Building The New

Lisa and Guy peeking up at the ornate stone carved entrance to the Natural History Museum, London

22/1/22 Saturday
Frostless and still, this morning. Garden stationary, like statuary. We are not: there is writing, land work, and home improvements in motion. There’s a spark, a waking up. The doomsday clock chugs, the human world sits like a frog in heating water, yet here our small world whispers hope.
‘The secret of change,’ Socrates said, ‘is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’
Mr plans to go to the land, I will hear his tales of today when I get home.
I have come to work where Saturday is hydrotherapy day, a half-hour session with the little warm salt pool to ourselves. We had a slot after the newborn class; relaxed vibe; and before a party of 8 yr olds; disco vibe. 

23/1/22 Sunday
Luckily I set an alarm or we might still be asleep, and after a sober night too. Blaming the cold for making our bodies hibernate.
At work, a YouTube fire flickers in a stone surround: cold out, cosy in. The flat seems chilly so I put the real-life heaters on. Hyacinths flourish in pots on the front step but winter rules the air. 

24/1/22 Monday
Heaters are on at work again. It’s 6 degrees celsius, not terribly cold, but everyone has bone-chill and can’t get warm. I walk to Asda to check off this week's shopping list: movement defeats the chill.
I have my yellow coat on and blue woolly gloves. Blackbirds are bobbing in the grass. I buy also travel snacks and coffee bags for our one-night city break.
Writing this while waiting for my tea to cook; care client rocking tunes on her keyboard.
Wafts of garlic, a YouTube blizzard, avantgarde tunes- after tea I will put on the disco lights to make washing up fun. 

25/1/22 Tuesday
Barely noticed, the background of cold grey loiters.
Foreground is a rush of bags to car, breakfast to plate, food to mouth, big coffee. Halfway to Exmouth Mr recalls the ironed shirts that are still hanging up at home.
From Exmouth, we go by train, by the flat waters of the eerie-white estuary. There’s a reed bank calling, part of me goes to live there so I can stay wild while visiting the big city. At Polsoe Bridge there’s an overgrown platform where trees and ivy grow in witchy twists, and something feral is running under the leaves: it’s me again, of course. 
Change trains at Exeter, settle in to eat leftover sausages and dark chocolate; when a man opposite slugs from his Starbucks plastic dome of foam and nearly chokes on a Dorito, we feel better about our lunch choices and bad for being judgy. 
Look out of the window, fall in love with several sizable ponds. 
Arrive to admire Paddington Station’s spacious architecture then learn how to scan an e-ticket to get through the turn gate. Shelter from the cold in a quiet pub, drink some ginger beer, order hot wings.
Our hotel is fronted by roadworks but pretty and comfy and there are swans on the walls. Our eyes are full of details, city things like multistoried buildings and plinths.
We rest, dress (as in dress up, we have not been naked this whole time) walk through Kensington Gardens in the dark. At home we think nothing of no street lights, we prefer it, but in London it seems odd. The Albert Memorial is lit up; big gold Albert sits looking at the Royal Albert Hall, flanked by marble bulls and suchlike. The hall is lit up too, a red dome into which we venture waving paper tickets. The staff are politely amused with our old-fashioned methods. Wander the building awhile, find our seats, agree that the view will be acceptable, especially as the stage is round, and rotates. Our show neighbours are good company. We chat, we wait.
A performer on the stage edge sings, easing us in. Pleasant. When the lights lower, and the show is suddenly happening: I cry. It’s beautiful. It is reminding me that humanity is creative and magical. Whomp! Got me!
And even though we missed the tube (station closed at 10pm) and the last call for food in the pub by our hotel, we flagged a cab and bought Pot Noodles in a local shop- takeaway delivery services are too modern for us- and we loved our evening. 

Poster for Cirque de Soleil show Luzia, blue background, woman in monarch butterfly costume in foreground

26/1/22 Wednesday
Left our swan-decked hotel, headed for Kensington Gardens by day. Surprised to see our first in-the-wild cockatiels. Geese by the Round Lake were very handsome. Air was sharp; luggage heavier than it could have been. We had planned a breakfast stop in the Italian Gardens but it seemed like a long walk, then we stumbled on the Cabbie’s Rest, where a cheery lady sold us breakfast rolls that were delicious and cheap.
We sat on a bench with our good fortune, chewing happily, watching dogs at play.
Next stop: Natural History Museum. This is free, though you book a timeslot, and we contributed to its upkeep by paying for the cloakroom service. Luggage safely stashed, off we went to gawp at bones, meteors, dinosaurs, hummingbirds- my favourites were:
the early human ‘mancestors,’ 
a pre-elephant with an undersized ugly-cute trunk,
the building with its carved animals, those ceiling panels!
Back on the train, headed to Exmouth, we were feeling tired, uplifted. We are not city people but the city had done us good. 
Stayed in Exmouth, spending the evening with a cosy bundle of family: grandchildren, curry, a couple of cucumber gins. Happy-tired.

27/1/22 Thursday
Slowly wake, drink coffee, check we have picked up all of our bags. 
Arrive home, light the fire. 
Still happy-tired.

28/1/22 Friday
I would have hoovered, but our petrol wood chipper arrived and has been constructed in the front room.

Two cups of coffee and two portions of rocky road cake with bright sweets


Steve Cromwell said…
Never been to London, and now I know what it's like! Totally agree with this: "We are not city people but the city had done us good." And really, who in the city ever puts together a wood chipper in the front room?
- Steve C, in case Google doesn't get my name right.
Lisa Southard said…
I wouldn't have to look that up :-) The chipper is constructed and put to work now - so satisfying!

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