Bees, tea towels, staying at home

tolpuddle-martyrs

With a new tea towel to prompt me, I should at least finally commit to memory the names of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. It was a part of, let’s call it, a bulk purchase of Radical Tea Towels, made by the Librarian on our recent trip to Manchester. With limited time at our disposal, we hared off to the People’s History Museum – or intended to. Twenty-minute walk, my note said. Perhaps, if you’re a champion athlete, know the city like the back of your hand and don’t start off by coming out on the wrong side of Manchester Piccadilly station. After fifteen minutes, we made our way back to where we’d begun and climbed into a taxi.

Match-Girls

We might have stayed the night in Manchester had the Librarian not already been committed to a professional trip to London and Oxford the next day. So we arrived back in Bristol around midnight in order that, on Finland’s National Sleepy Head Day, I might roll out of bed at five o’clock, an hour earlier than usual.

Suffragette-Teatowel

’We went to Europe’, Flannery O’Connor wrote to Elizabeth Bishop in 1958, ‘and I lived through it but my capacity for staying at home has now been perfected, sealed & is going to last me the rest of my life.’ Yes. I recalled the painter Hurtle Duffield’s initial reaction as his Greek lover persuades him onto a flying boat for the first leg of their journey, in Patrick White’s The Vivisector: ‘In the air he huddled in his overcoat and longed for his abandoned house; nobody would coax him out of it again. In any case after childhood, or at most, youth, experience breeds more fruitfully in a room.’

We are home now, anyway, in the resurgent hot weather. The bees are entranced by African blue basil, lavender, roses and Skylover. The gabbiest magpie of the four regulars perches on the fence and sounds off. The neighbour’s cat is still digesting the news that the recent arrivals in the house beyond our back wall have rabbits in a hutch by their kitchen door. We, in turn, are digesting the news that, after several years of quiet, those recent arrivals subscribe to the new twenty-first century conventions: make as much noise as you can. Still, the hot weather will pass; windows will close; the novelty of careering loudly around a shared house and garden will wear off.

Birds

So we are left with the recent news items which have—certainly not comforted but, perhaps, diverted—such as Government ministers drawing up plans to investigate whether the government’s own policies are to blame for the sharp rise in the use of food banks.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/01/revealed-ministers-plan-to-research-effect-of-policies-on-food-bank-use

Could they possibly be connected? As has already been pointed out several times, this is something of an ‘is the Pope Catholic?’ query. I remember thinking the same thing when, two or three months ago, after the deaths of many unarmed protesters, there was a headline on the BBC website: ‘Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?’

And one which has caused extreme discomfort: the assault on Bookmarks, the Bloomsbury Street shop.
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/aug/05/far-right-protesters-ransack-socialist-bookshop-bookmarks-in-london

There have been a good many recent attempts to suggest that we are seeing a rerun of the 1930s and, usually, I find the differences far outweigh the similarities. But masked thugs attacking a radical bookshop? That brings us a little closer, I think.

Camping, decamping

Yurt-setting

We drive. We are on, hmm, a short camping trip. Staying in a yurt. In the border country. But did I actually shut the freezer door properly? I only ask because we’ve been woken by the alarm twice before now; and also because we’re now approaching the Second Severn Crossing and it’s too late to do anything about it. Once over the bridge, the motorway traffic stalls and crawls. Flashing signals urge us to keep our speed down to 40, just as the speedometer limps up to 15. Heat. Are my legs swelling as they seemed to the other day? Heat-related oedema, the Librarian explained then, helpfully. I am feeling claustrophobic even in dense traffic these days.

But then, I say (as three army lorries in succession pass us in the slow lane), what’s the worst that can happen if the freezer door isn’t shut? Water all over the kitchen floor and some food ruined? Unless the fridge overheats and explodes, the Librarian suggests. Yes, I agree, unless that.

Still, when we turn off at Junction 24, things ease. Past Abergavenny and heading for Hereford. Along narrow lanes, up agonising tracks. The directions are ambiguous and, once parked, we carefully head off to the wrong corner of the field, staggering under the weight of several bags. We stare at the directions again, peer into dazzling distances, up and down slopes, plunge into clumps of trees and we’re finally there.

It would suit some people very well. It clearly has done: some posted reviews are fulsome, verging on ecstatic. We walk up the field again to get some icepacks from a communal fridge. Back at the yurt, we walk around, go outside, locate the view. Our last holiday deluged us with light and space and air. Here, I feel hemmed in, short of both light and space. There’s a view but it’s round the corner, so to speak.

Yurt-1

This was to be a mini-break for reading and relaxation, simply that: and to exorcize the Librarian’s long-established yurt yearnings. We walk around again, look outside, look at each other. Three questions, I say, four really, if we count the possible freezer door problem. One, could you relax here? Two, could you settle down to read here? Three, would any of the food that we’ve carefully transported here last even until tomorrow morning without turning into something else? The Librarian considers this carefully for almost a second. No. No. And no.

No need to repack bags that were not disturbed. Two trips back up to the car, staggering even more obviously now, as muscles sag and the heat takes its toll. We drive. Only a single navigational hiccup finds us on an unintended road to Chepstow. One signpost mentions fourteen miles but that’s a clearly a joke or local legend. But we do finally emerge at a junction where the caption BRISTOL 17 MILES eases away all tensions and dark suspicions. We drive.

At home, we return the food and drink to fridge and freezer. The plants are already watered, tomorrow’s recycling already outside on the pavement. There is little to do but raise our glasses: ‘Chepstow!’

The freezer door was, of course, firmly closed.