unsuitable for extended exposure to the sun.  The protective cream that is offered to me is factor 30 and I wonder if this is enough.  Then I decide that if coating on a substance that provides thirty times the natural UV protection of my skin is not enough to protect it, then fuck it, I’ll just die.  Cavemen never had Ambre Solaire, and I bet they did just fine.

The youngest of us, barely old enough to total his first car, has become an amateur photographer.  I am jealous of his semi-professional camera, which looks like a machine built purely to purpose.  There is no aesthetic value to a good camera. The shell is designed only to keep the sensitive innards in the right place and to allow a human being to hold it reasonably comfortably.

I point out good things to take pictures of.  The pub signs, animals, mainly tumbling stone walls layered with ivy and colourful flowers, their vines spidering up the adjacent building.

We pass through a churchyard where a wedding is taking place.  The bells are ringing calamitously.  There are many smartly dressed women here.  I wonder what it is about weddings that make girls feel compelled to wear shawls.  On no other occasion would a woman consider wearing a weightless transparent shawl about their shoulders, so flimsy that when it blows away in a light breeze the only indicator is a feathery touch on the cheek of diaphanous material before it’s gone over the nearest flying buttress.

The wide river Lune curves into the town and away again.  Either the water is particularly clear, or the bright, direct rays of the sun are providing a spectacular view of the river bed, its silt, its smooth trails of green weed, the multiple layers of stone, slate and gravel that are different shades of grey beneath a layer of shifting sediment.

A set of uneven steps descend steeply to the riverside, and from there a flimsy-looking wooden bridge stretches over fallen trees, rocks, and damp earth.  I jump up and down on it, probably a little loony from sunstroke, and screech, ‘Look Doct-ah Jones!  It safe!  It safe!’

Thankfully they get the reference.  Not many people get my film references, probably because I pick the less-quoted of them.  There’s nothing more annoying that hearing some idiot shout ‘This … is an ex … parrot!’ and actually expect a laugh.

I am dying for a coke and an ice cream.  We make our way along the riverside, then turn around and go up a second route that weaves between buildings affording a fantastic view of the surrounding hills.  My brother lets me borrow his camera, and I take pictures of things that I find interesting:

Back at the cottage, all I want to do is drink the coke I got from a shop and sleep.  Being outside is tiring and I find myself fatigued.  Company, for me, is equally exhausting.  Groups of more than three or four make me sullen and introspective, as though too much stimulus turns my thoughts inside out.  I become despondent and irritable, I suppose like a child.

I take off my jeans and sit on the bed, fiddle with my phone then read.  By page 50 of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ I feel like crying.

I watch a spider cross the bedroom floor and climb into my upturned shoe.

But I’ll get it later.

*   *   *   *   *

A fallen tree with thousands of 2p pieces pounded into it as part of local tradition