For years, glowing, effervescent Sally has been writing “Wonderful Wednesday” posts of gratitude, listing her happy moments in a given week. Her writing absolutely sparkles and immediately makes me want to immediately hop on my two-wheeler and drink all the Lady Grey. I have meant to join for a good few months, entranced by Sally’s ability to capture her recent past with such style and wit, and believing it a lovely way to count one’s blessings and catch up with you readers here too. So here I am! Bright spots by another name, if you will. Do yourselves a favour and pay a visit to Sally’s glorious internet home too. It’s a good’un. (And if you’d like to join in, leave us a link in the comments!)
1. Our veg patch! My transformation into a 68-year-old man is now complete. I have an allotment and talk happily about ‘trips to the lotty’, weed suppressant fabric and well-rotted manure. Joking aside, renting an allotment has been one of the most joyful events of my year (/life?!) and continues to be a balm for both body and soul. After a day folded behind a computer, myopic pupils ever-lengthening, cycling there as the heat of the day fades and the sun dips towards the horizon is a welcome relief. The runner beans are shooting upwards like skyscrapers in a booming city and our strawberry inheritance has already offered up an embarrassment of riches.
2. Sourdough crumpets. Living in 2018 has its challenges, but oh what a time to be alive. Achingly middle-class, absolutely, but also oh-so-delicious toasted with a big spoonful of red onion marmalade and a shaving of extra mature Cheddar cheese.
3. Swimming outdoors! Our move to this small town coincided, serendipitously, with the reopening of its outdoor lido, right beside the Thames. I took my first trip there early yesterday morning before settling down to work, and oh, what a treat before work during this week’s heatwave. I chatted to old ladies and eavesdropped on a pair of young German women swimming lengths (hoping against hope I might become their friend) and then sat and read my book on the grass. It was sublime.
4. Uprooting to a small town has granted me the opportunity to ride my bike more than I have in years and it is such a joy. It reminds me of living in Germany, freewheeling down cobbled streets, and there’s a true, bone-tired satisfaction to lugging your shopping totes home on two wheels with just the help of your two little legs.
5. Eating dinner outdoors on the same rusting, mint-coloured bistro set that sat on the postage stamp of land beyond our garden flat in west London. Layer upon layer of memories, accumulating as the seasons pass, and here we are – somehow; already – in our third summer together.
6. White cotton dresses, floppy straw hats, buttery leather sandals worn in by the sea. Etiolated denim cut-offs, light linen trousers, airy white cotton blouses. I wither like a flower in the heat but do enjoy summer dressing oh-so-very-much.
7. Living here, in the semi-countryside, where nature is close enough to touch, where the entire town gulps gleeful breaths of elderflower-scented air for the whole month of May, where butterflies surf the breeze, and plants reach twice the size they did in London… I have never lived outside a city before, it is entirely new, and I think I might like it.
8. About that elderflower… We cracked open this year’s homemade cordial this week and it’s just the thing during this sweltering week, topped up with sparkling water, torn mint leaves and a generous handful of frozen raspberries.
9. Being freelance. I’ve never been more grateful to work from home than this week, temperatures soaring, when my schedule can be reconfigured to include morning swims and bike rides in the sun and lunch in a shady spot on the grass. It feels particularly lovely because I spent last week stuffed into a sweltering city office, and by the end of the week I felt as if I was as crumpled as a piece of paper a schoolboy had tried to fold into itself seven times. Crumpled, not myself. So to be back at my desk with red kites swooping beyond the window, the kettle whistling, emails pinging, is something I’m feeling especially grateful for.
10. Saturday’s anti-Brexit march down Pall Mall. I am so sad, so very sad, about this country’s plans to leave the European Union. Even now. Two years on. I don’t begrudge those who voted for it in good faith, this country has its problems – problems that will take decades to solve – and the lure of a quick fix, the assertions of a rotten press, can be persuasive. I can see that. I still believe it’s the wrong choice, though. I still believe the vote was unfair. I still believe important issues, indeed irreversible decisions, should not be made by public and non-binding referenda. So on Saturday I marched which, it turns out, is much more encouraging than being an armchair revolutionary. It was heartening to be surrounded by over 100,000 people from across the country, united by the same common goal. The signs were fabulous, the people even more so, and I left feeling buoyed and not quite so alone in my enthusiasm for Europe.