Lately I have been nurturing my adventurous streak by travelling to two different locations in the space of two weeks. Last Thursday, the 19th of April, I ventured to Portsmouth on the train. Despite initial nerves, generated by the dazzling sunshine that forced me to squint my eyes as it bounced off the endless row of cars adjoining the sea front, I managed to persevere and walk to Southsea Castle (now open to the public, free of charge). Upon the walls I enjoyed an unspoiled view of the Solent, without being distracted by dogs, which have to be on leads within the castle grounds.
I walked back to Portsmouth Harbour in a far more buoyant frame of mind, with a decisive spring in my step, and enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea at the Dockyard restaurant.
The travelling bug had not been palliated by this trip, and on Thursday the 26th of April I decided to travel to Arundel (this idea had been germinating for a few days, and the balmy, fresh weather that greeted me on Thursday morning cemented the decision).
Arundel carries a nostalgic intimation of childhood holidays spent in rural Devonshire villages. I felt as though I were stepping back in time, or going on holiday, even though I was only there for 5 hours. After a chocolate muffin and Americano enjoyed in the grounds of the picturesque Swanbourne Lodge, I explored Arundel town centre. I spent an inordinate amount of time perusing the rows of books in the tranquil independent book shop (which invited a comment from the owner as to why I was making a extensive book list in my diary – to avoid impulse buying, I explained, although I did not add that I was hoping to find cheaper copies elsewhere!). The stillness permeated my very being, and I left with an exuberant feeling of bliss, partially occluded by over stimulation. Such sights! Such smells! My oh my, I felt fit to fizz and pop like a bottle of champagne.
I marched down a sidewalk and ended up in an antique parlor. I felt like Alice following the rabbit down the warren. A dazzling array of quotidian objects both old and new, a riot of colour and pattern intensely bombarded my vision, and I had to periodically stop and stare hard in order to contain the increasing pressure in my forehead. My eyes must have been as wide as the Cheshire cat’s in the tale!
On one table there were rows of scented candles. I have a very intense sense of smell, which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the context. I brought a candle with the label ”Fresh Coffee” (it could just as easily have said ”eat me”), up to my nose and shut my eyes hard as I took a long intake of breath. Oh joy! Oh ecstasy! The smell was so divine that I felt I finally understood the French word Jouissance, which means ”painful pleasure”. The ephemeral ”excess of life” or ”superabundant vitality” (to borrow from the French philosopher Lacan) made me feel as though I were in a dream. I walked over to the lady behind the cash desk, and told her that the candle was ”sublime – it smells of coffee ice cream, coffee corns, I mean cones”, as I struggled to articulate myself. She smiled at me – I may have looked a bit odd, because my excitement could not be concealed.
Shortly after the candle sniffing, I promptly exited the building because I felt that my brain could not take much more reality. The trance like state persisted for the next 15 minutes, and intensified still further when I entered a cook shop that sold an infinite array of bucket egg cups with handles, cook books, and every gourmand’s dream gadget. Again and again I complimented shop staff on their quirky produce, and my high spirits soared upward like a bird. Going to Arundel felt as though I had drunk some magic potion, but the profound excitement tingled and ached as well as soothed and replenished. My autism gives me super charged senses that bring pain, but can also turn me into a jumping child in a sweet shop, or at least a child who yearns to jump, for frustratingly, I feel a need to repress my sensory ebullience, in case I face ridicule. Furthermore, there is also the fear that if I were to unleash my energy, it might threaten to overwhelm me and result in stupefying exhaustion. By reigning in my exuberance, I restore order over chaos, but possibly at the cost of dampening my authentic self.
I have so far been exceeding my New Year’s Resolution to travel at least once a month. Onwards and upwards!