All posts filed under: travels

all the books | edge of evening

All the books

Ten years ago this September, we went on holiday to the south of France. We were staying in a remote barn about an hour from Carcassonne. We got lost on the way, famously going the ‘wrong’ way — or at least the long way — round a mountain, on a road so narrow we couldn’t turn back. When we finally reached the road the property was closest to, we bumped up a steep and twisting 2km unpaved track in our rental car. Parked outside the stone barn there was an ancient yellow Citroën 2CV which looked like it might never make it back down the track. The barn was owned by an actor who lived in Barcelona & she’d furnished its open-plan room simply but perfectly: a low double bed, two desks each beneath its own window, a small sofa and armchair in the middle of the room, & a kitchen in one corner. There was a woodburner in the centre of the room & the September evenings in the mountains were cool enough for us to use …

Return

  It’s our second day back from two and a half weeks in France. The older two are at tennis (finally the perfect day for it: blue-skied, low 20s), & Pops is sitting on the rug setting up the tea party for Zeezee his zebra’s 100th birthday (‘He’s got very old suddenly,’ T commented. ‘He was ten last week.’). Coming home is, I find, always a different experience. There are times when the house seems impossibly narrow or shabby or filled with cat hair (and, being honest, cat shit), & then there are the times when it seems we’re ridiculously lucky to be living right here, where we are, in the middle of our terrace, in the middle of this small city. Fortunately, this time, despite the almost obligatory welcoming rain, it all seems pretty perfect. The roses & sweet peas are still blooming. The self-seeded nasturtiums have gone wild. The grass is long & thick. Inside, each corner reveals its own secrets. The string-of-hearts hanging from the bathroom cabinet. The now cryptic Post-It notes on my desk (‘inhabiting …

Sweet peas 2016 | edge of evening

Postcard from now: summer holiday edition

It’s early. The roofbox is on the car. The little ones are still sleeping. Somehow we’ve careened to the end of another school year & the summer is stretched out before us. The endless weeks of rain turned to three days of intense heat and endless sun. Now, the sky is spread with quilted white clouds, the air is deliciously cool on my bare arms. When we got our tent, we imagined spontaneous weekends of camping. But here, in the middle of our lives, nothing is as spontaneous as it seems. The roofbox lives in the shed at the bottom of the garden, the tent right at the back of the cupboard under the stairs, the stove and sleeping bags and mats come out of the eaves storage. We’re working with it: two camping trips a fortnight apart. This morning we leave for Dorset & then, later in the summer, back to France. I’ve tried to be realistic with my book packing. I’m bringing just three. (Plus the knowledge that it would be easy enough …

Magnolia | edge of evening

Pause

Poetry makes language care because it renders everything intimate. This intimacy is the result of the poem’s labor, the result of the bringing-together-into-intimacy of every act and noun and event and perspective to which the poem refers. There is often nothing more substantial to place against the cruelty and indifference of the world than this caring. And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos by John Berger We’re at B’s parents’ house in France, on Easter break, on pause. Our Easters here are usually a taste of summer — often, juxtaposed against winter, more perfect than summer itself. But this year, with its early-Easter, its non-winter winter, it’s rained most of the time we’ve been here. Different weather, different rhythms; but still: reading, resting, thinking about what comes next. It’s been a year since we were here. They’ve all grown so much. On the days when the boys have been able to play outside, it’s been as though the future is now and B & I can both sit and read/play guitar. Then, on days when we’re all …

Agnes Martin by Gianfranco Gorgoni, 1974 | edge of evening

Agnes Martin

I lived in the present, which was that part of the future you could see. The past floated above my head, like the sun and the moon, visible but never reachable. from ‘Landscape’ by Louise Glück, in the collection Averno   Beauty is the mystery of life. It is not just in the eye. It is in the mind. It is our positive response to life.Agnes Martin, 1989 My paintings have neither objects nor space or time nor anything — no forms. They are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down form.Agnes Martin, 1966 Last Saturday we took the train to London & walked from Waterloo along the South Bank to the Tate to see the beautiful and lucid works in the Agnes Martin exhibition. I’d read that her work doesn’t reproduce well, and now I agree: the subtleties of texture and tiny variations in colour were invisible in the books and prints they were selling outside the exhibition. I think it’s the imperfections in her quest for perfection that make her work so captivating. Now she’s looking down on …

There was coffee, there were books

It must seem to my children that my two main interests in travel (or indeed in life) are books and coffee. And they have a fair point. One of the things I love the most about being anywhere new is imagining what it must be like to live there — thinking about how climate and place shape our lives; wondering what a normal day looks like to someone who lives there. Cafes and bookshops; coffee shops and book stores; they don’t, to me at least, seem the worst place to start. I set out with just two books, The Grapes of Wrath & Joan Didion’s Sentimental Journeys. I came back with seventeen. We had to buy an extra bag for the return flight. This is just a selection. You can blame most of it — the excellent bookshops, the great coffee places — on Nicole Gulotta’s wonderful blog Eat This Poem and the fantastic collection of literary city guides she has curated there. We had the best guides — to Sonoma County, to San Fransico, …

Notes from the Golden Land

I suppose that what I really wanted to say that day at my daughter’s school is that we never reach a point at which our lives lie before us a a clearly marked open road, never have and never should expect a map to the years ahead, never do close those circles that seem, at thirteen and fourteen and nineteen, so urgently in need of closing. ‘Pacific Distances’ in Sentimental Journeys by Joan Didion I‘ve only been to the States once before: in the spring of 1992, we stayed with English friends who were spending a couple of years in Connecticut. I was thirteen. I went to school with my friend Jane (who was by then Jayne) and stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and marvelled at the unregulated opportunities to eat fries and donuts and drink thick milkshakes that the lunch hall provided. But when we arrived in LA in the late afternoon, it seemed that I knew the tropes — the palm trees, the golden light, the impossible clarity and size of that blue, …

Summer

Now all the doors and windows are open, and we move so easily through the rooms. Cats roll on the sunny rugs, and a clumsy wasp climbs the pane, pausing to rub a leg over her head. from ‘Philosophy in Warm Weather’ by Jane Kenyon That weather when our bodies feel soft and open, adrift in warm air. That’s when I know that summer’s here. And, finally, it is. All I want to do is lie in the garden & read. But not quite yet. July is going to be an exciting month for our little family. We’ve got a 90th birthday party, a ballet exam & a wedding, and then — though if you’d told me this a week ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible — then, we’re flying to California for a month. As I said to B last night, if it wasn’t happening to me, it’s the kind of thing that would really annoy me. There is an unexpected gap of four weeks when the kids are off school and nothing …

Paris in the springtime

I feel like I should be composing one of those end-of-the-holidays school essays, During my holiday, I…The older two have had a two weeks & two days off school, and it has been pretty magical. We started with Easter weekend in Paris. Everyone I mentioned it to asked me whether the children were coming too. All I can (smugly) say, is AirBnB. Take the hotel out of the equation & visiting Paris with three young children is totally blissful. We stayed in the 15 arrondissment —  quiet and residential but twenty minutes walk to the Eiffel Tower — in the apartment of a family with two young daughters who went off to Amsterdam for the weekend. We remembered how much we enjoy living in a city, we saw plenty of sights & for the first time ever could imagine what it might be like to actually live in Paris. So all in all, a definite win. There was a week with B’s parents in their beautiful part of France. Days of sunshine and warmth after …

Wanderings & wonderings

Earlier in the month, our customary January picnic for B’s birthday. Another year, another Iron Age hill fort. This year was much, much colder. The pushchair, wheels jammed with mud, was abandoned half-way up the path, and collected again on our way back a couple of hours later. Whenever I think I might be safe to be let out into the countryside, I make a mistake like this. Who would try to push a Maclaren buggy up a very muddy hill? In our defense, we’ve just given our Phil & Ted’s — perfect for muddy walks — to a friend, desperate to rock her newborn to sleep in her living room. Anyway, mistakes were made, but fun — of a very muddy kind — was had, & the Pip-Pop proved himself to have some very sturdy walking legs. From the top, on a clear day, you can see the Isle of Wight. We couldn’t see that far, but the wind buffeting us up there was so strong that it sounded very much like the sea.