I don’t know whether it is cool or cruel. The rush is coming down upon me like a flood. I count the days to go and there is 4.8. Then we sit on a plane and return to everything we know.
I don’t know what I expected. That it would be some repeat fade ending to a song? That I would be sick of the road? That I would be pining for my own bed, for friends, for family, for regularity? Yes, I miss them all – sometimes achingly – but it seems that I will miss everything here with a pain I am yet to feel but have a vague sense of.
But honestly I thought that I would be happy to see the end of the road – and in some senses I am – but I didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect everything to take on that shining, emotional newness that usually marks the beginning of journeys. Where you look around a city and everything shines and glistens. Where you get a shiver to hear foreign accents and pick through unfamiliar coins to pay for something. But for some bizarre reason it is all peaking right now and I feel like we have just begun.
London sparkles like nothing you have seen at Christmas. Soho bustles and kind of shines even in the rain at night. Everything glistens. We walked the streets just soaking it all in, intensified by the immediacy of our return. I found it hard to get my head around that a beer in the Soho streets seemed so NORMAL but in 6 short days it will seem so exotic and and distant. The underground, the crowds, the hustle. Then there is a guy singing John Lennon’s “The War is Over” and everything comes crashing in. I stop. We all stop. We stand to the side as the crowds pass and the bearded London busker belts it out with everything he has. The rush.
The dark early morning London get up for the train. Hauling luggage (WAY too much…), Euston station coffee and a check of the departure board. Sliding through the English country side with tunes filling my head. Staring across the aisle of the train at my beautiful women all dissolved in their own worlds of books or iPads or tunes. Looking at these 4 inspiring souls just doing it in style, like it was all normal. The Irish sea with 45 knot winds and a good swell. Hauling luggage onto the bus in the dark then wandering through blustery Dublin streets to get to the hotel.
Dublin! Like I had never been there before – everything felt so alive. Crushes of Christmas shoppers, a jazz band pumping life into everyone that walked past. Babies dancing involuntarily in the streets because it was so good. Sparkling, shining life everywhere. Sitting in a cafe, sipping the best coffee I had had for weeks, the Dublin sun streaming through the window behind me and everything seemed right and like it would go on forever. Like this would never end.
Then driving across Ireland with my wingman Ellie (we had two cars because – embarrassingly – we couldn’t actually FIT into one car with 5 people and the volume of luggage we have). The full moon gleaming through clouds and onto the snow capped hills looming at us through the dark. Winding, impossible Irish back roads and Google got us there in time for our landlord to get to Mass (they still do that over here….)
Then the girls set about making a Christmas tree. Creating one from cardboard boxes, tin foil and coins. Before Tully discovered, tucked under the stairs of the rented flat, some strands of fake Christmas bush. Before we knew it she had wound it around the fire-tool stand and created a tree. Some coins as baubles, a plastic shopping bag cut into tinsel and a cardboard star. I love them for this. This unfazed spontaneity.
Then Mel and I leave them to watch TV as we walk 20m to the pub across the road. We sip fresh, thick frothed Guinness and listen to Christmas carols, Chris Rea and Band Aid singing their hearts out about Christmas time. I sat there, looked around and just laughed at it all. Children across the road, Mel and I sipping Guinness in an Irish pub in the middle of nowhere, Christmas eve 2015.
I remember one night, when I was about 18. I had just finished Kerouac’s On The Road and I found myself at a dodgy North Sydney nightclub (was it Berry Street?). And it felt like I do now. Everything around me seemed heightened. Everything and everyone seemed more alive and important. There was this guy on the dance floor dancing strangely. At that selfish age I may have normally nudged a friend, pointed and had a laugh. But there was something about him. He was lost in the music with arms and shoulders hunched up high, cap on, shuffling around to the tunes completely oblivious to everyone and everything around him. And it was brilliant, and I “dug it” (to steal Kerouac’s term) so much that I just shook my head, smiled, slapped my thigh and clapped. He was lost in his world and I understood what he was feeling.
That’s me right now. Everything is rushing faster and faster but time is also standing still. It is a strange, beautiful feeling. It will end in a few days. I just wonder how much I can hold onto.