Approximately a week before the world changed three years ago I spent a weekend in Bristol. My stated purpose in being there was to help a friend attend her brother’s wedding, but that turned out to be only a few hours of it. Bristol isn’t a city that I know at all well, but even so, wandering around it on a Sunday morning, meeting up with other friends, I found it reflecting back layers and layers of myself and my past and, in the process, beginning to make sense of a disorientating change of direction that had happened to me a month or so before that.
Something similar happened this weekend, except I wasn’t in Bristol, I was in Winchester. Which is the city of my birth, and one to which I used to return every year in my childhood. It’s been less frequent recently, but this time round it had a lot to say to me. We were there for a ‘just over a year since the funeral’ memorial gathering for my father, but I had fortitously discovered that the Church Times Festival of Faith and Literature was going on at the same time, and we arrived with so much time in hand that I was able to go and look at my childhood home (not that I remember it) too. And once again there was that same sense of gathering up everybody I am and used to be and bringing them together into the same person. So many little messages. The bin, which has somehow survived thirty-four years (and the accompanying reflection that my father was such a personality that even his wheelie bin is identifiable as his thirty-four years later). A Progress Pride flag on the pavement. A labyrinth in the university chapel. Witty and erudite conversations about faith and literature, and remembering that I am after all a person of both. And also bringing that person back into contact with the disreputable bus crew member that I was born and still am. And the sense that my brain is working again. And being able to walk up and down the hills of Winchester without being completely exhausted.
Then the gathering itself was excellent. And I was not as exhausted during it as I feared I might be.
I didn’t get really, really tired until South Mimms services on the way home. However, I have been really, really tired today.
The difficult and perplexing
Tedious physical symptoms of the ‘You really don’t want to know’ variety.
Exercising my particular skill set in the job for which I am the right person.
This has been a good week for reading! First there was Hood – a very early Emma Donoghue, from back before she started concentrating on historicals. I found the depiction of the 1990s Irish lesbian scene, of which the narrator both is and isn’t really a member, fascinating; the prose was gorgeous; and the whole thing was satisfyingly messy in ways it’s difficult to do these days without someone on Twitter calling you ‘problematic’. Then I read Golden Hill because one of the speakers at one of the FaithLit sessions I had tickets to was Francis Spufford, and that was just tremendously fun.
I must also mention this delightful paper: Jurassic Pork: What Could A Jewish Time Traveler Eat?
I darned a hole in the elbow of a pyjama top; another, smaller hole has appeared next it, and another one on the other arm. I’ve done some of the holes in one of Tony’s fancy merino T-shirts too.
Catherine Fox and Francis Spufford talking about ‘Real faith in imaginary places’ (which made me think that I really must finish off the Reader’s Gazetteer series) and Jay Hulme and Rachel Mann talking about ‘Mapping a landscape of (un)holy desires’ (which made me think that I really must write about the epiphanies of 2020-date; for the moment I would like to express my gratitude to the audience member who made the point about how desire, in the very broadest sense of the word, is basically seen as unseemly for and therefore irrelevant to Christian women – sing it, sister!) Anyway, I really enjoyed both sessions, and failed to take any notes at all.
Mattins at the cathedral on Sunday morning: a modern but quasi-plainsong Benedicite that I can’t say I really enjoyed, but a Stanford Benedictus and a nice depressing Tudor anthem to make up for it (complete with a story about how the composer of the latter attempted to murder the Dean).
The Chinese and British exhibition at the British Library. Predictably, I was most taken by a beautifully detailed dolls’ house Chinese restaurant. Yesterday, aside from significant addresses already mentioned, some new King Alfred buses; the most gloriously impractical family car the six of us ever piled into (before it was returned to its spiritual home); and my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ grave.
A most excellent Sunday lunch (I had roast beef) at the Running Horse in Littleton, courtesy of my godfather.
Not much to report beyond walking around various bits of Winchester.
Two horse-drawn vehicles (minus the horses) on the back of a rescue truck. Hares, from the train. A pair of tractors waiting to cross the railway line. Quite a few deer in various Hampshire fields. An advertisement for ‘new almshouses’, which feels most Trollopian. A fox running across the road somewhere north of Royston. I have already mentioned the bin.
My fabulous family and bus crew (this is how my family spells ‘found family’).
A carful of second-hand baby stuff.
Various books I liked the look of but didn’t buy.
Line of the week
The wind was a black cat outside, rattling the chimney and spitting at the windows.
This coming week
I am going to attempt to recover some energy, catch up with some admin, and tidy some more of my study. Looking forward to seeing a friend on Friday.
Anything you’d like to share from last week? Any hopes for this week? Share them here!