I write this sitting in the campervan in the dark, something over 100 miles due west of Heckington. We’re parked at a marina beside the Shropshire Union Canal: very English, very rural but different to the landscape we left this afternoon. This is border country; green hills and mists of Wales beckon, instead of cold marshes and bracing winds.
A nice surprise at the pub tonight was a gig by a young singer-songwriter called Heidi Browne (www.heidibrowne.co.uk). Her dad sang I Can’t Stand the Rain, but I love it against the van windows. It’s a tiny campsite and we’re in the car park, but walking to the toilet block in the rain and the dark, it is every campsite I’ve ever stayed on and my spirits lift.
I remember this feeling of freedom, expansion, contentment from every year that we used to camp in France when family were younger. Now I have it when I walk down the garden or to the garage, or to the field with the dog. Now I wonder how I didn’t know how much I craved outdoor space; or how, knowing it, I let myself live without it for so long.
When my two-year old granddaughter visits, the first thing she does on coming downstairs in the morning is run to the back door and try to open it. ‘Outside! Outside!’ she cries. I know just how she feels.
Here is England, seen fleetingly through the van window, from Heckington to Manchester and back again. We pass fields of sheep and steelworks, cranes and turbines, service stations, farm shops, church towers heading for heaven, footpaths winding off the page. We travel across England’s middle, through green England, tarmacked England, under impossible, painted skies of blue and white and thunder-grey. And as I look out, and when I remember it later, writing these words, I can taste the green and the rain and the grit and I could eat it up, it’s so good.
On the A1, past the great River Trent, heading for Worksop
At the M1/M18 junction. Great sky, great turbines, nearly missed them..
On the A628, crossing the High Peak, heading for Manchester, nearly at Torside Reservoir
A57, bottleneck at Hollingworth
A different view of Hollingworth
Here we are in Gorton…and it’s raining again
On the A628 over the High Peak again, heading East this time
The open road: brief spell on the M1, heading south.
They are everywhere I look in the garden, the daffodils; gold, primrose and white, tossing their heads in the wind, as they do.
I’ve written more about the leylandii hedge than about the rest of the garden, which is lovely. It is a great treat to have inherited so many flowers: there have been snowdrops, hellebores and primroses, then the daffodils, and tulips on the way. And with the warmer weather, at last, there are all sorts of perennials starting to emerge from patches of dead stalks and bare earth; aquilegia and foxgloves, among my favourite flowers, are appearing in all sorts of unexpected places.
I have a few cut-and-come-again seedlings in the conservatory. They look so fresh and green that I want to eat them now, but they are still only babies. Meanwhile I try not to check the length of the rhubarb coming up outside more than every couple of days. Soon, soon it will be big enough to cut.
Yesterday I potted on all the soft fruit cuttings I took from the bushes at our Manchester allotment (a small act of faith, made long ago, before our move was really on the cards). I am pleased to have something here from that patch of ground that my partner put so much into over seven or eight years.
Today I am going to sow beetroot and carrots. And partner is thinking of putting early potatoes in some messy ground where the polytunnel will go later. Feels very daring to be doing such normal things for the time of year. More acts of faith and commitment to this, our new piece of earth.
Last night when I went to bed the garden was white, under a blanket of snow as unreal as cake icing. I heard rain in the early hours and this morning, no more snow, just an ordinary garden, green again.
Some pictures I took on a walk with partner the other day have come out looking as if taken in black and white; reminders of that beautiful, bleak monochrome world that has disappeared.
If you tap or click on an image, they should come up as a gallery of larger pictures you can scroll through.
Rain stopped yesterday so took my chance to get picture of the garden and some of the village, though rather dark and gloomy. Here is the garden, taken from the house, with big garage/workshop which used once to be a bakery.
Tis the year’s midnight and it is the day’s (John Donne)**
I love this moment in the year; when we journey into the darkness of the longest night and wake to the promise of returning light and new life. The world ends and is reborn.
I love the deadness of the winter garden, its life hidden from us, mysteries waiting to unfold.
It seems a powerful time to be starting a new life in a new home. And amazingly, at last, today the rain has stopped. None too soon for some houses I saw today, with the river Slea running just inches from their doorsteps.
Another mystery – the charger for my iPad has disappeared somewhere in the packing. Will we find another in our nearest town, Sleaford? We’ll make our first foray there the afternoon. If no more posts for a few days, you’ll know our charger mission was unsuccessful.
** from A Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s Day. St Lucy’s Day is the 13th of December, which was once thought to be the shortest day, rather than today, the 21st.
What I said on Tuesday, as we drove away from Manchester, about goodbye rain…
Ha! It’s been raining non-stop since soon after we arrived in Heckington, the village where we are making our new home. Hence no pretty pics of the garden, house, fields etc. Will take some photos when the sun comes out.
We unloaded almost all the boxes into one room, an annexe to the main house, which used to be a shop. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it is terrifying seeing all our stuff piled up in boxes, all in one place. So much too much of it – never get to heaven or through the eye of a needle or whatever with all this in tow…
On the plus side, have found where to walk the dogs, organised daily delivery of Guardian, found even more shops here than I remembered, including hardware/DIY shop and chemist’s, all ranged around the village green. Jolly useful. Tuesday night was rather noisy, being bell-ringing night. Church is just along the street, as is a good butcher’s.
Goodbye to this street. Any minute now we will drive off – removal men gone already.
And goodbye to the alley at the end of the street, and the allotments (not ours) that are like a secret garden on the other side of the alley, and the park a little way on. I love all this pedestrian space just seconds from the house; but I’m heading for more space, more light and air….
Goodbye and thank you, very kind friends, for last minute help.