Time and Time and Time and Time

Time is a funny thing. Bits of it move far, far too fast, and great long swathes of it are mudthick and sloooow and exhausting. At half seven this evening I was itching for it to be evening and dark so I could get to bed because I’m so completely knackered, but now it’s approaching ten and I’m not sure where the last three hours went, but I was going to be sleeping by now. Some of the time was spent fighting irritably with washing that didn’t want to be the shape it was when it went in the machine and I think quite a lot of it was spent scouring my painfully disorganised bookshelves for Victoria Coren’s memoir (For Richer, For Poorer – it’s brilliant, even though I really have never understood poker at all) in the hope of reading a few celebratory chapters before succumbing to glorious sleep. None of it was spent hoovering, which was my major goal for the evening.

It’s been an odd couple of weeks, which have cleverly encapsulated just about every feeling I’ve ever had about anything and anyone, save the very best and very worst, but certainly all the ones in between, relating to just about every different area there is in my life. This in itself is exhausting, but combine that with all the lengthy working hours and a few early mornings that were, even for me, an avid fan of the early morning, just too damn early, and you have a fairly frazzled me. Sometimes, frazzled is a good look for me. There’s a lot less overthinking going on in my brain, and I tend to smile more and get more done. But I also am not always completely there. That might be a good thing. The main point is, it’s quite confusing at the end of the day, indeed, the week, because it’s hard to understand what was when and where and why and how, and to even start to remember all the things I was meaning to do.

I’m not a brilliant list person. Shopping lists, sure. To-do lists? The trouble is, I make a to-do list, and it takes so much effort and attention that I find myself feeling that, in the very act of writing it down, I have actually done the thing. It’s not very clever. One of the things on my list for a long time was to update this blog, and indeed to update all my other blogs. I’ve managed a couple, but the important businessy ones have been neglected. At this point I’ve also realised that the cup of tea I meant to make about two hours ago when I was first going to write this blog never made it out of the kettle and into the cup. Clearly, it’s sleeping time.

Mostly, this is a placeholder from a very happy, very confused, very allthefeelings me. Still here, doing stuff, eating coconut oil from the jar and trying to jedi mind trick the tea out of the kettle, into the cup, and onto my bedside table. *concentrates*

 

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Now on BBC Radio 4 it’s Time For…The Archers!

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Celebrating this marvellously sunny weekend by sitting on the settee listening to <em>The Archers</em>. Nothing like Sundays with Ambridge. I’ve listened to <em>The Archers</em> all my life, and somewhere around the age of 8 I realised that this wasn’t quite usual, when I tried to discuss something about whatever Jennifer was up to with a schoolmate and realised that no-one knew a) who Jennifer was, b) what the show was, or, really, c) what Radio 4 was. So that was that, and thus began a long and delightful relationship with squirreling away the show for listening to at the right time.

I used to play badminton from 9am-11:30 on Sundays, so I’d always miss it live. My mum would tape it for me, and, right until I left home when I was 18 (the week Elizabeth had Freddie and Lily, as I recall), I’d bike down to the Thames and sit on the edge of the towpath watching the water, and concentrating hard on that hour, and then hour and fifteen minutes, of fictional life far away from London.

If I think about where I was in my life at almost any point, I can probably tell you what was happening in <em>The Archers</em> at the corresponding time. My difficult second year at uni was accompanied by Jazzer’s ketamine phase and Brian and Siobhan’s messy affair. I used to listen to the show on tape then too – I’d tape it myself with the volume down so I could listen to it in the dark in our odd kitchen when my housemates were out, with a glass (bottle) of wine and my bodyweight in value pasta. Ah, student times.

I remember when I was doing my GCSEs, and Will and Ed had one of their first properly epic fights. I should’ve been revising for history, but, eh, I needed the break, and it was a beautiful summer evening, and when I turned up for the exam on Monday morning it flew by easily – I got an A, and frankly no hour of staring at scrawled felt-tip notes would’ve given me the distraction and brainspace of a trip to Ambridge.

It’s much mocked, and maligned, even by people who love it. Every couple of months my mum complains that it’s not about farming any more, and then I hear them discussing milking rotations and expansion and crop prices and all sorts, and think to myself about how this too is part of the cycle. People say it’s too sad, or too dark sometimes, but there’s always Linda Snell organising a panto, or Kenton and his weird fete initiatives, or Eddie making money in a new and devious way, and certainly it’s never been as grim or annoying as <em>EastEnders</em>.

The reality of running businesses, of living in a small village, of having a family, being in a family, it’s all perfectly present and interesting, and given that I don’t live in a small village and only have a very small family and have never owned any cows, lonely or otherwise, it’s all of interest, always.

Probably the only time I’ve really struggled is when I was halfway through driving across Denmark, something I’d been quite nervous about doing, and I’d put it on for a bit of comfort in the car. Sid only went and expired of a heart attack – not long after my dad had, fortunately, survived one. It was pretty distressing – well-handled and all, but about the only time I’ve really wanted to turn the show off because it was juuuust too close to home. Oh, except for during the infinite saga with Lillian and Matt’s brother. I didn’t love that. It went on, and on. And on. But if those are all my complaints in a lifetime of listening, it’s not so bad!

The writing is, as far as I’m concerned, brilliant as well. I rarely find it grates, and the composition is amazing. Stories burn for months before catching fire, and characters are set up for the long haul and really integrated into the village perfectly. Yes, there’s always more that could be done, but for me, that’s the joy of the show – it’s been running practically sixty years, and they’ve got so much more to give. I love that.

I don’t watch (or, indeed, listen) to many soaps – really just this and <em>Neighbours</em> (which should really get its own post sometime) but there’s really not much that’s as safe and constant in quality, content and character as <em>The Archers</em> and, now I’m in my thirties, and find that many of my friends keep up with the show just as much as I do, I’m confident that it’ll always be there, just like it ought to be.

It’s the main reason, too, I’m glad for podcasts. The show magically appears right after broadcast, so that even here, in Stockholm, I can sit back with a glass (just a glass now XD) of wine and feel right at home. I’ve run half-marathons and flown all over the place whilst listening, but a bit of me will always feel like I’m just there, by the river, and everything is just as it should be.

Plus, now, there’s <em>Ambridge Extra</em>, with the most random, curiously chosen storylines, just right for listening to at breakfast or whilst running a quick errand. Not sure they’ll ever top Harry’s surprise!ex-boyfriend for a storyline, but I’d never turn down more show.

Now, I am rather concerned about Helen. Of all the characters, her storylines have brought me to tears more than most…could she not make some good decisions and be happy sometime, please?

 

 

Home. There’s no place like it, y’know.

This afternoon, I was lying on my back under a tree in Richmond Park, watching absolutely no clouds cross the sky, thinking how when you dig your heels into mud elsewhere in the world, it’s nothing like the mud in Richmond Park, or down by Canbury Gardens, or in the rec I learnt to kick a football and ride a bike in. Mud’s a wonderfully specific substance, and if you grew up as poorly-travelled as I did, you can get really rather sentimental about the stuff.

There are so many things I thought were just the way things were, but now, coming back having lived in other cities, and occasionally other countries, I realise that, no, that’s just how they are at home. Like the trees in Richmond Park. There are old oak trees with branches coming off them every which way, starting almost at the base of the trunk and spidering out most strangely. When I drew trees as a child, they were usually weblike and wonky (and, after the Great Hurricane of 1987, often horizontal), and it isn’t until now that I put the fact that Richmond Park was a source of firewood for many a palace and royal estate together with the way the branches of these trees have regrown that I understand that that’s not normal, that’s home.

The way you could tell the time, or the day, by the flight path planes were using from Heathrow. The way that, at two minutes past eleven, we’d all fall silent as Concorde roared its way overhead, because you couldn’t hear anything, so we’d just listen, and occasionally wonder who might be jetting over our heads, high-speed to NYC surrounded by champagne, as we waited to find out what we were going to be doing in English that morning. We reminisced about Concorde for a worryingly long time, actually.

The way that people sit together in rows, facing the river, because that’s just how you ought to do it. How you can’t really play football on a towpath so you have a picnic instead; even if you’re sharing a Mars bar, it’s a picnic, damnit, because you’re sitting In Nature and an insect might go on you.

So many things. So many memories. So many changes, and then at the same time, so few. The weird thing about having grown up in this specific area is how outwardly positive so many of the changes are. The playgrounds are notably freer of both needles and junkies. There are reasonably-well designated paths for bikes and walking and horses. There are incredible volunteers who keep places working, and can tell you stories of times I thought everyone might have forgotten, save my one remaining grandparent. Litter is infinitely, infinitely less. There are signposts that haven’t been stolen, rendered illegible, or humorously swivelled into uselessness. There are families and couples and old people and young people all over the place, using the parks and towpaths and the river for all the things you should use them for.

Then there are the things that haven’t changed in a hundred years. Views. There are protected views. Both wonderful and ludicrous. There are water fountains that I used when I had to climb halfway up a wall just to be able to reach them. At least five monarchs hunted on this land, and the deer are still there, only no-one eats them. The river still runs, and it’s still full of enough stuff that you can play ‘live thing, dead thing or misc.’ quite effectively. Kids still play poohsticks. In every sunny-day riverside gathering, there’s still some bastard strumming not-quite-chords and trying to look soulful whilst his mates try and pretend he’s not with them.

There are so many miserable things about the UK, and about London, and about Kingston-upon-Thames, but I hear about them all the time from my parents, so it was a glorious, joyous thing to be able to go home and see the best bits of my childhood, from mud to skyline to people having fun by the water, and to know that plenty more kids are at least getting those best bits too.

I’m so ready to move back home. For better or worse, it’s been too long.