The last few weeks have been busy. The nice kind of busy mostly; the travelling, catching friends for dinner, hiring wedding people kind of busy. In the space of a week, Chris and I ventured to highest Scotland for a wedding, visited Louth to house hunt and wedding plan, dine with friends and family, and then parted ways for respective Stag and Hen parties (same couple, due to marry next month) which would require me to car pool down to Derby for the weekend, and then finally take the train back home to Plymouth.
Did I mention we’re moving? We’re moving. It’s part of the previous blog about big changes. I meant to write a post. When I tried the words tripped over themselves. The emotions are hard, and turned chaotic on the page. I’m sorry.
Now, however, is the period that always precedes a move, particularly a big one, when life becomes the stressy, bittersweet kind of busy, and requires advanced planning, and phone-calls, and ‘goodbye – keep in touch’ conversations, all of which I’m bad at, particularly the last one.
Chris has a processing time much faster than mine; his ability to simply take information and transform it into practical plans and reasonable motives is astonishing. I’m less geared. I need a scheduled slot to allow for emotional unwinding. Before I move I start to see the ghostly visions of all the important aspects of my life which have happened on a particular chair, in a room, in a cafe, in the city. And I’ve lived in Plymouth for nearly ten years.
Did I mention we’re moving out of Plymouth? We’re moving out of Plymouth.
During my childhood, I became accustomed to picking up and moving on. Being a RAF brat will do that to you; we never set roots for very long. Even as a young child I needed emotional end space. ‘This is where I played with Barbie, goodbye place I played with Barbie’ ‘This is where the Christmas Tree was. Goodbye where the Christmas Tree was’. Somewhere in the back of my head, I have a briefcase filled with snapshots of places. I suppose it was to ensure that I would always be connected to them when they ‘belonged’ to me. Memories are fragile. I’ve lost some. I’ve kept a great deal. I’ve done this for places I have lived for years, and places I have lived for months. I thanked friend’s sofas when I was couch hopping during the bad break up phase. It makes it easier to leave.
Honestly, I’m uncertain as to why. I have always done it, and perhaps I always will.
Now I find myself having to collect these mental Polaroids for an entire city. A city I have shifted through for ten years, longer than I have anywhere, at any other time in my life. The prospect of beginning, and thus seeing through, the negotiations of leaving is daunting and unwanted. I wish for a magic button with which to bypass to the difficulty, and be, through no effort, at the next stage. In a house at our new destination, settled and accepting, building.
Life doesn’t come with magic buttons. They would do us no good in any case. Nothing would be learned or gained from such an easy experience. But the childish, afraid part of me wishes it could all be so simple, practically and emotionally.
The key to the above is that I am afraid.
I. Am. Afraid.
Of moving, of failing to know what to do and when, of not doing enough, of losing who I am in this city, this space, and failing to grow into anything in the new one. I’m afraid of being alone in a small town, just south of nowhere, and becoming lost.
Yes, of course, it’s exciting and an adventure, but adventures are often adventures because they’re unpredictable. And unpredictable is also terrifying. I’m sure Frodo had his reservations about taking the ring to Mt Doom. He wasn’t exactly skipping the whole way there. I am willing to bet, Frodo was wishing for a magic button. And he had Gandalf.
Fortunately, I have Chris who is a wizard in many ways with methodologies and keeping things moving. I even have a ring. Let’s hope orcs aren’t on the way.
‘You can never go home again’
It’s a phrase I’ve heard a few times before, but not something I ever took the time to truly consider. Growing up, I didn’t have a fixed home, so I didn’t really understand. I’m not sure when Plymouth became ‘home’. I’ve lived in many places throughout the city – seven in total – and so no individual spot has been the bases of my life, but the city itself has been the constant. I have come to know it intimately. But even in the decade I have been part of it, the city has been in a state of constant change.
Shops have closed, people have moved to other towns in other counties, and the building which used to house my little studio flat, the place where this very blog began, was demolished to make room for a more modern, taller establishment. My friend and I were talking a few weeks ago about having out-grown one of our old haunts, a shabby, quirky student favorite on the outskirts of the city centre where we once enjoyed pints of tea, greasy cheese based meals and monster size milkshakes. This was before we enjoyed a meal at another of our old favourites, which was redesigned some years ago when new ownership took over. There’s a blog post somewhere in the records where we are drinking tea there.
Everything is in a constant flux, shifting and altering with the stream of time. Nothing can ever be the same for very long. I’ve been present for all these changes, and in a sense I’ve been part of them. The girl who started this blog is not the same girl who writes it now. I got somewhat older, arguably wiser, I moved onward with the city. And now I am tasked with the step of moving away from it, knowing it will continue to bustle on.
The memories I have gathered here will join the box in my mind, they will be as they are, unchangeable, but the places they occurred will continue to be sold, occupied by others, closed, demolished, come under new management or become something else. It is the inevitability of all things, all places at all times. But the saying is right. I can never go home again. It won’t be be there anymore.
So, for a little while, I will be without a home, save my own skin. Then will begin the task of creating a new home. Before all that comes leaving, and endings, and changing of chapters. That’s another popular phrase – it’s not the end of the book, simply the beginning of a new chapter. But the pages have yet to be turned, the content unfolded, as yet unwritten. And soon, Plymouth will be a once upon a time – something I tell my children, show them perhaps on a holiday south to see the sea. ‘This is where I did this,’ I will say, ‘And that happened to me there. This was once a that.’ I’ll draw the Polaroids from the box and share them briefly, looking back on today now, when everything was so uncertain.
So, now commences the ending before the beginning; the final visits to favourite places, fond farewells to companions. Peering back in the rear-view mirror of a life passing out of time into memory.
For now I am simply afraid and excited about the adventure to come.
Four years ago, when I first started this blog, I was preparing to move. Back then, I had just finished University and was departing from student accommodation. There was no plan, not really. Several life ideas fluttered in and out of existence, dreams and hopes and desperate chances. Here I stand, now 25-years-old, on the cusp of moving again. The last bits and pieces of my life are all that’s left here now, fragments sitting on empty shelves in an almost empty room. Usually I don’t dig my heels in so hard. I get contemplative sure (let’s face fact, I do that often regardless of situation), but I’ve never found myself sitting in a space, genuinely grieved by the notion of having to say farewell to four walls, a door and a window. Upon departing the studio flat I honestly didn’t cry. There have been tears for this place, and deep, real ones, too.
I turned 22 the day after my leaving, and that’s when I came, through kindness and luck to live in the Buddhist Centre, in a cozy single bedroom on the basement level, underneath a busy cafe kitchen. In all honesty, I took it because I didn’t have many other options. There wasn’t any chance on earth I was moving back in with my parents, not where they were and not being who I was at the time. I didn’t want to leave Plymouth if I could help it, but I only had a part-time gig in retail where I was lucky to get more than eight hours work a week, so I needed somewhere cheap and I needed it fast. Having been coming to the Centre for about a year, I inquired as to available rooms only to be told by the then director that currently they were all taken. A tad defeated, I received a call the next day from the same man saying that if I still needed a place, he’d consulted the other staff and they’d agreed to merge the offices to create an extra room for me. I was warned it wasn’t an ideal living space. Apparently, the reason it had become an office in the first place was because residents had only lasted about a month before having to vacate due to the noise from above. None of this registered. I had given in to pure joy at the news I would actually have somewhere to live. My mind was preoccupied demolishing the cardboard box I had resigned myself to. I accepted without hesitation.
They weren’t lying about the noise; the bedroom is in the middle of a five way sound junction. Between two kitchens, a garden and a hallway which has a natural draw for congregations, I was a little noise battered in my first month. I think they expected me to vacate once I found a better option somewhere, that I had taken the room while I pondered other options. Like I said, until I found a better form of employment I was pretty much stuck. However, I never felt stuck. I became quickly accustomed to the noise. Actually, it was soothing in some regards; I’d been living alone for a year, and the presence of others, the peopleness of the place was reassuring. At first, I just kept myself to myself. I had some bonds with the other residents, but I hadn’t so much joined the fray. My mind was settling into a routine and a lifestyle beyond the security of an educational structure I’d been part of since the age of five. Fortunately, other people can be amazing.
Suddenly, I found myself in a place where I couldn’t escape becoming close to others. I would run into them in hallways and kitchens and the laundry room and conversations would grow more and more friendly. Not only was a welcomed, but I was fixed in as a cog, part of how things worked here. Slowly but surely, they drew me into their world of humour and co-existence, and though I often got it wrong (often!) they were gentle and they were patient, and I got better at being a person comfortable around people. I helped where I could and tried my best, and I think they understood that. Gradually, the room became home and these other beings residing inside became a family, an odd family. Though I’ve seen people come and go in my time here, that never altered; it doesn’t take long to fit into the dynamic. No matter what, I always felt wanted and included in the day to day occurrences of the house. There have been blackouts and floods and midnight fire alarms, and we’ve laughed and cried on shoulders.
At the same time, I had the sanctuary of my bedroom, something that was entirely under my jurisdiction. I worked hard to pay for my living and still keep food in my stomach, something which felt very grown up. I struggled a lot just holding a life down, and relied on unexpected gifts and food appearing in my fridge, but I did it. Eventually, I was able to leave retail and find work I had interest in, and though I still struggled, I did so happily and with less frustration. I hope and I think I have changed a lot in all that’s happened. I’ve gained experiences which have taught me lessons in patience and self-respect, and I’ve been shown incredible kindnesses in many aspects, which I wish to emulate and pass forward whenever I can. I’m not the girl who moved in, and it’s vital to remember that. This place has seen possibly the greatest change in who I am.
I grew up here, in this little corner of a little corner. I feel nothing but gratitude that it was created for me, altered to accommodate me in a time of great need. I didn’t just need a roof over my head, I needed an accepting home, able to allow me to grow emotionally and spiritually, and I got it. Despite its size and faults, I’m so proud to have called this room home. Being here was an adventure. There will be days, much later down the line, come whatever the Universe throws my way, when I will peer back through time and remember this place. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to tell my children about the three years I spent in the wonderful madnesses of this place, of the jobs I had and the relationships I lost during my stay, but how I always had a place to cry and recalculate, to focus and get my bearings, where you could bump into a comforting smile just about anywhere.
There comes a time, always, when we must move forward; such things are part of the great inevitability of being alive. So now I must accept this plot twist, a time when I’m being told it’s time to step out beyond my limits again and stride forward into the unknowns of life. I’ve learned how strong my legs are; being here has shown me that. I’ll place one foot before the other again and again further and further away, because it’s all I can do. Right, left, right, left on and on. But every once in a while, I’ll smile and remember, and I’ll be happy, because for a short time I was here, where I am now, doing everyday things which meant so much more than I realised at the time, and I was safe and living. And I’ll be thankful again, because this was my little corner of the world. Just for a while, this was home.
Goodbye, little corner.
Today, sounds something like this:
I’m penning this in my notebook sat in the cafe upstairs watching a harsh wind rattle the rusty leaves on the trees outside the window. There is a chill in the air today foretelling of the oncoming winter, but spots of sunlight are still pushing through to warming patches of Plymouth. That is where I am sat now – in one of those warmer patches.
Over the last couple of days I have been re-cooperating from my trip up, and then down, and then up the country. Tamzyn and her girlfriend took me for long walks in the Yorkshire countryside; we ate at carverys, and enjoy a night out in Bradford, and during the day I was too amused to write. On the train journey to Yorkshire I made notes for a book review, which will be posted sometime this week. My mother is recovering well from her operation, although her feet are both covered in bandages, and she has a strange propeller type device protruding from the middle toe of her left foot. She’s spent a good few weeks hobbling on crutches stuck indoors, but her bandages have finally been removed, and my father has rented a wheelchair as a means of comfortable mobility outside. Unfortunately, she’ll still be bundled up in stockings for another three weeks, but my little sister is on hand in Newport to assist her needs at the moment, and she seems happier than she has been for a long time. Time away from the stresses of commuting to work has done her good. She and my father are hoping to escape to Switzerland again in three or four weeks to find accommodation and sort through the particulars of moving country. To celebrate the big-move, we’ll all, my sisters and I and our parents, will be meeting in London in October for a weekend, so I should see the folks again before they disappear to pastures new in late November.
Meanwhile, it’s nice to be back home despite my previously mentioned new resident in my bedroom, who, for anyone keeping interest, is still there. I had work on Saturday, and today I had offering obligations to fill, and I met with Andreas for a coffee (when I say coffee, I mean hot-beverages, because neither of us ever actually have coffee). Tomorrow I have a number of mundane, but necessary tasks to perform, and then I have a meeting with some friends. And writing. Always writing.
It’s good to be home.
I returned to Plymouth yesterday, and after just one day to get back into rhythm of normal life after a twelve-day gap, I’m back at work tomorrow, and for three days afterwards. Then of course, it’s back to serious chapter finishing writings because, as previous Wales based posts have shown, I’m behind in that department. Still I blame the TV, and I blame the cat, and I blame being void of flat surfaces, and I know that’s an artist blaming her tools, but if I start blaming myself for these things it gets a tad disheartening. I have a horrible habit of beating myself to a bloody pulp about such matters, and right now, I can’t much take being a bloody pulp.
Surprise, surprise, rain greeted us as we came into Plymouth. I’ve been watching Facebook status updates report days in the sunshine for the past two weeks, and I return to the usual downpour, but actually I’m not that bothered. When it rains the air smells nice, and sounds relaxing. People often remain indoors, so the environment becomes quiet. People seem a little distant right now; I didn’t get to see anybody while in Wales, and my collaborative blog has sadly ground to a work-endued halt, so people feel outside my being. That sounds strange – even to me, that sounds strange, but I’m sure work, with all its colourful menageries of individuals will connect me to life again. And slowly normality will come back. Twelve-days feels longer than it should. Maybe it’s because my return comes on the borderline week. (I like to call the week in which the change of months occurs a borderline week; I’ve always done so, but I can’t entirely remember why).
After abandoning Lady Chatterley’s Lover due to it’s boring nature, I’ve begun reading The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger; the novelette has been on my ‘I-should-read-that’ list for about two years now, but I thought someone must be sending me a sign when I found an old copy of the title on my Father’s bookshelf. He bought the book in the 60’s under school obligation. The price on the back reads 20p. The copyright is held for 1953. This was my dad’s English assignment when he was in school; he turned the same pages, and he left scuff marks on the cover. I think he was very happy I’d discovered it. It’s not like my father to show these kinds of sentimental emotions, but having decided to leave the copy, something I assumed was precious to him, at my parents house, I found it had been placed atop my writing supplies in the dining-room. So, I took it with me. Come to think of it, I think I’m the only person I know who isn’t reading it because a teacher is insisting I do so. Aren’t I cultured? In truth, I’m probably only doing so because, in a weird way, it makes me feel connected to my father.
Later this week, I’ll be backdating a couple of posts I didn’t get a chance to upload on their allocated days, things I’d like to document in their proper order.
The snow has been drowned out by a healthy downpour, which has warmed the country and removed most of the deadly ice, even the ninja variety. My parent’s garden, which during early Christmas looked like this:
was drowned back into colour by the thawing rain, along with the rest of the country. The vibrancy was soon lost to an onset of fog, which held throughout my journey back to Plymouth earlier today. While driving back we could barely see a few cars ahead. Thank goodness the ice made it’s exit before this secondary adverse weather condition set in.
For the past six months I’ve been using a garden table as a work desk. It’s square, and wooden, and barely has room to accommodate my computer let alone other writing materials, and so before starting back to Plymouth, I stopped off at Ikea to procure a new one. If you’ve ever been to an Ikea outlet, you’ll know they resemble labyrinths and force you to view everything they have on offer before allowing you to leave. The hugeness of the store is accentuated by the quantity of maps placed throughout the departments, and the arrows alighting you to which direction you need to travel. Of course, I had limited time, and I only wanted an office-desk.
If you’ve never had the bazaar pleasure of visiting an Ikea, allow me to enlighten you as to how it works. First, you wonder around a large showroom, where the furniture available for purchase is on display fully-assembled, equipped with a long number of digits and a pick-up point reference. This is the part of the experience I like to refer to as the Argos catalog, except everything is in 3D. After you have scribbled down what you want on a little card, you follow aforementioned pathway of arrows to a large stock-room where everything you have witnessed in the previous division is packed neatly away into boxes, flat and in pieces.
It’s then up to the buyer to take it home and assemble.
We started with a collection of various size panels, ranging in thickness and piercings, several bags of screws in varying styles, and an odd set of instructions. The booklet consists of only pictures, like a weird ‘how to make furniture’ picture book for five-year-olds. I’m not kidding – their are no words, not even in Swedish, just an assortment of odd diagrams advising on how to twist wood, and which screw to place where. Even the safety page is simply made up of pictures with crosses for ‘don’t do’, and smiling happy faces on the cartoons for ‘do this’. I never believed it would take me five minutes to work out the safety information on anything, but I must admit, this had me momentarily baffled.
The last one looks like ‘question this booklet, go to Ikea and borrow a phone, and run as far as the cord will allow, and then call someone’. Ironically, IKEA is the only word given from then on in the booklet.
An hour and a half of rearranging planks of wood later, we finally had something resembling a desk; we also had sweaty faces, irritated tendencies, and a hate for all things cheap and Swedish.
Once we had the main body of the desk together, we still had to install the attachment, but my camera died, so I took no final picture. It looked like the above with a shelf system towards the back of the desk; use your imagination. I would also just like to mention that when I say ‘we’ I haven’t garnered an annoying habit for referring to myself in plural. My parents were present.
I now have a unit big enough to house both my computer and writing utensils, as well as an assortment of books I use throughout the creative process, so I don’t have an excuse to not right in the coming year, which is only two-days away.
A novel in 2011, or an axe upon my head.
The snow dusted garden was visited by a pack of robins as I made my breakfast this morning. They bobbed across the table leaving a trail of tiny footprints, and then had a comical interlude on the frozen bird-bath, before flying away into the next garden. Their playful exploits were backed by a gorgeous winter morning sky slowly transitioning from pastel reds and yellows, to a vibrant turquoise.
And the beauty of the weather soon lost its charm. Yesterday I had the pleasure of keeping warm, while simply admiring the snow, but today I had the daunting experience of actually being out in it. When I say snow, I do not mean the nice white powder your feet sort of sink into a little bit, I mean ice. Ice with a little bit of give. At half-eleven this morning I had to brave the cold to walk to work. By that time, the vestige of snow had been trampled to oblivion, coating the roads and streets with a layer of white-ice. Walking took on an odd turn. I found myself doing a weird motion where I lifted my legs higher than usual, and placed them down more slowly, to avoid slipping and sliding on the un-gritted pathways. The trouble with Plymouth in this kind of weather is one that has been around since the dawn of time; it’s not flat; we have a lot of hills.
On the way to and from work I encounter three hills, two of which are very steep. Granted on the way they weren’t actually too bad, because the perilous areas were visible, and a nice pathway had been carved by those who had walked them earlier in the day. I nearly slid twice, but nothing more. Walking back however, was a little more tricky, because the aforementioned evident ice took to the cover of darkness, and became ninja-ice. Where the snow had melted, liquidised and frozen again were patches of dark frost viewable only at close distance, and deceptive underfoot. A woman who had taken to the roads, much less effected than the crevice ridden pathways, in hopes of escaping the worse of the snow. Unfortunately, the waiting ninja-ice took away her footing and she ended up on her back. Fear not hypothetical audience, she was unharmed.
At the bottom of the second hill a natural dip occurs in the landscaping. The water from the melted sleet gathered in this dent during the day, and froze again as the air became cooler leaving a steep slope covered in a thick layer of ice. This area is a split between a pedestrian pathway and a bike lane, and so there are fortunately railings to grip as you head up the hill. Otherwise no one would get up the thing. It’s a hilly-hill of doom the rest of the way up, which is steep, and saw many a man without good footing sliding back down like penguins.
Thankfully, the worst and longest of the hills had been treated with grit, devastating to evil plans of the ninja-ice.
This is the last weather related blog post you will have to endure. Tomorrow and the following two days I will have to venture out again, but I am pretty certain, especially if you live in the UK, you are simply fed up of hearing about the cold climate, because it’s literally everywhere. I suppose I just wanted to show what is beautiful can also be deadly. (No, I just wanted to moan about the ice in a productive format).
Working was a pleasant surprise, because the weather had kept most of the shoppers at bay on a day that would otherwise be one of the most hectic of the year. As the last weekend before the big-santa-comming-to-town extravaganza, we were expecting a much higher percentage of costumers stampeding to buy the latest and greatest, but really it was one of the quietest Saturdays for weeks. That does however, make the time go quite slowly, unless you find something to occupy your mind, which I did. I give you a Haiku on the topic of today’s post:
Frozen water on the ground
People fall like stones.
My next post will not contain the following words: ‘ice’, ‘snow’, ‘cold’ and ‘weather’. Promise.
So, the world is ending. Speckles of white have finally scattered the roads, streets, cars, and rooves of Plymouth thick enough that it’s actually noticeable, but not so dense it’ll be around for long. Right now, I’m staring out my window at a world similar to a cake dusted with icing-suger. The city has gone wild, because as I have previously stated, this is not a place snow often decides to visit, but when you look at photographs from the blog of the great Neil Gaiman our whimsical attempt at a winter wonderland looks a tad flimsy. At the moment the falling snow has subsided, and the sun has made an appearance, so I imagine within the next hour, there won’t be anything left. Still, it’s pretty, and it’s moved my otherwise ambiguous feelings about the up-coming festive season to a stable, cheery anticipation.
However, I have a Cafe shift today, which I’m sure will be quiet, because we rely on the town centre shoppers coming down the back streets for a quiet drink, and with the weather colder, and icier than it has been, I don’t think many will do that. It also puts a halt on my usual writing library trip, because hell if I’m venturing into the icy remains of snow covered Plymouth. It might not snow very often, but the weather does tend to shower us with large balls of hail, and we don’t so much get frost as we do black-ice. From now on, I elect to call black-ice , ninja-ice. Last February I went down at least six times because of the stuff. Needless to say, I will spending the rest of the day inside, where it is warm, and for the most part, non-slippery. I will, however, be doing so curled up on the windowsill, maybe writing, looking out onto what’s left of the white stuff. Although it won’t settle, the forecast has predicted the gentle descent of glistening flakes will continue for the rest of the day.
There’s something very serene about watching snow fall, especially with Christmas just days away. There is a calmness to watching it tumble down on almost empty streets, and an elegant, crisp edge to the cold air.