Dear Readers, what do you find yourself dreaming about during the lockdown? I have found my mind going to some most peculiar places. For example, when I was a child I loved messing about in rockpools – I have never been one for laying about on a beach, but give me a fishing net and a jam jar and I’m there (all creatures are returned to the pool after inspection of course). How I remember that seaweedy smell, the salt in my hair, the slight tingle of incipient sunburn (there was no Factor 50 in those days). I find myself daydreaming about the way that the sea anemones turned from boiled sweets into medusas as the tide came in, and the prickle of the feet of the little crabs that I used to pick up. How I loved the dart of the little shrimps, and the many tiny suckers on the undersides of the star fish! Every rockpool seemed to be a treasure trove of delights, inexhaustible. It has been a long, long time since I went rockpooling, but when this is over, I shall head out again, barefooted on the slippery rocks, trying to avoid the barnacles.
And then there are the things that I’ve never seen that I find myself aching to see.
Mum always wanted to see the northern lights, and before she got very sick we were trying to sort out a Norwegian cruise so that she and Dad could see them. I realise now that I was kidding myself, and that Mum and Dad were humouring me: I got a bit frustrated that no cruise ever suited, but I think they knew in their heart of hearts that they weren’t well enough to go. But now I have such an urge to jump on a boat in the middle of winter and head north: maybe I think that, wherever Mum is, she’ll be able to see them through my eyes. Whatever the reason, I find myself thinking about those great curtains of light dancing across the sky, and my heart yearns.
Rather closer to home, I want to go back to St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, currently closed to the public. Rumour has it that it was closed following a barbeque and some sunbathing at one of the graves, that involved the police being called. Whatever the reason, it is now out of bounds unless you are attending a funeral or cremation, so I am missing the emergence of the young foxes, who will just be starting to explore the world – before it closed, a friend of mine told me that she’d seen no less than four young foxes cavorting around the graves. It’s so frustrating! But I shall have to make do with the photo above of a particularly confiding young vixen back in 2016. Isn’t she gorgeous?
And how I miss my city. I miss the museums and the art galleries and the theatre. I miss going to the cinema. But most of all, I miss just mooching around, walking along back streets that I’ve never experienced before, looking out over the Thames, finding little patches of green that I didn’t know existed. For all her messiness and noise, she is in my blood. My husband says that London is a disease that you have to leave to get over, and I know what he means. I have loved spending time in the peace of Dorset, but something always draws me back here.
And speaking of the delights of London:
I love these two bookshops with a passion. Daunt Books, on Marylebone High Street, specialises in travel books, and I love the way that they arrange all the books for a particular country or region in the same space. So, for Austria for example, you will have guidebooks to Vienna, walking guides for the Tyrol, Austrian recipes books full of kaiserschmarren and sacher torte, and novels by Elfride Jelinek and Robert Seethaler. Incidentally, can I recommend Seethaler’s 2016 novel ‘A Whole Life’? Maybe I’m biased because I’ve spent so many weeks in the Austrian Alps, but I found it a useful insight into the history of the mountains, as seen through the life of one man in a Tyrolean village.
The London Review of Books bookshop on Museum Street, close to the British Museum is, as you might expect, full of books on politics and economics, along with unusual works of fiction and an interesting selection of science and natural history books. Plus, it has a cafe with homemade cakes, and that’s hard to beat. The staff are every bit as quirky and interesting as the books, and really know their stuff. Pop in if you’re in the area and you’ll see what I mean.
And of course, I miss all the little things: having coffee with a friend, going out for breakfast with my husband, going to my pilates class, popping to the garden centre. But how easy it has been to take all these things for granted, and how wonderful it will be to be able to do them again! For some people I know that just being able to get back to work will be a huge relief. I never thought that I’d miss commuting, but how great it will be to jump on a train and go into the office to see my colleagues in the flesh when all this is over. There will be some re-evaluation of what makes life worthwhile for all of us, I think. It will be fascinating to see how long the effects of the lockdown last, and what decisions we make about our futures. We are certainly living through history, and it will be interesting to see what has changed when we step, blinking, into the big wide world again.
I’ve been dreaming about traveling. Traveling is a big part of my life and I love it all, whether it’s camping with my family, a road trip down the west coast, or going overseas for a bigger, more involved trip. I’ve had to cancel my big trip to England in May, but I am still dreaming of being able to camp in August and go to Mexico in November. I long to pack my bags and get out of town to see new, fresh things.
Smaller things I miss: Having a quiet lunch with just myself and a book at a favorite restaurant, with the clink of flatware and the murmur of conversations. Going to the fabric shop and being able to touch the fabrics and test the drape, to pick out yarn without having to wonder if the computer screen is really showing the true color. Poking around in charity and antique shops, where you never know what treasure you might find. And most of all, not feeling anxious about contact or proximity with other people as I take a walk or shop for food. It feels so wrong to recoil from other human beings.
‘It feels so wrong to recoil from other human beings’ – absolutely sllgatsby. As someone who is naturally something of a (consensual) hugger, it’s been desperately hard not to just fling my arms around people, especially recently. I wonder if we’ll ever be able to do that so freely again?
And I do hope that your trips happen. We have our annual trip to Austria booked for July, but that might not be possible. There’s also a visit to Canada to see John’s Mum and some of his other relatives planned for October, so I’m hopeful that that will still come off.
Being able to go for a walk along the edge of town will be a priority for me – being confined to our homes for five weeks makes me long for the freedom of exploring my local environment too. I long for my son to be united with his family abroad – he missed leaving the country by a day. Interacting with friends in the flesh is high on my list too – as is visiting one of our nearest national parks to ‘commune’ with wild animals and birds again. Basically, I yearn for the ‘freedom to be’ and hope that the current lockdown for so long will have the desired effect.
I hope you’re soon free to wander again, Anne, and that your son manages to get back to his family soon – it must be very difficult for them all!
Thought you might like this, Anne…
Thank you very much – that was fun to see!
When I visited the Kruger, I watch a couple of guides gently persuade a very drunk man back into his car after he’d gotten out to photograph the lions, who had been dozing peacefully but were suddenly much more alert :-).
You might be surprised at the number of overseas visitors – perfectly sober ones – think they can get out of their vehicles to pose with wild animals. It is an irresponsible thing to do.
I know! Stupidity knows no national boundaries. In the safari parks in the UK folk often drive in and get out of their cars for a picnic. I think we are so divorced from nature that we forget that wild animals are just that.
Northumberland. Walking on the beach or in the hills or visiting castles. And, a bit closer to home, an amazing dog-friendly hotel called The Gallivant at that exotic destination Camber Sands. (I know, right?) And just normal life and work, doing stuff, getting on with things, seeing people.
On bookshops, I know you were talking about London but can I please check that you know about the lovely Barter Books in Alnwick? It’s just … something else!
I love Northumberland, and we used to go on holiday to Camber Sands….and no, I didn’t know about Barter Books, I must make a point of popping in next time I’m oop North. I really, really hope that these little specialist local shops of all kinds survive.
Interesting what we yearn for – and what we sometimes take for granted when we can go there anytime. The cemetery closure is a govt directive – cemeteries with crematoria have to close their grounds, I’m not sure why.
Apparently a govt minister was instructing that cemeteries should be opened again yesterday, so I shall watch with interest to see what happens….
Thank you for sharing some of the little things you love about London. It reminded me of some of the little things I love about London, too. 🙂