I’ve always lived in cities. Even after weeks of living in a village that we’ve been visiting for years, there is the dislocation, the welcome strangeness of being on holiday. There is a sense of unreality as we drive around familiar lanes. As always, the place feels just out of reach, and not ours. But we are here to look closer this time, to try and embrace it; to find out if the deep sense of peace we feel is real, a part of an actual life here.
“The fear which prevents us from being ourselves… from coming to life… may mean nothing greater than the fear of giving up the image of a certain job, an image of a certain kind of family life.”
Christopher Alexander, ‘The Timeless Way of Building’
But there are so many images, so many versions of Life lived in the mind; which to choose? Which one of these imagined, dreamed-for lives will be right and true?
The beach at Coverack. I grew up by a very different sea, a beach where the sun came up warm in the early mornings then burned down fiercely after just a few hours, driving us away, back to the shelter of home.
The wintery Cornish sea is gentle, at ease under clouds, and a miraculous tropical turquoise blue when seen from above. Among the rocks are hidden colours.
I am as happy by this sea as my first sea. I used to walk on the beach in Colombo with my grandmother on school-holiday mornings, wading through waves, talking together, planning our day. She would draw in the sand with a stick, elephants mostly, once a tiger, and houses just as at home she drew the embroidery patterns she designed. We would stand in the shade of the coconut trees as my grandfather jogged to the far end of the beach, turning back where rocks spilled across, blocking his way. He’d be greeting his old buddies from the Kinross Swimming Club jogging past, or stretching stiffly, or did headstands in the sand.
That old beach is altered now, eroded where we used to walk, the people long gone, as has the innocence of those times. But as I walk with my chattering daughter in these different waves, and gulls – not crows – shriek at us, I am as happy by this new sea, as familiar with its sighs and restlessness, drawn to the newness of each ripple and wave.
The car is packed with books, wellies, fleeces, toys, watercolours, kitchen knives, notebooks, Muji pens, laptops, candles, the manuscript of a novel. We’re going to Cornwall. We’re looking for time: for ourselves, for each other, to work and be inspired. To find the life we imagined for ourselves and our daughter.
Why do places have to grow so much more beautiful when you’re leaving them behind?
A last Christmas in our flat. For us and the Doll’s House Family.
Goodbye to our park, Queens Park, NW6:
And goodbye (for now) to the wonderful Puppet Barge, Little Venice after one last performance: