84. After Pride, Comes The Fall

I summer well. I know Welsh beaches and being a tourist in cities when all the locals have left. Stuck behind hedge-trimming tractors, I spy next month’s festivals evolving. From peas until apples, my life will adapt to farming time; I’ll become European.

My place in my family changes each year. Maybe one day I will be the matriarch.

I don’t want to interrupt the early-afternoon lull, but no-one heard the car door, or my suitcase skateboard wheels grinding. A dozen pairs of wellington boots of all sizes lined up to welcome me home. I step into the cool of the kitchen and gently pile up almost everything I own into the corner of the room. Even the water tastes different here. I wander, glass in hand, barefoot on stone, then oak, avoiding the squeaky board. I’m grounded now. The orange cat rubs its body against my bare calf and saunters out into the day. Such is a life of simple privilege.

Silence is a luxury and I drink it in. Clocks tick slower in the countryside. I lean over to kiss my aunt on her cheek and she stirs.

A different time, but at the same moment, traffic dribbled to nothing. A shimmering beast snaked closer, louder. Flanked by mounted police, the bare-chested Millwall crowd chanted with one voice, allowing itself to be gently guided towards the stadium gates. They belonged together. Accepted into the pride. A bit like me last month in London in the parade. I looked out for you. Then and now.

I hear dogs or children clomping down the stairs, and am smothered with their love saved up all year. After the “which one are you again?” and “haven’t you grown!”, my niece, Rosie, slips her hand in mine to show me her bedroom. Our bedroom. I’m on the bottom bunk for the next six weeks. She’s emptied a drawer for me and made some room on her dressing table. There’s a calendar on the back of the door with the days crossed off until today, which has a glittery pink star around the date.

My mother’s suitcase is at the foot of the bed. I won’t open it for over a week, until we go swimming. Everything I ever need is in this house. I take out my copy of ‘The Little Stranger’ and decide to read it again before the film release. A train ticket, that cost almost as much as a weekend in Denmark, falls out, losing its place. I remember that train journey. You saying you needed me. Now. I lived a whole life in those three hours. No signal. Voicemail full. I lost my place too that weekend.

I slip on a bangle I thought I’d forgotten, spray my wrists with a half-bottle of perfume, and push the suitcase back under the bed.

73. Reasons to be Cheerful

Ripe cherry blossom against a pure blue sky.

Finding a sweet in my coat pocket when I’m stuck in traffic, on my commute home.

The smile of recognition from someone I forgot I ever knew.

A cherubic, fat baby holding out its arms to me for a cuddle.

Money in a birthday card.

The smell of silly putty.

Stepping off the plane into the heat.

Walking into an air-conditioned shop.

Reaching for each other’s hands.

Building a fire from scratch.

Seeing someone famous on the tube.

Hot bath towels straight from the drier.

When he perches on the edge of a table so his knees are either side of my hips and we are face to face.

A pile of birthday cards on top of a present.

A small child pottering around the garden.

The moment of leaving work the day before I go on holiday.

Camping at a music festival as a teenager.

Waking up to the smell of coffee and bacon on a Sunday morning.

Old photos of you that I’ve never seen before.

Seeing a clock change from 2️⃣3️⃣:5️⃣9️⃣ to 0️⃣0️⃣:0️⃣0️⃣

Popping bubble wrap.

Kicking up leaves in the park.

Singing along to a 30-year-old pop song, that I’ve not heard since then.

Twilight in the summertime.

Watching my dad skim pebbles across a lake.

🎈 Trying to keep a balloon in the air as long as possible.

Feeling a cashmere sweater.

A perfectly ripe avocado.

Playing with Lego.

44. Green Peas

pexels-photo-768089.jpegThe boyfriend loves raw peas, and I try to grow some for him every year. Sometimes, there’s enough for a feast; in other years there is just one pod per day to savour.

He buys loose peas but I think their flavour is muted compared to frozen peas. However, he will never know of this superior taste because he won’t eat cooked peas.

As a child, it was a privilege to be asked to pick these gloriously english peas from the garden and sit around lazily shelling them into a bowl. Nothing compares to the juicy sweetness of freshly-picked peas. Stuffing tumbling handfuls into our mouths, not wanting to make a second trip into the garden for more, in case we missed some gossip from the Sunday lunch visitors lingering in the kitchen. Those were the days where lettuce was either round or iceberg and never came in a packet. It would never have occurred to us to use the pea shoots in salads or as a garnish, but now it is as ubiquitous as parsley or coriander are these days. Such simple memories of washing freshly dug potatoes and carrots from the garden, knowing that in an hour, two families would be squashed round a table, on different sized chairs, eating juicy chicken with fresh garden vegetables.