Friday 1 January 2016

In the final third, the answer is 3.14

As New Year's Days go, it could have gone better. Hot sunshine is the norm, but nothing the weather does these days, wherever you go in the world, follows the norm. Which is a worrying thought, but not one to dwell on on the single day of the year when everyone is urged to be positive. So I'm focusing instead on being glad that I'm in a comfortable house rather than a wind-shredded tent by a rising river, and have distracting devices close at hand.

One of them is the TV and, watching 'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian' I was pleasantly diverted by the locations, having been to many of them in 2014 on my first visit to DC. My second trip to Chicago that year provided me with a smug moment of superiority, when I glimpsed in the background of one scene Edward Hopper's Nighthawks painting, which I saw at the Art Institute there, where it has always hung, ie not in a branch of the Smithsonian museum. I have to say, I also felt a little less warm towards Teddy Roosevelt this time, Robin Williams's death notwithstanding, having also seen in DC the white rhino that he shot; but I enjoyed the movie, which is a cheerful romp.
It did, however, make me feel guilty all over again that, under pressure, as always, of time, I skimmed through just a few of the museums, when there is so much to see there, and all so well presented. Realistically, though, while it's fascinating to browse through the exhibitions, looking and reading and marvelling, there's actually not a lot of learning going on these days, for me. Like Ben Stiller's character, trying to remember pi to eight places for the tablet code (and failing - though Amelia Earhart did it, yay) that's about five items too many for my brain. In fact, 3.14 what? There's a 5 somewhere, and a 9...
I'm reminded of my grandmother, who had a stack of Agatha Christies by her bed, which she read through endlessly, each story fresh to her the next time she got round to it. So, why do anything new, when as soon as you stop, you forget it? Why, more appositely, travel anywhere new, when you could save a pile of money by just going back to the same places in your own country, each of them a new delight?

Because of the moments you do remember, that's why. The 3.14 effect. The space ship, the dinosaur, the donut, the big shiny bean, the friendly Frenchman, the turtle encounter, the philtrum triumph at Trivial Pursuit, the perfect chips, the volcano erupting, the ice wine, the lightning... Moments of delight that would actually be valid simply as fleeting experiences - but each of them trailing behind them other moments, which add up to rewarding memories that make the whole thing worthwhile. Happy New Year. May you, and I, enjoy our travels, both during and for ever after.


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