Budding Hope

February 28, 2011

Budding Hope

There was sun before the rain, yesterday. For a moment I thought the rain would sweep me away. Then came the night. This morning it was bitterly cold. A cherry tree blushed into bloom. I think spring is to come, and hope is in bud. I breathe on it at times, to keep it warm. I’m waiting. Waiting still.

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Frozen Travel
Image by Moi.

The worst brings out the very best in people good at heart.

To see the world covered by cottoned water is a phenomenon very familiar to myself, as I was brought up in a faraway land where ice reigns supreme during each of the wintery months. Admittedly, the beauty grew bitter to my senses’ tongue after decades of never-late cold, but things once learnt are hard to unlearn.

So when the world surrounding my humble dwelling, outside the great city of London, gradually disappeared beneath a downy, frozen blanket, I sighed: “Oh dear,” — as I had a flight north to catch — but was never the less not deterred.

As the clouds broke to pieces that slowly swirled from the place of their heavenly birth, I wrapped a scarf around my neck and buttoned my coat. My companion — my suitcase — was already standing by the door, longing to taste air, having been trapped indoors for so long.

Eventually I stepped out into the world, having locked my door twice. However, the cold deterred my companion and friend, and my bag made up its mind that it did not at all want to go. Sitting on its (w)heels, I had to persuade it to move by pulling it along with my weight as an argument, ploughing a broad trail in the snow as I went.

Halfway to the station a taxi took pity on me and offered to take me the rest of the way. That was however not to be as the slope to the station was too steep with all the snow, but I never the less ended up having to pay a full fare.

Struggling to reach the station on time, I trudged on, eventually making it onto a train following a cancellation and a false alarm. I had a man help me carry my bag onto the train — as although I can pull it along, I cannot lift it very far!

“Normally I’d charge you for this,” the grumpy not-very-gentlemanly man growled, and I foolishly smiled. (What else is there to do?)

Having brought the first part of my long journey to a close I sank into a seat and studied the world as it passed by the window by my eyes. Knowing every nook and cranny of the route by heart, the journey never the less kept me mesmerised; for the green meadows and ploughed fields were all frozen — stunning and white!

The train only brought me three stations farther towards my goal, and once back into the cold I found the connecting train was delayed — by heaven knew how long!

On the platform with me were people huddled up in jackets and scarves — staring, standing, waiting — what else is there really to do?

Half-way into our long, shivering wait, a train came along. It pulled to a stop, and its driver came out. Boiling water was brought and his horn was de-iced, but when questioned if his train — only standing there — could open its doors to allow the freezing people on board, the driver only shrugged his shoulders and said:

“This station is not a scheduled stop.”

And once the horn had been de-iced and the honk was confirmed, the train pulled away and disappeared within long.

The disappointment such oblivion brought was enough to tear down walls and break the bounds that otherwise keep people apart.

A man and his son — travelling north to the town of Shakespeare’s birth — started talking with a woman carrying the only cello of an orchestra upon her back. Farther away a man with a broken leg — most likely courtesy of the cold — spoke to the not-so-gentle man who had growled before.

By my side stood a man only recently arrived who ceased the opportunity to break the silence, too. He proved rather polite, and once the connecting train arrived he brought my heavy bag on board. And since the train had already travelled far, and few seats were left, we ended up carrying the conversation on.

We spoke as gingerbread villages — frosted with snow — passed by and the villages grew into towns and London gradually emerged. As the final station was reached the man fumbled in his pocket, concluding:

“I have run out of business cards!”

I took pity on his disappointment and gave him paper and pen — being given a name and a number — and I do have to admit, for me that was a first!

Stuffing it all back in my purse I carried on as I still had a flight to catch! Within the hour I reached the airport which I had sought — many pounds the poorer, and with the blood racing in my ears. (I did not at all have many minutes left to spare!)

But as I entered the airport, I realised my fears had come true, and by the time my flight had been to depart it was announced irony had sneered and snow was to keep me from returning to my home in the snowy north!

Sighing — as you do when such things are said — I caught the attention of a woman by my side.

“Oh heavens, what are we to do?” she said.

Neither I knew what was to be done.

So coffee was settled upon — it is after all human to drown sorrows with delight. A brief friendship was formed in that time of need, and we spent several hours in otherwise unlikely company.

But as time lingered on and the people around succumbed to despair, I realised nothing else could be done — that day, I was not going home. I therefore bade my new friend farewell and returned in defeat to the cold.

With no more time to keep I made my way to the trains, only to find a thousand — multiples thereof! — had come up with the same, brilliant plan! I however had no choice but to join them, within long being swallowed by the human ocean’s vast expanse.

At one point a speaker crackled to life:

“This is a security announcement,” the detached voice said. “Remember to keep close to your belongings~”

Was more said, it was not to be heard. The people crammed into one another with bags and whatnot only laughed — and I do have to admit, even my pursed lips parted with a smile.

Two hours thereafter I reached my goal, once more standing upon a platform waiting for a delayed train to arrive.

A young Canadian woman sighed from the corner where she sat:

“I am so hungry; I haven’t eaten since breakfast — and that was long, long ago!”

I took pity on her, and dug deeply in my purse. Triumphant I handed her the prize of my search; a snack — not large, but for the moment enough. She wanted to compensate me with monetary means, but I declined her offer, as I only wanted for her condition to improve.

“That’s the Christmas spirit!” she smiled, with her mouth full.

Although I nodded, I did not agree; that is simply what you do for others in need.

After a few hours more I finally made it back to my by then cold and dark home. I had to turn up the heat and light the lamps anew, silence my hunger and then crawl into bed to get some much needed sleep.

That day had proven much an ordeal. Some would have called it pointless, but as I lay back in a bed I thought I would temporarily have left, I could not help but strangely consider the day worth the while.

For, it seemed that the worst — what could so many broken plans otherwise be called? — never the less had managed to make the best surface in some kind, kindred souls. It had proven a very pleasant day, I thought, for never before had so many strangers broken their otherwise unquestioned silence and treat their fellow men as such.

Forgive me for what follows — but I think humanity as a whole would regain much of its worth were only more “disasters” to occur. For there is nothing that unites people with others of their kind as shared circumstances — and that, I do think — is something the world very regrettably has lost ~.

Springtime Promenade

June 13, 2010


Bluebell Beeches

One morning in late May I caught the first train to the rural outskirts of London and was rewarded with the most beautiful of springtime sights.


Hilltop Town

It did not take me long to wander downhill from the station and through the old town that resides in the valley beneath the modern settlement. Before the first half an hour had passed I could overlook the western part of the town of the hilltop which I had climbed.


Keeping Gate

Having cleared the town and its outskirts, I found myself passing through the barrier that separated the urban and the rural countryside: a charming gate blushing with rust.


Dust Road

The first field put me in a feeling of sheer delight, the rolling slopes encouraging me to believe I was one with the sky as the wind played with my long skirt. Eventually, I reached a dust road that promised to carry me as far as I wished.


Dandelion Hill

My springtime walk took place late in May, and I found the first generation of dandelions had allowed their sparkling gold to fade to the hue of cotton-like copper I so adore.


Bluebell Forest

I shall always with fondness remember my first visit to a forest whose atmosphere was adorned with the sweet, perfumed scent of bluebell hyacinths.


Power Line

Although I had walked for almost five consecutive hours, it was still bitter-sweet to know I had reached my final destination and my springtime walk had come to an end. Never the less, my first introduction to the British countryside did nothing but cement my affection and enamour me yet more.

[This post features pictures taken during the walk detailed in Weightless Adventures.]

Thank you Vil for helping upload these pictures when my Internet connection laughed at me!

An Evening in St.James

February 27, 2010

Spiral Staircase
Picture by Martin Haesemeyer

She could not remember what she had been thinking, months previously. Why had she bought the ticket for the formal dinner at the prestigious club? What should she–socially awkward little girl–do in such a place? She must have had some reason–but for the moment it was lost to her.

Pacing throughout her little house, she was pulling her hair, wondering what she should do. Too much had been invested already for the horn of defeat to be blown. She had no option but to attend, as she had intended, all those weeks ago.

A dress was waiting for her in the depths of her closet, a dress bought for that very purpose. It would be a pity to disappoint it, that grey, formal little thing that suited her so well. So she put it on.

She tamed her eccentric, long hair and twirled it in two braids to form a compact bun, the weight held in place with what seemed a thousand pins. A white flower of silk was planted next to the secured wheat hair, and she allowed pearls to flow around her neck and droop off the lobes of her ears.

Indeed, she was beautiful, especially with both sooted and powdered eyes. Still, her lower lip trembled with fear. Biting it–knowing fear is best conquered when challenged–she draped a beige and pink coat over her shoulders. She looked a bit like her grandmother had done when her age. She liked it, always having found her grandmother in possession of an aura of self-assured elegance.

The sun was setting when she stepped outside, the clouds having been whisked to form strawberry meringue upon the powder-blue sky. The heels of her shoes tip-tapped the ground as she walked, feeling heads turn as she passed.

Two hours later she stood outside the elegant, albeit majestically menacing door. Her name on the guest list would grant her entry; this evening she belonged inside. Yet, her heart raced in her chest. She was frightened, pacing the street up and down, and back and forth, attempting to calm her terrified nerves.

She had done this to herself to learn what was painful not to know. Social ineptness knew only one cure: staring fear in the eye.

So, she entered. Her name granted her entry, acknowledged with a bow. Her coat was hung among others, and she entered the room.

She was taller than everyone, towering above them like a giant lost. What was worse, however, were the evening gowns that swept across the floor. Her heart sank in her chest as she looked down on her own, much less conspicuous as she had feared a gown would be overdress.

A few familiar faces welcomed her, and introduced yet more. For a moment things were going fine with conversation and introductions–until she ran out of words. She blushed, feeling insignificant yet again, disappearing into a corner from which she was pulled so the charade could start anew.

Entering the dining room she found people were missing from her table. It worried her. But it was the last of her concerns.

But things changed when the person next to her turned out to be the friend of a childhood friend, and so, with something in common, they spoke for most of the meal.

The dinner itself was enjoyable. Despite the price it was not up to the standards she knew from home, but far better than anything she would have served her solitary self–had she decided not to go.

A salad for appetiser, chicken with mushrooms for the main course, and panna cotta for pudding. She had never had the latter before but she enjoyed it. Over the course of that evening, she had grown ignorant of the intimidating nature of novelty. She did not like the coffee however, despite telling herself having a cup would be sophisticated. She found some things cannot be forced; which she knew, but desired to change.

She ended up talking with people for two more hours, being proud of herself during the course of the conversations, reproaching herself when swirling across the room, not daring to approach anyone. A kind person took her under their wing, helping her along. She was most grateful, finding she was straining herself to do what came so easily to others.

It was delightful to talk, and for once, she felt that she had something in common with her partners of conversation. What was more, she felt that she belonged.

As the evening–for her part–neared its end, she was given the card of someone who desired to see her again. She accepted it, not because she intended to, but because it was a token of acceptance she would treasure.

She bade them farewell, and was escorted down the stairs by the arm of a young gentleman. She was even kissed adieu on the cheek, blushing after she had disappeared into the darkness before the clock had struck midnight.

Although she was Cinderella, with a last train to catch, she had failed to forget her shoe. That was for another evening–when, she did not know. This, had only been the beginning.

As the tip-tapped home anew, amidst the silence and darkness that reigned during the young hours of the country night, the moon was translucent upon veiled skies. She smiled at its awe: she had actually enjoyed the evening she had not been certain she even wished to attend.

Having partially conquered her fears, she had proven she could do more than she had believed. She had grown stronger the evening–that evening in St. James.

Poor Little Thing

February 11, 2010

Borboleta - Butterfly
Picture by Giba N.

Although it had snowed overnight, spring was in the air. The small birds tittered in pinnacled canopies, the sun casting warming beams upon an otherwise bare landscape. In a flower-bed a few daffodils mirrored the glory.

But that was outside the city. Within it, the sun was all that whispered of spring, the golden light causing her figure to cast a shadow upon the ground.

At one point her shadow fell upon what seemed like nothing but a fallen leaf to the thousands of feet that hurriedly threaded upon the crowded path.

But she saw what it was, wishing she never had.

The first butterfly of the year had escaped someone’s notice, it having met its fate beneath the feet of a city-dweller, blinded by the concrete.

It saddened her for the rest of the day.

Cotton Rain

December 16, 2009

Hyde Park Morning

I woke up before my time today. In the early morning I opened my eyes, as if I had escaped a dream, being unable to return to the sleep that had been chased away. I rose and wandered out into the lavender light reflecting off the white fa├žades of the town houses, steering my steps towards the large open area just nearby.

The parkland stretches for as far as the eye can see, and had it been more densely vegetated it would have been a forest — in the very heart of this large city. The grassy expanse was covered with frost, and as it was gently caressed by the first yawns of a newborn sun, mists started to rise into the peach atmosphere that warmed the frosted mint below. In ages past they said the fairies danced, and indeed, swirling mists and joysome dances can during serene morning hours be one and the same.

The sun rose as a great ruby over the eastern treetops, those leafless towers and pinnacles that towered in the distance, their silhouettes softened by the evaporating frost. Swans were lining the edge of the great pond, their white dresses a hint of what was to come.

Once the sun had risen and lost its blush the skies clouded over. The air was still sharp and nipped noses and cheeks of those who wandered towards their destinations. In the afternoon the purpose of the day was revealed as large, cotton-like raindrops swirled from the skies. As they touched the ground, they melted to water.

They say it rarely snows in London, and so it was appropriate for this fair snowfall to melt as soon as it had settled; it did not snow; it rained cotton balls.