The End, The Beginning
From the afternoon when I realised I was leaving, and panicked.
A serendipitous meeting and a winding iron staircase which reminded me of that Tim Walker photograph - the one with the blue dress and the peeling paint. Two smoothies. Confusion. Communication. Three golden rules.
be pragmatic | be proactive | don’t think so much
‘The trees by Purchas are turning gold. In the two weeks I’ve been here I’ve walked under them each day and watched the leaves, gilt-edged, melt into one another. In the wind each tree touches the next and the change is passed on like watercolour, the thread veins passing it along the stem, the branch twisting kaleidoscope palm green – burnt orange – golden. The leaves rustle, stiff, and when the sun shines through them at six, as I’m returning from my seminar, they burn.’
From Parkwood to Campus, the woodland route
‘Squirrels dash across the path that winds through the woods from Parkwood to Main Campus, berry-eyed and slick in the autumn wind. They scramble tree to tree, following you with your hands full of paper pads and this new way of living, and the world above your head rustles as acorns drop. Pebbles filled with new life. Sometimes there are so many falling at once we stop, cover our heads with folders. People laugh, bemused. Run on through the barrage.’
Pathway to Campus
The Templeman Library
View from Tyler Hill
‘There is more wildlife here than I expected. Pigeons and blackbirds and other city-dwellers, but also: a squat rabbit on the bank outside the library, invisible to everything but my camera. Five more on the grass in Purchas Court, lolloping in the fading light, unafraid of me.’
Taking the long way home: Parkwood Road
‘‘On the way home. The wind up here, high on the hill, sends the fallen leaves scattering like starlings. My hair tangles. Locked in the warm with my window open, the tree outside ripples a gentle hush of sea waves.’
‘I like Parkwood. I like the music that is always playing, wherever you walk. The bass is a constant rhythm to my journeys here. I like the knocking on doors and the waves from windows and the chairs in circles on the grass outside. I like the togetherness, or the coming-togetherness. I like the conversations strangers have outside my window in the evening. I like the mist when I wake up, the shadow-figures which glide across the courts for nine O’clock lectures; an exodus of silhouettes. I like the word Ellenden and I like my room, my Room, My room.’
Through our mailbox
Ella’s (Xuan’s) Birthday Meal
Our house is full of languages. Claire’s French, Yessica’s Spanish, Ella’s Mandarin. Our kitchen is full of strange foods with strange labels. Our staircase meetings are full of strange customs.
Ella spends her birthday preparing the meal. There is a menu she translates for us, and the smell of soy and spinach in the kitchen. In the evening her friends arrive, all of them, with a gift, and she is embarrassed. She wants us to enjoy the food, she says, That will be a present enough. Her sincerity strikes me.
(We try “Coke chicken” for the first time, and jokes are laughed at twice - once in Mandarin and once again when they are translated into English for us.)
Whitstable with Susan
A boiling hot day in September. Shorts and ice cream. We walked through the thick mud out to the bay, watched the wind farm on the horizon in the haze. Lemonade at a sea font pub, and fish and chips in the harbour. The seagulls thieving our food made me think of Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds. We went into the little shops and talked a lot about universities.
When she left I wondered whether it would be best if people didn’t come, just because they always have to leave.
Blade visits: Roses, chocolates, wine, and ballet
What more could a girl want?
(We have a perfect weekend. A lazy, cuddly Friday night. A tour of campus and a browse around Canterbury, and ballet at the Gulbenkian on Saturday evening. A quick trip to the sea on Sunday morning, deciding which house - theoretically - we would choose. When he leaves I watch from the kitchen window, and it is harder than ever even though I love it here.)
Diane Arbus at the Tate Modern
The day I felt like an art student. Almost missed the train from Canterbury West to Charing Cross. Spent the journey reading Camera Lucida.
Walked along the South Bank, and remembered how far that walk used to seem when Dad took me to the NFT when we still lived in London. The second-hand book stall is still there under the bridge, but I don’t find any ‘Magic Roundabout’ books today. The photography exhibition Kay and I found under the OXO building is gone, and everyone I pass talks on their mobile phone. Watch out for the landmarks Dad pointed out last time we were here (when was that?) - the towers of the City and the almost-finished Shard, and the little ancient house perched on the edge of the opposite bank by Temple.
Most of the others are already at the Tate. I make my own way round the exhibitions, because the worksheet feels limiting and the others are all History of Art students and know each other too well. Sometimes we pass in front of pieces, and I talk to the groups, but I like experiencing these things for myself. Luc Delahaye’s work makes me walk up and back and around each photograph, and in the end I give up and sit down on the floor in front of it instead. I make lots of jottings in my notebook, even though they don’t always say what I mean.
After I’m made to talk about the photographs later, in front of the group, Therese says “Good choice”, and it makes me feel like less of a fraud. Perhaps I can be an art student, if only here in this space, in this context.
UKC Tea Society, Halloween Social
Dorothy and I are late because I am incompetent and it is difficult to make bat-wings out of bin liners. There are two men in the kitchen when we arrive, and they tell us the group is upstairs. There are two cups of tea on a table waiting for us when we arrive.
One cup tastes of bananas, another of Christmas. We eat cucumber sandwiches and two scones and a slice of cake each, until we’re so full we can hardly move. I wouldn’t feel like a student, but for the bin liners.