Crossing points: N M Browne
I have been on a mini break. Yes, I am that kind of woman. In fact I have been on two - a brief visit to
Madrid and a longer, less social trip down the rabbit hole of series fiction. Both have left me restored and exhausted in equal measure.
In Madrid we walked through the city, sipping ribera del duero in a Spanish heatwave: a restoration of almost forgotten pre-Covid pleasures barely marred by the combined efforts of Brexit, Easyjet and Southwest Trains.
In my solo adventures I deep dived into a couple of lengthy trilogies, came up for air, coffee, the briefest of conversations and disappeared again into a duology and a couple of compelling stand alones. I have been to space, supped God-knows-what with aliens and emerged, exhausted by late nights and eyestrain, surprised to discover myself home.
I loved both experiences. There is no substitute for being somewhere else, the strange reworking of all that is familiar, the smell of churros and chocolate in the street, late lunches, later dinners, the constant 'oh this is the way they do things here,' the surprise of it all. On the Gran Via I loved the broad pedestrian crossings, and the high pitched video game 'beeping' that signalled we could cross. Small things that spoke of a culture of differences. I am not going to pretend that sitting in my chair and just reading emulates that experience in any way, but it gives me something of the same surprise and delight. I love 'seeing' the new or a familiar trope reworked by the writer's imagination and voice as distinct and unlike mine as Madrid is different from London.
I don't know about you, but I need that. I need to remember that there is more than one way to cross a road, to write a story, to imagine the world and the older I get the more I need to remember the familiar way of doing things is not the only way and may not even be the best way. I need this exposure to the new to remind me of how attached I have become to the old. Travel, even into fiction, broadens the mind.
Now to petition the council to improve the silent pedestrian crossing outside my house with some loud sci fi beeping.