Leave your troubles behind…
God knows how much I love packing my little rucksack,
jumping on a plane, taxi, boat or train,
watching the land I’ve lived in trail swiftly behind…
letting go of all those troubles, loves, losses and gains,
having only the bare necessities on my back, on my mind
light, easy, shackle-less and free –
my heart focused on new horizons, new adventure.
I am the fire. Free, raw, wild,
unpredictable, sometimes misunderstood,
addictive, always moving, never still,
unhold-able, untame-able, but fuel-able and fearless,
flying, falling, always burning down
– but from the ashes reborn.
I do believe the making of a good life, is not made in fortune, plans or material,
but in an ability to keep moving, evolving, improving.
Turning over the pages of the book of life.
Unstopping, unyielding faith. Unbeatable heart.
Every time I am almost beaten, get hit, or fall,
I rise again the phoenix, more beautiful than before.
This is the Art of Going.
And I have no plans to stop now.
I’m far too madly in love with the world to stop anything.
It’s crazy how one minute you’re in Italy,
scenes of beautiful Tuscany flashing past your eyes,
you’re saying goodbye to a place you’ve lived and loved,
for what feels strangely like the last time.
Next you’re hopping onto a bus to Pisa to catch your flight on.
You’ve plenty of time to spare – but this is travel;
things never go to plan…
How can a scheduled 1-hour journey take more than two?
This is Italy; and this is the Art of Going.
(although it was a very scenic route I must say)
You’re rushing through the airport again, your gate closing any minute.
Why have you been here so many times before?
Why does something always seem to go wrong?
Why are you always late for every damn flight?
Well, perhaps it is an art – because I haven’t missed a flight yet.
Although I’ve nearly missed several…
Friends call these episodes ‘Carry on Clayton’ – because whenever there’s travel involved
– there’s always some little unforeseen disaster that forces me to let go of my plans,
hope, pray, leave it to God; the Great Divine; and, somehow, always make it… just.
I’m on the way back from Athens,
I arrived at the airport half an hour before my flight takes off.
Why? Because this is Greece… and my lift didn’t turn up.
I run through the airport, my leather case on my head,
they confiscate the entire case, search me because I look suspiciously anxious,
and then somehow I charm the case back, contents in tact,
waltz onto the flight as they’re already doing the safety calls.
It’s the middle of Summer in Rome. My case is overweight.
Why? Because I bought loads of clothes at the flea markets.
It’s three kilos overweight… so I unpack the case in the middle of the airport floor,
and start piling on clothes, three kilos of clothes. Even a coat.
A very sweaty James staggers back over to check in… it’s still overweight.
I stuck three pairs of shoes and a few books in my pockets…
Bingo… I got on the flight! Everybody thought I was mad.
I am. I’m an artist. All artists are mad.
Next my entire case is searched on the way to Paris – apparently it is packed ‘suspiciously’
and they think I look suspicious too (I was wearing a lady’s fur coat).
After checking the entire case they decided it was safe,
and next minute I’m jumping on the damn thing trying to get it shut again,
as I haven’t got the time to pack it properly and the case is a tiny 1920’s thing…
Then there was the time in London when I was stuck at security,
all of me and my tiny case being scrutinised by three security guards,
my flight leaving in ten minutes. Panic! Panic! Angina pains! Panic!
After throwing my stuff back in the case and screaming at the security guards,
one of them let me through a side door so I could skip the huge queues
AND I JUST MADE IT! Very sweaty but laughing quite a lot…
Then I was in Mumbai, India, and the security guard forgot to stamp my ticket
as he was too busy telling me I was “handsome”
(it was about four in the morning and I definitely didn’t feel very handsome)
– that was a nice disaster that I managed to somehow get through…
yes, with an unchecked ticket,
being very charming with my poshest English accent of course.
There was one time I was accidentally put into 1st class on a British Airways flight to Venice.
They were too embarrassed to move me, so I sat drinking Champagne the whole flight.
Then there was the time they, for some reason, gave me four seats,
and so I laid down and slept for four hours quite merrily.
I honestly couldn’t count the times I’ve had to run, jump,
or scream my way through an airport or train station,
or just made it as the gate closes, accidentally queued for the wrong flight,
had to repack my case and change outfits five times with crowds laughing, watching,
even got rescued by an Indian police officer once when I got lost.
The look on my friend Shaun’s face when he found me
chilling with my new friends The Indian Police was just hilarious!
Anyway… I now refuse to take luggage full stop.
From now on it’s just a rucksack – hand-luggage only
– no knives, secreted bottles of whiskey, or fake names… I promise.
After Pisa, I flew into London for 19 hours, waiting for my exchange to India.
I took the tube to central and caught up with ‘the Bomb’.
Ate, drunk and stayed up all night.
It was great to catch up with an old soul mate.
To think back all those years when she and I met during a drama class.
I’d never met anyone who had a sense of humour as good as my own.
She, too, has been subject to Carry on Clayton a few times.
I’ll never forget running through Liverpool Street station to catch our train to Venice.
We were so drunk it was unreal! then we slept on the airport floor
on our matching Christian Dior coats we’d had especially pressed for Italy.
One minute you’re stuffing your face with paella downtown London,
the next, after a nine hour flight, you’re hit by the heat of India,
making your way through Mumbai, in advanced of your second flight.
I arrived in Goa at 5 am. Chose Goa simply because of finding v. cheap flights.
I came out of the airport, the sun rising, the humidity too,
I was instantly surrounded by people, trying to get me to get in their taxis.
I was blustery eyed, I hadn’t slept in about 36 hours.
I shrugged them all off and got to the side, out of the crowds.
Then a guy comes up to me and asks where I want to go.
I was just about to shrug him off too when I instead found myself saying “Agonda”.
I wasn’t even sure where Agonda was but I’d heard it wasn’t full of tourists at this time of year.
“Two hours away” he said.
Thank God, I thought. Get me far away from here.
“500 rupees on the back of my bike”
– he pointed to a bashed-up old moped.
It was either 1500 in a private air-conditioned taxi,
or 500 for that old banger… in the heat.
Obviously I took the banger!
Next we’re zooming through the Indian landscape,
the heat, the smells, the cows, the rubbish,
the shacks, the ladies balancing goods on their heads,
everywhere hawks in the sky, feral dogs on the road,
turbans, sarees, spice banners and bare-footed children.
I had arrived.
The wind in my hair.
The sweat dripping from my forehead.
My arms wide, my heart alive.
That two hour journey was just the best one I think I’ve ever taken.
“I’m James fucking Bond” I shouted, leaning with my driver round sharp corners,
through bustling town, then remote village, then apparently-endless jungle.
One minute we were peeing together by the side of the road,
next we were at a little bar and my driver bought me Masala Tea.
Then I arrived in Agonda – white shores, palm trees,
sea, birds, sands, shacks and heat.
I paid my man. He zoomed off. I was alone… again.
There wasn’t a person in sight.
Where on earth was I??
Didn’t even know where I was going to stay that night…
And so my journey across India begun.
On the white shores of Agonda.
They say it’s not always about the destination, but the journey.
Perhaps that true. But I do know that when it comes to travelling,
you have to be prepared for a ride, for turbulence, and a little hysteria.
You can plan, you can schedule, you can order and arrange.
But the sign of a true traveller?
– simply lies in the Art of Going.