It’s often these days that I have a weekend to fill…a weekend to spend almost at my leisure. Yes there’s the cooking, the cleaning, the getting ready for the day, but then there are hours… vast hours I don’t want to whittle away scrolling through my social networks reaching out for the hope of some ever elusive satisfaction.
Last weekend, I got out the house. I spent three hours just walking. Walking down main roads, down cul-de-sacs, through parks and down cobbled streets. I sat briefly in a cafe, pausing to people-watch and reheat with a smooth dark coffee.
My winter boots made their annual début and crunched on the dusting of snow and ice that covered everything with a centimetre of pure white. I indulged in the temptation to collect it from the walls I passed, sporadically, squeezing it into balls in my palms. Perfect snow for snowballs. I watched kids compact the crystals in their gloved hands and pelt each other, and the floor, in equal measure. I watched dogs dance as they walked, avoiding the cold penetrating their paws. I watched trees sway in the cold wind and I watched couples pushing prams and joggers pound the pavements, red-cheeked and nosed and seemingly slower than usual.
Snow tends to slow the world down. It’s special. Covering everything in a blanket; hiding the sludge in the gutter and the weeds overpopulating the otherwise pristine gardens. Abandoned because it’s not been the right weather. People tend to drive slower. To walk slower. To be careful; thoughtful.
I explored the suburbs where I live almost nostalgically. Knowing soon, this wouldn’t be my physical home any more, but knowing that it has made that much of an impact, I’ll probably always consider it somewhat so. In the same way I consider our first flat in Birmingham, hoisted above a computer repair shop, with wonky floors, creaking floorboards and upturned lino edges, our first real home together; I consider this suburb, our first real … suburb. The staff at the nearby Tesco know our faces, the organic and natural store couple wish us well when we depart with oats, soy milk, nuts and seeds. There’s a new cafe, and a renovated cinema at the end of the road. The Peak District is within close grasp. It’s lovely here.
As I walked to the nearest suburb, I contemplated all the houses; all the flats. I wonder what each resident is doing, what they feel when they wake; what they feel when they go to bed. I wonder if they travelled. I wonder if they wanted to. I walk past gardens and I wonder if I will one day own a garden. I dream of the land we buy when we return from our trip and make our savings. I dream of our own custom house – small. Cabinesque…natural…eco-friendly. I dream.
I wander through a park where I read the dedications enscripted on park benches. “Take a moment, like our Grandmother June would’ve.” Followed by a date. I work out the ages. I’m impressed that a man born in the mid 1800s lived to his 90s. I feel sad to see ages I work out to be in their 50s, 60s. Lives too short.
I take pictures. I inhale deeply. I look around and I appreciate as much as I can. It’s a wonderful world when there’s no newsfeed and a crisp layer of snow coats everything in a dusting of magic.