After the Goldrush🎵

Sometime in early July

Spellcheck suggests After the Goldfish. Well, why not? This morning has a kind of random feeling about it. I spent yesterday wading through a boxful of the last 18 months worth of mail that we have managed to live without. Worse, it’s missed the commercial shredding…. Well, there will be more.

The above is a fragment of an attempt at starting a blog last week, I think. It didn’t go anywhere, so I am going to start again!

Afterthought: Too many tracks? They outrun the text, but they all say something in terms of mood. Use them as you will.

The Tightrope Walker🎵

19 July 2021

This is the best image I can come up with at the moment for the way I feel. We are poised halfway along the high wire between Bristol and Crete, between homes, between lives. Today I almost felt my foot slip. Was it a feint, or an actual slip? I will interrogate my dreams. The other image it conjures is the high wire act that we are all performing, as we cross the territory of the pandemic. At one side, the scientists, firmly anchoring their end of the wire in the concrete base of research and statistics, and at the other end a bunch of clowns. The walk is a wobbly one.

I was reading a feature earlier on today, picnicking in a Bristol Park. It was written by a consultant, and what really stuck in my mind, was the following sentence – not an exact quote, but something like this: people try their best, follow the rules and do all the right things, and still wind up in hospital with Covid. The consultant was warning that NHS resources are stretched too thinly, staff exhausted and/or absent; I can only imagine how they feel when asked to open another Covid ward. And yes, there’s flu and the other thingy that kids get, also affecting the respiratory system. So today felt bleak. Al and I have been talking about how the current ‘Freedom’ is messing with our plans to spend time with our friends in this precious window of time before we return to our lives in Crete. As cases accelerate away, the more travel, the more contact, the more risk, to ourselves and others. Of course it’s not the only opportunity but the twin giants of Covid and Climate Change are the gatekeepers to the future. I warned you that I felt bleak.

21 July 2021

England, your England🎵

Just to be clear, regardless of my genetics, I am Welsh, and from time to time, I am strongly reminded of that. Here we are literally in ‘border country’ and of course that reflects my state exactly.

The house we are camping in belonged to my cousin Kay, on my Dad’s side. It is a 4 bed detached in the English style, in an area of suburban housing, bordering the agricultural countryside of the Wye Valley – a traditionally beautiful area. Down the road is Nimrod Drive, named for Edward Elgar who lived in one of the rambling early 19C houses nearby. But neither the house nor the area are really to my taste. We are camping not because the house lacks basic amenities, but because it just isn’t a good fit with what we do are how we are.

The countryside might be calendar pretty, but diversity is limited with a very limited population of flowers, birds or animals. The English suburban garden is supposed to be a haven for birds and butterflies, but we have seen mainly starlings and wood pigeons, despite rigging up a bird feeder when we arrived. The rivers here are swimmable, but don’t seem clean. Reports of barely legal discharges bear this out.

This is interesting – a medieval hay meadow in a state of preservation. It borders the River Lugg. About 15-20 minutes walk away. We discovered it in the heat of the late afternoon, and are planning an early morning hit. Hay meadows were a big feature of a countryside that depended on animals (oxen as well as horses) to power the machinery of plowing and harvesting. Hay was the fuel they ran on after the summer grazing was finished. The smell reminded me of the circus.

We have also found a local managed woodland. Herefordshire has some spectacular trees.

We drove to Hay on Wye at the weekend. No cream teas, no bookshops or other attractions for us – we shy away from human contact in the face of the wildly accelerating disease situation (as Alice Roberts said – we can learn to live with Covid like we have learned to live with traffic accidents, but it doesn’t mean we cross the road in front of an articulated truck. Was that Alice? I digress.) On the way we stopped to check out a stream next a very old, very English church.

I like the smell of churches, old stone and wood. Some beautifully made and cheerful tapestry work in the hassocks and other church paraphernalia.

All today’s photos taken from Al’s phone. He is fonder of the English countryside than I am.

Coming soon: Picnics and People


4 July 2021

“It is wise in your own life to be able to recognise and acknowledge the key thresholds:

to take your time, to feel all the varieties of presence that accrue there,

to listen inwards with complete attention

until you hear the inner voice calling you forward.

(This is one reason why such vital crossings were always clothed in ritual.)”

John O’Donohue, Thresholds

It’s not often that I throw quotes into the blogosphere, but this one emerged in Stephanie Quirk’s yoga class this morning – the last of a short series on Yoga Appropriate for this Time. The course acknowledges the huge upheaval that we have all undergone in this so-not-over Pandemic. Personal lives, social lives, politics, all up-ended. Opportunities for change grasped or slipping through our fingers. Of course what happens on the yoga mat is personal, but also universal. We all breath, and if we put our bodies in a particular posture, the breath changes. As the breath changes, so does the mind. So that’s why the experience is both personal and universal. The practice is to learn the asanas – the postures, and also to learn to observe the changes that they engender in breath and mind. The practice this morning was designed to calm anxiety and encourage the qualities of assurance and resolution. I will follow it for a while, because it is exactly what I need at the moment.

In the above quote, I have transposed the line about ritual, because it follows my train of thought better in this position. The idea being, that ritual helps us recognise the threshold we are about to cross. I am tempted to put a photo of the Sydney Row (Blue House) kitchen here, but I can scarcely bear to look at it at the moment, not because I miss it, but because it belongs on one side of the threshold, and I am on the other.

Moving house is not only a practical exercise, it is a ritual. The van, the packing, the sorting… all practical, but also ritualistic, and that ritual is a necessary part of helping to recognise, and feel, that something important is happening.

Privet Drive

Some of you will recognise the address! I am immersing myself in the Harry Potter novels. Each book has a threshold, and all form part of what we might call ‘a hero’s journey’. In the ‘real’ world, I am staying in my cousin’s house in Hereford. It’s convenient, since we have sold ours, and also I need to fulfil some of my duties as co-executor. It seems important to take care of Kay’s personal things, as well as organising valuations, house clearance – all the practical stuff. It has also lead me to reflect a bit on what houses are for. Apparently a lot of storage for a lot of stuff. I can count 16 x 60cm cupboards, and 13 drawers, and that’s just the kitchen! Keir Starmer thinks that we should ‘make, sell and buy more in Britain’. I think we should build better and more sustainable houses and apartments, with reasonable amounts of ‘storage’ and space to carry out activities of our choice.(By the way, what are we meant to be storing?) I want better stuff that doesn’t need to be junked. Sell and buy less. Sure, make it local, but shopping as a hobby is a futile pursuit! In my experience, so much easier to buy a thing than to use it. You catch me hovering over buying a book of poetry. Do I read poetry? Usually, no, but maybe in this new life…. So buy it for the shelf? Or buy it to actually read? Watch this space.

Apologies for the introspection.

Afterlife – or Moving Day + 3

Music: return to Radio 3

Well the blogosphere has been dark for just under 2 weeks, and I have missed it. I was overtaken by a tidal wave of sorting and packing, and for the last 2 days catching up on yoga and sleeping, both of which suffered in the run up to moving day. I am happy to report that it went pretty well, all things considered.

The Nomad crew were amazing and a steadying influence on a potentially chaotic situation. Rob and Jock worked away solidly from Monday lunchtime until the deadline of Wednesday morning, and were gone by 1100. They slept in the cab, (comfortable bunks, we were assured) and watched England win the footy in the pub. Rob organised, packed a ton of books, (probably literally) and carried a lot of boxes. Jock, head bowed Ito accommodate the low ceiling in the basement, performed a miracle of packing a miscellany of tools, accounts, and a million things we forgot we had. (How could we have divested so much and still have so much left?). Amazingly, once the van had swallowed it all up, it really didn’t look like much!

Easily the worst part was the last couple of hours when we had to transport left-over unsorted, wanted or not wanted stuff to the storage unit across the river. And then the last grab of the bits and pieces still left – half finished bottles of household cleaners, jars of pens, bags of foreign coins…. And, as it turned out, my passport, chucked into a market bag. Of course, the incoming buyer also turned up later, preceded by a couple of well-muscled Bristol types in a Luton Transit loaded with furniture. She was very nice, her partner somewhat overwhelmed by the whole thing, or maybe just very cool. The muscle chaps carried the remainder of Al’s gear down from the first floor studio as they took the buyer’s boxes up. I really didn’t want to see how ‘real furniture’ fitted into our lovely, but compact house. We were always furniture light – 2 small sofas, 1 bed, 1 futon, 2 tables, 1 futon, TV cabinet, filing cabinet, something to put the printer on and an assortment of folding stools and chairs. Oh, and a yoga ‘back-bender’. And my beautiful blue stained ash bed, disassembled in the attic for more than a decade. That sounds like quite a long list…. But the majority of the move was Al’s collection of musical instruments and other studio gear, and our books and videos. I have the paperwork to prove it. All now safely ensconced in a shipping crate in Peterborough, waiting until we can find it a home.

On e-scooters

The mystery – how are they charged? Do elves come out at night and wave a magic wand? Are they picked up by council workers in trucks and taken to a central station where they are charged and dumped back randomly in the street in the morning?

I have mixed feeling about them – on the one hand, my old fogey / grumpy old woman self thinks that they are too dangerous to the riders and to the rest of us. The other side is my memory of my childhood scooter, red and yellow with a black footboard. The sensation of flying downhill, and the freedom it brought to my 10 year old self was incredible – I can almost taste it.

Spoiler – here’s the answer to the charging question!