The first week of any year always plays havoc with one’s sense of time, and normality. It’s helped that this year most of us went back to work on the 2nd, thereby ensuring the engine got started sooner after the new year break than usual. Even so, there’s still some amount of that engine ticking over reluctantly until the first full week back at it.
This week was met with a winter storm that blew over a fair few trees and knocked a few roof tiles loose. At work this meant a number of calls about trees, though mercifully few that we were responsible for. And no injuries or even big upheavals as far as I can tell.
The worst we had was a large Beech which blew into one of our allotments – it’s strange how dignified a tree remains even at 90° to its usual position. This one in particular, its multi-stemmed, mutated trunk aside, maintained a spidery, intricate grace, the vast scale of which was more easily grasped at close quarters than at its usual lofty height.
The re-worked flowerbeds at Sunshine Corner look nice and sharp. Bare, of course, but neatly marked out with metal edging and good compost. The new beds have been turned, like the Beech tree, by 90°. The darker bed in the photograph above is the new one.
No plants are visible yet as they were delivered to us in their winter slumber. It’s alarming how thousands of pounds of plants can turn up looking for all the world like little plastic pots with nothing but soil and a twig sticking out of it.
There are murmurings that this is perhaps not the right treatment for Sunshine Corner’s unique position at the boundary between town and country; that the original vision of this division calls for a softer transition. More appropriate, some say, would be a hierarchy leading from the wildness of Hampstead Heath(!) along Heathgate to the crown atop the Suburb: Lutyens’ formal Central Square.
But nothing is permanent – not least in landscaping. It’s an experiment, just like the meadow planting was an experiment that we gave a few years to prove itself before moving onto this new scheme.
There’s nothing that makes you look with some bewilderment at a long list of unlistened-to podcast episodes like a week or two away from the usual routine of hoovering them up daily. Some pruning to be done there, I think.
I did my best to soften the return to work by taking Megan and I to the theatre on Tuesday night – the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. The play was Daisy Pulls It Off, a very jolly-hockey-sticks, 1920s tale of a girl who wins a scholarship to a posh boarding school, and the clash of personalities that ensues.
It’s all done for laughs, and the theatre itself is very intimate, so the winks and nudges are seen and felt at very close quarters. The actors almost burst with enthusiasm and made very effective use of the deliberately sparse set.
We loved it.
I’ve read with satisfaction some friends’ round-ups of 2017. Being pals of mine, they generally contain a healthy mixture of optimism, self-reflection, modest ambition, and gratitude. I’m in two minds whether to attempt one, but reading those of others has at least meant ten minutes spent listing a few highlights of my own – and more than just a few, which was very pleasing.
Along with some of these year-end round-ups has been some friends making plans for the year ahead, including – again – a mixture of the ambitious and the modest. And – again – it’s put a few ideas into my head as well.
Relatedly, I remain forever grateful that I still have blogs to follow via RSS* – some written by people I know, some not. Always inspiring and interesting though. Email newsletters are good, too. But, like podcasts, it can feel bad to fall behind.
* For a while I had been trying out Inoreader but I’ve just gone back to Feedly for some reason. It’s surprisingly easy to switch between the two, but then that’s the beauty of an open standard(?) like RSS, OPML and the like.
Today, to walk off some of the week’s enthusiastic cooking sessions, we capped the week off with a nice long walk on Hampstead Heath – together with about a million other people (and their dogs). The Heath is too hard to resist on cold, crisp days such as this. We even stumbled into the Dairy, by Kenwood, which it turns out is open every first Sunday of the month.
Inside, we found an immaculately restored tearoom, opposite an immaculately restored dairy room, complete with marble basins. The Dairy is very well designed, being built atop an ice house to keep the whole place cool into the summer months (ice would have been brought up from the pond at the bottom of the lawn), and a fountain in the centre for fresh water (making use of one of the many springs that rise up all over the Heath).
It was the perfect Sunday afternoon for a wander on the Heath. We refuelled at Carluccio’s before walking down the hill back to West Hampstead.
Finally, I have one or two new extra-curricular projects on the cards, including a new website for a literary society. I’ve done routine web admin for the Katherine Mansfield Society for a number of years and enjoy the two itches it scratches for me. I’m very flattered that it’s led to me being offered other, similar roles.