Passing by


It was 1973. I was eighteen years old, and playing at being a hippy, though I worked for a living and didn’t take drugs, making me a bit of an oddball; an outsider in that clan, as well as every other clan I had brushed against away from the confines of my home.

Travelling was achieved by standing at the side of the road with my thumb extended. I liked to pretend I was a free spirit; ready to take off at a moment’s notice, because the sun was shining in a particular way, inviting me to explore new fronteers, but the reality was that I had to fit it into weekends and holidays, and even when I was in a position to go away I rarely felt like leaving my sewing machine, my fabrics and embroidery threads, my pencils, paper, paint, or my mother, for whom I had a fixation. These attachments kept me tied to my home, even preventing me from going into further education in Bristol, only about 100miles (160 kilometers) from where I lived.

However, I did take the odd trip into the unknown, and the following poem was scribbled down quickly, as I sat in the passenger seat of a lorry, somewhere on the motorway. I found it amongst a box of old photographs this afternoon, and it instantly brought back to me the emotions of that day, so long ago. Back then, it was easy to hitch a ride, and I met all sorts of interesting people. The day was hot and clear, and the sun had a look of youthfulness about it. I was returning home from a moderately disappointing stay with my boyfriend in Cambridge. He found my attitude to cannabis irritating, and I found his stoned, ill-thought out prattle irritating. We weren’t well-suited.

 I had been given a series of lifts, each one only taking me a short distance. All of the drivers felt like chatting, and when I alighted from each vehicle, I felt as if I was saying goodbye to a friend. I was a misfit with low self-esteem, and so lonely that I felt endlessly grateful to these people, but deep down, I knew they had no particular reason to want to know me better. I vacillated between euphoria and sorrow.

It appeared to me at that moment that all we ever do as human beings is cross each other’s paths, smiling and making empty promises as we recede into the distance.

My ideas have changed with the passing of the years.

Passing By

can we be normal, you and I?
sitting, talking, passing by
Look at the earth, look at the sky
time to live, hard to die
nudging, giggling, passing by
have to laugh, want to cry
have to, want to, need to try
laughing, shouting, passing by
time for truth, have to lie
sometimes low, always high
waving, speaking, passing by
people mutter, whisper, pry
my, oh my, oh my, oh my
seeing, being, passing by
passing, passing, passing by.

©Jane Paterson Basil

23 thoughts on “Passing by

  1. Ah to be eighteen again. Oh wait no seventeen as I was married to my first husband at eighteen. I had wanted to travel the world but no one wanted to go with me and I was too chicken to go alone. But I have two wonderful daughters instead and they are my world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t want to be seventeen again. I would prefer to go back to the age of four.
      I have a friend who travelled to India, alone, in the early seventies (when hippies were going there “to get their heads together” after blowing them apart with LSD.) At the time she didn’t think it was any big deal, although she got in a bit of a mess with money and had to get her parents to send some over. She went back – alone again – about six years ago, and found it overwhelming and frightening. Maybe it’s easier when you’re young, and less aware of danger. It hasn’t put her off – she told me only today that she plans to go back again in December.


    1. Thank you Michelle.
      I must catch up on what you’ve been doing. I feel a little manic at the moment, and am unable to focus properly – plus I can’t comment on posts right now. I have to get on to WP about that…

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Things have got easier for me over the last few days, because my son has gone back to prison. He is an probation, and there was talk of him being recalled due to a couple of minor infringements. His probation officer was going to fight his corner, because she didn’t want him to go back, but he requested recall, because he felt it would be best for him, as he was beginning to slip up with the drugs.
          This sounds terrible, but it’s the freedom that’s making me so manic. I’m doing all sorts of things that I previously felt too dispondant to get on with. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  2. A poet from way back 🙂 Hitch-hiking is so risky now. People disappear and sometimes end up dead. It is interesting to take a peek back in time at ourselves and notice the changes that somehow have grown up with us over the years un-noticed by ourselves until focus clears.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s sad about hitching – it was a lovely way to travel, though there were always dangers.
      I don’t know how many times I have moved over the years, and yet, every so often an old poem pops up in some odd place…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. his is great – you’ve linked to my post, so I can comment – although the comment may go to my post instead of yours, we’ll see! I can’t comment on bloggers posts at the moment – I can only respond to comments I receive.
      I love your post. It seems an exciting and scary trip to someone who was terrified of travelling more than a couple of hundreds of miles from home, at the age of eighteen.
      BTW, In the UK it’s considered non-PC to call a person of your skin tone black. I’m not sure whether it’sOK for me to refer to people with my colour skin as white. It’s a weird world, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Here I’m supposed to call myself African American, though I’m never offended if people call me black because that is what I grew up with the same way my maternal grandmother and paternal great grandmother called themselves colored. What African countries could I claim. Due to slavery, I could be from many places or islands even, but it’s not so important to me I’m just an American. The Africans I hung around with called each other black, and when I left the US in 1991, I was black and I returned and noticed the the pc term had changed to African American. What about the people who are reallly from Senegal who immigrate here are they more African American, because they know their actual country and tribe of origin. When people ask me where I’m from I say my relatives were from Georgia and Virginia, that’s pretty vague though my real last name is Scottish. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Yes, the world is funny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t like this habit of looking for ever more PC names. To me it smacks of racism – as if we’re tiptoeing around an issue that doesn’t even exist for decent people. It is not the words that are used which matter, but the tone in which they are spoken. When, as a child. I played Cowboys and Indians, I aways chose to be an Indian, because I was on their side, like almost every child in the UK. I have since been told that I was calling them by an insulting name, and I have to remember they are Native Americans.
      Is your Scottish name handed down to you from the family your ancesters were in slavery to?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Probably, but who knows… there aren’t always good records and I haven’t taken the time to do a geneaology search through multiple generations.

        Well, Columbus was just a little lost so he never made it to India, therefore the native indigenous people were Americans. Calling them Native Americans is like calling all black people African Americans. The Native Americans were many different tribes all across the country until the Europeans arrived and pushed them around the country, merging tribes and killing entire populations of tribes. When I want to get really depressed I watch documentaries about what the invading Americans did to the native alaska tribes.

        All my brain can process is the current multi-cultural melting pot that is still trying to label itself, when the African that I met saw me as an American, not African because I did not have identifiable tribal features that fit any one tribe in Africa because I am too mixed…Though they did tell me I was too skinny to be an American. lol

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The ancestors of us Westerners have got a lot to answer for. It makes me ashamed to be white.
          Maybe we should all have stickers on our foreheads, denoting who we think we are, and how we would like to be described. Mine would say “I have no idea and I don’t give a shit.” 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah well, its not like there weren’t African tribes selling captured rivals from the neighboring tribes. Humanity is just what it is. No need for shame. All we can do is be good to each other now and support each other when we fall down.

            Mine would say, “I’m an American, stop yelling at me, because you hate my President!” 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. That’s a good label – the other day someone tried to tell me how awful Americans are. When I asked why she thought that, she started ranting about government policies. My response to that was to say we have an awful government in the UK – does that make all of us bad?
              Turns out she doesn’t even know any Americans…

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Our government is general, meaning the majority of people vote, then the number of votes from the electoral college are tallied then the president is elected. We don’t have a straight democracy like France. Ours is convoluted and there is much jockying(sp) for position. That’s why certain states matter more than others. Candidates have to get the states with the largest mount of electoral votes in order to win. Scary but true. Most American’s think and election can be rigged, but it’s about the numbers.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. We have a flawed system over here too, but what really bugs me is that so few of the voters actually understand what the various political parties stand for, so they often vote for the candidate who will do them the most harm.

                  Liked by 1 person

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