Disposables from Stockton GP, Nationals weekend
Spectathlete: A person proficient in spectating
When you live and work in London, a common feeling to express is that you want to get ‘away’. The sentence doesn’t often finish with away from where exactly, but it’s widely accepted to be a cocktail mix that will make you forget the following:
Traffic. Both cars and people.
The twice daily commute to work.
Always having to book at restaurants. Rarely getting a seat at the coffee shop.
The desirability of being busy.
I do love London - it’s a city full of knowledge which stimulates ideas and imagination. But with this comes an even deeper desire to switch off and get ‘away’. By switch off I don’t mean put the TV on and zone out to Love Island (though I am certainly partial to that). For me, truly switching off is not having to make important decisions and instead only focusing on one or two things at a time. Last weekend I travelled to Stockton to do just that - a solo adventure to the North East of England to be a spectathlete at the National Series. Switching my London cocktail that was about to spill to a northern G&T - simple and fresh to give me a shot at finding a new perspective.
This edition of The Disposables involved train travel, packing lightly and no debit card with simplicity and experience at the heart of it all. Here’s some observations:
1. The night before leaving I lost my bank card. The Western world are in a priveldged position of living with so much contactless ease, but taking a set amount of money out at the local bank forced me into an intentional way of living that I didn’t realise I’d lost.
2. The further north the train travels the more spontaneous conversation you’ll have. “What are you watching on Netflix?” is a question I’ve always kept to familiar faces. A geordie girl broke those conventions and we connected over the latest binge-worthy series as if we had known each other for years. Stranger Things, by the way.
3. Blue WKDs are still available and it’s two for a fiva up north.
4. When you’re travelling solo, you have to really want a drink at the pub to get one. Instead of a simple order, it involves strategically finding a friendly face to ask ‘Can you look after my things please?’. Far from irritating, I actually enjoyed being reunited with considered action - another lost art.
5. Complacency can sometimes starve you of delightfully surprising moments. When you’re in a new city there are times where it feels impossible to find what you’re looking for. However, the forced activity of searching can lead to incredibly satisfying moments when you finally find that pub, with a TV screen, that is showing Wimbledon and with seats in prime position. There is fun hidden in the hunt.
6. Let curiosity get the better of you. After watching the race in one location for a while, I decided to begin walking to see what I might find. After 15 minutes a haven of home-made cakes appeared. It was a local church that had opened for the race. I’m not sure what was more endearing - the homemade signs or the fact a scone was £1.00.
7. You’ll never regret making the effort. Especially if that effort is laminating twelve A4 pieces of paper and hanging it up for a local road race. Not all heroes wear capes, but they do apparently wear stripes.
8. Square pizzas. Who knew?
The Sunday was not only the Stockton GP it was also the greatest day of sport in a long time - the cricket world cup finished with a Super Over (so that’s a thing) and the men’s Wimbledon final reached sudden death (the first time in Wimbledon singles history). Whilst on the train back to London, streaming the latter on BBC iPlayer, I realised I’d experienced a new creative contentment. Thanks to sport, simplicity, sketchbooks, kindness of strangers, getting enough sleep and the stories you get lost in whilst being a spectathlete, I felt truly ‘away’.