Christmas Cream-teas with Tea Soc
Lemon cake and Christmas hats. Lots of laughter. I am shattered from planning essays I have only days left to write and trying to finish my photography portfolio for the end of term, but an afternoon away is just what was needed. The Christmas lights in town sparkle as we make our way home, and the Sally Army is playing carols on brass somewhere in the streets.
The End of First Term
Four essays and a portfolio later, it's time to head home.
Busking for Oxfam with the 'Herd
I leave work in the early afternoon and call Kim to find out where the group are meeting, but before she answers I spot her red hair in the crowd ahead. It's been a while, and the others, too, appear out of nowhere and join the reunion. We pitch our spot on the high street and Alice produces music in wrapping paper. We sing carols in four-part harmony and people stop to listen - including my lovely Literature teacher from College. When our feet turn to ice we scuttle to Costa, just like old times, and warm up with hot chocolates. Later, as the last of the shoppers are hurrying home, we pitch up in the busiest part of town and the sun begins to dip. We make our way through the streets towards the train station, singing as we go, and people in the city come to their windows to see. When they lean out we wave and call, "Merry Christmas!" The others catch a train and B drives some of us to Alice's himself, where we spend the night talking and carolling. It feels so good to be home.
Textbooks for Read
It's nearly time to head back to Kent. I visit my former High School and collect almost 1000 textbooks for the charity I'm working for at uni, Read International. B and I are somewhat unprepared: we pile the books into his tiny Micra, but it still takes two trips to get them all home. I spend the next few days boxing and labelling them, ready for the journey south.
Lucy at Grandma's
My Grandma celebrates her first birthday in her new home near us, in Norfolk. Lucy and I join her and her new friends for a party. When we leave, there is frost thick on the car windows, and the sky is clear as silver.
Coffee and Snow in Central London
I travel to London for a training day with Read International, and come away with a bag of goodies (such as duct tape and labels!) I plan to visit Alice and David for the weekend, but Jonny comes to meet me before I leave. We have sandwiches in St Pancras and I reveal some exciting news.* We talk about naming my next camera, and then go for a wander around the station. It's chilly but the departures lounge for the Eurostar train is warm, and we buy time in there by pretending to book tickets to Paris. In Foyle's I find a Swahili phrasebook, and then we realise I'm late for my train. We miss it by watching it pull away from the station, and I'm a little anxious about the time and the extra hour I'll have to wait for the next one, but when we walk outside King's Cross there is snow falling and I have a bag full of cameras. When it gets too cold we take shelter in Costa, and Jonny buys me tea, goes through my bag, and laughs at the state of my hair.
I catch my train, at last, and watch the snow get heavier outside the window as I drink my tea, and then we pull into Cambridge. A blizzard has blown in, there are no taxis at the station, and I have a long walk in bad shoes ahead of me. Luckily, a taxi appears on the main road and its driver takes me through the storm to Clare College. Alice gives me blankets and David pours me a glass of wine, and I'm warm again in no time.
*Perhaps I really can take photographs for a living?
Cambridge in February
I shoot in the snow for my friends Alice and David, who form a folk duet called 'Two's Company'. I have never seen Cambridge like this before, and neither have they. Snowmen have appeared overnight on lawns and in front of colleges. When we look out over Clare Bridge the river has iced over. The city feels fresh and ancient. A little more like the place Byron kept his bear, or Newton built his bridge without bolts. Snow and sky makes me think of Sugimoto's seascapes, though human life - and mind - surrounds us here.
I find a new space in Alice's attic room. Every time I'm here I imagine how I would arrange it were it mine. Alice puts her work under her window; I would put my pillow there. Perhaps this is why she is at Cambridge University and I am not?
I come home for a week or so, and it is difficult. (There is death and fighting.)
Just before I leave again, I cycle to the reservoir to take a self-portrait on the jetty. It is a little for B, but mostly for me. The farm on the trail there has already seen lambs, and the warm air smells of hay and sheep. Smoke drifts from a bonfire somewhere and catches in the evening light. The lake is empty, and I take my photograph in peace. A barn owl patrols the meadow across the water, and as I am packing away there is the hush of wings above, and another drops down from the nest box on the tree just behind me. It reminds me of taking this photograph, when the owl came close enough to touch, and for a moment the world tips up and I can see the sky in the still water.