We all love dragons, right? One day per week I mind my granddaughter after school until mummy and daddy and little brother get home. The first hour or more is spent filling the bottomless pit of this slender 5 year old with a variety of food, remembering that last week’s favourite food now is ‘yuk’, that ‘mummy and daddy say it is okay to have biscuits’ though both of us know this is untrue and Emma cannot keep a straight face as she says it. ‘Good try’ I say and she laughs and we negotiate our way through until she says ‘will you play with me farfar?’ This being Swedish for grandfather and a story for another day. We play ‘make believe’, both of us filling in the story line and adding costumes as we go; a blanket becomes a magic cloak, a piece of string a golden binding and so on: games and stories played countless times by countless children. And I have been promoted over the last three years. First I was typecast as a ‘scary monster’, with instructions not to be ‘too scary’, then a bad dragon who invariably and magically became good and married the princess [no prizes for guessing who this is]. Lately I have become the ‘good dragon with magical powers’ and this is a very fine role indeed. The only drawback to being a dragon is that when three year old William comes home, I must be killed for he is the fearless knight and dragon slayer. Such is life. Or not, as the case may be. Now the tram has stopped and so must I.
In May/June I plan to walk the Camino section between Pamplona and Leon, thereby completing my journey from Le Puy en Velay to Santiago over the last two years. Echoing in my mind is the editor’s question of what motivates people to undertake these long solitary walks along the old pilgrimage trails, especially when I told her that my [probably crazy] next idea is to walk from Canterbury to Rome, the old Via Francigena. I could only reply that my motives mirror those of my hero in my novel-in-progress: redemption, forgiveness, reflection alone in silence and, of course, writing and the sheer challenge of putting one foot after the other for days and weeks on end. Plus meeting intriguing characters who come and go and who all have their own stories which we writers plunder for future use. It is difficult to put into words, but perhaps a key motive is that it forces me to see and to experience everything at a slower pace. Nothing happens fast and my senses operate in ways they never do in city daily life.
Four guys dressed in dog suits run across the road to where I am waiting late at night for my tram. Happily drunk, they pretend to chase cars as we wait and we chat, turns out they are Irish backpackers, pretend pee on car tyres when they stop at the traffic lights and generally muck around in good humour. The tram arrives and we pile on and they roll on the floor, scratch each other’s bellies [and react as dogs do, hind leg pawing the air] and growl etc. while interacting with those of us close by. It is all good fun and there is an atmosphere of good humour and outright laughter through the tram, a spirit of camaraderie. When the ‘dogs’ leave, those of us left are smiling and feeling a little more light-hearted.
And this is why I love trams. There is an intimacy of connection, usually positive but sometimes not, which I do not feel on trains or buses.
More stories from ‘On the tram’ will follow.