Monday, 3 July 2017

Norfolk/Suffolk, beaches/bikes

E and I take our bikes on the train, after work. Cycle to my parents through darkened streets, there for the weekend. 

The weather is grumbling, changeable, warm air, but scudding clouds, passages of sunshine, and no more than the threat of rain. We barbecue in the garden, two nights in a row. A herbivore's barbecue, golden corn and scarlet peppers, asparagus from the garden, and the first of the courgettes. On Saturday, plump, home grown artichokes, eaten the French way, boiled, leaves dipped in lemon juice and melted butter. 

The garden, full to bursting with roses, clematis.  A green-purple haze of lavender, artichokes, lupins in one of the vegetable patches. At the top of the garden, the raspberry and tayberry canes, dripping with red fruit. So many we can't eat them all. I layer them in mascarpone and scatter them with rose petals to make a Nigel Slater recipe from Tender II, steep them in Kilner jars with gin. 

We drive to the coast, the Suffolk coast, Walberswick, where we have been going since childhood. Families line the sea wall and estuary bridges with nets and lines of string, packets of bacon, each bucket beside them full of a seething mass of crabs, as we used to pass the time, years ago. Lunch in a pub garden, ominous skies above, local cider, and chips, salt and vinegar drenched. Finding a hollow in the dunes, settling there with books and blankets. The courageous among us braving the 'refreshing' (!) waters during a break in the clouds, jumping the waves, warming up after with a thermos of tea. Taste of salt on our skin for the rest of the afternoon. Dad, hidden behind the grasses, flying a kite. Sea holly, grey-blue-green and star like. Afterwards, a wander through the village, past the community noticeboard and tiny postbox, hollyhock filled front gardens, gooseberry and elderflower ice cream in hand, eaten from a tub with a plastic spoon.

Sunday. A 25 mile bike ride, along with hundreds of others. Bright yellow number cards, tied to handlebars. A mix of serious looking, Lycra clad participants (some cycling 50 miles, or 100), and those there for the fun of it, like us. Cycling down country lanes between bramble entwined hedgerows, crossing the odd A road. Enjoying the breeze, and even, oddly, the rare burst uphill (in a very flat East Anglia), legs burning, but feeling stronger and more capable than I had done this time last year, when I completed it on a rickety bike, before cycling to work and around London on a regular basis became the norm. The calm at the side of the field whilst one member of the group fixed a puncture, and I photographed poppies. 

Friday, 23 June 2017

Conversations with a self

I want to write something.

But you haven't written in so long. 

Better now than never.

Well it better be good then. A grand return. Sweeping and majestic, capturing all that has happened since you last wrote.

I'm not sure I can manage that.

You'll have to, it's not worth it otherwise.

I can't capture it all. The vastness of the changes. The votes and the outcomes, the subsequent actions taken (and not taken), the way the world seems to have swallowed a whole packet of crazy and be spewing it up again, relentlessly, carelessly. I can't even capture all of the micro, the year plus of being back in London, the long hours spent in a new job, the seemingly fleeting but joy-packed evenings and weekends rediscovering the city, and further afield, E at my side (or, more accurately, long legged as he is, always a few paces ahead).

Maybe I can just write the things that I know to be true.

That the outcome of the vote a year ago today still breaks my heart, though the rawness has lessened, as these things do.

That I feel like now more than ever I am struggling to make sense of the world, and my place in it.

That simultaneously, I am happier than I have ever been. Living under the same roof as E, building a home together. A home where our bikes rest tail to tail in the hallway each night, where taking the recycling out is a shared duty, where we try (and sometimes fail) to keep the basil plants on the kitchen windowsill green and perky. Being back in London, my city, my love. Closer to friends, to family, no longer the twice yearly frantic whirl of social calls, squeezing dear ones in for a snatched coffee and pleasantries. No longer being there just for the big ticket events of weddings, and Christmas, but also now for the little ones, the midweek suppers, the impromptu picnics in the park, the things that weave a friendship together, tighter.

That two nights ago we had an impromptu picnic in the park, celebrated the summer solstice on Primrose Hill. Took tablecloths to sit on and rhubarb gin to drink, a bag of ice and a mishmash of friends collected from university, work, Congo. Made a picnic of olives and Kettle Chips, pizzas collected from the place down the road, fat, glossy Kentish cherries for after. Watched as the sun set and the city lights came on. Grieved for this city, and all that it has been battered with these last few months, loved it unconditionally.

* * * *

A few other things:

Don't be fooled.

- Poignant photo essay here. ("Wednesday brought both the longest day of the year and the hottest June weather in four decades, a combination that seemed to intensify the strangeness of these times - when the hours feel precarious, and every morning brings fresh and unfathomable news...")