I last left my home six weeks ago. I have been outside. To the bins a couple of times, though now my husband has that joy to himself (following a text from the National Health Service saying I shouldn’t stray beyond our front doorstep. It is strange to live in days when the NHS sends me regular life advice). To the garden. Daily. Twice daily. As many times as the weather and work will allow. But this is all in the vicinity of home.
I am grateful that this season of life has coincided with a shift from dispiritingly soggy February to brightness, and warmth; sometimes the promise of summer and sometimes a proper preview. We’ve sowed a lot of seeds, preparing for the long haul at home. Chard that survived the winter and lettuce newly planted are already gracing out salads. Mint is beginning its proliferation (in terracotta pots, lest it rampage through the whole garden). We have had two barbecues already. And both involved eating in actual daylight; a feat only managed with the easing of time that lockdown has brought (we are optimistic people, so run late normally).
When I told people that we were going to Morocco for six nights they all spoke of the colour, the crowds, the hum of those narrow streets. And that set my expectations. Expectations that our first experience seemed to cement: following a stranger – who carried our bags while we held onto our wide-eyed wonder – through a central square of fire-silhouetted figures, and drums beating, and raw, wild energy. This, we thought, was Marrakech.
When I think back on 2017, I remind myself that this is the year that we carved out a new life in a bigger, bolder city than before. A place where our community means more travel time with strangers on trains than with friends in their homes. A city that is not, in truth, a natural fit. That shades out the stars and puts miles between us and the sea. But we have learned how to do life here; how to not just make it work but embrace the opportunity and privilege that, as well as being all those other things, it truly is. It seems unlikely (though who knows) that it is forever, so we want to make the most of it while we can.
There’s nothing like seeing all your belongings parcelled and packed into a lorry to make you think about your relationship with the things you own. We were paying people to transport these things across counties. I had to ask the question: were they worth it?
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.
As a teenager I was never much of a magazine reader. I wasn’t sufficiently interested in the topics dominating the magazines marketed at me to consider them worth spending actual pounds on. I invested my money on books instead, erroneously writing off the sector from my interests and my purse. I’ve since discovered there are magazines out there looking at the topics, lifestyle and issues that interest and inspire me (one got a mention in this blog post). Even better, over the last few months I’ve had the privilege of being part of bringing one into being.
May was, perhaps, about investment. We began it in Northern Ireland, investing in our relationships with family and old friends. We ended it on a beach on England’s South Coast, flying kites and investing in our own wellbeing as the world fell away, leaving only colourful kites dancing on the wind as the evening’s light faded.
When I launched this blog, I identified the overarching themes that would dominate it: sustainability, words, making. Over the past sixteen months, I’ve seen a pattern emerging that takes these three topic areas beyond ‘these are a few of my favourite things’, stringing them together and showing how they relate, influence and inform each other. To illustrate this more explicitly, the blog is undergoing a tweak or too. Same kind of content, but greater clarity in how it all hangs together. Continue reading →
A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to share some of the thoughts I’ve had and things I’ve learned about being neighbourly in the 21st century. Around 40 women had gathered to share breakfast and friendship, and to hear about an amazing charity called The Gate which works with women in the sex trade in Southampton. I had the privilege of putting the work of The Gate in the wider context of a call to be radically neighbourly in our day to day lives.