The M25, that concrete serpent throttling the neck of our nation’s capital, is seldom considered a place for clarity, unless that clarity is the sheen on the righteous murderous intent directed at all other drivers in rush hour traffic. But clarity of a non-homicidal nature is what I had there on that writhing mass of roady woe last week.
I was on a road trip with my boy and my bestie, on the last leg of the journey home from a gig. We’d stayed over night with bestie’s Dad, Martin, who I have not so secretly stolen for my own. He spoiled us rotten and I duly repaid him by reading extracts from Adrian Mole over breakfast while he indulged me as he would if one of his own was being dull. His loveliness is such that I reckon I could bleat most entries of the Encyclopaedia Britannica at him before he even raised a tired eyebrow.
Anyway. We’d reluctantly left Martin’s fairytale house in the woods to drive home, and were partaking in the sort of chatter that gurgles up with hangovers on return journeys. We meandered our way around books we love, people who hack us off something chronic, music, careers, basic existentialism, and sausages. Then Bestie, driving, told us something sad he had learned the night before. And he started to cry. While thundering along that arterial beast, he had a moment about something he should have had a moment about a long time ago.
We sat with our hands on him, one on his lap, and one on his shoulder. It was a brief moment, tears pulled back from the brink of real weeping by manly stoicism perhaps, or the very real possibility of crashing into a Scandinavian heavy goods vehicle. I thought my heart would break watching it. I felt so impotent seeing my friend in pain, especially when it was too dangerous to administer a full hug from the back seat at 80MPH.
But sometimes good things spring from powerlessness. It creates an inverse sort of power. We three sank into that car not knowing quite what to say or how to make such a big thing better, and then we charged up. We bashed the balls off the blues. We vented about every thing in our lives that we hated, every thing we wanted to change. We action-planned our next moves like we were newly-appointed commanders of the world.
We did what most nerds with a plan do. We made a list. This was our list.
1. Lose weight
2. Cope with suicide
3. Eat more fruit pastilles
4. Book Paul Foot tickets
5. MB to lend DG ‘Herzog’
6. DG to lend MB ‘The Catcher In The Rye’
7. SH to stop being agoraphobic
8. Make chutney
10. Write more lists
11. There is no 11
We rallied around the sadness and life’s dissatisfactions with tangible plans in our seatbelted mania, and we laughed at the list even though it was just trying to helpful.
I suppose now, in retrospect, that the energy in the car was not marked by our discontent with the stuff that went on to be hidden behind the safer conciseness of bulletpoints in a semi-joke list, or even the sadness that prompted the fervour in the first place. It was love. Something happens when you see someone break down. And in a car on the M25 you are just there with it, with nowhere else to go. It binds you tighter.
With our little car newly brightened we performed the next integral stage of our operations. We stopped for petrol to get us home, and fruit pastilles – the confectionary of champions.