Isn't it funny how we get used to certain surroundings, sometimes to such an extent that somewhere which might otherwise seem uncomfortable, ugly or even dangerous can create a sense of comfort and relaxation? I have been thinking about this recently; about our environments, whatever they may be, and how they fit themselves around our minds and selves, sinking in to the conscious like brandy into a christmas cake. The alcoholic vapours may evaporate somewhat, but deep down the richness remains.
In my case, my environments have been relatively few and somewhat enforced. My health limits me in my physical scope (as I have already written about in my post on macro photography), but it has also resulted in some experiences in which my environment has sunk particularly deeply into my cake-mix. Think about it in your own lives - those places where particularly traumatic or powerful experiences occurred and how they live on with you. The vast majority of my dreams take place in one of two places (and sometimes both at the same time) - My house or a hospital.
Thankfully I've not ever required much hospitalisation, but all apart from one year of my secondary education was spent in a hospital school - a room separate from but linked to the children's ward of my local hospital. My learning was conducted to the accompaniment of overly powerful heating, the distant beep of the alarm at the nurses' desk, and the moans and groans of wounded children (who, if you know anything about wounded children, were usually moaning and groaning about the stuff every single child moans and groans about rather than their wounds). Seriously, if you've not had to concentrate on quadratics whilst someone has an epileptic fit, then you've never experienced the joys of maths (not that I ever found maths particularly joyful...but you get my point). A poorly acted play really comes to life when the main character talks about running away from their adolescent ennui, whilst immobile with their leg in a fixator.
And I remember distinctly the presence of the hospital at lunch times. Sat outside in the harsh wind and cold, the building towering over me despite it being not particularly tall. Something about the construction...the lack of subtlety and design. And the light. Oh that hospital lighting. There's something about the colour of crisp white walls lit by yellowy fluorescents. It reeks of infection.
And yet I was comfortable there. Often sat with friends. Enjoying a break from work. There was never a fear of being judged...hospitals are the ultimate place of acceptance.
So last week I found myself back at a hospital, having driven my father to an appointment. And despite the anxiety over his health and the busy roads, I found myself surprisingly relaxed parked in the outpatients carpark. The walls of the building were white rather than the dark red brick of *my* hospital. There was no bench outside the heavy blue UPVC school doors. No school doors at all. But through the windows you could see the same white walls tinged puss yellow. There was the same air of acceptance. And although the car was warm, I still felt the cold winter winds blowing through me, cooling and smothering any fear and upset I felt about being in such a place.