I have been meaning to write about July 1st, but the days have just kept coming, these summer nights stretching their sunlight into the next morning and, look, July 1st has suddenly become July 9th. You know how it goes, this whole time thing. It goes, relentlessly, and we find time for time only as we grow older, as we have less of it, as it has less time for us.
But, back to July 1st, a point in time that will always wear the weight of a special type of significance, always toll a little bell, gently shake my shoulder. It’s a birthday of sorts, in that it both celebrates the start of something and reminds me I’m getting older, time is not waiting. July 1st is the day I flew out of Sydney in 2010, a ticket to Germany via Shanghai, London and Santorini, and a working visa clutched in my sweaty palm. It’s the day all of this really started.
Started. A tricky concept. Arguably, if we start picking at threads to try and find the one that started it all, we’ll be here for years unravelling a perfectly good and quite unfinished jumper. So, knowing very well there is far more to it, a greater, more intricate constellation of moments and occurrences that led to the here and now, to this little loft by the Baltic, I look at July 1st with the sort of fondness one does an old trophy. It still glimmers a little – I think it always will – sitting on the shelf, still has the date engraved on the plaque, July 1st, in case I ever forget the day I got on a plane and went head first towards all of … this, my Mum waving me goodbye, probably terrified I’d do precisely what I did – fall in love with someone and stay on the other side of the world.
Stories. That’s why I got on that plane. Why we all do things like move countries, haul backpacks through far-flung lands, pull beers in shitty pubs in big cities, shiver and sweat through seasons so different to our own. We’re looking for stories, stories for when we’re kicking back with a glass of sherry, not long for the world we once shook so ferociously with both hands, manically collecting whatever came out. You know the stories, the one’s that begin with ‘once, in the middle of a long, hot Mediterranean summer, when I was on the back of an old, clapped out motorbike, driving at God knows what speed around a mountain …’ and never end because each little memory within the story spins out like sugar and is pulled at and teased for more memories within memories, like an infinite babushka doll.
I got my stories. I’m still getting my stories. Sometimes I look around, and the most ordinary of things, like a milk carton, will be the sharpest, most sudden reminder that I am somewhere else now. I live somewhere else now. That milk carton is how it looks.
I’m not going to unravel the jumper – I wouldn’t know which thread to start pulling. But I am going to drink my coffee, stare out the window and think of the 25 year old at the airport on July 1st, with a bag, a visa, and – the most important part – very little idea about what she was doing.