I do everything slowly. I walk slowly. I eat my food slowly. I get dressed slowly. As a kid my slowness was a constant source of frustration to my mum. In the morning she would urge me to hurry up so I wouldn’t be late for school. Stop being a snail was a common refrain. I was always the last kid out of the school doors at the end of the day. I guess my mum’s first clue should have been the fact that I was born five days late and even then I had to be delivered by cesarean section because I hadn’t turned around yet.
Wednesday, March 20 – Today was the first day of spring. It didn’t feel like spring when I caught the bus this morning. The bus shelter was laced with ice and I crunched over frozen puddles. As the bus drove past my local park, I looked out over the still-frozen pond, ringed by frost-tinged trees and grass. Just as I had seen them gathering at the start of winter, the pond was busy with geese. They have been honking overhead for days now, heralding the changing season. As the bus turned a corner, I saw a distant tall, glass building glowing pink. I looked behind me and saw the sun rising above the horizon, a sliver of pink.
Bookshops often lump nature writing together with books about gardening and pets and I’ve always balked at this grouping. Gardens and pets belong to the tamed world of humans, nature writing explores the wild beyond the doorstep. Of course, when I reflect on it, I don’t actually think that. But it’s still my immediate reaction. The implication is that books about gardens and pets are somehow lesser, not worthy of mingling with the likes of Richard Mabey and Robert Macfarlane.
I always thought that if I got a pet, I wouldn’t allow it to “taint” my online persona (whatever that is). But I recently adopted a puppy and screw it, I’m going to write a blog post about him.
Goodreads allows you to set a reading challenge for the year, indicating how many books you would like to read that year. Every year since I joined Goodreads in 2013 I have set myself a reading challenge – usually to read 50 books – and every year I’ve failed to reach my goal. In 2015 I apparently realised 50 books was too ambitious and lowered by goal to 30 books, which I also failed to reach!
As a kid my family and I would go out into the countryside – usually the Peak District – on nice weekends to hike and rock climb. I was a pretty fearless kid and I loved climbing. I was pretty good at it to – I had a flexibility I’m envious of now.
I lost interest in rock climbing as a teenager, but I’m finally getting back into it. Now my husband has the bug too and we’ve started going indoor bouldering (there aren’t any rocks in the Netherlands) twice a week.
Recently, a colleague sent me a link to a campaign by BirdLife to save the Spoon-billed sandpiper. The campaign uses the hashtag #SaveSpoonie and there are pictures of cute, fluffy chicks. Whilst I aww-ed at the pictures I also couldn’t help but wonder, are cute animals being saved at the expense of less cuddly, fluffy animals? Is conservation too cute?
My favourite weekend activity is to go for a long walk through the city, admiring Amsterdam’s beautiful architecture, looking in shop windows and, best of all, walking down new streets I’ve never walked down before.
In fact, this kind of wandering is my favourite activity to do anywhere. I’ve travelled a fair bit now, though I’d hesitate to call myself a seasoned traveller, but I’ve travelled enough that I’ve come to feel wary of the things you’re supposed to do when you visit a place.
I was recently listening to an episode of the podcast Happier, my not-so-guilty guilty pleasure. Every week the hosts of the podcast, Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft, offer a “try this at home” and in this particular episode their “try this at home” was to write a manifesto. Gretchen Rubin has written a number of manifestos, including a happiness manifesto, a habits manifesto and a podcast manifesto.
The podcast episode inspired me to look at other manifestos and to start developing my own manifesto.
The week before last I took part in #dearwritersautumn16 – a collective effort to write more and offer encouragement to other writers. It was organised by Éireann Lorsung, a writer and poet who runs MIEL publishing and Dickinson House in Belgium. This summer I had the pleasure of spending a lovely day at Dickinson House, writing and sewing and meeting its furry inhabitants.
My partner and I spent the last two weeks cycling through Europe – specifically, we cycled from Prague to Budapest, via Vienna. Outside my familiar milieu of Amsterdam, work and chores, time seemed to stretch. The two week gap between finishing work and today somehow feels looser, as though time were a straight line that suddenly became a puddle.