Silence. Stillness. Settling. A heaviness that, once you give yourself over to it, becomes lightness… Inside. And from that surrender there becomes a kind of freedom in the soul, as if there is no stone left unturned, no sense left unfelt, because you have allowed yourself time to delve deep, reach in, extract, and be true to yourself with what you do with that which you find.
“It is possible to feel as light as a gentle breeze,” I am reminded of when I am here.
I wake in the morning, the room darkened by wooden shutters. Opening them light streams in. There may be the odd rumble of someone going by below, probably to their allotment on the outskirts of the village, but otherwise there is no sound but birdsong, and my it is bliss.
My deepest fear was that this place I had reminisced about in the nine years since I left, would be changed somehow; would have lost its magic. When we first arrived and saw once again the desert landscape stretched out for miles around us, we wondered what had made us stay for five+ months. The scenery here can appear dusty and devoid of life and yet there is rawness, a realness that draws you in; there is a hunger to learn from those roots that can live so long without water.
In the absence of anything else to do we begin to walk ~ endless walking ~ and slowly I feel my heart releasing, easing, my thoughts starting to lace together into something coherent. We delight in the mountains changing each day… sometimes dry and uninviting, sometimes the deepest greens rolling like velvet, beckoning us towards them, sometimes even snowy tops. On other days a pale mist surrounds us hiding everything behind a white tinge… the olive leaves look frosted, the mountain tops hazy, and I find that I have fallen in love all over again.
There is no rush to the people here, they pass their time slowly and methodically, carrying out daily tasks with a relaxedness that I am envious of. In nine years it remains the same; tending olive trees, stopping for lunch perched on a stone, cutting greenery for animals, sharing a laugh or two. I remember with fondness the several old faces that have disappeared, but many remain the same and they smile and welcome us back with open arms and shining eyes and marvel at how our daughter has grown and at our dog; still with us, healthy and glossy (and now joined by another!).
I survey this place and say to myself that I must, once again, learn… and hang on to my observations for as long as I can. Wander slowly. Be more methodical and connected. Continue to nurture contentedness in simplicity… I arrived with a distance towards life, but I know I will leave with a deeper sense of closeness.
Pondering how our time here before also came at the beginning of a new adventure, having not long sold up our house in a city and given up a steady job to take our baby on the road in search of more freedom as a family, I wonder if this tiny timeless village in rural Andalucia will continue to call us back at important junctures. I hope so, because my love runs deep for this pocket of solace in a crazy world, for a landscape that encourages me to dig deeper within myself: to question, contemplate and ultimately… help discover our next chapter.
We left the UK on our migration south in a plume of noise… I find there is an exhaustion in this world that eats away not just at the physical self, but at something deeper and by the time we rolled our campervan onto a train to take us under the sea, we were spent. Thus, the journey south began in an agitated manner; senses were heightened, hearts were unsettled but, as is usual on our road trips, in time the charged air between us all began to quieten and as our journey took us onto increasingly-empty roads, the reasons for our exhaustion began to slowly work their way out in our minds and through our mouths allowing tensions to finally ease.
To us the world can feel too fast; it demands of us to look, like and listen 24/7 and yet… how many of us actually hear? In all the rush things are left unnoticed, compassion seems in short supply and the nurturing of important relationships is often a pastime squashed into well-managed time slots. Then there is the traffic noise that permeates every moment – even sleep – as cars rush from a to b and trucks relay back and forth with all the food, toys and stuff we apparently need to survive and before we know it, the constant stream of noise begins to buzz relentlessly around the body.
Perhaps some get used to it, make friends with that nervous energy… but it seems impossible for us.
Some might say we run away; well yes, we do, for what else are you to do when you find yourself full to the brim with no space to receive? In order to live, to breathe, to love, to create, we need space to receive. And so I long for the road, long for the layers that begin to peel themselves away as our wheels roll, allowing me to, bit-by-bit, re-emerge, and here now in this small timeless village in the mountains of Spain where we will rest for a short while, I feel a warming of senses, the sweet release of decompression, and the ability to once again, begin to receive.
I guess we all have our way of breaking away, finding that place where we feel able to balance ourselves and return to zero,be it through walking, meditation, exercise, the sanctuary of our own home or a weekend health retreat… for us it takes the road and the discovering of places where life runs at a slower pace, to remind us of who we are and bring permission to indulge in our dreams once again.
Perhaps our dream for 2018 is that the road will take us to a place where we can once again sink our hands into earth, root down; find a more permanent place to run to and not from.
I guess we’ll see…
Wishing you all a peaceful year filled with love, adventure and the running to and from, as necessary.
I love the silence of snow… lying in bed it closes around us; cocoons us. I can hear no planes in the sky, no cars on the road, no sound but that of nature, of snowflakes falling softly onto our caravan roof.
Reluctant to wake completely I stay motionless, lost in the stillness of it all, but the sound of horses hooves passing the window on the other side of the fence make me realise that it is daylight and animals need feeding. I close my eyes again, grasping a few more moments lost in the sound of compacting snow beneath hoof.
When in the depths of nature, closed in, I realise I never want for anything like I do for this feeling. The noise of the world we have constructed around ourselves suddenly seems futile, pointless, and just as with the freshness of snow, I want to start again, choose what to grow from this beautiful blank landscape.
My daughter wakes and delights at the sight of real snow; “real snow!” she sings, and hurriedly we pile on layers before venturing outside. The alpacas sorrowful faces look up to us, their ears weighed down with moisture. We scrape thick snow from their troughs and break the ice in their water bucket. The horses are going crazy, galloping around, and we scurry about organising hay for them.
I stop for a moment and look out to the landscape, relishing the magic of working methodically in snow and I am overwhelmed by the utter newness of things, of a clean and silent world, un-marked in every way.
For me, this is the last wilderness of the UK… I have wanted to do a campervan road trip around the Highlands of Scotland for a very long time and now we are; I am as in awe as I knew I would be.
We drive silent roads, we walk in every kind of weather in just one day, we sleep in quiet spots tucked away in the mountains; by lochs, in forests, overlooking a bay… and there is no-one to disturb us, no one to bother.
As we consider where we might sink our hands into earth once again, we wonder if it could be here? Ponder as to whether we might find a quiet piece of land, in our own land, that is affordable? But until then we will keep wandering and exploring, relishing the wild air on our skin and the deep pounding of our hearts.
This week has flown by and it has all been about the Village Festa. The build up all week with bunting and a marquee and all that goes with a village ‘do’ finally led to 3 days of music, food, games, village activities and of course, drinking and socialising. We are exhausted!
After two nights drinking the local red wine, we were unable to get ourselves out of bed on Sunday morning to head to a car-boot market as promised, with our neighbours. They – much to our shame – then turned up bright and breezy on Sunday evening tooting the horn asking if we were going to join the party for the last evening, which, with very little persuasion, of course we duly did.
It was a great event and lovely to be part of it. We were introduced to all the locals and are feeling inspired to keep going with our Portuguese because there is nothing worse than being at the village do and not being able to converse easily. However, there are also a small handful of English-speaking people here and you simply can’t escape the pull of a few drinks and laughs in the comfort of your own language. We were glad for it and a lot of fun was had, even though on each evening we were back home and tucked up in bed before the real party even started (the music doesn’t even begin until 10/11pm!).
One thing I did that was part of the weekend’s activities was a guided walk in the surrounding mountains. It was sold to me by my neighbour as: ‘a 1½ hour leisurely stroll to a little chapel built into a rock face’. Given that I had to get up early for the walk after an evening of the aforementioned red wine, this sounded quite lovely… I did start to worry however when I arrived at the meeting point to see 20+ Portuguese clad in serious walking gear with poles, but hey, I am partial to a good walk. 2½ hours later beneath pure blue skies and an unrelenting golden sun heating up the dusty hill tracks, I was thinking ‘what am I doing here!?’ Rather embarrassingly a very portly and much-older-than-me fellow who puffed constantly on a cigar, raced past me several times! After 3 hours, which included a rather good – and much-needed – halfway refreshment of roll, lemonade and fruit (or beer, of course) being driven up to us, we made it back to the village for a well-deserved coffee at a friend’s house. It was a lot of fun, but let me tell you – Portuguese walking groups are something else…
Other happenings this week have been Scott getting his tools out to whittle a few things from the branches of some of the trees I have pruned. He has tried olive, cherry, pear, pine and eucalyptus and even Isabella has got in on the fun, whittling her own knife, which she was particularly proud of. Olive seems to be the favourite right now. It’s also been horse-chestnut time, which is divine. On another neighbour’s land there is the most beautiful chestnut tree and as he told us to go and help ourselves, so we did. We have been feasting on them, often having them as part of our dinner as an alternative to potatoes or rice. Delicious! Free! Local!
This week started with rain – RAIN! – for a whole night and day it rained and the grass, bleached and dried from a long hot summer, seemed to start turning green almost immediately.
I wander the orchard daily hoping to see a little green shoot here and there from the clay pellets I sowed back in June. Nothing yet, but I look patiently. When it rains the smell of the forest is fresh and lusciously full and so we walked in it, soaking up the smell of pine, until water was running in rivulets down our faces and necks. Pure glee. After the rain the blue skies and sunshine returned but I imagine more rains will come by October time so we have been getting busy collecting fir cones and firewood so that we have some stores.
What I have realised is that we are constantly on the move here: up and down to the shed, the land, the compost, the orchard. It’s a naturally active lifestyle and I love that we are active without any thought. Most evenings we go off walking in the surrounding forests, collecting firewood and fallen trunks. We carry them on our shoulders back to the house, looking out across the mountains, feeling alive, feeling part of something greater than ourselves. As we walk we’ll catch a view, or perhaps we’ll see our house appearing through a gap in the trees and we’ll stop, be silent and say to each other, ‘this is ours’. We stand with our necks craned as Bonelli’s eagles and Griffin Vultures fly over, so close we can almost touch them. At night the stars are incredible, the sound of owls right next to us now commonplace. We sit out on our terrace until late drinking it all in: the noise of crickets, the breeze in the trees, the shooting stars and satellites we can see as clear as anything.
Portuguese lessons continue and learning from a child’s level seems as good a place as any. Sometimes we feel buoyed with our learning and then other times someone will be jabbering on and we’ll feel utterly lost. A neighbour who visits his land (next door to us) on occasion is my favoured conversational partner as he is so patient. He talks slowly and is never phased by the fact that we clearly do not speak much Portuguese and I feel confident to practice what I do know. The other evening as we chatted over the fence Isabella gave me a ‘high five’ kind of look and said, ‘Ma, listen to your Portuguese!’ I felt pretty chuffed with myself.
When I manage to grab a few hours to myself here and there this week I have been writing avidly: children’s stories, short stories, book outlines, article pitches, working on my new resource for schools that has to be submitted in November. My fingers and brain don’t stop with ideas and when I am here I feel I have the time and headspace to actually get some ideas down on paper. It is one of the things I love most about being here - time.
The other things I love about being here is that I am still walking around in flip-flops, shorts and a vest every day. No need to think about what to wear, just get up and get dressed. I love that freedom. I also love that my ankles and wrists are permanently scratched and covered in dirt and sand; I feel such a sense of accomplishment. We are returning this land – slowly – to it’s former glory. Somebody put a lot of thought into the planning of this place and it feels good to be here, putting some life back into it.
It is so hot here that the air is totally, perfectly, still. Time feels empty. Hours stretch out with meaningless ease and I feel unable to meld into this giving up – this giving over – of energies to the heat.
Instead I simply lie here wishing I could be doing something.
For me this is a place for winter. Winter is when the land is lush, the trees green and weighted with plump leaves drunk on water. The white-washed hill towns are fresh and invigorating whilst still under the umbrella of bright blue. People are alive, not muted.
Right now the landscape here is like stepping into a painting, a photograph: the bright orange trunks of recently stripped cork trees stand still against dried golden grass and matte blue sky. Green leaves are motionless, rattling in their dryness only when a light breeze attempts to push through the wall of heat.
Everything is still. So still that sometimes even breathing feels unwelcome.
To be here in the summer, far into the interior of Portugal, where dusty tracks once led smugglers over the border into Spain, is to give yourself over to something almost unearthly. It is to close up, centre your thoughts and prepare to feel nothing.
Until, that is, the night comes.
And then suddenly you feel alive again, sitting under the olive tree, a dark shadow against a sky lit with so many stars it is impossible not to feel insignificant. The only sounds are crickets, the odd dog barking and owls, so many owls. When I adjust my eyes to the light I feel their shadows everywhere and I long to swoop through the branches and rest where they rest.
But can a person live for night alone?
In the morning I awaken dreamily and stare as the shadow of our bed frame begins to appear against the freshly white-washed wall. As my eyes adjust the room gradually fills with light, the shadow soon the only part left in darkness. I know it is just about 7am as this is the time I have noted the sun appearing above the tops of the trees that are visible from my bedroom window.
Mornings I watch the sun light up the white walls as I awaken. Evenings I bask in its orange glow from the front terrace as it sets behind the mountains.
Life here in the summer is about measuring the distance between the two, surviving the in-between locked in oppressiveness. It is a kind of meditation, an enforced slowing of the body; a rarity in this sped up world.
The sound of a greenfinch permeates my thoughts until every inch of my mind is centred on that yearning repetitive lone call. Playful long-tailed tits chatter and flutter. I wonder how long before they give up, the heat is already heavy and I have not even the energy to rise from my bed yet.
I imagine breezy walks, my dogs playful instead of stunned into submission. I long to be in a mountain river. I wonder if I will ever spend the summer here again? My heart is telling me to move North. I once described myself through words as a House Martin and now I feel it even more. My dream self feels at ease in this comparison, my physical sense happy with the spread of cold and heat.
And so, North I go.
I am sleeping (or not) in my car, which is parked up in France overlooking the Atlantic. Everything I need for three months is in the car with me and the feeling of freedom this thought brings elates me from deep within.
The waves are crashing in the background; that and the sound of my family breathing are all I am aware of. I can’t sleep, I’m thinking of a friend who is very poorly… there is nothing like possible death to quiet the mind, make you truly consider what really matters in these moments that we are blessed with breath; with the opportunity to be who we want to be, to do whatever it is we dream of.
In this moment I realise it is what I am: a wanderer, gypsy, traveller, nomad… a seeker of life, a keeper of all things important, but important things that I can collect as I move, things that only take up space in my heart. When you live a nomadic life the only roots you have are those friends and family who mean the world to you… but always you are rooted only through holding their hands. We are flailing on the wind, tethered to our hosts and we thank them for always letting us run free whilst keeping a thread of our bodies pinned to wherever they are on the earth.
Our travels across France tethered us to friends, made as a result of our wayfaring lifestyle. We chatted and let the chickens out, we ran around the 3 acres of garden, we walked to the river and all sat on a beautiful bridge draped in autumn leaves, listening to the rushing water and contemplating life. My daughter chatted non-stop to fellow travellers from Quebec and Argentina… others just passing through. We, all together, threw her a Halloween party with recycled get-up, sparklers and a bonfire. As she wandered through the darkened gardens lit only by the most incredible starlight seeking out hidden pumpkins to crack the Halloween code, her laughter rang out and I felt overwhelmed with joy for the life we live.
Our friends packed us off in the early morning with fresh kale and herbs from their gardens and before we settled down to slumber this evening in the shadow of the Pyrenees, we ate raw kale salad on paper plates rustled together in a car-park. This made me smile and I thought how our friends would smile too at our creativity.
And so now we are on our way to Spain. To dryer lands, bluer skies, olive trees, emptiness and space to breathe… as peaceful as my watery life is, everyday stuff can still take over and become exhausting and always the desire to drive away, to stop the ride, to re-connect, calls. A desire to chase the light perhaps? Or simply the desire for more space than narrow water brings: to expand, shrink, grow… be both loud and silent. Or perhaps it is simply the desire to wear my sandals again.
I am not sure, but I do know that whenever I am called to the road, to a new place, to a new adventure, it is a calling from deep within my heart and I have found that the heart is the scariest thing to listen to and yet, it is the most exhilarating and powerful way to live.
There I go again, thinking of that friend… thinking of life.
How do we want to LIVE? is perhaps a good question to all ask ourselves from time-to-time. Today I want to live like this, tomorrow may play a different tune but whatever, I will be sure to listen with a keen ear and an open heart.
We worked our boats through the lock in opposite directions but in that relatively brief exchange she reminded me – this woman – that life is short; so very short. So affected by our conversation was I, that tears pricked my eyes as I continued walking the towpath, working my boat through the last two locks.
In those few moments we had that rare immediate connection and she spoke about her daughter dying just weeks earlier, about the grief and yet how she had also been reminded of LIFE. I talked to her about how sometimes I get scared as to if we’re making the right choices; that I worry about what others think of our nomadic, sporadic, seemingly shambolic lifestyle. That sometimes I lie in bed at night wondering if we should just settle down.
Her parting words were to tell me to keep living: to change, evolve, take chances… to give up, try again and most importantly: not give a shit about what anyone else may say, think or believe because it’s our journey; our life, and there are no rules.
Why is it that I love birds so much I sometimes wonder? It seems their presence has permeated my every living moment in recent months. From the playful chirps of swallows in Marbella, delighting no doubt in their safe journey over from Africa, to the Serins of central Spain who I watched and listened to whilst sheltered from the already warm afternoon sun under a gnarled olive tree, to the array of birds: Willow Tits, Gold Finches, Bull Finches and tame Blackbirds, here in the tucked away lanes and wheat fields of North Norfolk.
Yes, our most recent family road travel adventure has begun in the most beautiful countryside… every tree and hedgerow of these hidden-away roads is alive with the magical sound of birds of every size, shape and colour. I feel welcomed into their land and as I lie in bed with my camper window permanently open to the outside air, I feel an unwavering peace to find myself in their constant presence.
Out here on the road I can feel at one with the world around me; I can soak up the golden light that nourishes crops, walk the fields and lanes in bare feet and spend hours watching and learning from the wildlife outside of my window. I think of how sad I was to leave my watery friends and realise I need not have worried, for out here there are new friends waiting to teach me.
So far our journey has seen us unwind and empty our cluttered minds – heavy from weeks of sorting, offloading, downsizing and sad farewells – into the breeze of the brisk North sea. We have run in the sand, cycled along the promenade, gazed in appreciation at the colourful beach huts; such a quirky element of the traditional British beach holiday. Whole evenings have been passed just watching the fishermen head out to sea, or delighting in local youngsters doing their lifeguard training so bravely, and we have smiled and tipped our hats as we pass those who have come to enjoy these glowing sunsets, bringing with them tables, chairs, wine and friends.
And still there have been birds.
I see them at every turn, I feel their presence in the breeze even with my eyes closed; I hear them in every moment.
I read somewhere that it is important to do something every single day that fills us with joy. Watching birds fills me with joy, making me calm, happy and ready to brave the world, and as I shall be meeting many new faces during this journey, I am thankful for this. Although today as we stayed inland of the coast and ventured to a meeting with some of the Home Educating parents of Norfolk, I need not have wished for greater courage. Such warm faces, such friendly smiles. My daughter has played, crafted, shared snacks and lunch with the most delightful children and we parents have talked with those who inspire us with their tales of growing food, autonomous learning and even journeys similar to our own about to be embarked on. We have swapped ideas and thoughts of what to do and where to go, we have even swapped numbers and emails.
Just knowing that if we humans reach outside of our comfort zone it is possible to find such warmth, is heartening and I am thankful to have been embraced and only hope that this is a sign of things to come in future stopping places.
Tonight as we sat down for supper the drawn-out ‘tsweee’ of a Greenfinch captured me. I ventured out and sat on the step to look up to the top of the tree for a good five minutes as it called, as if for a mate. I realise that I love birds because they are able to fly freely, breathe the air fully, feel the wind in their wings and even venture successfully into new territory.
As I set out on this new journey, I realise that we are not so very different…
The city... I need to take a deep breath simply after saying those words.
Let me try again.
The city… all at once a mad, crazy, merry-go-round, sucking me into its heart where I spin in a daze, under its spell, for several days before being released from its grip in the least compassionate of ways. It is exhilarating, exciting, beautiful, but when it finally spits me back out I feel grimy, I ache, my mind feels messy and my soul has been wrung dry.
On my first evening there I step out for supplies. The breeze is unusually warm for early March and I find myself stopping in the middle of a busy street to soak it all up. I pull out my notebook and pen, lean on a green bin and begin to scribble…
The clunking of the rubbish truck, the buzz of a siren. It is dark but the endless lights and noise keep everything alive. I watch life whiz by. Parisians cycle home from work with baguettes sticking out of their jackets, their baskets, their hands. A Parisian does not walk a bounding Labrador across fields, no! They guide the tiny pitter-patters of Chihuahuas along endless concrete streets. I wonder what it would be like to have never seen green grass.
As I write I realise that it is as if I have stopped and everything else is going at ten times the speed around me.
Does anyone else notice, I wonder?
I look around for likeminded souls, but I see no-one. No, it is definitely only me stood still, leaning on a bin. Others, they are cycling, walking, driving: everything is so fast.
So fast that no-one has the time to notice anyone else; anything else.
It’s peaceful up here in the mountains. I didn’t realise how it would actually feel to be up here, but it’s just that... Silent. Quiet. So all-consuming that I haven’t even been able to muster the energy to write because I am able only to be.
Of course, settling into the new routines of a wwoofer also takes time and my energies have been focused on finding my feet, establishing my place, and ensuring that my daughter is happy and fulfilled by this experience of farm life.
I have stood looking out at the view raking cut grass and clearing terraces, and with them, my mind. I have been mesmerised by the sheep as they pass by my window each morning and I have marvelled at the new birds and flowers I have seen and found.
And yet, all the time, I am wordless.
Stunned into silence.
Sentences come to me: about the beauty, the magic, the feeling. But nothing knits together as it should. I guess I am still settling myself into a new rhythm.
I know only that I am glad for the opportunity to escape the noise of life, that I love to be near sheep and horses because they make me feel everything that is good, that I don’t care if my arms are scratched and embedded with thorns, or that my limbs ache from throwing hay bales into the loft until the sky has turned inky and the moon is so close I can almost touch it… because in the mountains I feel alive.
My daughter runs ahead, her face glows damp from the fine mist of rain that falls softly from a silent grey sky. She delights in the trees ~ usually plump with cascading green leaves ~ now standing stark against an empty world, stripped bare but for a smattering of brown leaves clinging helplessly at the top; their fate already written.
We are alone, others still tucked up snugly in their beds. The morning is, perhaps, dreary: grey, damp, devoid of the chatterings and clatterings of summer picnics that normally spread themselves gleefully across this parkland. But to us, wrapped up in our waterproofs, our feet protected with bright wellies, we are warmed in the glow of a world turned burnt orange, deep red, radiant yellow, rusty brown.
Looking around I realise that I have been so sorrowful with anticipation of this turn of season that I came dangerously close to failing to breathe her in fully: this autumn, so full of warmth, radiance and grace. Suddenly I understand the potential of this new chapter, the opportunity to strip my own soul back a little, allow myself to be cocooned peacefully in her embrace.
To regenerate, rejuvenate.
But mostly I look at my daughter running gleefully in the breezy rain, oblivious to the supposed drabness the end of summer brings and I remember, again, to ensure the child in me is kept alive so that this woman can enjoy fully all this magnificent earth offers her.
Setting off early the fog is light and feathery on waters turned matte grey by mist. There is a slight frost laying thinly on the ground, I reach down to touch it with my shivering fingers to see if it is real, before I pick up the rope and jump aboard.
We are wrapped up in coats, hats and boots; sturdy boots that won’t slip as we jump on and off the boat, untying ropes and easing her bow slowly round with a pole so as not to wake our still-sleeping neighbours. We are captains of our ship, captains of the waterways, which are undoubtedly at their best when the rush of summer traffic has subsided, when early mornings are our own, interrupted only by the pretty chirpings of a blackbird as she perches on the ridge of a stone barn.
I work the lock gates silently, a passing jogger helping me to push. I wave my frozen hands – cold from the metal of my windlass – at my daughter and her friend through the window as they lounge in bed munching toast and chocolate muffins, overdosing on Winnie the Witch books. By the time I am waiting at the gate for our boat to pass through I am several metres above them; their pretty faces are now stuck to the window pane beaming their smiles up at me. I laugh before closing up the gate and running down the towpath to jump on the front.
The sun comes up, her warmth welcome, and the girls are finally coaxed out onto the deck where they feed passing ducks. By the time we moor up for the day at a peaceful spot across from open fields, the sun is so warm we change into flip-flops. I sit on the bow of the boat while my daughter plays with sand on the towpath and bids hello to other boaters as they drift in and out. Mooring for lunch, mooring for afternoon tea, mooring just because.
I needed this.
To be reminded, once again, why we have chosen this way of life: for the freedom, the beauty, the nature at every turn.
I hang my handmade wares in the window with bright signs saying “For Sale!” and feel like a wandering water gypsy from times-gone-by.
There is no better life for me, for us, I think.
It started with a Christmas card. I remember walking into the classroom and spying it sat neatly on my desk.
Even now she’s still so good at remembering to make people feel special. I’m always amazed that each time I go to her house there is a prettily wrapped gift on the side, or a card with a name. I don’t think she ever forgets a Birthday. I guess that inside my card there were words along the lines of ‘would you like to be my friend?’; we were only 8, afterall. Oh, the exciting prospect of a new friend, a real friend.
Back then life was all about dens in the bushes and dance-offs in the playground. It was all so innocent and my memories are cocooned in a yellowy late-summer haze where we ran round in peddle-pushers and lace-up pumps; I like it that way, too.
We would spend hours writing songs together in notebooks before recording our words hunched over the tiny record player in the corner of her bedroom: one piece of vinyl with a minute or so of instrumental music played over and over alongside our voices, made its mark on the small tape-deck. How I cringed when she took that tape to school and played it in music class; I have always admired her fearless confidence.
I reminisce about how I would sit outside on the brick wall kicking my heels until she finished her lunch; it seemed unfair that our playtime should be made to wait because I had sandwiches and she hot meals. And how in awe I was of her mum who, after school, could be found lounging in her bikini enjoying the late afternoon sun or designing some fantastical dance outfit. After school at my house meant sausage casserole and a muddy dog walk.
We embraced our differences; we still do.
And so our friendship weaved its way almost seamlessly through teenage angst, first love, lost love, jobs, travels, second love, careers, no love. There were letters typed when bored at my office job and posted off to her new exciting life in Blackpool. I have photos of her in my first flat when she came back to visit, she is wearing spectacles and I am reminded of how grown up and sophisticated she seemed to me. I remember how she then returned to our hometown and then cried when I promptly ran off to Japan; I remember how she cries every single time I run off. But I always come back… to be at her side when she married, to be the first to hold her newborn daughter.
Now I am here again, and for that I am glad.
We sit in her kitchen drinking tea and marvel at the life of a friendship, how one minute the most important thing between you is if your chosen fluorescent socks will complement each others at the school disco, and then suddenly you’re here going through marriage and childbirth, talking about dreams and compromises, school uniforms and no school, pasts and futures.
Suddenly I realise that our friendship is like a patchwork quilt with a million-and-one memories sewn into each square and somehow there isn’t a thought I have that doesn’t include her in some way, no matter how small.
“It’s like getting older just crept up on us, isn’t it?” she says.
And she’s right, because suddenly I am supporting her through something we could not have contemplated at eight-years-old and I realise that there is a deeper meaning to my being here. Static. It is because I am needed; to help out with the school run, to share wine, to offer a hug, and there is truly nowhere else I would rather be right now because our friendship of nearly 30 years, with all its ups and downs, assures me that this is right where I should be.
Words on Life
Here I simply share musings on my life of wandering, writing, home-educating & dreaming with my little family. Welcome and do please say hello!