Saturday, 28 October 2017

Feeling Lost

When my elder daughter was a three-year-old, she worried every time I travelled up to London on my own of a week-end. She used to fret that I'd get lost: 'What if Daddy can't find his way home?' - a touching and understandable concern for a small person in a large world.

As far as I recall, when I was a child myself I only got lost once, but it was a very disconcerting experience.

I would have been seven or eight at the time. We were making a rare visit to relatives who lived in a suburb of Southampton. My brother and I had been bought plastic camping bottles for use on holiday, the ones that came with a belt, and it was decided we'd go off to nearby woods with our cousins John and Ken and our water bottles to play at being hunters, explorers or some such, with instructions to be home by 1 o'clock for lunch. I don't remember what or for how long we played, but there came a point when I realised I was alone in the woods, as no amount of calling out for minutes on end got a response.

I didn't have a watch and had no idea of the time but I concluded the three of them must have gone home without me and I'd better make my way back - only I wasn't familiar with the area and didn't know how to find my way home. I did the only thing I could think of doing: get out of the woods and start walking the nearby streets, which all looked very similar, until I found a landmark I recognised; (standard trial-and-error man mode kicking in early).

It never occurred to me to ask someone where Crescent Road was - I would probably have been too embarrassed to admit I was lost - and so I walked purposefully up and down quiet suburban Southampton streets in rising panic for what seemed an age until I turned a corner and presto! to my enormous relief I was at the far and unfamiliar end of Crescent Road. Lunch was over by the time I arrived back and although I was ravenous I claimed I wasn't hungry. I don't recall anything else being said about my being so late and alone.

Either of those reflections might prove an evocative trigger for a poem at some point. Not now though. For today's blog I've raided the yellowing back pages to pull out this ancient and rather bleak poem, but hey! it's on theme.

It was written in early 1976 when I was living in a flat above a petrol station about a mile outside of Okehampton, Devon, with a view similar to the one above, across Dartmoor. That was an intensely cold and snowy winter, a transitional and - as the poem attests - not a particularly happy time in my life...

Snow falls, a white carpet,
footfalls receding quietly - yours,
these snuffles - mine,
on account of the cold, cold, cold!
and teardrops
the water in my whisky this evening
courtesy of such a bitter winter
biting to the very soul.
To feel not just frozen through,
but strangely old (at twenty-two)!

I'm lost, not right,
have not been happy
since before the summer
and it's so hard to fathom why
with reason beyond reach.
Try as I might
the meaning of it all eludes me.

Those nights
spent with ladies I liked but did not love,
what were they to prove,
and to whom?
I'm lost, out of touch
with what is right and wrong for me.

Snow falls, a white carpet,
burying everything,
sign-posts included.

As an aural bonus: Little Feat's Cold, Cold, Cold

Thanks for reading. Stay warm and have a foot-tapping week, Steve ;-)


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