Share on Facebook

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

From Open Mind to Narrow Mind...and back again

One of the characters in my next book says ‘Over time my open mind had become a narrow passageway through which I forced the occasional independent thought.’
As I wrote that, I started thinking how true that is. When I was nineteen, I made a loose arrangement to meet a bunch of mates in Turkey. Not Bournemouth, not Tunbridge Wells, but Turkey. We announced our arrival in Istanbul by leaving a note on a pinboard in a pre-agreed café with an understanding that we’d come back at four o’clock every day until we all found each other. Miraculously, we did.
In the same year, I had a friend studying in Padova, Italy. Faced with a week with nothing to do during the holidays, thought I’d pop over and see her…a mere 24-hour journey on ferries and overnight trains. We didn’t have mobile phones back then and it was unthinkable to shell out for a telegram so I turned up on spec at her Catholic College only to discover that she’d gone off hitching on the Ligurian coast. Again, I left a note under her door, parked myself in a local youth hostel and ate ice cream until she turned up.
Would it be very rude to pop
round in May 2014?
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at
At no time do I recall being bothered about the ‘What ifs?’ that seem to plague me now just dealing with some trivial, every week occurrence that doesn’t involve running the gauntlet of weirdos on overnight trains, sleeping with my passport stuffed down my shirt and half my travellers’ cheques in my bra. 
Let’s take the son’s rugby match. Cue an almighty kerfuffle. Will there be traffic on the motorway? Let me just double check the letter/website/son for starting time…forget son, he doesn’t know, why doesn’t he know? Didn’t the teacher say what time you needed to be there? We don’t want to be the ones holding up the bus. I wish he didn’t play prop…I hope he doesn’t injure his neck…and fifty thousand other things that could go wrong in the space of three hours on a Saturday in Surrey. Instead, all those years ago, I had a firm belief that all would turn out as it should be. How can I get that back? Or do you have to not have children to retain that insouciance of yesteryear?

You didn't expect me to come to dinner
THIS Saturday? Try October, darling.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Forget the spontaneity of trotting off to Turkey via Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, staying with random people we met on buses and in the street on the way (please don’t let my children EVER want to travel, please let them stay safe at home, reading books in the kitchen where I can see them). Somewhere between twenty and forty, I lost the ability to pop round to people’s houses unannounced. I cannot remember the last time I turned up at someone’s home for a cup of tea, because I was just passing. No coffee or chocolate HobNob goes unplanned these days. (How about a week on Saturday? Could you fit it in after boot camp, before Olivia’s violin/mandarin lesson, after the girls come back from athletics but before the netball match, in between your facial and the taking back of the wrong-sized FitFlops?) Trying to gather a posse of mates for a last-minute barbecue on the one sunny Saturday in July seems to engender the same amount of flurry and panic as suggesting we all go trekking in the Himalayas with a pair of Jesus sandals and a can of Coke.
So, in an effort to stretch the mind to a stage where a spontaneous thought might be able to squeeze through without the aid of an ice pick and miner’s helmet, I’m thinking of auditioning for a local theatre production. The narrow-mindedness of the son (who screamed when I told him) and the husband (who said, ‘You can’t put that on the internet!’) prevents me from saying what I’ll be auditioning for, but know, dear reader, that my mind, hitherto demonstrating all the restricted thought room of a straw is about to become a huge gaping wind tunnel through which all manner of wide-reaching, extreme and random notions might blow…


  1. This is brill! I totally relate on every level. I remember going to Edinburgh to meet friends at a scary Harry Potter-type youth hostel in 1978. They never showed up but sent a postcard that said, "Sorry." After one horrible night, involving a midnight flashlight inspection, I called up the nice lady I'd met on the train who'd invited me to stay "in case the hostel doesn't work out" and accepted her generous offer. What followed: three wonderful days with her family. I can't imagine doing something like that now!

    1. Carol...I wish we'd met when we were in our twenties...we could have had a blast! But one day, on your 'Maybe, possibly, someone famous lived there LA tour', we will be spontaneous and laugh like giddy teenagers!