A lyric from one of my favourite songs ever.
I had such a crush on Ian McCulloch and his debut solo album Candleland is just amazing. As is the album this is taken from. I love a man with back-combed hair, it is true.
Anyway… Spring has sprung. It’s maybe a little later than last year, since this time last year, my ornamental plum had flowers on March 1st and yesterday it had its first flowers of 2012 and that’s one of the beauties of having a diary or a blog is seeing what you were up to this time last year. I notice my flower garden did not do so well – combination of repeated trips to the UK in May and then again in July – and because it was so dry. Also, I tried a few packets of seeds, but they were very old and came to nothing.
One of the things I love very much about this life is the renewed life that spring gives you. I just didn’t feel it the same in the UK – mainly because there are still arctic breezes that cut through and stick a knife right in your ribs. Yesterday, I got in the car and it said this:
I thought as I drove to my afternoon appointments that all the winter cold is forgiven just for one day like this. I can live with it knowing that the landscape goes from one under snow to one bursting with life in a month. And it is true, winter did give me a time of rest, hibernation and a time to earn a little money indoors.
This is what I came here looking for… proper spring, wide-open countryside, empty roads, greens and blues. You can see why I don’t miss the traffic and the M60 and the M61 and the traffic lights through Bolton and the sitting and the waiting for four turns of the lights to actually move up far enough to get through to the next bit. I miss many, many things about the UK, not least that Bolton feels like home and when I need to retreat, this place still feels like somewhere I’m visiting rather than somewhere I know like the back of my hand.
I think that’s partly to do with the fact that in England, by and large, most of my routes involved six or seven main ways to get there. Even when I worked in Clitheroe and had to drive 30 miles from my house to work across some beautiful landscapes, mostly it was fairly bleak – though I always loved the drive across from Preston to Clitheroe – which is a straight, fast road (not unlike the ones we have here) that slipped through Pendle Vale in the shadow of Longridge Fell and then Pendle Hill. On a good day, you can see all the way up to the Lake District – and yes, I would have loved to have lived in the Lake District and maybe one day I will be able to buy a house in the Lake District – one day when I am a millionaire. One of my great aunts and her husband had a house in the Lake District – I still remember that house. It was amazing. They live outside Penrith now, and I love it up there too, but it’s not the same as having a house in the shadow of a huge hill.
So yes, I miss this. I miss those days when we had training up in Cumbria and I had an overnight stay in Grange-over-Sands or Ullswater. I miss our training days in Ambleside. When I was an English teaching consultant, we often had our meetings up around the lakes. My very first one, fresh out of teaching in Clitheroe, was in Grange. It was May – our meeting started at 10:00 and having been used to setting off at 6:50 to make it to school for 7:30, then teaching all day before rolling in back at my house around 6:30, after all the traffic had gone – it was a complete shock to the system. My predecessor, Mary, who had moved to be an English consultant in another county and was thus at the meeting, had been for a run before the meeting. Two ladies sat drinking tea and reading the paper. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Whilst I think it’s true that you are probably only appreciated in paid employment for about six months (the time it takes for your bosses to grow accustomed to your efficiency and talent and then just to expect it, before, finally, getting frustrated if you do anything remotely human and non-robotic) I think maybe the same is true of jobs. I did work too hard at that job and invested far too much in it. Maybe I should have been a little lazier and enjoyed it a little more? That morning, I’d set off at 7:00 from Bolton to drive up – most people stayed over the night before. I ate in a Little Chef and they had breakfast in the restaurant. I was far too decent to take £15 for a breakfast from the tax payer. More fool me. I still am like that. There are some people in life from whom the tax man makes money just to support those others. I guess that was me.
So there were times I enjoyed my drive to work. There were times my offices were conducive to creativity. For the rest of those times, I had an office at the end of a dark corridor, or in a musty old building, or an office in an under-stairs cupboard formerly used for cleaning materials. Now I always stop to make sure I appreciate what’s around me – and even in the winter, I have the privilege of always finding beauty around me. I could have stopped in fifty places yesterday just for a little look about and to snap a photograph. Perhaps I should.