For the last two weeks I've been house/dogsitting. I've also been avoiding the internet, and people in general. I feel like I've been out in the sticks, which I sort of have, since there are a lot of fields and every house has a garden and a lawn in the front. It's a million miles away from my usual inner city living. It's also within walking distance of the library, so I've been walking to work every day, past trees and fields and round winding traffic-free streets. I couldn't tell anyone my exact route, because my method is to just look up, and follow the pylons. They lead me from the house right up to the library. I should've counted them, to see exactly how many pylons there are on my journey. I think there are four.
I’m back at my real house this weekend because an old friend has come to visit. We’ve been walking around the city centre, and she’s been feeling more and more lost because so much has changed since she lived here. I think, because I live here, the change has layered itself over my everyday maps. I’ve never lost where places are, even if they’ve been obscured by hoardings or the surrounding places have been bulldozed and rebuilt. I do feel lost when I go back to Manchester, though. I spent so many years wandering through that city’s mazes, and all the time, I had an internal compass telling me where I was and where I needed to go next. Now when I go back, there are big grey blanks in my memory. I can visualise where places are, but their relation to where I might be is bafflingly absent.
I suppose we expect things to stay the same, even after we leave. And then we feel a bit cheated when someone throws up a whole new building or knocks down one that we loved. There’s a joke about librarians - We Fear Change. And while I don’t believe that’s true in all cases, it is in a fair few. But then I don’t think that applies solely to librarians. I know lots of people who get comfortable with how things are, or ways of doing things, me included. This is the girl who refused to use a computer till after the Millennium, confident in my Luddite mind that the Millennium Bug was going to render the things obsolete. I ate a lot of idiot pie on January 1st. But after change becomes inevitable, I have the ability to launch myself head-first into it. I think that’s my saving grace.
I wonder how much of our orienteering is memory and how much is habit? Or is it the same thing, and when we are no longer habitually using our memory to get us from A to B, then we lose the connection in our brains. Kind of like the way we forget most of the French we learned at school, but when we go to France, we are suddenly able to understand a lot more than we think. I can set off for places and arrive there with no memory of the journey sometimes. Just me wandering along on auto pilot. And it makes me think we might be a bit like birds, with our own SatNav guiding us while we do our thinking of other things. But then sometimes, when I think I’m lost, I’ll see a familiar building and everything rushes right back.
Maybe I need to do some exploring of my old haunts next time I’m up North. See if I can’t fire some brain pathways back into life. It seems a shame to lose that kind of information. First stop will have to be here, methinks. It’s been a while, but I’m sure I remember how to get there.