Tuesday, 15 January 2019

January So Far

A bruise, from a New Year’s Day fall at Winter Wonderland where I slip and crash down, hard, onto my right knee, my bad knee, almost cry out from the pain of it, but leap up, not wanting to make a scene, not wanting the fuss and kindness of strangers. Throughout that first week of the new year it blossoms from pink-purple to blue-green to brown-yellow, tender to the touch.

Early nights and early mornings. Stepping out onto the cold street before a 7 am spin class like stepping into a hot bath in reverse. The goosebumped shudder of the body, the smack of the cold. Leaving the sports centre, a weathered plastic bag, caught high in the branches overhead, long strands of shredded plastic moving in the wind like a stranded jellyfish.

Columbia Road. Banana bread and milky tea at Lily Vanilli. Talking about the year ahead with two of my dearest, quietly hopeful. A huge bunch of white narcissus, fatter than my arm, which scent the tube carriage all the way back, and then, split into smaller bunches, distributed in every room, the whole flat. 

A rooftop bar near Waterloo on a Friday night with four of my university friends, our faces softened under the coral glow of the overhead strip heaters. Talking and talking until we get kicked out at closing. How wise and kind and funny they have all turned out to be, although of course they were always the latter two, even when we were 19, doing tequila shots in fancy dress outfits, making faces at each other across a silent library. But I am struck by how wise they have all become, how they share that wisdom freely, making me feel better about all manner of things. Struck too by the easy intimacy that comes with time and the gradual accumulation of shared history. That evening, not wanting to be anywhere else, not feeling the lack of anyone either.

Rose Matafeo at Soho Theatre. Seen first in Edinburgh in August, where by the end there were tears of sadness and not just laughter, S squeezing my hand. And if you are a heart on your sleeve Pisces, and you are feeling loss, it only means that once upon a time you gave your 100% to something. Inaccurately remembered I'm sure, but that was the gist, the takeaway theme that stuck with this heart-on-sleeve Pisces. This time round though, only laughter, pure and from the deepest part of me. Again, that evening, wanting to be exactly there, nowhere else, with exactly those people. 

More swimming. Swimming indoors, length after length under bright lights and red, white, blue bunting. The chlorine cling of it, for hours after. Swimming outdoors, even as the thermometer drops. 4.5 degrees, 4 degrees. Shorten your swim the chalkboard warns, and I do, but once I am dressed again, I wish I’d stayed in longer. On Sunday, a female runner asks as I am leaving did you swim? How was it? Cold, I tell her, 4 degrees, and she gasps, but says she is keen to try. We talk for a bit. I share my experience so far, give tentative tips. Afterwards, I wish I had given her my number, told her to message me if she wanted some company for her first time. Kick whatever it was that held me back, me who is usually braver than most at reaching out to people in this vast, anonymous city. The worry that she would have thought me strange perhaps, that she would have listened to my small offer of friendship and politely, awkwardly, declined.

Saturating myself with cinema the way I always do at this time of year, when the awards season gives us such rich pickings. The Favourite, dark and wickedly funny, with a compelling soundtrack and sumptuous costumes. Colette, a perfectly lovely way to pass two hours on a grey Saturday afternoon, but which I didn't adore. Roma, which started slowly, built up beautifully and is lingering even now, two days on. The perspective provided by the suffering of others. 

Reading, reading. Other women's words that drape themselves around me. Words about hope, and how it is an active, striving thing. Words that weave a tale of a jackdaws and cobbled streets and a fearsome legend. Words that describe the restorative power of swimming far more eloquently than I was able to, the lure of lakes, of cold water, of wild places.

And writing. My own words, that come more readily than they have done for some time.  Words that slot themselves together in my head as I am descending the escalator to the Bakerloo line, or cycling across Hyde Park in the January darkness, words which beg to be typed up, written down. Writing can be the mental equivalent of hitting a punch bag - I read on the Instagram feed of Notes to Strangers. Bookmark it for later. Come back to it. And think, it feels like that, these days, yes.

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