musings on travelling and Christmas

A comedian recently quipped he heard the same 15 Christmas songs each year. Well yes, the old faithfuls and a few relatively new ones do crop up again and again. Travelling from Wales to Kent for Christmas  on the train, through the recent bad weather, the angst of cancelled timetables and images of people trapped at airports and motorways, the one Christmas song playing in my head was Chris Rea's 'Driving Home for Christmas'. Well I don't drive but the emphasis was on the travelling, and as the miles thankfully sped through a frosty and snow-covered landscape, fortified by a huge packed lunch and dressed like Heidi on her way to see her grand-father, the idea of Home was uppermost in my mind. For any migrant this is fraught. My homeland of Guyana always occupied an idealised location in my mind, it was only on a research year in Barbados, yonks after I had made the UK my home, that I realised that Kent was Home. And five years in Wales, lovely though it is, has not removed that feeling. This limbo feeling has served my poetry well, but the thought of not being able to spend Christmas with my family filled me with dread. Whether we believe in Christmas or not, the wish to be with those we love, and for me, with the kids, is the most important thing. The weather had formerly scuppered early December plans, with birthdays and new babies in the family, as well as poetry events, so I didn't relish the snow scuppering Christmas too. Over the years I've got used to the travelling, the miles ceased to exist as my laptop came out and time would leap in one freeze-frame of the imagination; the news we were approaching Paddington would catch me unawares, having to shut down, pack up, re-coat and adapt my psyche. Looking at the weather before I travelled this time, I had declared firmly that I would walk. Him-at-home, in the voice he saves for the grand-children said 3 months dear, it's 300 miles. 300? Are you crazy?! I think I punched him. How far did Heidi walk?

I guess we take it all for granted, this getting on at one place and off at another, getting cross when we can't and looking for blame. And it's so much more poignant at Christmas, imagining the home-comings, the winter wreathed doors, the gifts bought on the credit card, the leap of dogs and children, the mulled wine. Time was was when I sneered at those heading for the Tropics in December. Not now. Rich or not we're all heading for somewhere special where we think we'll be happy. When that's thwarted we realise how vulnerable we are, how much at the mercy of nature or BA. Alas the reading in Tunbridge Wells meant for 21st December fell victim to the weather. But luckily I did make it Home.