Blog Archives

A bit more off the map: leaving signs along the way

After yesterday’s post I did a bit more thinking, which went a bit like this.

If I know that being off the map is going to make me feel a certain way, then that makes it easier for future episodes, ah this feeling again, I know you… Then rather than anxiously search for signs that I have found my way back to civilisation as quickly as possible I can leave my own signs; little landmarks that say I was here too.

It will be like Hansel & Gretel scattering breadcrumbs, only I will be casting them before me, not behind me. It still leaves a trail, but one that aims to show where I am going, not where I have been. Of course there is no material difference in the trail, whether the crumbs are thrown forward or behind me, it is the intention of it that matters to me.

It seems, that for now, these stand in for a handful of breadcrumbs.

And like adding a rock to a cairn at the top of a mountain summit, or leaving a pebble to mark the way, the trail of words others have already left helps me to recognise fellow travellers along the way. Suddenly, off the map feels much better in my head.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a poem titled with, as I suspected, a German word that attempts to categorise those feelings I have struggled with called Waldeinsamkeit; the nearest translation is to do with being in the solitude, or of being lost, in the woods. And, in a moment of serendipity, last night I finished a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft; on the last page it quoted her writing thus

I am not born to tread in the beaten track, the peculiar bent of my nature pushes me on.

Wherever I go, on or off the map, it is certain that someone, somewhere, sometime… has been there before.

Even in my head.

A Bad Friday (I wanted blue)

The Guv’nor had a bad day at the office last Friday, it was very stressful he said. Now this is more information that is usually forthcoming in a month, so I was compelled to inquire further.

Woodberry Down was once a really depressing estate on the Seven Sisters Road near Manor House on the Piccadilly line (that’s the dark blue line). It has had loads of money spent on it, so it may be improved, but being on that busy thoroughfare you can only facelift so much I’m guessing. This is where Friday’s decorating job was; for a lovely Turkish family. Due to water damage they only needed one wall matching and painting. The Guv’nor’s guv’nor had done the matching, so the main man turned up with an apprentice and a tin of paint.

As it turned out, the paint was blue as required by the wall to be painted, but the wrong shade of blue. No matter, the Guv’nor says, I know what that is, that’s Doll’s House blue. So off they go in the van to Hackney Wick to get a bit of Doll’s House. The trip to Hackney Wick is not that far, a few miles at most, but it also requires getting through Clapton or Stoke Newington and can take some time…

Back at the flat, one trip to the Wick under their belts, they give the wall one coat of Doll’s House. It’s the wrong blue. So far so bad, but maybe a little bit understandable, Doll’s House is close but not close enough. The next bit is where my mouth started hanging open. So now the apprentice says, and remember this is in a house full of people who actually live in it and pay rent and so forth, I know what colour that is – it’s Pompadour. Doh says the Guv’nor of course it is. Why didn’t you say that when I was going down the Doll’s House blind alley?

So off they go to Hackney Wick for the second time and bring back the apprentice’s best effort.

And, I asked? Yes, you guessed it – what do apprentices know. That’s why they have their own horse races to ride in. So the Guv’nor having played his best hand and having wasted enough time to have painted the whole room in the first pot of paint that was the wrong colour was forced to resort to getting the colour chart from the van – which he was gracious enough to admit he should have done in the first place.

Why I asked, majoring in annoying questions, did you not get the chart out in the first place?

Because the Guv’nor said I am a man and men do not look at maps even when they are lost.

Good answer. Perfectly understandable. I have never liked Woodberry Down.

Just needs a lick of Pompadour


I like a map. I can’t be doing with some computerised woman telling me which way to go in my own car. No thanks, I’ll stick with a map, some pig-headed perserverance and the sure knowledge that if a map says it exists then it does, no matter how long it takes me to find it.

One of my sisters will tell the tale of “catching” me reading the A-Z of London at bedtime. I wouldn’t say I was reading it as such but I was certainly looking at its pages. This was years ago, but if push had ever come to shove I reckon I could have taken the Knowledge.

Now the Other End of the Sofa has accused me similarly. This time of reading a map on Google. Why? he wanted to know.

Because, I said, maps are always the same. Things don’t move on maps. I can look at one and remind myself of where places are, or I can look at one and find out where places I haven’t been yet are. They stay the same, they don’t mess me about and they are never boring.

I didn’t also say it’s either look at a map of East Sussex or watch the television, and frankly in a head-to-head between Keith Allen scrubbing the floor and a bit of Ordnance Survey there’s no contest.

Here be dragons

Here be dragons