hiatus | the heatwave

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It has been a long time since I wrote anything for this space. A hiatus of sorts, perhaps a symptom of a busy school year.

Over Christmas we inevitably travelled, to India. It started with the flight and the queues of Heathrow, the temporary disorientation, remembering whether or not we flew out of terminal four last time. You do it enough, it's all some sort of mechanical, learned haze. Being carried along in the crush, down the jet bridge, through frigid air heavy with the stink of kerosene. Like the air’s coldness somehow traps the fumes, holding onto them through to the cabin, where in the first few steps into the early aisles fuel mingles with coffee scents and artificial air pressure. Our flight turns and taxies, clumsy. Slick tarmac, onto the runway. The plane pauses, composes itself, the engines gun and the floor shakes and the flight rumbles over the concrete awkwardly, until the wheels retract, the ground falls away, the wing dips, the cabin hums. London fans out below winking and blinking lights, carved into bays and headlands by swathes of black.  Then there was the bombardment of color and chaos and life that hits you after a trip to India, that stays with you through the flight home, then is sucked out of you by London's damp, clammy night air. 

It was cold after Christmas. Just as people saw the first few gleams of spring, the buds and their hope were engulfed by some of the most intense snow the eastern UK has seen since Tupac was rapper of choice. Flurries started and didn’t stop, it was beautiful, hypnotic, coming down harder in sloppy white sheets like puppy kisses. There was too much snow on sidewalks, the dogs played in the garden, chasing icicles and snowballs that sank deep, leaving tracks and furrows while plumes of grey smoke from a dozen chimneys muddled with the heather sky. Geese flew overhead in formation, shadowy onyx against towering somber cloud; peppery and rippled. Hands were dry and fragile like old paper, the ground was undisturbed feathery white until it met fields where the earliest wheat was fighting through; there it looked chunky and porous, like paper towel. The wind murmured and caressed the ribs of haggard trees, blowing powdery snow onto the roadsides. They were littered with abandoned trucks and cars looking overly bright and metallic so the place felt more like midwinter Alaska than spring Norfolk. More brilliantly brutal than subtle and charming. 

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And then summer came, like a flash flood of dry heat, no warning, no expectations, the ground and the people unable to absorb it all. The atmosphere just decided that was it, enough of winter's indecisive drizzle and mild, pale yellow rays, the sun seemed to go from being the color of butter to somewhere closer to an Indian temple marigold. No spring. No buffer period, no hesitation. There was no way to miss it. Europe basked and burnt in a heatwave. The sky was so clear it was a storybook cliché, or a childhood drawing, like someone had said, kids, let's color the sky blue. It was more as if the world was upside down, like looking at the Mediterranean Sea, suspended above you. The dogs would run out of the shade to where the sun cast blocky shadows through the needles of pines, chase a squirrel, and come back with their own fur like charcoal; hot, black, and sandy. I would take my car out and send up a plume of umber dust, winter's puddles were bone dry and left everything coated in a fine layer of what looked like cinnamon. I'd follow that usual rural route framed by fields and in the rear view mirror driving downhill fast it left a distorted smudge of pale green, flax and straw behind me. From above the countryside probably looked khaki, as if it was washed in sepia with patches of dun and tan like fading army combat uniform. 

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There is football on TV, most of which is bad, and a new Drake album, most of which is great, and the sun sets late and barely sets at all. It takes a short dip over the inky horizon then floats back up, between the russet roofs of houses to the east of our own, casting long shadows and cool blue shade. In the shade you shiver, maybe watch the swirling dust, or crystalline drops of dew forming on cut grass. But there are these tepid mornings when you walk out and the earth just smells warm, of verdant leaves and heavy fruit trees and every bush bristling with life and flowers, and you should be somewhere further south. France or Italy, maybe, somewhere with stone farm houses the color of caramel and where the roads aren't full of harassed holiday makers in packed cars. But another week of high pressure has been forecast, so another week of sunshine spilling over the yellowing grass. The sun will rise amber and brush early cloud with peach, it will fade the roses on the trellis to watery claret. The clouds will be rare, light, with pretty latin names like altocumulus, cirrocumulus and altostratus, which meteorologists call the clouds of fair weatherWait, until around midday, when everyone is where they need to be and the roads are quiet, the sun is sharp and the heat uninhibited. To hear kites call as they cruise the thermals miles above us, perhaps a light rustle of grass in a sliver of breeze, and absolutely nothing else.

"this bud of love, by summer's ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when we next meet"           
- juliet to romeo (Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, what else?)

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** All these photos are from around Norfolk, taken over the past 3 summers. The cows were at the Norfolk Show a couple of years ago.

to be golden | spring Norfolk

I took a break from studying last week to take some photos of the blossom at the village church. It's not a long walk, maybe 5 minutes at most, but I needed it. Contract law is... dense, I suppose, and I seem to be chained to a desk for something like 8 hours a day. Whoever said university was the longest vacation you'd ever take may just as easily have said it was also a one stop route to Hollywood or something. Either way. I wanted out of the house for a bit, without the complications of a full-on dog walk, just wearing regular shoes and taking along my camera because I finally bought a leather strap for it. The road was busy, people going places, with visions and aims and expectations to fulfil. 

 For it being springtime and there being blossom everywhere, the sky was dark. I'd been using the light when I was working and it was only 2pm. Not particularly cold, in fact it was quite mild, temperatures somewhere in the low teens. Just overcast and windy with bands of dark cloud moving swiftly across the sky, different layers. The wind shook the trees and petals scattered, falling among the gravestones in the churchyard. Pink and gray is always a nice combination. I felt a drizzle, light rain on the side of my cheek, coming in at an angle in the wind. I pull my scarf around my shoulders, and reach for my hood, then drop it. The drizzle had turned into fat droplets. Solid, but falling in such a way that I was barely wet, and the air was still mild. I rarely feel the rain because I am always reaching for that damn hood. My hair was down and blowing around but I left it, as is. It would curl in the moisture. But I had nowhere to go, I would be walking home to a textbook telling me about mitigation and damages. A steady tip-tap of the drops falling on my jacket. It was like a subconscious reaction, to reach for my hood when it started raining, probably says a lot about me. A curly strand of hair... not any attempt at an emotional reaction, I'm not good at those. Not a dancing in the rain type moment. I'd never been one to celebrate tropical downpours or to splash in puddles with an umbrella. Just cold rationality, I suppose. That the hair actually really didn't matter right now, so I might as well stand out there and perpetuate the situation. I needed a break from the constant battle between the cold logic on which I pride myself and the futile search for something else.

I looked down the road where a shaft of sunlight had hit the tarmac, accentuating its blackness, slowly stretching towards me. Something I had grown up with, whenever I was in a rural part of Europe; looking along an expanse of road and watching the skies clear. The sun crawled forward and washed the street with mellow light, it was nothing extraordinary, in fact a normal occurrence around here, these sharp bursts of sun after rain. But maybe it was perspective, how the sun could sweep across the road and towards me, with golden fingers outstretched, as if brushing a layer of gold leaf. I waited, to be figuratively illuminated, to become part of that. To become golden. That's what it's about, for me. Gilded everything. Always chasing something. There were petals stuck to the soles of my shoes, glistening with moisture. So pale pink they were almost transparent. Such faded glory. They had been so perfect and yet one shower had been enough. How did that make sense? How could nature have made something so beautiful that could just go, so easily? There was the war memorial behind me, outside the church, shrouded in the fading blossoms, since even these tiny villages had lost a few young men. What did they have to prove? Could logic not have told them that there was no cause, no point... nothing to prove. 

I had nothing to prove, to anyone... but myself. Everyone else will say I've done fine and in all that cold rationality that I have usually.... it's probably fine. But I'll beat at it forever. Everything. I'll edit, save, edit, save, edit delete the photos I eventually post on this site. There'll be some tiny flaw - slightly underexposed, too much contrast, too much shadow. Cold rationality will tell me that nobody else will even notice. Only me. I'll open essays three times after I declare them done, because they're not ever finished. This post? This is probably version nine. I'll paint my nails, again, even though nobody will give the smallest damn that there is a bit of pink showing under the red. You know those animated characters from kids' TV shows who find themselves on roller blades, going downhill? I'm like them with the never good enoughs: can't stop now, don't know how. Or like one of those miners during the gold rush, heading out into the unknown on a wild goose chase for gold. Maybe in all honesty they knew it wasn't there. A bit like that idea of perfection, an unattainable idea of 'doing well', 'looking pretty', 'being successful'. Cold logic says that it's not there, you're knocking on the door of an empty house.

I did finally go home, the sky dark again with the threat of rain. Logic said to go before a downpour, for a dry jacket to walk the dogs tonight, and that there's an exam. I put the blossom and their ebbing glory behind me. I walked back, into my search for a gold mine that sense told me doesn't exist.  

 

“Logic doesn't stop you feeling. You can behave logically and it can hurt like hell. Or it can comfort you. Or release you. Or all at the same time” 
Dick Francis, The Danger