Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Random acts of kindness

For the last two nights I've had to walk the dachshund in the dark. The shit-sampling day starts early and is long, and I've not managed to make it home before sundown. The Horse Doctor's been away too, so she couldn't do the honours at lunchtime.

It's not a problem - since the Arch has been closed there's no traffic, and it's quite nice to wander up the forestry tracks with nothing but the faintest of gloaming for illumination. Seeing where the dachshund is can be tricky, since he's mostly black. They've cut down a lot of trees recently, which means you don't get the truly impenetrable blackness that comes from walking at night under a forest canopy. Mostly the tracks are pothole free, so turning an ankle is unlikely.

But I do get some strange old thoughts.

Tonight, I started wondering what it would be like to somehow find myself inside the mind of my sixteen year old self, back in the past. How would I cope, back at school, preparing for A levels, hopelessly infatuated with one of the girls from St Swithuns* and yet too shy to even talk to her?

The stroll became a bit of a nostalgia fest once I'd set up the scene, but it was terrifying too. I can't remember any of the little, important things, like when and where I had which lessons, what I was meant to be learning, the names of some of the teachers. How would my thirty-something self cope with integrating back into that time and place without anyone noticing my sudden ability to speak Welsh, and inability to do trigonometry. Actually, I could never do trigonometry back then, so I don't suppose anyone would know the difference.

But the more I thought of it, the more I remembered the little details of life back then - or rather remembered enough to know that I couldn't remember them. For instance, we were woken each morning by a series of bells at intervals before breakfast. I can't for the life of me remember how the sequence went. Nor can I recall which day was laundry day, or the combination to the lock on my bicycle. There were a hundred and one things that went to make up life back then, and all of them are hazy.

Then I had an even more frightening thought. If I had gone back to the eighties, my sixteen year old self must have come forward to now. How would I cope, a sixteen year old suddenly finding himself in a much older body, in a strange house, a strange country? What would I do when the Horse Doctor came home and started speaking to me? This strange woman who I'd never met before? I could try phoning my parents, but the house we lived in back then has been sold and knocked down since, and they've moved to the other end of the country. I'd be confused, frightened and utterly alone.

And the technology would be baffling. When I was sixteen, a BBC Micro was the ultimate in computing power. Would I even recognise my laptop as a computer? And what of my ipod? I didn't even have a walkman back then. I'd know nothing of the internet and email. Satellite television? We didn't even have a remote control on the old Rediffusion- just four push buttons for the four channels.

If I wandered around the unfamiliar house searching for clues, I'd find three dogs and a cat who treated me like the pack leader, and yet I wouldn't know their names, or what to feed them. I'd find photographs of people I didn't recognise, hundreds of books I'd never read, CDs I'd never listened to, by bands who's members hadn't been born yet. I'd find pictures I'd drawn and perhaps more scary, novels I'd written but never read. I'd have a driving licence, and my passport would show stamps from countries I'd never visited. I'd have a beard.

It was all rather bewildering to my night-meandering self. On balance, I think it would be easier to inhabit my sixteen year old self with my present mind than the other way around. Fortunately the dachshund and I returned home before either eventuality could occur.

But I'm almost afraid to go to sleep now, lest I wake up in the morning in a winter-cold dormitory full of old school-friends whose names I can't remember, that bell ringing the minutes down to breakfast.

*To my shame, I can't remember her name


Anonymous Karl said...

Sir Benfro! Fantastic site, reads wonderfully. Keep up your most excellent work! -- Karl

November 23, 2006 1:08 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Cheers, Karl. Glad you enjoyed it. Cynic that I am, for a moment there I thought you were trying to sell me something;}#

November 23, 2006 6:55 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

I wouldn't want to be 16 again. Shudder.

November 23, 2006 8:07 pm  

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