Well, these have been some months. An uncharted and unsettling world, experienced from the enduring familiarity of home. In June last year we finally left the flat. Walked down the street. Saw the hand-drawn declarations of support for the NHS with our own eyes. Learned to stick together and keep our distance. We have been fortune to see the sea; spring-cleaning for the soul. We have been able to spend time with our families without the glare of screens.
Still, a year on, most of life has remained within these walls. I thought I would turn to our bookshelves to travel, explore. I tried Robert MacFarlane’s ‘Mountains of the Mind’. Wonderful, sweeping, but too vast and distant for my current reality. I started novels of heartbreak, but found myself reluctant to pick them up after a day of work and news overload. I have learned that in this current life, I seek to stay safe, cocooned. I return to favourites (Tolkien, Atwood, Barbery). And I read about food.
Add in coffee – which the book does – and you basically have my ideal diet (if health wasn’t a consideration. Which it is). Simran Sethi’s book journeys through the origins, production and threats to some of the world’s favourite foods in this time of monoculture, habitat loss and climate change. She teaches us – with the help of experts – to find the story in every taste, focusing on five foods: wine, chocolate, coffee, beer and bread. But her message is broader than these particular items; by understanding what we’re losing, we can start to claim it back.
Summer is still toying with us a little here in the UK. A week of flip flops and suncream is followed by gusts and woolly socks. Given that it’s June though, it’s probably safe to hail Spring goodbye and call it Summer. So, a look back on the last season:
Garbed in wellies, I feel a certain sense of invincibility. I can stride out, confident that my feet will step sure and stay dry throughout the day’s adventure. Wellies open up new routes. A treasured memory from recent years is of a low-tide adventure at Emsworth. It’s a place that we normally experience from the water, joining the hoards sailing on Chichester harbour. This time however, the water had receded with the tide and we were armed not with deck shoes but with wellies. Standing in the mud that we normally we sail over was wonderfully surreal; an experience heightened by the setting sun, made possible through the humble welly.
The latter half of the year brought with it a relentless pace. Time was carefully measured and spent. Not a drop wasted. We found it to be manageable for a season, but more a question of surviving than thriving. We were head above the water but there wasn’t a moment to take a breath.
A few years ago I broke my elbow. Over the weeks of healing I was a pretty difficult person to live with (sorry husband). It wasn’t the pain that prompted me to stop behaving like my usual (vaguely) reasonable self; it was the loss of my independence. I, like so many people, struggled to ask for help.
When catching up on the Downton Abbey Christmas special, the post-festive season adverts told me it was time to start getting fit, redecorating the house and booking holidays. These themes did arise in our New Year’s Eve reflections on the year past and the days ahead, but they weren’t the only features of our discussion. We are content with the framework we have established for our lives, prioritising sustainable living, fostering community, exploring creativity and honouring God. In 2016 we hope to continue on this trajectory, which means making more incremental steps to thread these throughout the fabric of our lives.
Friday evening had arrived. The work was done, or at least paused with sufficient peace to leave it for the weekend. It was an evening marked by early autumn – just enough light in the sky, warm enough to begin in a jumper; jackets would be pulled on later. The day’s stories would have to wait for when darkness came. For now we hastily found out high vis jackets, lights, shedding to-do lists and perceived obligations, and got on the bikes before any more light slipped below the horizon.
I’ve been showing a lot of love for my local library on Instagram recently, which caused me to pause and consider the reasons for this adoration of these homes of books. In no particular order: Continue reading →
So much has been written, more eloquently than I ever could, about Marina Keegan’s ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’. Keegan’s collection of essays and short stories was published posthumously, as this brilliant writer, actor, journalist died in an accident when she was just 22 years old. She had graduated from Yale just a few days earlier and was tipped for greatness. Much is rightly said of the tragedy of it all. Continue reading →