One of the pots had fallen down in the garden, the young pine tree lying on the grass. I went out in the morning, picked up the scattered shale and rock from the grass, grass wet with early rain. Righted the pot, the pine, put the shale and stones back in place.
It rained a lot yesterday. The woods will be muddy.
It rained a fair bit in London too, the day before I unexpectedly left. Me and Leo had gone for a walk up to Tesco to buy some supplies, stopped off at Starbucks and paid more for two coffees than we had for our lunch. Rained on the way in, rained on the way back, splashing into the quayside. My feet were just beginning to get damp when we got back to the flat, I took off my trainers and saw the gray smear of the city on them, felt gritty against my hands.
Like I’ve said, I like London to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. A ten year visit is about enough for me, I think. Coming back up North, unexpectedly, was no great worry. In some ways, it was a relief. The city, rushing and loud, pressing and present, was no good for my mental health. I might be doing OK now but I know I need time and space to regroup. Time and space, precious commodities sorely lacking in London.
So when I arrived into a chilly, silent street at 2am, cold sky and cold stars above, I unlocked the door and unpacked the van, and fell asleep happy. I’d seen the pine blown down in the garden as I stepped out of the van; it could wait until morning.
Mum used to be driven to distraction by us traipsing mud in, me and brother #2. He’d got for walks in the woods, and once he’d left home and I’d hit my teens I used to, too. Traipse mud into the porch, bring it into the living room; shoes caked in the clay. I did try to get it off, clapping my trainers together the way we used to clap our football shoes together after PE. Christ I hated PE. Team sports, you see?
Let me alone and let me walk in my woods.
I used to walk there often. Once, kept late by a psychologist at school, I walked home, arrived to a puzzlingly empty house. It was shortly after my first – I don’t know what – breakdown? Mental collapse? Dad came home in an hour, frantic. I’d been missing for hours, walking slow through snowy woods. It was the only time I’ve ever seen him truly, frantically afraid; so terfully relieved.
So I walked there often. Plugged into my walkman and listening to The Smiths (of course I listened to The Smiths, what did you expect?). After school, thick light, setting sun. I used to walk there weekends; baking summers, rustling autumns. Off the path in winter, get stuck and torn, in brambles and weeds, in mud.
Even when London is slow, it’s a clean, efficient slow; sleek lines and glass and foliage tastefully arranged in the corner. The soil is full of broken brick and grit and the only mud is grime. I like London to visit, but I could never put down roots.
These past few months have been stormy, me knocked down and scattered. I need to regroup. I knew I loved rain and I knew I missed mud, but until I got back here I never realised how much I needed them both.