Thursday, 6 October 2016

Life (in between)

I think it would be fair to say that my trips to London are becoming fewer and further between and each time I go back for work I feel just a little bit further removed from what I used to find the most banal and mundane of routines. So much so in fact I’ve begun to wonder whether I am actually physically changing as a result of living out in the sticks most of the time. As I wandered about the City, desperately trying to look nonchalant and bored but inwardly feeling fascinated and not a little overwhelmed by the noise and the smells and the people (people, people everywhere!!!) I could hear a little David Attenborough voice perched somewhere above my right shoulder, narrating my life as a migratory animal that’s not quite made it back to the right place….. It went something like this…

[Scene 1: City street, 8.21am]

"So here…, in the sprawling metropolis on the plains of the South East, we see the lesser spotted country girl, tentatively making her way into the urban jungle, part of the monthly migration to reconnect with the herd and engage in the meeting and drinking rituals of her juvenile years. But if we look closely we can detect a certain evolution of her species, detectable only to the very keen observer, that set her apart from the pack. Her progress in the morning stampede of citybeests down Fenchurch Street is perceptibly slower than her counterparts. Her pace lacks the urgency and direction that was once there as she finds herself distracted by the latest winter dresses in the window of Marks & Spencer’s and the lovely shiny things in the Molton Brown shop. Other signs of her evolution are more obvious by the fact that she is wearing short sleeves and is still sweating profusely under her prolific mane of hair, thickened from months in the cold North West, whilst everyone around her is bundled up in winter coats and scarves, fully acclimatised to the shift in the seasons down here.

Urban jungle - hot hot hot!

[Scene 2: cut to office environment, 11.54am]

Now…, in the throes of going about her daily routines, evidence of the changes in this internal thermostat become even more apparent. Accustomed to the chilly winds and rains of Wales, the lesser spotted country girl struggles to cope with the heat and the recycled air of the office. As feeding time approaches her instinct to hunt and forage is frustrated by a short trip to the canteen where after a period of confusion she manages to secure some distinctly exotic foodstuffs in a plastic box. And so…… as our lesser spotted country girl starts to feast on her meal, her reactions show signs that her taste buds have too now changed. Processing the high quantities of salt and fat and MSG, she pauses, reflects and has a momentary panic that everything she has been serving her house guests for the past few months has been utterly bland and desperately under-seasoned, (her usual diet consisting of misshapen vegetables and random cuts of meat plus copious amounts of ketchup). But she perseveres, finishing up her lunch with what she believes to be a decaffeinated cappuccino from the machine. But watch now….. as she stands, paralysed with confusion over which buttons to press. Yes. She’s acted. But has she selected correctly? Let’s watch as she sips at her drink……… oh no, we can detect the increase in her heart rate, the shaking hands, the cold beads of sweat appearing on her forehead. It appears that our lesser spotter country girl has lost her genetic ability to process urban-strength caffeine. Watch as she now races her way through her afternoon, talking so fast she becomes completely incomprehensible to her colleagues and just downright annoying to everyone else around her.

[Scene 3: local pub garden, 7.43pm]

And so... with the onset of nightfall, we follow our lesser spotted country girl to the watering hole..., where she meets up with another member of her pack and insists that they sit outside, her recalibrated internal thermostat once again setting her apart from others around her, who sit shivering into their pints. She engages in the conversation but gets easily distracted by the sights and sounds and smells around her. Her attention span has become so used to the relative low stimulation of a rural environment that she suffers a temporary sensory overload and has to retreat to the little girl’s room to recover her composure.  But even in here she finds herself slightly bewildered as she almost wrenches the door off its hinges, forgetting that it is not, in fact, an ill-fitting five-bar gate that has strengthened her arms to Welsh farmer proportions, rather than perhaps the more feminine results of the Virgin Active gym in the other females reapplying their war paint around her. She watches, bemused, for a few seconds, wondering whether she should emulate their behaviours, then plumps instead to empty most of the contents of the free hand lotion into her palms before anyone can detect how battered and rough her hands have become and blow her cover as a City imposter.

[Scene 4: Waterloo station, 10.33pm – camera pans in to single female standing stock still with a scene of chaos swirling all around her]

Finally…….we track our lesser spotted country girl as she joins the reverse mass migration from the City and finds herself caught up in the catastrophic maelstrom that is a signal failure at Wimbledon. Packs and packs of people congregate on the concourse, all staring fixedly at the notice boards or flicking blankly through their smart phones. But not our country girl. She stands stock still, eyes focusing on nothing in particular, but intently people watching, taking in the details of their dress and all of the accoutrements, imaging the life behind each one of them as they scuttle hurriedly around the station. She does this for more than an hour but her sense of time also seems to have changed, as she is barely aware of the time passing but enjoys the opportunity to just….. do…… nothing….. For she knows that in 24 hours she will be back in her other environment, swept up in the day to day routines of watering, weeding, preserving and persevering with her squabbling offspring, reunited with her long-suffering mate. And she will, in the space of just a few hours, once again transform from the tough country bumpkin in the city to the soft, southern townie in the country."

Country bumpkin or southern townie???

Ok so I doubt this is going to win any BAFTAs and I’m sure Sir David would sue the ass of me if he read this but maybe this serves as a sign that I need to spend more time with people than just hanging out with my plants and animals all week long!

Let's call this meeting to order!

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