Last evening, I had an interesting chat with my student. Alex and I are the same age and ours is mainly a conversational one on one class. He is highly intelligent and very sharp with his language skills. Since his language is based on a solid base of Greek and German, for him English is turning out to be a fun thing to play with. We met after a few week’s gap and turns out he had read a forgettable thriller where he kept turning pages to find out what happens and the build up was not worth it in the end. It was so disappointing and insignificant that within a few weeks, he had already forgotten the name of the book and the author. He was sad about how a lot of new literature turned out that way.
I told him I was reading Bill Bryson’s recent book ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’, and how he observes life and cities and things around him during his travels. There are chances that many of his readers will never go to the places he has been to. And even if they do, will hardly get to see things that he sees – the man has some peculiar interests – but every chapter of his has a build up and pay off of its own. He heads to Davon, he heads to Cornwall, he heads to Yorkshire and you wonder what inconsequential yet memorable experience will he have now, and how it will make you wonder about the world. There is thrill without suspense. Of course the genre is entirely different, but a writer can keep you gripped without any suspense in his story.
Alex mostly reads German books and he told me he was not familiar with Bill Bryson. That was invitation enough to tell him more and I embarked on ‘how Bryson usually travels alone and writes about his experiences’ rant. But then thinking of ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Brief History’ and ‘Thunderbolt Kid’ and ‘Home’ and many of his non-travel books, I took that back and said, he writes about everything. There was no way to categorize him. One thing he is not, he is not forgettable.
And then I said something strange. I said he is already 60-65 and he is old now and he is still traveling. Alex exclaimed, ’60-65 is not old!’ and I immediately took a back flip. I am an agreeable type after all. Of course, my bad. 60-65 is not old. And why was I being ‘ageist’ with one of my favourite writers of all people. The conversation took a different turn in my head.
Why did I say he was old? I started reading Bryson more than a decade ago. I have aged in my mind and since I consider him a wise old man, he has aged further more. Could that be it? But people in that age bracket are retired. Calling him old isn’t too out there. It touched me more, because I have started feeling old of late. I have more experiences to relate to. My sentences start with ‘a decade back’, ‘when i was this age, I never did this’ or ‘in my experience’ and I turn into a woman with advises i would have dreaded a decade earlier.
Bryson himself pokes fun at his age in this book, he forgets roads, he is more accident prone, he is not allowed a certain things by his family, but that’s just good old British teddy bear image he has. His writing is as youthful as ever. And that made me feel more euphoric than ever. I can also reverse my dreadful old woman feeling and shred it through words. You can be any age when you write. And So here, I re-open one medium of writing that I have loved (this blog), that i had closed down for no good reason. I feel more open to take risks, like a young woman again. I could thank Alex and Bill Bryson. Age is just a number. Writing and traveling are forever.