Thursday, 23 August 2012

Hitch-hiking - Make The Most of It!!

During my weekly catch up at natter about nonsense with a very good friend, we touched. Oh I'm sorry, I don't know how that full stop got there - what I meant to type was that we touched upon the subject of  hitch-hiking.
I put forward the theory that hitch-hikers had a "patch" that they always started hitch-hiking from - much like the patch a prostitute works in (and I don't mean a damp patch), where she walks up and down waiting for business - and that hitch-hikers defended their patches vehemently, just as prostitutes do. Believe me, those prostitutes defend their patch with extreme violence, and fights over patches are vicious and scary to behold.

And will cost you £75 just to watch.

Anyway, I digress. I've always had a small yearning to hitch-hike somewhere, and I view the whole thing with a romantic tint. I just think that it is almost a dying art; putting yourself at the mercy and goodwill of total strangers and travelling around the country meeting people from all walks of life. As I get older , I'm getting more interested in people. I am a people person, and I will chat to anyone given half a chance. So the thought of the myriad of people and personalities that I might encounter in doing such a thing as hitch-hiking intrigues me.

Let me just interject a quick question here: Just after the invention of the car, were the first drivers plagued by mile after mile of people standing by the roadside trying to cadge a lift? At first there would have been very few drivers, but hitch-hiker numbers must have rocketed! I guess over the years, the numbers would have balanced out - with at one brief moment in history the car to hitch-hiker ration being 1:1 - exactly 1 car for every hitch-hiker in existence. That is of course before the popularity of the motor car and the unpopularity of psychotic hitch-hikers swung the numbers in favour of the car forever.

So I am fond of the notion of hitch-hiking. At the same time, however I have always reacted with horror and revulsion at the admittance by female friends that they have picked up a hitch-hiker in the past, because all hitch-hikers are obviously psychotic killers. Except me.

I think there is a definite assumption of "weird loner / serial killer" whenever we see somebody hitch-hiking - at least when it is a man. If it is a female hitch-hiker, then the assumption is that she is a nymphomaniac lingerie model. And if it is two women, they are  bi-curious lesbian nymphomaniac lingerie models. Obviously.

I think the film The Hitcher certainly helped to put this notion of the psycho hitch-hiker into our minds. It's a film about a hitch-hiker (Rutger Hauer) who gets picked up by a young man (C. Thomas Howell) and proceeds to be all psychotic and stuff. There's lots of killing and blood, and general would put you off pulling over and offering anybody a lift ever.
And of course, the thought has entered my mind that if I was hitch-hiking, I could end up getting into a car driven by a psychotic serial killer - they have cars too you know, oh yes!. By the same measure I'm sure that nymphomaniac bi-curious lesbian lingerie models have cars too. Believe me, I've looked (but not any more; apparently staring intently at women as they drive past me isn't really the done thing).

I have driven past someone hitch-hiking and have seriously considered stopping and offering them a lift. The trouble is, most hitch-hikers seem to chose to always wait by the roadside in a place where it is difficult or impossible to stop; Roundabouts, outside a school, on the central reservation of the motorway - never a place where a car might actually be able to pull over if the driver was so inclined. For people who are looking for a lift somewhere, they certainly don't make it easy for themselves!!

Still, I'd like to give it a go; I'd like to see if I could hitch-hike from Lands End to John O'Groats - for charity maybe. Or maybe arrange a meeting somewhere in the country with friends, but we all have to hitch-hike to the destination (you might need to book a month off work to allow for travel times). Or just book a week off work, and see where I can get to by hitch-hiking, and have an adventure.

Of course,  I understand that there are many people who would still be put off by the notion of hitch-hiking. To these people I say 'psshaw!' and tweak their nipples mercilessly - but also suggest  hitch-hiking but not hitch-hiking. But that I mean that they can look the part of a hitch-hiker, but without actually hitch-hiking. let's face it, the chances of actually managing to hitch-hike are quite remote, because we are a selfish, mis-trusting society. But if you want to be really sure of not getting a lift, try these fun things to do whilst pretending to hitch-hike:

  • Dress up like Marty McFly from "Back to the Future", and hold a sign that says '1985'.
  •  Hitch-hike holding a sign that says 'Passenger Seat'. If a car pulls over to offer you a lift, get in, close the door and then say "well, here I am - you can drop me off here", and promptly get out of the car again.
  • Hitch-hike holding a sign that says 'Your House'.
  •  Dress up like a psychotic serial killer - blood spattered apron, fake scars, eyepatch, and a meat cleaver in one hand, and in the other a sign saying 'Anywhere'.
  • Hold a sign up with a destination on it, but if you see a car pulling in, flip the sign over to reveal the words 'Not You'.
 You see, you can have plenty of fun playing at hitch-hiking without getting into anyone's car at all.

And the chances of an angry motorist, infuriated by the fact that he pulled over out of the kindness of their heart only to be the victim of some hitch-hiking prank, coming up to you and punching you in the face are almost negligible.


If I ever have a hitch-hiking adventure, I'll be sure to write a blog about it.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

A Marathon - Or A Sprint?

As with all my blogs, I do not possess the words to express myself adequately.

In recent days, this question has been asked: The Olympics have undoubtedly raised the spirits of the Nation; the successes of Team GB along with scenes of athletes, spectators, and the multitude of volunteers clearly enjoying these games has certainly brought the Nation closer together, and there is a very tangible sense of euphoria. But will this last? - or will it all fade away like the dying embers of our Olympic torch? Once the Games have finished, will the return to 'normality' shatter the sense of unity that we have all been experiencing?

You wouldn't find much argument if you were to agree with that supposition. We are still in the grip of economic hardship; the days will be getting shorter, the nights closing in. This late appearance of summer will all too quickly be replaced by colder autumn and then winter weather. Although undeniably successful and a magnificent spectacle, the Olympic games have also been a distraction for us all from the difficulties we all face day to day.

News reports infer that after the games finish, we will all return to our comparative insular ways, and the camaraderie that we have seen between strangers who have been united by these Olympics, will disappear. Images of boarded up homes, closed down shops, and various facts and figures highlighting just how bad the financial crisis still is (it hasn't gone away, kids) really brought home the message "back to reality folks!"

But do we have to loosen our grip on the wonderful spirit that has been evident over the past weeks - from the start of the torch relay in fact - so easily? The Olympics have brought us together as a Nation, you cannot doubt that. But I would argue that it has also shown the capacity we all have inside us to reach out and bond with each other.

This is where my possible naivety kicks in - if you are of a cold hearted cynical nature, look away now.

The unity we have all displayed was not created by the Olympics. It already existed within us, and the Olympics simply allowed us to express it. Normally we are all bogged down by the daily struggles we all endure - money worries, health worries, family issues, work issues, global issues. We are all swimming against a huge tide of difficulty. The media as a rule shows a never ending reel of misery and doom, and for all of us the future is uncertain and worrying. Of the many issues that face us all, many of them - most of them - are beyond our control.

But what is within our control is how we deal with these issues, and deal with each other. Now, make no mistake - it isn't easy. It's harder to reach out your hand to someone, than it is to withdraw it. It's harder to put yourself out, than it is to turn away.

And I am also aware that there are some people who chose to withdraw their hand, who chose to turn away. My girlfriend lives on a street where one resident just doesn't like anybody, and complains about music at 4:30 in the afternoon, about the noise made by a child bouncing on a small trampoline and, when asked by me if I could look in his front garden for a toy lost by my girlfriend's son that very day (the day after his birthday), refused to let me - and when I asked why was given the response "because I said so".

There will always be these people; we all know one person like this. The key, is to make them the minority in the world.

The feelings of unity and friendship and euphoria that have been experienced over the past few weeks need not disappear. Just because the games have ended, doesn't mean the goodwill must. The Olympics exceeded all expectation; Team GB's medal winning performances exceeded all expectation; the questions about whether London (and the UK) could host the Olympics, were answered with a deafening roar. So why not the question of whether the Olympic effect (that's my name for the surge of feelings etc. caused by the games) could continue after it all ends?

For my part, I say it can.

Today my girlfriend and I and her children, met up with a two very lovely friends and their two children. We met them at the holiday park they were staying - a static caravan park filled with people from all walks of life, all areas of the country, all races, all religions. The children have got it all sussed - in a matter of minutes they were off playing together on the climbing frames, and interacting with other children from other families there. There were a few "a boy threw sand at me" and "someone pushed me down the slide", but the rest of the time all the kids were a collage of joy and enjoyment.

And their unity made it easy for the parents to interact. When I had to admonish my girlfriend's three year old daughter for throwing sand at another little girl (a split second after I was telling my friend what a lovely little girl she is - typical!), I got chuckles and cheerful comments from parents who overheard. The fact I put a humorous comment at the end of the scolding helped - but we were united by common experience.

And that is my point; whether the Olympics was here or not is irrelevant; we are all united by a common experience: we exist. So at the most basic level, we are all linked. It doesn't matter what you earn, where you live, what religion you follow, who you voted for, what ethnicity you are, your sexual preference, the clothes you wear, how many limbs you have, and any other of the hundreds of ways we chose to label and define ourselves and others.

None of that matters.

The spirit of the games is the baton, we are all in the relay - pass it on.

Goodwill and unity is the Olympic Torch - keep the flame burning.

Life is hard - but we are all in this together. Let's keep together, don't separate. Don't pull your hand away, don't turn and walk away. Reach out your hand and step forward.

Don't burn all your goodwill in a sprint. Pace yourself, and make it a marathon!!

Thanks for reading.

These are purely my sentiments - apologies if you don't agree. And sorry for the lack of articulation