Friday, 29 November 2013

The coming of winter

These last few days of November are generally regarded as the end of autumn. In these times of weird weather - and despite the usual rash of alarmist predictions - the last few weeks have actually felt entirely autumnal without any real cold, unlike this time last year when winter seemed to be already threatening. Both morning and evenings have felt quietly contemplative, never more so than this week when my morning walks have led me down to the beach at Burnham, just below Gun Hill.  Calm, bare, beautiful - and not a soul to be seen.

There seem to be more geese about this year but maybe it's just that I've been out and about more. Certainly there have been seemingly endless skeins flying over each evening, heading east to the Holkham marshes. I am no expert and not very knowledgeable, but simply through repeated exposure I am starting to recognise some of what I see. As well as the geese and the waders in the creek, there are owls hunting across the marsh at dusk and, on my return, sounds of much owl activity in my neighbour's trees behind the gallery.

A change of air and wind direction can and will in due course change all this overnight but at the moment winter has definitely not yet arrived in our bit of Norfolk

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Always look on the bright side?

A friend from my previous existence contacted me last week. For those who don't know, this was the world of architecture and in the case of this particular friend, landscape architecture. Having first met over 30 years ago in the slightly surreal world of London's Docklands in the period after the ships went and before the bankers arrived, John and I came to work together on a number of landscape led projects and competitions. Perhaps as a result of a shared sense of humour, or at least of the ridiculous, our friendship has endured through arty and design crises, changes of working arrangements and alignments and ultimately my leaving it all behind me.

John continues to practise his skills - his magic with landscape structure and his love and knowledge of plants ensuring that he is still in demand - and his modest and self-deprecating approach to the world. His latest project left me in awe - A Capital Aboretumillustrating the variety of trees, native and introduced, that can be found in Greater London in the early twenty first century. Even if you don't think you're really interested in this kind of thing, do have a look. It is frankly amazing.

John in his turn has subsequently gently taken me to task about my life here in Norfolk - the country lifestyle, the landscapes, the civilised towns, the restaurants, the company of intellectuals and artists as chronicled in these notes. As previously noted I am only too aware of my good fortune. However what I write tends to draw on the good things. Day to day, the realities and occasional horrors of life are here just as everywhere else. Indeed it's not that long ago it seemed that almost everybody I spoke to both locally and further afield was suffering or dealing with problems of age and ill health and it would be all too easy to see only the dark side.

So why not? I think the answer lies not in the privileged beauty of the little bubble I inhabit but actually somewhere back in the reason why John contacted me - our long-standing friendship and as a consequence, seeing an email from someone I confess I can barely remember, but who worked with us both on a design competition over 20 years ago. Now with a family and living in California, Charlotte had contacted John to say that she is still grateful for that opportunity and how much she enjoyed it.

It seems to me that if such a fleeting contact is still remembered and regarded and is sufficiently significant in her life to prompt that email there is every reason not to focus on the darker aspects of life.