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Day Tripper

In the spring of 1990 I took a trip with the lady who would eventually become my wife, to Canterbury in Kent. We wandered around and saw the sites, and then we had some lunch in a Roman themed restaurant called Caesar's. Beatles music was playing in the background. As we sat waiting for our meal Daytripper started to play. The daytripper described in the song was a flighty young woman who enjoyed one night stands, someone who clearly did not want a steady, ordinary sort of life. But it struck me that the daytripper's waywardness was described in terms of a day trip, a trip so characteristic of the world she had apparently turned her back on. The daytripper cannot face the long haul, and engages in her little journeys as a means of escape. A daytrip describes both the journey of a wild young thing, while also being just the kind of journey taken by someone who has settled down to the long haul through life. A "trip" could of course refer to a dream journey which goes nowhere in the physical sense, while also going further than a physical journey would allow.

When I got home I looked up the word "journey" in my dictionary. The word actually comes from the French word "jour" meaning a day, and originally referred to a day's travel or work. We generally think of a journey now as an extended period of travel, while the actual word suggests only as much travel as can be achieved in a day. The longest journey comes back to a day trip.

I listened to Daytripper in a restaurant in Canterbury, a city famous as a destination for pilgrims. Back in my flighty student days I read Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Now on the long haul through ordinary grown up life I remembered Chaucer's pilgrims making their way to Canterbury, pilgrims as varied as the Knight, who had been on so many epic crusades and foreign adventures, and his son the Squire, who had only been on a few light hearted jaunts to Flanders. There were people like the Plowman who steadily ploughed their furrow, and the Wife of Bath, always off exploring side routes. They all, however, went on the same pilgrimage to Canterbury. Similarly the wild young daytripper ends up making the same journey as someone who has settled down to marriage, and decides that today is a good day to visit a place of interest. Canterbury was the destination of our day trip, a trip which in its own way satisfies the demands of a grand pilgrimage.





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