28 November 2014

nocturne

District Line train going east at Three Mills
We have a small history of outings in the dark. The moon has been a spur, like the time we grabbed our toddler son in his PJs and a blanket and drove away eastwards to see a full harvest moon over Hadleigh Castle only to have to abandon a broken down car and take the train home like a family of raggle taggles. This time it was a mist  that drew us out . Nothing too spectacular, but enough to envelop and muffle and make you imagine that you're much further away from the Blackwall Tunnel Approach road than you are.

Three Mills at night
Somehow it wouldn't be too surprising if a ghost-horse-drawn something or other rolled over the cobbles.


Round the corner, the canal goes south towards the A11, the Olympic Park and the lights of the new builds.


You can just about see the shadows of construction site cranes topped by the red warning light. The mist somehow transforms the space into something mysterious and subsdued after the clanging daytime hubbub.


Climb up the ramp off the canal and turn right and you're back in the real world. A giant supermarket, a car park, late night shopping.

We wondered whether that might be magically transformed by the mist too. It wasn't, so perhaps we can just pretend for a moment or two that it wasn't there.

23 November 2014

the house of good intentions



In the house of good intentions mirrors lean against walls waiting to be painted and given a permanent home. A collection of window blinds is propped against a dresser while naked bodies flit swiftly in the half-light lest passers-by should look up rather than down at the uneven pavements. Receipts are carelessly bundled in bulldog clips waiting for monies to be claimed for the not inconsiderable expenses incurred providing tens, possibly scores, of cakes to cake stalls. Elsewhere, a canvas laundry bag lies collapsed in its stand as it overflows with clothes awaiting minor adjustments - a zip here, a hem there, a tweaking of princess seams, a toe to be darned. 

In the house of good intentions odd buttons collect in saucers and candle holders waiting to be sewn on to dresses and shirts. Dress patterns are tucked into cloth bags waiting to be laid out on the table once it is cleared of unread sections of the weekend newspapers or the long read. Unaired shirts are strewn over wooden frames until, too late, they become bone dry and too creased to smooth easily. Inside cupboards, balls of wool are tucked into ziplock bags for so long that the plans that prompted their purchase are entirely mislaid or forgotten. 




In the house of good intentions, unused seeds are poked into a tin at the bottom of the kitchen dresser until they are sorted in the spring when someone suddenly realises that it's warm enough to sow squashes or whatever.  On the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard, just above the section of cookery books that are used once or twice a year, a pile of yellowing clippings is poked inside a scrap book waiting to be sorted and glued while the kitchen range houses a stack of limp giveaway magazines awaiting their turn for the chop.

In the house of good intentions, flip chart paper is rolled and labelled, and booklets and pens tumble out of scrappy cardboard boxes until the imminent arrival of the school holidays signals the end of another round of entirely satisfying but tiring and time consuming volunteering. Someone drops hints about the hand-sewn Grayson Perry handkerchief he's still waiting for, and another wonders whether a pair of trousers can be mended.

While all this was going on, things were rather different outside the house of good intentions. Summer lingered on and on until the leaves finally started dropping from exhaustion after lighting up the streets and parks and fields night and day. Snails multiplied and got fat on brassicas in the balmy afternoons, the ivy flowers enticed bees in the sunshine, and exhausted blackbirds and robins sang confusedly. Nearly a million poppies appeared at the Tower and a woodcock (! yes, in Mile End) waited lazily in the road as I came home from seeing them at dawn. 



Constable's clouds fed an obsession with the sky, Mr Turner made me long for more and light and marshes and sea. Good intentions sent me off at dawn to walk through the streets, the park, along the canal, before breakfast. I discovered solitary men tucked away in quiet corners, packing away their space blankets into rucksacks, a woman in a remote and misty corner of the park standing along and singing aloud until she'd got it right, then walking off briskly.  I was captivated by the morning light from the Green Bridge, turned round, tripped into a hole and hobbled home with a sprained ankle. 

There she goes
We went to Sweden and found huge skies alive with red kites and buzzards, tidy plains and houses, a lazy sea. Back home, we bought apples and pears at Brogdale's Apple Day, then more and more again, stored potatoes of all shapes and colours, relished beetroot soup and sourdough. 




We watched the re-shaping of Wallasea Island being raised with Crossrail-excavated London clay, sand and gravel, brought by ship and by Hell Drivers across the land . And we discovered Oare Marshes, then Rye Harbour. 

Rye Harbour at dusk
We walked and walked while the weather was on our side and once the clocks turned back and the nights drew in we took advantage of good coffee and films at our local indie cinema, a good book, a good talk, inspiring learning opportunities. 

Back at the house of good intentions, the dust has shifted, the fire is laid, the list of good intentions has been mentally audited; some have been laid to rest. New good intentions are creeping in: today I'm thinking of a woolen plaid something after seeing The Homesman. And a blog post has at long last been written (with special thanks to Denise for her very kind prompt: yes, busy in a good way.)