How Long Is A Piece Of String?

Overcast and miserable. The sky is reminiscent of my life at this current period: dull. This is a day when nothing gets done, I sit in my pants all day waiting for the heavens to send some kind of reason for me to get up off my arse and get on with life. There is none.

Arising bleary-eyed, brain in neutral, coasting through my existence. From my duvet cocoon on the sofa, I spy something untoward that I hadn't noticed until this moment. There is a length of string running underneath my sofa, I can see one end but where does it finish?

I look to see where the string goes. Under the rug, around the lamp, across the floor, and out of the door. I stand and start to reel it in whilst following it. It continues: along the landing, down the stairs, across the hallway and under the front door. I have quite a little roll of string now in my hand. Plain, white, cotton string. It looks new.

I follow it out the front door, down the driveway and out onto the street, still wrapped in my duvet cocoon, like a duck down burrito. It winds its way along the pavement as far as my eyes can trace it. Well, of course, I pause and wonder what on earth is going on. I have no recollection of laying this string nor how it would have got into my house to begin with. Yet it seems to be leading me somewhere.

Ever the curious fellow I start to follow it, the yarn in my hand is getting bigger all the time as I gather up more and more of this curious string. I follow it for about a mile or so, across streets, through the park where no one plays anymore, past the yellowy fields. The ball is getting pretty heavy at this point, it takes some effort to gather it up. I sit and rest for a while. I may need a wheelbarrow if I am to continue on this quest, as it has now become. Perhaps I should just leave it here, forget about it. Surely that's what most people would do, right? Maybe that would be best. Stroll home, put it out of my mind.

No. No one has that sort of will power. I understand the bizarreness of this situation but curiosity has always gotten the best of me. Right, I will leave it there, go home, pick up the wheelbarrow. Return to where I left it, and if it hasn't been nicked, I'll carry on following it. So, about half an hour later, I return with my wheelbarrow. The ball of string is still there. No one seems to be paying it any attention, they just amble past ignoring it. I pick it up and continue.

You are at this point wondering how long this story will go on for. You know the answer to that. But I will tell you how long this piece of string was. This is not a story that took a day. Or even a week. I ended up following that piece of string for a month or so. Through familiar streets, up dual-carriageways and motorways, through many familiar lanes and passages, back through the origins of my life.

I imagine now you are beginning to pick up the thread too, so to speak. Eventually, I figured out where it was leading me, I arrived in the village where I was born. I hadn't been there for 40 or so years; it had changed, but not enough that I didn't recognise it. Gone were the greengrocers and the bakers and the butchers, they had been replaced with phone repair shops that had gaudy neon sign in the window. I followed the string right up to the front door of the little terraced house where I grew up.

I walked right up to the door and pushed it open. I entered the house. All quiet. Hardly changed. I climbed the well-trodden stairs up to my first bedroom, the string ever white against the faded carpets. There, by my old bed, the string came to an end.

I lay down on that bed, my legs sticking out over the end. I had time to pause and to reflect. I've had enough of remembering now.

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  1. Great, so, from the sofa, I'm looking forward to hearing where it goes from here! (Now we know where it's been!)