At the pinch point between going forward and giving up lies fear: fear of the unknown, fear of making a mistake, fear that what you’re about to do is about to lead to some kind of doom, be that death or shame.
Several posts ago I said I thought we’d been procrastinating, putting off the inevitable. I also felt somewhat cursed through the nearly two years we’ve been planning and getting ready, which only added to the dread of moving forward.
We are superstitious creatures infused with generations of primal fears given to us by those who would lead us, be they men of god wanting obedience to their lord, men of business wanting us to buy their products or services for fear of falling behind the social and economical curve, our parents trying to guide us with tales of lost souls, bogeymen in dark corners, or the power of the wind to set a sullen face in stone, and even friends trying to make light of our trials and tribulations by saying “perhaps it’s a sign you shouldn’t go travelling”.
Yoda said (and I may have quoted this before) “Fear leads to Anger, Anger leads to Hate” blah blah blah. However never were words truer spoke, except in one sense. Fear can also lead to utter paralysis of the mind.
I had to book the Ferry on the 16th of December 2013 literally a day before we sailed for Santander. It was expensive nearly six hundred quid (£600) with the cabin. Combine fear of the unknown with a price tag like that and the chance that you could miss said ferry because you have over a hundred miles to drive to get to said ferry during rush hour and paralysis is pretty much assured.
I must have completed the booking three times and re-checked it before committing, and even then I felt a frankly moronic urge to call Brittany-Ferries and go through the booking before I pressed continue to spend the money ... the call was the difference. Talking to a person, confirming that what I was seeing on the screen was real, immutable and we wouldn’t be bumped to the next sailing if they overbooked, or bumped out of our expensive cabin, again because they had overbooked (compensation would be applied according to the T&C’s) . And yet a part of me paradoxically hadn’t wanted (through fear) to book the ferry over the phone for fear of feeling foolish speaking to someone in a call centre. Part of me wanted Amanda to make the booking so if it went pear-shaped it wasn’t on me.
Without getting too lost, I managed it, by which I mean I managed my fears, booked the ferry and here I am today with Amanda sitting in a bar on Deck 7 of the Brittany-Ferries Line Pont Avon, with a pint of Bass and my laptop, looking out the `Offside’ (I should probably know Port and Starboard by now) window, three and a bit hours into the crossing. Wondering why I was so worried. However Andy Harrison (A man wiser than he thinks he is) said something at 6am this morning as we left his and Sarah’s drive to make our early morning dash to Portsmouth: the commitment of the mind, it’s easy to say you’re going to do something, but far easier to make excuses and `pull-out’ at the last minute. It’s the commitment that takes the doing. And that’s all in your head.
I liken it to that brave swim in a cold sea. You can dip your toes in and pullout, you can walk out to your waist where the swell can swoosh water up to your chest and tickle your nerves with stinging cold and send you back to the sand, shame faced excusing your lack of manhood, with reasons for not willingly giving yourself hypothermia ... or you can buckle up and dive in head first, take the cold and gasp for air as cold shock takes your breath away in payment for your bravado. In the sure an certain knowledge that it’s not going to kill you swimming in the sea twenty feet from shore in the middle of August ... but it’s always a bugger to get in at first.
It’s relatively easy once you know what you’re doing to travel around the UK in winter ... it’s expensive, but the language is the same, the plugs all match, you can read the ingredients on packets and you know the social conventions. For gods sake I’ve holidayed in Spain, I’ve driven left hand drive in Spain, but there was a moment yesterday I could have quite easily found a rock to crawl under. The boys on Top Gear often say before they execute a challenge `How hard can it be’? The answer is quite.
Mastering your fears is not easy, and we are in the relative safe zone of Western Europe. We have dragged our heels a little, the mole (which turned out to be a Mort ... that’s a mole with a wart), was if you like a stay of execution, that promised shake down from October set back to November and December.
I checked the info graphic screen a few minutes ago, we are sitting in a two or three metre swell on the Eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean, visibility is about a mile (it may be less, but definitely not more, there is bad weather coming and we sail through mist). The ships vibrating and creaking (well all the fancy trim is). The glasses behind the bar make that shaken not broken noise once in a while. I can see deep furrows in the sea coming in obliquely to the `Offside of the ship’, once in a while we meet them properly and the whole shebang pitches up then down, or side to side and I remember that I’m not the world’s best sailor, but we are here, and the Moho is parked below on Deck E. Tomorrow at Midday we’ll be in Spain, I wonder how I managed to get so worried now I’m here. People have said it was a brave thing to do, now perhaps I understand why they said so.