This road sign has always prompted a mini crisis. Even though I’ve driven past it a billion times, it always kicks off the same thought process. The thought process goes as follows:
Firstly, I always read it as Central Asia not Central Area, and my heart gives a cheery little involuntary flutter. Hmmm, I then ponder, I want to live in Central Asia. [My mind wanders wistfully off to the Stans…] Oh, wait, I see. It says Central Area. Bother, I’m in Oxford. Still. [Small sigh].
But at least there seems to be lots to do here, I console myself. Castle. Ice-skating. Cinema that looks like Mickey Mouse. Theatre. Museum. What a random combo. Surely one symbol would have sufficed. And I just don’t get the little guy on the scooter between the parking and station signs. Who needs all these signs anyway? This country irritates me. And besides, I’m normally turning right not left, in the direction of the sedately uninspiring North Oxford and away from all the action.
I’d rather be in Central Asia. Why am I still in Oxford?
As I pull out at the green light, I always then clock the big 30 sign. In the context of my aforementioned reflections on the direction of my life, it has – over the years – started to symbolise the worrying passing of time.
2008: ‘Oh my goodness, I want to be in Central Asia but I’m still in Oxford and I’m nearly 30.’
2009: ‘Oh my goodness, I want to be in Central Asia but I’m still in Oxford and I’m 30. [Thirty!].’
2010: ‘Oh my goodness, I want to be in Central Asia but I’m still in Oxford and I’m undeniably in my 30s.’
Argh – mini life crisis!
But not so any longer. Ha!
Now, in 2011, I smile at the street sign and give it a little nod in recognition of the fact that I’m leaving Oxford. Not to Central Asia, and not in my 20s, but at the right speed and in the right direction for now.
And I thank it for the many pleasant images that it has catalysed into my mind over the years as I have trudged reluctantly up the boring Banbury Road, dreaming of places, and people, and possibilities that maybe aren’t so far away after all…