My alarm goes off, it’s 4.30am. Outside it’s dark and cold and frosty, London is in the grips of winter. I have a taxi booked for Heathrow Airport, I have a large rucksack, it is packed for a long trip, I am on a Gap Year, a Fifty one year olds Gap Year why should young people have all the fun.
I am flying to India, I will not be rushing back.
I think that in a previous life I spent a lot of time in the sun. There was water close by, I am drawn to them both strongly. This evening I have work to do but I am looking at maps, I move to Google Earth, I spin the Globe, I zoom to Goa, I dive down to palms and shorelines, lagoons and beach shacks, I need to be there, not here, for a while. My body needs time in the sun, I will happily turn shades of ever deeper brown, I will soak myself in salt-water, swim day after day, dry out on silver sands, drink juice and coconut water, eat fish and fresh foods that don’t come wrapped in plastic. I will watch sunrises and sunsets until I lose count. Most of all I will talk to people, just talk and hear stories and make my own. I will remember and learn and write notebooks full of tales.
I have worked more than thirty-five years, I started at sixteen years old, I have keyed ten thousand spreadsheets, sent God only knows how many emails, before that I typed countless memos and letters, there were in days long gone telexes written, I have sent notes about a million things that are long forgotten that now mean nothing, on paper long dumped or landfilled, when I started working a calculator was slab sized and had to be plugged into mains electric, years later I remember seeing the first mobile phone, a battery the size used in a car, the phone itself like a brick. The first computers were whole room sized and had less processing power than many mobile devices now.
I have worked in offices, in factories, on building sites, I have worked at machines for twelve hours a day making parts for other machines, in a factory making cakes, giant cookers, freezers a hundred metres long like caves, I have helped build homes and convert barns, I’ve sold clothes and shoes and books, for many years now I have sat at a desk and crashed away at too many keyboards for hour after hour, it is high time for a new direction and something else.
My senses are filled with memories of stepping off an aeroplane, being hit by that first blast of warm air after the chill of England. Maybe they are memories I am to have again, the smell of India, excitement in the chaos that somehow works. Goa airport is a strange welcome to India, head there at Christmas it is surreal to step off the plane, into bright warm sunshine and India, then into a terminal building to be greeted by plastic Father Christmasses, Statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, incongruous but somehow strangely right, here in this confused Portuguese rooted enclave of India.
India, far away from home, but here I feel at home, in a way the madness of the place makes sense, Goa, a hotch-potch of India & Europe, a kind of India-light. It gives me a Westerner enough safe ground to make sense, indeed to thrive in the sun. Mind you I have one problem with Goa, it’s tough to get a really decent cup of coffee, maybe every paradise has to leave you a little unfulfilled. There is always sweet Chai.
Goa has little backwaters, old colonial era houses, stone steps with thick walls to keep out the heat of the sun, shuttered windows, sometimes with bars, not to keep out people, but mischevious monkeys, I like that, I fancy renting one of those little houses and resting for a while. Getting myself a motorbike, you need to be able to get around you know. Then just being, I want to practice being for a while.
A long time from now, when I’ve heard many stories and met many people, when with the years I’ve grown into an old man, a face of wrinkles, testament to time lived under the sun, with crows feet surrounds I want to see with eyes that still sparkle, that sing of life and love and know what kindness means.