There was a rather forlorn, but kind, comment posted recently on my last blog: “When are you going to blog again?”.
And I’m sorry it’s been such a long time.
But it’s for various reasons. First, was I alone in feeling that the world had taken a turn of events where the last thing anyone needed was more commentary, more writing? Instead, I felt very keenly, it was a time to be quiet – a time to listen, to reflect, and not to speak.
Second, I’ll be honest too, work’s been a struggle, keeping on top of things as the months have tumbled inexorably by; and we find ourselves, blinkingly, in July, the year half gone, rolling into a sense of autumn now.
Third, weeks have flown by, merged into one another, spring hastened into a turbulent summer. Those strange, halting, sad yet emotional and strangely releasing early weeks of lockdown gave way to different, more complicated energies. Writing anything has been the last thing on my mind.
It feels to me as if malicious and unsettling forces are abroad, in many aspects of life. Many of them fuelled, perhaps, by a media that constantly needs a new narrative – that constantly seeks to build heroes up, only to their tear them down, and find new heroes, who turn all too soon into villains. So, now, comes the recrimination time. Someone must be to blame! And that’s something I’m anxious to avoid. I’ve always, always lived my life on a mantra of – look after and care for the things that are directly within your control. Do so diligently and happily and thoughtfully. Regular readers of the blog will know this. Don’t freak out about the things that are out of your control. Your mind is being constantly manipulated by a diet of daily news, instagram, social media and politics to do so. Sometimes (quite recently, in fact) I’m criticised by readers for sticking my head in the sand – ignoring the world as it is. But, you will have to find me as I am. I’m not going to enter the debates on who is to blame for what. It’s not ignorance, it’s not complacency on my part. It’s maybe, just maybe, that tiny reflection of true human nature – which many would do well to learn, that it’s easy to be right with the benefit of hindsight. And ultimately, that the truth is more complex and more subtle than that.
What a year it’s been. Charlie, just this evening, sent me a photo of the beach down at Hive Beach one year ago today – on a beautiful, flat calm evening, with hardly a ripple in the sea. A contrast to the unseasonable storm howling through the cracks in the windows and tearing down the chimney tonight.
A year ago, we were less than a week away from my Dad’s funeral. That was a terrible year for me, lurching from sadness to sadness. And I’d had such a gentle, good feeling about 2020, this near year; a feeling of life restoring itself, Charlie heading to NZ to see his family this spring (their autumn), a year of happy times ahead to be spent at the bothy – and a hard year, too, moving into our new office and lots of work, and completing the book which was due this autumn, for publication next year. How strangely the world still seemed on the tipping point of normal, back in February, when Charlie flew to New Zealand and the dogs and I drove to Dorset for what I thought was going to be a blissful three weeks of self-isolation (before the term had been invented).
Now: friends are dead, the world is turned upside down, there is anger afoot. But for me, if I’m allowed, can I say that I’ve also seen the most beautiful, gentle, caring sides of human nature; the best of times in the office, and at the shop, and in Dorset, amongst our neighbours, as everyone rallied so hard to make things work out well. It’s the most exciting of times too, now, as Rugby Street and Lambs Conduit Street carefully and cautiously and happily get back to life; and the most serene of times, as we’ve enjoyed an incredible, incredible spring – day after day of which was recorded in the earlier pages of the blog. To spend so much time without moving, observing tiny changes of nature day by day, was a gift and privilege that we all in the village felt.
I’ve written before that it feels like a dream time is ending now. I’ve been up in London now for a few weeks, re-opening the office after a huge renovation, and helping to re-open the shop too, last week this week, after a beautiful refit. Like waking from a long sleep, it’s hard, sometimes, to actually get up and get on. But that is what I think is needed now. We’ll need moments of reflection – throughout our waking hours – on what we’ve seen and thought in our dreams – but nonetheless, it’s about the day now. It’s time to wake up.
You’ve made it to the end of a rambling monologue. So here are photographs, in no particular order, and with no captions, of the further six weeks that have passed since I last wrote. Amongst all the troubles of the world, it’s been a time of staggering natural beauty. And, tired as I am this evening, nice to be able to cast my eyes back, week by week, on every change in field, and garden.
We end, appropriately, perhaps, with the hills of the village shrouded in fog, yesterday. A moment of ethereal beauty, but we hope the clouds will clear soon. There was just the tiniest hint of autumn in the air.