Notes from West London

Never travelling light

Now that my son has started senior school (or high school) he has a rucksack full of books and equipment. He carries the exercise books for each of his subjects to and from school every day, whether or not he has homework in those subjects. He never leaves any of them in his locker at school. I did the same after switching schools at the age of eight. I carried everything with me, on the journeys there and back. The list of equipment we were expected to buy before our first term began included a copy of the Bible (Revised Standard Version) and the Pocket Oxford Dictionary. Every day, for years, these sat in my school bag. They were hardly ever removed let alone opened and studied.

I haven’t changed much. Most of what I have carried over the last four decades, to and from school, or work, or when out and about doing nothing in particular, has been “just in case” rather than “just in time”. I’ll carry a netbook just in case I get the chance to draft a few things, or a paperback in case there’s a few minutes to do some reading. Most of the time these things stay where they are.

This habit of carrying too much stuff doesn’t just apply to the bag or bags I carry with me. It applies to my pockets too. Most of the pockets in my coats and jackets have holes in them, from carrying too much change, too many keys, too many things in general: hankies, packets of tissues, anti-bacterial wipes, sanitizing gel, pens, index cards, notebooks, Oyster cards in their holders, books, mobile phone. At some point a sharp edge or a key will rip the lining of a pocket and the paraphernalia that accompanies me will have to be rearranged. My favourite leather jacket has a rip in the left hand pocket and in the lining, so if something falls through the pocket it can slip through the lining too. Keys, cash and cards can no longer by stored there. I have never travelled light. There must be a way of learning how to do this. Perhaps my son will find out and teach me.


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