It’s All Material

I’ve probably said before that I find it quite helpful to think that even the worst of experiences provide potential material for writing.

Occasionally, when something unpleasant happens, I can pause for a moment and think ‘So this is what panic/pain/fear feels like’; and I store the memory.  That reflex has helped me deal with some difficult situations

Later, sometimes a long time later, when I need to describe an emotion or a sensation, I can close my eyes and mine into the past for something I can recycle and reuse.

I had an ‘adventure’ last week which falls squarely into that category.

I was driving from London to Birmingham to meet friends.  It’s a journey of around 115 miles, most of it on motorways.  I had just under half a tank of petrol when I left home; enough to get there, but I would need to fill up for the return journey.  I planned to stop on the way.

I was over half way there, and starting to concentrate on the road signs to make sure I didn’t go wrong in the complicated motorway interchanges on the edges Birmingham, when I suddenly realised I didn’t have my purse with me.  No cash, no credit cards, nothing.  I had a handbag full of marginally useless things like an umbrella, a novel, pens, notebooks, route directions, reading glasses, my London Transport Oystercard and paper hankies; but nothing that would be of any use when I ran out of petrol.

I stopped at the next service station and sat with sweating palms, clutching the steering wheel, an empty hole in the pit of my stomach, wondering what I should do next.

It is hard to describe how unlike me it is to have been so disorganised as to be without my purse.  It’s never happened before.  I think about things like that; I plan.  I have a ‘passport, money, tickets, visa’ mantra in my head at the start of most journeys, even short ones

I knew I’d not lost the purse; as soon as I noticed I didn’t have it, I knew exactly where it was.  It was in a small handbag I had used the previous day.  It was lying on the floor in the corner of my bedroom.

I weighed my options; many of which, as soon as I thought of them, had to be dismissed, because……. I didn’t have my purse.  As I didn’t have enough petrol to drive home, I had no alternative but to carry on, and hope that I could borrow cash from the friends I was meeting.

I drove the rest of the way leaning forward clutching the steering wheel, praying that I didn’t end up on the toll-road part of the M6 by mistake, and hoping that the car park for which I was headed was not a ‘pay and display’.

When I arrived at the Touchwood Car Park in Solihull (pay on exit, thank goodness) I sat in the car for several minutes logging the tension in my shoulders, the tight band around my forehead, the clenching of my fingers, asking what kind of upset might have made such an organised person forget something so vital.

Still flooded with anxiety, convinced, until my friends arrived, that I had come on the wrong day to the wrong place, I even took the precaution of writing down the location of my car in case I couldn’t find it again.

Fortunately, thanks to their generosity, I had a great evening and was able to get home again.  And I have some sense memory that will be material in the future; even though I don’t know what that particular story is yet.

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