Happy Bonfire Night.

Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder treason and plot. Every year in the UK we celebrate the failed explosion of the Houses of Parliament, Guy Fawkes Night. Celebrating with burning bonfires, tall and roaring, warming the cold November night and fireworks that shoot far into the sky, bigger every year, louder ever still. Pets resort to hiding under beds and disappearing from the booms and bangs. An annual event that sees families and friends take to fields and big spaces to stare up at the mid-autumn sky,watching flashes and flares dance tall in the night.

When I was younger, much younger, my family and I would venture out to the local rugby club, to see a display of thirty minutes, joining the community in the yearly event. I remember wearing a big woolly hat with a bobble on the end, gloves that wrapped and snuggled my hands in tight and a big coat, zipped up to the top. We never drove to the rugby club, because there would never be parking spaces. We walked all together anticipating the start time warming up as we went. I remember seeing floods of people towering over me, waddling through the field to get the best view, I was clenching my Mother and Nan’s hands, desperate not to lose them. The smell of the burning bonfire, strong now nostalgic, all merging with fast food of burgers and hotdogs, fried onion and mustard, sweet candy floss and tooth shattering toffee apples. A tradition of candy floss eating became a eagerly awaited treat. I held the stick in my hands, removing my gloves to tear away at the fluffy ball, resulting in sticky hands and sensitive, sweet teeth.

The fireworks would start, of course with a bang, looking up to the sky I could never quite seeing enough, my view was impaired by broad shoulders and tall heads. To my benefit my Grampy lifted me to his shoulders to let me see the horizon, up, up above, seeing more than I could imagine. The fireworks illuminated a flock of faces, gazing happily and occasionally flinching at the strength of the explosions, they were stunning and bigger than little me could comprehend, the colours and the dispersing glitter, made time freeze for half an hour, the candy floss eaters seized and people stopped chattering, only allowing ‘ooh’ and ‘aahh’.

Every year from then on I would stop and watch, with my family, on Grampy’s shoulders, until I became too old and too cool going with friends, a chance to mingle and giggle on the fairground rides. Until I left the tradition and watched a far from my window. Its funny how I remember the 5th of November, fireworks, candy floss and sitting on shoulders.

I hope you have a lovely bonfire night, keep the pets in and wrap up warm, tonight is going to be a cold one.

When it rains, it pours

Today the weather was mild, occasionally wet but nothing too dramatic. Talking about the weather is a common conversation topic in Britain, many call it small talk, a way to break the ice. I like talking about the weather and really, genuinely, find it interesting, to some degrees, Fahrenheit.

I was coming back from work this early evening, tired and zombiefied from staring at a computer for 8 hours when the rain began to pour. It was raining cats and dogs, raindrops fell at a rapid rate hitting the ground with a thud, making ripples in the newly formed puddles, it was such a sudden change in weather I perked up and saw my surroundings shift from normality. The shower was so brief it was as if it wasn’t reality. For those 5 minutes the city turned, changing from the mundanity that comes with routine, into a frantic beautiful mess.

I got off the bus and was immersed, running to my next bus stop, my face was forming drips of their own and my shoes were filling up, soaking my socks. There I was running through the city with a grin on my face, it woke me up from my post-work coma. I observed the alternative rush hour, the spontaneous reactions to the unpredicted weather and the inability to change it, to stop it from happening. The city was full of adrenaline; Pedestrians attempts at remaining dry were in vain the umbrellas didn’t work and hair was getting wet crimping and curling,  no match to the down pour. Cyclists became even more erratic with their faces poking out from their tightened hoods, squinting their eyes as a result of the poor visibility, from the splashing vehicles (Not looking so smug now are you cyclists).

I felt liberated from my rotten routine, my ‘get me home’ blinkers switched off and I saw the world in the present, reacting to this sudden shock of the shower. I’m never one to run through the city but I found myself jumping over puddles, dashing for the crossing, smiling and laughing to myself at this 5 minute down pour, and how it changed my expectations of the day.

And that’s why I like talking about the weather, so how was your day? What was the weather like where you were today? The forecast here said showers likely, I’d say.

A Winter Postcard

This week has been very busy, I have officially become a Graduate and it was a beautiful day. An experience I will never forget, a wholesome and gracious day of thanks to friends and family who have become a sturdy support system over the past three years and beyond.

I was returning to my university town from a different perspective, one of knowingly not returning for a while, one where I wouldn’t be a habitant or a temporary resident. Falmouth in Cornwall became my home for the majority of the year during my studies, I had an alternating relationship with my university town. I would start my first semester in Autumn and slowly as the days were growing shorter and the winds off the shore were quickening, it became cold and dark and constricted what we could do with our time after college. It was a lonely time for the town. Daphne Du Maurier writes about Cornwall and the harsh winters in many of her books,In Jamacia Inn her description of the Bodmin moors and their destructive winters poigniantly portray the realities that the season brings with it and you can’t help but feel isolated and cold.

Falmouth was hit hard by its winters. The number of tourists rapidly decreased as the distant location meant that the flow of tourists didn’t make their way down to Falmouth peninsula. It was noticeable, the winds were damaging in more ways than one, their economy must have taken a hit, apart from the influx of students keeping it a float I wonder how small tourist towns can survive and whether locally, the town find these quiet months intolerable or whether they find solace in the hushed atmosphere of their home town, a time for the town to relax as it waits in apprehension for the summer foreigner. I found that I was seasonally affected by the winter, my friends and I were confined to our houses, not a lot of activities were orientated around the cold except an expensive cinema showing older releases and lots of restaurants and bars which required pennies in our pockets. There is plenty of land to be discovered and shore lines to admire but in these winter months it is a struggle to find anything that will amuse and keep you warm.

As the clocks are adjusted forward and the sun begins to heat the coasts, spring arrives and moves swiftly to summer.  The image of the sea side town becomes more desirable and I blessed my inhabitance  in Cornwall. Summer offers so much in comparison to Winter. It literally transforms in every aspect, regular markets bringing in food locally sourced and seasonally selected, tourists flock in abundance and make walking through the narrow  streets a struggle, certain shops re-opens and the sea becomes a bright, bright blue. A postcard vision.

I was never a tourist to Falmouth, I knew it to well, I had seen the worst side of it and had been lucky enough to see it at its best. To a tourist it has to be one of the most idyllic scenes in Britain. Sometimes I wonder if I had only seen Falmouth as a tourist, if my perception of it would be greater. But having lived there it has more depth, I understand its personality as it changes with the seasons. My closest example where I felt that perhaps I was seeing my town from the tourist point of view was during graduation. I was only there for two days so I lapped up the mini holiday and relished in the views of the beautiful Cornish coasts. I was staying in luxury compared to my previous student accommodation and drinking champagne in celebration so it’s no wonder why I found the whole town incredibly appreciated. I was grateful to see my town this way, I remembered the tough winters and the emptiness, I empathised with sea-side towns hibernating for winters to be contrasted with business and over whelming summer numbers. From seeing this perspective it made me wonder about my relationship to place. Does familiarity hinder what we see? Is it reducing our interpretation of place and space? If we could put on the tourist gaze would we, or is it better to see the good times and bad times, so we as inhabitants can build relationships rather than a passing impression?

Winter looms.

The beginnings of Summer