Just a Little Bit Off-Balance

Some days everything feels just a little bit off kilter; you do the usual things but it feels a bit strange, and it’s hard to identify why.  On other days, that unsettled feeling is easier to understand; you try something new and feel a bit nervous about it.

I’ve got a bit of both at the moment.  I’m at Gatwick airport, typing this on one of BA’s PCs because I’m too lazy to fire up my own laptop.  The cost of this is to be handicapped by a mouse which will only move the cursor up and down, but not across, so I’ve gone back to memories of pre-mouse days (remember them?) and am using the arrow keys. 

When I was in my last job I used to travel somewhere at least once a week.  I had the routine for ticket buying, boarding pass printing, packing only hand luggage for every trip, the speediest route through the airport down pat.  It required very little conscious thought; when I did consider it, my only fear was that it had become so routine that I no longer paid enough attention to recall that I needed to check that I had my passport with me.

This time was quite different.  I’ve packed a huge suitcase and have more books than I will probably be able to read, and more clothes than I would normally wear in a regular fortnight at home.  I checked my handbag several times to confirm I had all the paperwork and I became unusually anxious about how I would get to the airport.

I came a different route from the usual this morning; I had decided to try the train from St Pancras, instead of the usual Gatwick Express, as Victoria station is even more reminiscent of the second circle of hell than usual at the moment.  I like to think I am reasonably familiar with London as I’ve lived here so long, but the route of the line from St Pancras through to south Croydon was new; there are stations with names I’ve never even heard of.  A Loughborough in South London?  Instead of allowing the all too familiar to fly by in a blur of inattention, I stared out of the window wondering where we would stop next.  But the old training returned as soon as we passed by the Waitrose in Horley and I knew it was time to stand up and get my bag.

I know the source of my feeling of being so unsettled.  It was the echoing emptiness of my flat last night.  The furniture is all still there, but the curtains, rugs, books and paintings have all been stacked away in cupboards ready for major repair and maintenance.  Without them, it didn’t feel like my space; it was almost as if I had moved out and was only camping there temporarily as uncomfortable as if I was squatting in someone else’s house; I put only the minimum of lights on for fear of being seen in what felt like a goldfish bowl. 

I guess so much of feeling settled is to do with the little nest I create around myself wherever I am; it’s about familiarity and order, and knowing where things are and feeling the comfort of the familiar, no matter how temporary.  Being in transit or in the midst of an upheaval will always leave me a little off balance.  But the feeling it rarely persists.

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