There was a phase in my life when I hated flying. I was in my twenties. I think it can be traced back to an internal flight in Indonesia on an airline called Merpati. The small plane I was on was trying to land on a small volcanic outcrop called Banda. The runway was the width of the island, so if you didn't nail the landing and hit the brakes quick, the plane would vanish over the cliffs at the other end. It was a windy day and the pilot attempted to land three times, swooping in and then aborting at the last minute, swooping back up and then arcing round to have another go. I was feeling pretty sick by the time we touched down.
Anyway, these days I don't really think about it. Get on the plane, listen to music, read magazine and then get off at the other end. But this week was a bit different. Our take off at Heathrow (flying to Copenhagen) was aborted. Something to do with a warning light flashing, saying that the brakes weren't working. The captain didn't feel it was too much to worry about, and in the end we took off without it having been seen to, about half an hour later. I was a bit of a wreck throughout the flight and very happy to land in drizzly Denmark.
I guess I'm writing this because a part of me that I thought had gone (the part that hates flying) suddenly came back. With a vengeance. I was having all sorts of dark thoughts about, you know, dying. My daughter. My wife. And then I got to thinking - I reckon it's the time when most people, at some stage or another, have thought about what it would be like to die. To not be here any more.
Of course, you might think about death on the Tube or when you're walking round to the newsagents, but I reckon you're much more likely to do it when flying through a bit of mild turbulence. And so I was thinking - maybe our most profound moments come to us when we're sitting next to strangers at 30,000ft. Not when we're with our loved ones at Christmas, or watching a politician give a great speech. And I thought that was quite interesting.
You may think me morbid, but I actually think it's a great thing - finding those moments where we're all the same, stripped of race and religion and background. Just a bit scared, humble and dumb, floating about in a flying tin can.
I think this is about as high up as I've been in London. It's the top of the HSBC tower in Canary Wharf. You can just make out the Dome out of the window.
It's a few floors taller than the Barclays tower. I bet the HSBC mob quite like that.
I was there to do a talk to some HSBC people. They seemed to enjoy it.
Saw a man with a good beard on the way home. If you're reading this, mystery bearded man, hope you don't mind that I took a picture. I didn't want to wake you up to ask permission - you looked quite happy having a nap.
I stepped on a beetle this evening by accident. I don't think I've killed anything on purpose for a while. Maybe the odd mosquito. But nothing else.
I was trying to shepherd it out of the house with my foot but I was a bit clumsy. It shook me up a bit. Not like I had to sit down on the stairs and sob. But killing things isn't generally on my list of 'things to do on a good day'. Maybe it's something that happens as you get older - realising the fragility of stuff. Anyway, it wasn't good.
I found this on the bookshelf at my mum's at the weekend.
One of the short stories in there was called The Sentinel, which is the tale that 2001: A Space Odyssey was based on. So I thought I'd read it. Besides, I remembered reading some Arthur C Clarke when I was younger and enjoying it.
I get a funny feeling when I read those old sci-fi books. The story was set in 1996, which must have seemed scarily futuristic back in those days (The Sentinel was written in 1951). But the glorious dreams of the future that we have as people/authors don't quite seem to come true. Or at least the grand space exploration dreams. I guess we are doing weird future stuff - our knowledge of human genetics is one thing that springs to mind - but it feels to me like we're waiting for a big leap. The equivalent of inventing the plane, or travelling to the Moon - something symbolic to make everybody's jaws drop. I think we need something soon or we're just going to niggle away at each other until there's nothing left to niggle. Keep fighting pointless wars because there isn't enough space for everyone to live calmly.
Back to the book. It was an OK story. Not great - just OK, and very short. Some Moon explorers find a weird shiny pyramid up a mountain and are confused. That's about it.
"One of the nice things about looking at a bear is that you know it spends 100 per cent of every minute of every day being a bear. It doesn't strive to become a better bear. It doesn't go to sleep thinking, "I wasn't really a very good bear today". They are just 100 per cent bear, whereas human beings feel we're not 100 per cent human, that we're always letting ourselves down. We're constantly striving towards something, to some fulfilment".
Actually, I don't know if it was Dickie. The place where we were staying (near Oxford) is quite close to Dickie's house, so perhaps it was him floating past us on Bank Holiday Monday. Was going to shout and ask but I don't reckon he would have heard.
Back in London after a few days in the countryside. Couldn't park within half a mile of our house due to Notting Hill Carnival (our house is on the fringes of carnival) so had to carry luggage a fair way. Lots of sirens and helicopters going off all around. Welcome home...
I hate to sound so moany and old, but I don't like carnival. It's unnatural. Too many people in one place at one time. And they wonder why there's trouble. I hate it because I never get to meet up with people, I never get to the places I want to be and I usually get an achey hip. It's a thing I get when I walk too much - achey left hip. Not achingly hip. Definitely not that.
If I didn't sound old before, I guess I do now.
Anyway, I soothed myself this evening with a recently discovered Wilco video (should appear below as well). Looks like they saved money and filmed it in Jeff Tweedy's front room. I reckon Tweedy would hate carnival too. He can be pretty grumpy.