30 beds and travelling light

After being home a week, I no longer lie half awake laboriously reconstructing where I might be. But I still dream obsessively of complicated travel tasks to be completed, getting entry codes or worrying about connections, before becoming fully awake and aware that the route to the fridge and the bathroom is straightforward without risk of being stranded by the wardrobe for hours.

Disaster awareness increases with age and I worry about things that I wouldn’t have given a thought to twenty years ago, at the same time as being intellectually aware that these worries are unrealistic.

Perhaps more remarkable is that there have been relatively few determined assaults on walk-in cupboards as I try, semi-conscious, to bend the uncompromising shape of hanging clothes into a half-remembered bathroom. Remarkable because I have made two major trips overland to the UK this summer, each of them involving staying in fifteen different places. Despite having become seriously elderly, it seems that the old dog can learn new tricks to adjust to nomadic life.

I do, however, have to make some concessions to advancing age. Attempts on a pub staircase in Dorset to disprove Newton while person handling a heavy case probably led to unpleasant results.

I want my everyday life to continue so that travelling, for example, to Scotland is not just socks, a toothbrush and lactose tablets but books on crofting and the land question, Teach Yourself Gaelic, offprints on Gaelic place names, OS maps and guides, and needs arising en route so that I would have purchased Walter Scott’s Fair Maid of Perth had the city’s not-so-fair book merchants made room (saved in this case by a fair friend from Sweden, who sent me a link).

And returning via Cheshire, then the relevant volume of Pevsner’s architecture series is a must as it is for Dorset (and perhaps Somerset too), which also requires more maps and other material about the county, my own notes not least. And then there’s Bengali which I didn’t want to neglect for six weeks (although that was what happened).

The travel necessities of ideal David Kendall are in other words pushing way beyond the recent breathless temperatures in the forties to 50 or even 60 kgs, which, in the absence of a train of bearers or a few of Lord Curzon’s elephants, is a non-starter.

The concept of luggage needs to be reviewed. Transitional objects of marginal use to help the traveller deal with the trauma of the unknown are easy to eliminate. And a reality check can be made on the extent to which ideal David Kendall’s desires can be achieved by actually existing David Kendall. But there is still a stubborn pile of inexpensive objects being transported with effort back and forth between the same or similar places. It seems more logical to let the luggage stay where it is and just transport myself; I have started to address this problem by leaving suitcases of clothes and books, initially at four or five frequent locations, with friends or, in one case, a self-storage facility.

I had my first substantially luggage-free trip back from the UK this time. It was a dream to be so nimble – when arriving at Strasbourg with no taxi in sight and a queue in the baking sun, it was easy to retreat and find a bus via Google maps. Or being able to weasel my way lightly loaded through a tangle of contorted bodies to grab a seat when the Danes did their usual trick of taking so long to check passports in a stationary train that I missed my connection and lost my seat reservation at Fredericia. Or not travelling home by taxi from the airport.

The “hug-me” moment lasted almost the whole way home when a quick check outside my flat revealed that I was one bag missing, which I’d left at the bus stop in central Uppsala, my imagination’s relaxing moment of arrival in my armchair replaced by a thin-lipped fraught bus ride back to town where my little grey bag with a few treasures and a pile of receipts was waiting patiently for me on the shelter seat.

All beginnings are difficult (and endings can be too if you let your guard down too quickly).

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