Eeeeeeeee

We bought a house! It is very cute. And that yellow ‘sold’ sign? It doesn’t mean someone else snapped it up before we got our act together. That’s us. We did it.

It was nerve-wracking. We made the offer yesterday morning, then had to wait twenty-four hours to see if anyone would up the offer, and if the owners would accept it. (That’s the way they do things here – each house sale is potentially a twenty-four hour auction.) The wait ended at 9am, but I start work at 8. Today we had a planning day. I tried very hard to concentrate on a Norwegian discussion of which I understood, oh, about ten percent, while watching the imperceptible inching of the hands of the clock. I kept looking at the second hand to convince myself time was actually moving, but it wasn’t ticking as fast as my heart.

I was steeling myself to wait until 9.15, but Michael rang at 9 on the dot. Having apologized in advance for answering my phone in a meeting, I raced off to one of the empty kindergarten rooms.

‘So what do you think’, said Michael, ‘did we do it?’

‘JUST TELL ME!’

‘Yes.’

It’s walking distance to town; it has a garden and a deck and lots of lovely windows; the rooms are square and friendly and full of life. It’s an old house, but it was completely renovated four years ago. We can move in at the end of January.

We are very happy. Mostly about the house, but also about the fact that we can stop house-hunting now! Hurrah!

I still can’t quite believe that we really get to live there.

Some other excellent and totally unexpected news capped off the day, but I won’t tell you about it yet because it’s not set in stone and I don’t want to jinx it. But the waiting and the hoping aren’t over quite yet.

Postcards from the sky

I wasn’t there this year, but I haven’t forgotten

how, in the right wind, you soar up the slope

to join the jelly beans in the sky.

The launch site is a green and distant memory, mere patchwork

and the snowy mountains are all yours.

Afterward,

your feet on the ground as your wing falls slack,

you’ll never forget

the staircase of air

the aeons of sun.

* all credit to Michael for the amazing photos!

Graduation

Was brilliant. Loved my hat, which in fact was black, not green, but the robes were green which suits me fine. My supervisor said she always associates me with green jewellery.

It’s past bedtime now but I just have to tell you about it. It was very formal, and just so much fun. The staff of the school of English paraded on stage, decked out in all their finery.

It was brilliant to have my brother and Michael there. We went out for lunch with my supervisors, which was so so nice, and can I just say once again how I love them and they are just fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for better, and if I had to do it all again I would, and I’d do it with them.

It rained but I didn’t mind.

And later my friends and I went out for dinner at Hansa’s, which if you are ever in Leeds you must do too.  So it was pretty great. And THANK YOU – to my supervisors, to my sponsors, to my parents and grandparents who were there in spirit, and to my friends and especially J and M for celebrating with me (and for taking the pictures!). It’s been an awesome journey. One part of it is over now. That is a little bit sad as well as exciting, and it was nice to have a ceremony to mark the end of it. But many paths, I hope, have only just begun.

Everybody’s happy!

After Norway’s stunning victory in the Eurovision last night, the annual 17 May parade was even more fun than usual.

It was perfect flag-fluttering weather: warm, windy and bright.

Everybody said ‘hurrah! hurrah!’ You even needed to say ‘hurrah’ instead of ‘hei’ (hello).

We learnt from our mistake of turning up in scruffy clothes last year and dressed up for the occasion.

Parents turned out in force to watch their babbies’ big moment.

Michael said it would never work in Germany: troupes of blonde children and marching bands waving flags and yelling ‘hurrah!’ I think Norway’s nationalism is sufficiently benign as to not offend anyone, except possibly the Swedes. An historic victory against Sweden was achieved at Halden’s very own fortress. But Sweden awarded Norway 12 points in the Eurovision last night, so all must be forgiven.

The Russe (graduating final year high school students) were out in force with their red overalls and hangovers, celebrating the culmination of two weeks of mayhem. (We saw a group of them sitting around a campfire on a roundabout at two a.m. the other night.)

I envied the dresses. Each region of Norway has its own colour and pattern. When all’s said and done, who wouldn’t want to be Norwegian for the day?

Many wonderful things

I am in Austria. Very close to Switzerland. If you climb a mountain – or, with much less effort, take a chairlift – you can see into a lake that touches Austria, Germany, Switzerland. I am surrounded by improbable lushness: meadows peppered with dandelions, mountains swathed in patterned cloaks of dark and bright green, the pine trees interspersed with deciduous trees in the first flush of spring. White blossom still flowers in the valleys, but everything is in leaf. Here, May is the most beautiful of all months. Winter is gone and summer is yet to settle, but the air is warm and the green burgeons with promises.

It is strange to think that on Tuesday I was in Adelaide, on Thursday and Friday I was in London, and now I am here. A week of contrasts if ever there was one. It was very sad to leave. It was just so nice to hang out with my family and catch up with my old friends. My brother and my grandparents drove me to the airport, and after a coffee and a very chocolaty raspberry muffin and at least three hugs from each of them, I felt bereft as they walked away. On the plane, I thought – why am I leaving? What am I going back to?

Autumn in the Adelaide Hills.

But as soon as I arrived I knew. Apart from being with M again, which is just brilliant, there is so much to see here! So much to explore and think and dream. I really enjoyed the two days in London. I usually just transit through London, but this time M had organized a two day workshop and they were all staying in the rather lovely Goodenough College, so I got to piggyback. I just loved wandering around all the green squares between the London University buildings, pretending to be Virginia Woolf. I’ve been to that section of London before but never spent much time there. Spring is in full swing and the huge trees are raining down little umbrella-shaped pollen things.

I spent an afternoon in the British Museum. It is all wonderful but I was especially amazed at collections of medieval and Roman rings – how strange to think of the hands that have worn them! And then on Friday evening we wandered around the Tate, which is possibly my favourite art gallery in the world. It’s all been re-hung since I was last there, and there are themed collections: ‘poetry and dream’, ‘energy and process’. I loved the way the words wove between the pictures, and the layout of the rooms made the paintings and sculptures talk to one another.

I started writing this in Austria but actually now I am in Switzerland. M is working here today and we are going back to Norway tonight. I haven’t been there in nearly two months! His parents joined us in Austria and we had a very relaxing couple of days. They made friends with the neighbours. Monica did a brilliant job of combating her fear of heights – she came with us as we drove over a high pass in the mountains (see above), and even went on two chairlifts!

Michael and I each had one beautiful paraglider flight – I was up for more than an hour and could have stayed up much longer if I wished. How strange to be able to work the air currents and drift above the mountain ridges and the trees.

We had a minor disaster yesterday when M tried to launch in a tail wind and didn’t take off in time and flew straight into a clump of trees. Luckily he wasn’t hurt but we spent nearly three hours extracting the glider from the trees! They were about four metres high, so not strong enough to climb but too tall to reach the top of. They were perched on a steep slope in a patch of snow, so there was a lot of sliding around. We even had to chop a couple of them down with a borrowed axe! Anyway, no harm done, and we are rethinking our safety policies…

But all in all, everything is beautiful. My viva is two weeks from today – I wonder if my examiners are reading my thesis yet.

Larger than life

I’m loving the internet right now. I’m in Singapore airport, exploiting the free wireless. After twelve hours on a plane, preceded by two days of dazed wandering around London, preceded by seven hours on a plane, it’s quite remarkable to be so connected. In the past couple of hours, I’ve had an email conversation with Michael, a facebook chat with my uncle, a skype chat with Mum, as well as exchanging facebook comments with cousins and long lost friends, watching the live status updates of my Leeds friends, discovering friendly comments on my last blog post, and reacquainting myself with the blogs of my blogfriends. So I find myself surprisingly connected to all my worlds, whilst – relatively speaking – in the middle of nowhere! Everyone even seems to be awake…

I have been delaying writing about America because I don’t know how to squeeze it all down to a blog post! But I will use this hour before I need to head over to my gate, and see how far we get.

We started off in San Diego, where you can stand on the jetty and photograph the surfers. Just a little north of the city is a brilliant coastal paragliding spot, Torrey Pines. We didn’t have our gliders with us this time, but watched a couple of people making the most of less than perfect conditions.

San Diego was brilliant. We’ll be back.

Then we drove inland, to the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful and strange and overwhelming. It’s exhausting being close to something that you can’t fit into your senses.

I loved the colours. The way the rocks rainbow out beneath you.

But by the end of the afternoon, it was definitely too much to take in. I sat on a stone wall while M wandered round the corner to take more photos. I stifled the irrational fear that he was about to slip and tumble down it. I’m not usually scared of heights. But this was something else. I thought of the David Hockney painting. I watched the tourists from every corner of the globe. Nothing could dent its immensity.

To be continued… (Many many more larger than life encounters to be disclosed…)

Late night footnote checking

About to call it a night. Listening to the Beatles (it’s necessary to listen cheerier and cheerier music as the night goes on). Remembering this night. Can’t believe it’s only two months ago. As ‘Penny Lane’ plays, I can smell the smoke of spurting fireworks, mixed with the just-rained-on sea smell of a winter much milder than this one. I rememember jumping up and down. Holding someone’s hand. Belting out ‘Hey Jude’ over the smoky, sparkling square at the top of my lungs. All the glittery lights. It’s still going to be a good year.

Deciding to stay

Photo credit – Michael. (Isn’t he clever?)

I had planned to fly to England today. But on Sunday night, I found myself wishing desperately that I had another two weeks at my desk. M said – why don’t you stay? He headed off to Finland today, and he’s going to Washington on Friday, without coming back here. Why not? I thought. I will. I have nearly two weeks of space and quiet to think and write and crystallize (yep, Genevieve, z is definitely prettier). Not that I don’t when he’s around. I love when he’s around. But you know.

And it feels good. Right at the end of last week, things started coming together. In a slow steady way. I sort of knew I was setting myself up for a fall last weekend when I declared I would have the most productive week ever. Because really there was no chance in Hell I could polish off three messy chapters in a week. Three weeks, now (including the one that’s gone), is another matter.

Anyway, I am still here. And it feels good. It feels like a gift. A gift of time, for me, to hang out with my thesis. To be kind to it. To attend to it. To notice its best bits and help them to shine. And this gentle attention is getting me a lot further than the panic I was in a week ago. I have realised I do not need to go fast. I just need to go steadily, and carefully, to hold many things in my mind and let a few things go. Because this thesis is mine and I love it, and even if flaws remain (they always do) it will still be a good thing.

So, for now, I am a little fish. Swimming steadily, strong but light. If I get stuck on or tired of one chapter, I will flick back to the other one, and make slow steady progress there. I must start working on my Webb chapter (the first one I wrote, the last one I will finish) within the next couple of days, so it has time to simmer and float with the others. Because really, I am quite a circular thinker.

And I will finish by the end of March. I will hand it in. For the first time I believe this.

A Sunday drive

This afternoon we drove up along our regular summer cycling route, marveling at the icicles cascading over the rocks on the side of the road, and the little green islands in the middle of the frozen lakes. At the end of the route, we got out and had a stroll. I can’t believe I swam here in summer – just about where I’m standing. There were little ducklings bobbing around. And waterlillies.

The conditions were perfect for cross-country skiing, as fifi suspected, and the lake provides a surface about as flat as you can get. We saw a couple of guys out and about, getting a helping hand from their dogs (surprisingly effective).

I’ve never walked on a lake before. Occasionally we’d come across a crack, which was less than reassuring. I have to include this photo too, because of the lovely snowy trees in the background. It hasn’t snowed for days but it’s been so cold that it doesn’t melt at all.

I’ve taken the weekend off the thesis because yesterday my brain was dead. I can work through every other weekend it seems, but not every weekend. So… one last final push before I fly to England. M’s off to Sweden for two days now, and I’m hoping this will be my most productive week EVER. But this weekend was so nice. Just like the best sort of holiday.

Happy New Year!

We flew in the new year today, through silky air above the blue peninsulas and patterned ocean (the dark reef, the cloudy whiteness near the shore). When the lift is good, the paragliders swarm.

Last night we sang and danced and jumped around outside the casino in central Monaco, to a seriously good Beatles cover-band, the Love Beatles. We arrived in the square as they sang ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’. The palm trees and buildings glittered around us, and fountains of fireworks erupted at our feet. I was just complaining about the reluctance of the posh Monaco residents to dance, when a little old man in a suit started jiving around in front of a spurting fire-work sprinkler, while his wife took photos. It was so cute. We joined in a dancing-caterpillar to ‘Obladi-oblada’, swayed happily to ‘Let it be’, and sang out lots of loud na-na-nas to the final rendition of ‘Hey Jude’. Ah, it was absolutely great.

2008 was a pretty good one. We went to some amazing places in Norway, Austria, France and America, we spent time with our parents, we got our P3 paragliding licences and zoomed around like birds. I almost finished my thesis, and read lots of books. M’s work is going great.

I’ve got so many plans for next year. First up, slay the dragon – er – thesis. Hopefully within two months. And then… I want to learn Norwegian, and brush up my German. I want to have another look at my novel, to see if anything publishable can be salvaged. I want to get more IT literate. And have a haircut. And join the gym. I’d like to be a better correspondent to my far away friends, and make some progress on Henry. Get some articles published. Renew my drivers licence. Be a bit more organized. And – oh – get a job. Who knows where we’ll be by the end of it?

Heiligabend

On Christmas eve, there was a Christmas fairy.

And cakes at four.

Stollen and Lebkuchen. M’s brother decorated the table and I was mighty impressed.

M’s brother and his girlfriend gave me a silly hat and angel wings to keep up tradition. And an episode of Ausburger Puppenkiste, to help my German and to make me laugh. (These string-puppet stories are just lovely.)

Actually I did rather well with presents, including the white shirt and green jumper pictured above, and the absolutely gorgeous jumper knitted by my Mum that you can see below. M’s brother gave him some shirts and ties to supplement the one decent shirt and tie that he owns.

M and I were responsible for dinner. We learned a valuable catering lesson – if you’re going to do a starter course, don’t make it all you can eat! (Especially if you have eaten cake just a few hours before.) After two different kinds of cheese, and dried apricots and olives and dolmades and french bread we hardly had room for the roast carrots and parsnips and figs and sundried tomatoes and halloumi and salmon and couscous, and afterwards we could barely move. But we were still smiling.

Happy Christmas to all, especially to my lovely far away family. xxx

Kassel Christmas Market

After one Glühwein we were walking in circles, which seems to be the German term for ‘a little bit wobbly’. I still have the gingerbread heart M bought me four years ago. I loved the little Christmas train, pulled by reindeer, going round and round the enormous Christmas tree. And it all smells so good! Roast nuts, popcorn, waffles… In the last photo, behind the stall selling apple fritters, you can see the top of Christmas tree and the giant Christmas pyramid. Brilliant.

Chimneys and words and packages

Here’s another view of the Bingley chimneys. And the semi-frozen canal. The ducks promenade around here much as they do in Halden. The thesis chugs along. I reckon I’ll get it finished in early February, or possibly late January. I got my chapter one (extension of intro) nearly written. I felt like I was juggling so many balls so beautifully, and then I tripped and dropped them all, and couldn’t fathom the energy to pick them all up again. But it is nearly nearly there. I have sent it to my supervisors and will meet with them both individually this week – one tomorrow, and one on Thursday.

Over the past couple of days I’ve been getting back to the first chapter I wrote – the one that’s always caused me the most trouble. I still feel like I’m somewhat awkwardly hanging my argument on my textual analysis, rather than boldly using my textual analysis to advance my argument. The problem with this poet is that he says one thing and then he says the opposite – it’s really hard to pin him down. Anyway, pinning poetry down isn’t my ultimate aim, is it?

My technique this weekend has just been to write the paragraphs that need to be written, without wasting too much time about whether they fit on page eight or page twenty-eight. It’s been working, this close attention to detail, but I’m beginning to feel like printing it out and coming up for air. Tomorrow.

Vic has been a great encouragement. She keeps reminding me that I love this stuff, really.

And it is nearly Christmas which I am very very pleased about. Michael’s coming over to the UK on Wednesday, and we’ll have a few days here before heading across to Germany on Sunday. Good good good. (He’s had some horrible adventures in Norway this week – the valient snuggle-car does NOT like the cold. It got frozen, snowed under, and refused to get going in the Oslo airport carpark, but it’s ok now. I think in winter we’ll keep it to the temperate south from now on.) And oh – Mum and Grandma – all your parcels/cards have arrived in Germany safe and sound! Thank you thank you thank you! Apparently the postman was very excited to be delivering parcels from Australia.

Walled Cities

I finished reading the most beautiful novel the other day. Gatty’s Tale, by Kevin Crossley-Holland. I first realised what a lovely writer he was when I read his translations of Norse Myths, and I vowed to get hold of his King Arthur trilogy. I did, and have read the first one so far, and loved it. Gatty’s Tale is a spin-off from that – a thirteenth-century girl joins a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

There it was!

Jerusalem!

At once Gatty reined in.

There it was, waiting for her.

No need to ask. She recognised it like a home from which, long ago, she had strayed. Its contours were her own heart’s and mind’s contours. She felt like a little girl again. No need to say anything.

The Holy City, golden, grew out of the gentle slopes on which it sat. Or was it the other way round? Did the Holy City, Gatty wondered, come down from God, out of heaven? And did the hillslopes and the valleys and everything else on the earth grow out of it?

All that stood between the pilgrims and the golden domes, the clustered towers and columns and walls was one last shallow valley, dark with olive groves.

I read this on the train, on a very tedious journey from Stansted Airport up to Bingley. Finish the damn thesis, I told myself glumly as I stood in the cold in Peterborough station, waiting for a train that didn’t come, you’ve got to stop doing this. I ended up catching a train up to York, and then another train to Leeds, and then another train to Bingley.

As I waited in York station, I thought about how usually I would feel very sad just to be there. I lived in York for three years. I loved it. It was home. I met Michael there. We lived together in the sweetest little house. We cycled everywhere – to the shops, to the pubs, to the wonderful Baroque concerts with two pound tickets for students. I did my masters there. I finished my novel there. I started my PhD. I would walk on the stone walls, and hang out in my favourite bookshop (now sadly closed). Every time I returned there, after being away, as the taxi swung past the walls and the gates to the city, I would feel a tangible surge of at-homeness. It was so sad to leave.

But – this time I didn’t feel sad. I felt content, in myself. I have a new home now. I am building a new home.

And then, on the train, I read about Gatty in Jerusalem. And my heart surged. I have been there – the centre of the world, as they thought in the Middle Ages. I have stood inside this other walled city. Michael had a two month scholarship to be in Israel, and I went to visit him, and we went to Jerusalem together.

Like Gatty, I had heard about it all my life. The Bible was a big part of my childhood and my early adulthood – I have read the stories over and over. My parents went to Jerusalem when Mum was pregnant with me. Dad bought a little statue of Moses, which has sat in the corner of the lounge room all my life. My Mum bought a big brown coat, like a monk’s cloak, which I wore for a while as a teenager. And there I was, again, the centre of the world.

For Gatty, part of her has always been in Jerusalem, and part of her will always be there. And when she prays inside the church of the Holy Sepulchre – that mazelike, burrow-like place where I too have stood – she prays for all her friends and family at home, for those who could not come to Jerusalem and never will, but when she prays they are there anyway, with her, safe inside the walled city.

And I don’t quite know what I’m trying to say, but I like that idea – of being together even when you’re not together, of being at home even when you’re far away. And there, on the train, between York and Leeds, the journey was a burden no longer, and I gripped the novel firmly, with tears in my eyes.

In the big city

I’ve been writing and thinking lots. Haven’t felt like blogging. In other news… We went to a grand reception in Oslo last night, for the sixtieth birthday of the institute M works for. There were four different kinds of wine. You’ve got to take the free alcohol when you can get it in this country. We bought a couple of drinks before it all started (a g&t and a glass of beer), and they cost 160 kroner. That’s 16 pounds. I don’t even want to know what that is in Aussie dollars. They also served us one of the strangest vegetarian meals I’ve ever eaten. There was a spring roll, roasted chestnuts, pickled onions, roasted cherry tomatoes, a zucchini and red pepper stack, warm pineapple and a baby carrot. Still, it was a good night. Hundreds of people were there, in a room painted to look like a circus tent with huge chandeliers. There were some inspiring speeches, of which we understood very little. There was a famous Norwegian comedian. And I got to wear the best dress ever.

More chimneys, and a happy song

I took this photo on Tuesday, from the same bridge as the last one, but looking the other way. Below is the chimney of our very own paper factory in Halden, glowing in the weird evening light. I got here on Wednesday, and am puffing away at the chapters… If by any chance you need cheering up, you might like to take a look at this gem, discovered by M. It is by an alternative German musician whose name was channeled to him by an angel. M says it is to be enjoyed in an ironic manner. Which does not preclude dancing and singing. A rough translation: ‘every cell in my body is happy’, followed by variations of the same.

Heading back

We’re flying back to Norway tomorrow and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my thesis again. I’ve had over twenty hours of airtime which has been brilliant. I’ve been working on keeping my wing stable in turbulent conditions, and practicing flying in strong and light winds. I seem to naturally fly higher than most other paragliders and some of the most fun times have been boating around for hours at the end of the ridge where the lift is strongest while other gliders can’t stay up… Here I am kiting at dawn, waiting for the wind to pick up.

The photo at the top of this post is my favourite from the whole trip. The wind was far too strong for us to fly that day – the paragliders behind me were experts on tiny wings (if the wing is too small for you it flies faster so you can fly in stronger conditions). But it was great just watching them go.

While we’re at it, I love this photo too. See you back in the land of birch trees and mirrored lakes!

Words and harbours

The painted harbour huddles against the grey. Now I know why they choose these colours. My brain will be word-befuddled by the end of the day, so I thought I’d write now, before I get started. We have been working hard and writing lots. My introduction will have grown from a scrappy 5,500 words on Monday to a much more respectable 10,000 words tomorrow, if I keep the pace up. Can I say though, that it is much nicer working from 5000 words than from none at all. Especially when they are scrawled with helpful comments. M has been busy too – conference papers and workshops and teaching preparation on the other side of the country and not one but three (successful!) funding proposals. I’m in the wrong business.

Introduction-writing certainly is a curious thing. I’m slowly beginning to understand what it is I’ve been doing for the past three years, and how it fits into the broader scheme of things. And I’m thinking that I’ve come up with some interesting stuff. Not earth-shattering, but interesting all the same. And maybe it will make a book of some sort, in the end. We shall see. Been feeling much happier about writing it since my England trip. I’m happier to take it one piece at a time, rather than stressing that it’s not all there yet and it’s not perfect. I’m finding I work to a rhythm – an hour or an hour and a half on, then half an hour off. (Or more, depending…) There is a way of building distractions and lapses of concentration into progress, rather than letting them sabotage it. Anyway, better stop writing about writing, and get back to the real deal.

In other news, we’ve been watching Stephen Poliakoff in the evenings (thanks for the tip Kirsty!). We loved Shooting the Past but our favourite so far is Perfect Strangers. It made me cry. I’m still a bit in love with Timothy Spall. And I have a new favourite Norwegian chocolate – Walters Mandler (the as always seriously creamy utterly delicious Freia milk chocolate, blended with fragments of roasted, salted, caramelized almonds. Swoon…). We’re off to New York on Saturday – hooray hooray hooray!

Making Spaces

When I wrote the mini-post Making Things a few days back, I had really intended to reflect upon all the other things we’ve been making. Chapters and muffins and chocolate puddings aside, we have been making spaces. Or, more precisely, making spaces for making things.

The magpies have made a rather impressive nest, toiling away through sleet and snow.

As well as programming a program to turn data into colourful graphs, Michael has made a collaboration room. His workplace is stuffed full of uncomfortable meeting rooms, but had no space to do collaborative work on research projects, or analyze dvds from experiments, or discuss plans in an informal environment. So he fixed it. To get everyone on side, he made some 3D models of the proposed room. These are seriously cool, and you can move about in them and populate them with people. Here are some stills:

In order to make the space for making things, he had to make some virtual space first. And when they said, yes, okay, that does sound sensible, we drove up to Ikea and spent the weekend putting it together. Now look at it!

All the meeting rooms have names from Norse mythology. This room’s called Åsgard right now, but he thinks it needs a new name: Ginnungagap.

We also bought a new bookshelf for my office, to prepare for the influx of books and other bits when I move in here properly in July. Yes there are some similarities between the two spaces: we likes what we likes. It’s a bit messy at the moment but it will be great when populated with my books and my creatures. The futon is at the other end of the room. There are also wardrobes stuffed full of kites and paragliders. I think I will be able to finish my phd in this space.

Today my blog is one year old. This is a space for making things too. And for collecting seasons from three continents. It has been all I wished for and more.

Also today, a long way away, my gorgeous cousin married his gorgeous girl. We ate pizza in their honour (rumour has it seriously good pizza was to be served at their reception). I was sad to miss it, and wish them all the best! A good day for all.

Lakes for all Seasons

Went walking in the Lake District today. It’s only two hours from Leeds. Every time I arrive there I feel this pang of excitement – the slate-walled cottages, the lakes, the hills. I grew up with my Dad telling me about the Lake District as though it were the promised land. The first time I went it was raining and I couldn’t see a thing. But there’s something special about the Lake District. Now when I go I remember the times I’ve been there with those close to me – the lovie, his parents, my parents, and last year, my grandparents (not all at the same time!). But special times, each of them.

It was cold and windy today and the photos I took didn’t really turn out. We went up Red Screes from Ambleside, then across to Dove Crag, then back along the ridge to the town. We did spot a pretty cool stone wall.

At the end of the walk I couldn’t help thinking how different it will look in a couple of months time when the trees will be shiny and green. A bit more like this, perhaps…

Our last flights

I know there’s a shadow in this photo. But can you see how we’re still flying? Covered in dust and sweat and sun, grinning our heads off. Can you see, in our eyes, the weightlessness, the balance, the joy of stepping into air and staying there? I had just had two long flights along the ridge, in heavy traffic, all on my own. I’d lent back in my harness, and relaxed, and looked ahead for other paragliders, and stayed out of their way, and flown back and forth on the ridge, and stayed up for hours. The wind blows up the ridge, see, and keeps you afloat. Paragliding makes me laugh, sometimes – seeing everyone lugging about their huge backpacks, and unpacking them, and folding out the gliders – just for fun, just to zoom around, like kids on a slide or a merry-go-round. Just to feel air beneath your feet and wind in your face, and the gentle pressure of the brake lines in your hands, and the way you surge upwards, and turn and sink and hover. Just for pure joy.

Kassel

I am in Germany, hooray!! And it actually feels like summer over here. We have a couple more days here before we head down south to try some paragliding (fingers crossed for the weather). Very excitingly, my new paraglider has arrived (I traded in my old Fides for an Atis, which has a better weight range for me and is a bit zippier). Can’t wait to try it out!

Here’s the lovie with his beloved Strolch, in a rare moment when Strolch is appearing to sit still. Unfortunatly his affection is not reciprocated. I think Strolch is probably still traumatised from all the attention he got at Christmas.

Three Years

Three years ago today I met M. in the train station in York.
It was raining.
We bought our tickets, and sat on the train to Leeds.
‘Are you okay,’ he said, ‘you’re very quiet.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’m fine.’
We sat on the train some more.

In Leeds we watched the rain falling in the river.
We ate tiramisu.
We wandered the shopping arcades, their ceilings ornately decorated with scrolls and oranges.
We drank mango lassi and ate vegetable curry, and talked, hesitantly, about people we both knew.

In the theatre, that evening, the seats were narrow. I could feel his leg next to mine. I sat very still. I watched his hand in his lap. On the stage, the actors cavorted to Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. The words surged and tumbled. It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black… And somewhere, between two lines, he lent towards me and whispered ‘come a bit closer’. And I did.

We held hands all the way back to York. I still have the ticket.

The Caravan of Love

Here is a wonderful construction created by the very clever Michael. To view it, click play, but then click pause and wait till it’s fully loaded (when the red line is all the way across). This could take a few minutes, but it might be very fast. Then you can press play. If you don’t do this it will stop and start and not come out properly. And it’s so lovely!

The snuggle-car goes north

Wow. This really is an amazing country. We got back yesterday from Geilo (pronounced yeilo), which is in the Hardangavidda national park. The snuggle-car did us proud, and drove us over a snow-covered mountain plateau, over mountain passes and through twisting, winding tunnels (one was a spiral, and another was 25k long!), along fjords, frozen lakes, alpine meadows, cherry blossom and rushing streams. It was amazing how quickly the landscapes changed, how rock and lichen would appear as the snow began to melt, how you could drive out of a tunnel into another world. Michael’s parents loved it too, and I got to practice my German (rather rusty, I’m afraid, though I understand a lot and they seem to understand me). Below are some of my favourite photos. I’m going back to Leeds tomorrow, which is sad, but I’ll just have to make the most of it (and get lots of work done). By the time I come back, it will be nearly June, and the tiny leaves, which are still just hesitant sketches on the trees, will all be grown, and open, and covered in sun.

Return of the snuggle-car

The snuggle-car is back in action! For its untimely demise, see clunk cluck clunk. This next photo is proof of how happy we were before it broke down last Saturday:

We got it back yesterday, the third day the mechanic told us it ‘might be ready’. Luckily it finally was, and now we can drive to nice places with our bikes and have picnics.

And we can drive to shops. Such as the big garden shop, which has quite a remarkable collection of fake flowers and plants. Such as these lovely green blobbles.