Saturday, 24 February 2018

Modern life out and about!

It’s been another fine and sunny day here. This is the fifth day of sunshine on the run since we arrived. We obviously chose the right week to come here. The sunshine is just a little deceptive. It’s claiming to be 12 degrees outside but it feels decidedly cooler. Maybe it’s twelve degrees in the sunshine but less than that in the shade. It was only 4 degrees at 9.00 this morning. Just a bit nippy!

But yesterday, after lunch, we sat in the sunshine on Plaza de Compostela, Vigo’s rather fine alameda. So no complaints! Very pleasant indeed!

Today we walked up to the Castro, stopped for a little refreshment and spotted an friend. He was with a group of people we don’t know so we just exchanged greetings and news and went our separate ways. His group of about a dozen were almost all busy with their mobile phones - but still chatting to and fro at the same time. Modern life! Very modern in their case - most of them were plugged in to those portable chargers which allow you to keep your apps going without your phone running out of energy! Impressed!

In the paper a couple of weekends ago somebody wrote about her odd condition: she sometimes lost all sense of where she was and could not recognise familiar locations. She learnt to recognise when this happened and discovered that spinning put her right. So she would take herself off to somewhere quiet, usually the loo, and spin herself back to rights. In the following weekend’s paper someone wrote in the letters page that she too had this condition but thought for a long time that this was normal and that everyone could spin and change their sense of place as she could.

I was reminded of a couple of colleagues who suffered from, or perhaps it would be better to say were blessed with, synesthesia. Letters and numbers and sometimes sounds have colours. Days of the week, months of the year are seen as being in certain positions. Sensory perceptions are mingled: a poet’s dreamworld. One of them only realised that she saw the world differently from most of us when she happened to ask me one day, “What colour do you see Tuesday.” She was surprised that my days don’t have specific colours. In her case, as well as all the days having colours, she “saw” them arranged in a circle. The other colleague chimed in with her colourful view of the week. Other members of staff gaped in amazement but I knew about this phenomenon from having read the poet Rimbaud.

I suppose we all expect our “reality” and “normality” to be the standard one. A colleague of mine, who grew up in Wessex, “Hardy country”, once confessed to her amazement on discovering that it was not the norm all over the country to study a novel by Thomas Hardy every year in secondary school. She felt quite foolish, she told us, when she asked her fellow English students at university which Hardy novel they had studied at various stages of their high school career. Oops!

Here are a couple of examples of people who might be excused for seeing the world from an odd perspective. Two women:-
  • Tara Westover - she was oddly and strictly brought up by Mormon parents, and had no birth certificate until age 9. There were no visits to doctors. She did not go to school; she and her siblings worked in their father’s junkyard instead. However, she escaped into education at the age of 17 and largely taught herself through reading. Aged 27, she now has a PhD in intellectual history and political thought from Cambridge and has written a book:- “Educated”. 
  • Maude Julien - she is the child of an experiment in turning a child into a superhuman. Her father Louis Didier persuaded her grandparents to hand over their daughter Jeannine to him to be educated. He brought her up to be his wife and partner in their odd cult experiment. There was no affection and no love. A superhuman does not need such things; they only make you vulnerable. There was willpower training, some of which was tantamount to abuse. And there was musical training. And so she escaped to a music school and away she went. She observed the behaviour of others to learn what “normality” might be. Now over 60, she too has written a book:- “The only girl in the world”. 
 You just have to look beyond the immediate!

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