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Time keeps on slipping…

April 26, 2014

I’ve been edgily accommodating feelings of unstuckness since passing through customs to leave Perth three weeks ago and discovering their function had been reframed as border control. When did this happen?

Orwellian as shift may seem when first noticed, the more frightening ripple effect is only apparent when other people shrug to express ennui in the face of such change. Semantic, yes, perhaps even small in tone and tenor – you have to face security at an airport, after all – but nuance calibrates us-ness and then serves as a defining tool by which we measure other.

image

Interesting, also, for me as an Aussie immigrant cataloguing this conundrum while travelling on a British passport (much cause for consternation at the hire car company in Shropshire where security was once again invoked to run a phone check on my West Australian driver’s licence….. and what is this funny transparent credit card you have here?).

I occupied the shadowy echoing space of various Month Python/ Goon Show/ absurdist sketch moments while explaining that my address was already flagged on the photo ID card, however, the preferred address was one locating me in England.

No mobile?

This query came at a highpitch squeak, and I’m familiar with this surprise having encountered as much elsewhere. My daughters are equally horrified.

So much to learn from how we do things differently and – closer scrutiny required – our overwhelming, reassuring, similarities.

Like train travel, for instance:

My film snatches were captured through the train window as we travelled to Shrewsbury (odd, that the recording ceases at Coventry in the edited text, I know), and the sequence invites a naturalised closure beginning with the subject/ viewer’s movement in space. More specifically, English country space. And it is clearly my journey.

Familiar landscape to you, or alien? Perhaps you can relate to the metaphorical sense of wayfaring. According to de Botton

If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.

Reviewing my emotions now, I see that my undertaking was a homecoming of sorts. Locals persisted in playing bit parts to my cameo role:

  • Why did I leave?
  • How long had we been away?
  • Who were we visiting?
  • Would we ever choose to return “home”?

Natural enough to wonder about the outsiders and their sense of perspective. As it turned out, many of my much cherished, long held notions were plain wrong – not even romanticised, just imbalanced or off kilter. But that’s an angle waiting to be explored another time, with the implication being that some distancing may help me make sense of it all.

As do the images:

Montmartre street scenes

Parc des Buttes Chaumant

Selected reference

de Botton, A. (2002). The art of travel. New York: Vintage Books.

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