daily life

when july was summer

Gin and tonics in our backyard last July.

Gin and tonics in our backyard last July.

Last July, it was summer, not winter.

Our one-way tickets to Australia were booked.

London wasn’t home any more. It’s a hard feeling to describe, when life is carrying on as much as it always has, but now there is no point buying plants for the garden, or that piece of furniture, for you know now there is an end date, and soon you will leave this corner of the earth. The house you live in and love will soon be someone else’s. You will disappear. It will be as if you had never been there at all.

Here is something I wrote at the time. Just some little observations. Things I wanted to remember.

Tom and I walking up to the street fair, July 2018

Tom and I walking up to the street fair, July 2018

8 July 2018

The third weekend in a row of high temperatures, the sun beating down, unfiltered by cloud. My shoulders tanned brown. Tom and I walk up to the village Green, where there’s a street fair. They’ve closed the road by the train station so the usually car-choked streets are filled with donkey rides, Enfield for Europe protestors, gin and tonic stands, a Mini convertible we know no one will win. The smells are intoxicating - Caribbean food, curries, kebabs, Vietnamese tofu grilled on hot coals, halloumi fries piled with pomegranate seeds.

enfield-for-europe-july-2018-philippa-moore

England are playing Sweden in the World Cup in a few hours so giant television screens are set up on the green, the air full of expectation. By the time we walk home with food for lunch, the streets will have emptied significantly. A few hours later, roars, screams and cheers will signal that England have triumphed. 

I linger at the plant stall, my favourite, full of varieties of sage and mint - apple, peppermint, pineapple. Heartsease, its purple flowers shaped like little hearts. House leeks, to ward off bad spirits. Thai basil, which I’m longing to cook with having been watching Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. All the plants I would buy if we weren’t leaving. But it’s going to pain me to part with the ones I already have. I keep my coins in my purse and move on. 

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For weeks now we have lived on salads, veggie burgers, dips and raw vegetables, grains that can be cooked with water from the kettle. I can’t remember the last time I made pasta, soup or a curry. We have a little rain for the first time in nearly four weeks and my thirsty plants gulp it down.

The hard cantaloupe melon we bought yesterday, barely giving off a fragrance, is already ripe and begins to perfume the house. It is beginning to dip into a smell that is less perfume and more compost heap. I suspect we must eat it today.

melon-philippa-moore

The smell of over-ripe melon will always make think of that last summer in London.

PS: The reason for the photos with captions on them is because a few days later, on 13 July - bizarrely, coinciding with Trump’s visit to London - my phone died and I hadn’t backed up any photos since May. The only way I could access these pics was through Instagram stories!




weekenders on our own

Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
It's such fun
- Lou Reed

Sometimes the best days are the unplanned ones. 

shoreditch-street-art-a-nahu

We expected rain, being stuck indoors, winter still blowing its frosty breath over the city. Instead, it was pleasantly overcast when we met our friends at Old Street tube and took the scenic route, through the streets of Shoreditch which are like galleries with vast, colourful murals everywhere you look, to a cafe for the best vegan burger in London:

essential-vegan-burger
cassava-chips
street-art-broadway

 

Then we walked around Columbia Road, past Hackney City Farm where we saw baby goats frolicking in the grass, and then up to Broadway Market where we stood elbow to elbow with East London's hipster population jostling for vintage clothes, killer brownies, raw milk, giant cheese toasties, coffee and sourdough bread. I came for Frida.

Actually, I think it's meant to be a blend of Frida and Diego!

Actually, I think it's meant to be a blend of Frida and Diego!

 

Then we walked back to Haggerston along the canal. The sun came out and we unpeeled ourselves from our coats with glee. We made a brief stop at Proud East for probably the best Virgin Mary I've ever had:

virgin-mary
phil-and-lisa
phil-and-tom

Refreshed, we walked further along Regent's Canal up to Islington. The air was cold but the sun was out, and I could smell the sweet perfume of violets on the banks, wood-fired stoves in the canal boats, and coffee from the riverside cafes. We saw a group of friends drifting along the river in a floating hot tub. I took note of the company for future reference!

We wandered through Camden Passage, as the stallholders began to wrap their unsold wares in newspaper and box them up, and there was still a queue at the Breakfast Club. We stopped for a pint in the Camden Head (our new favourite place in this part of town).

tom-camden-head

When a day turns out to be unexpectedly fun, in the gentle company of true friends with whom you can just be yourself, with delicious food, refreshing beverages, the weather surprisingly fine and the promise of spring hovering on the horizon.....these are the days that I live for. 

what I've learned from meditating for 250 days in a row

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." - Fredrich Buechner
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Apart from brushing my teeth, drinking coffee and telling Tom I love him, I don't think I've ever done anything every day for such a sustained period of time.

But on Saturday, Insight Timer* told me I had just meditated for 250 days in a row.

How does that feel, you might ask?

It's hard to explain, but I guess a rambling blog post is a good place to try. I don't know if I feel calmer - and calm was definitely something I wanted to feel more of this time last year, when my old friend anxiety had moved back in. After 250 consecutive days of meditation, if anything I think I feel my emotions more.

But perhaps the difference is knowing I *can* sit with them, and they will pass. I no longer feel afraid of anger, sadness or loneliness. All things I used to avoid feeling if I possibly could.

I don't feel at one with the Universe. There have been no giant revelations or moments of enlightenment. But there has been a clearing, of sorts. I do feel like I know my mind better. 

I have become more conscious of things in my life - and within myself - that I'd like (and need) to change. 

When you force yourself to get still at least once a day, you slowly learn how to switch your mind off, even if it's only for a few seconds at a time.

Those moments - those fleeting, precious seconds when I am actually not thinking and am just there, all breath, in my body and all I can hear are cars on the street, or the rattle and creak of the floorboards, or the wind or birds outside, or the oven warming up, or my neighbour leaving for the day, and my mind is empty and quiet, and I can feel the quietness of it - are bliss.

I meditate for an average of 10 minutes at a time. Occasionally I do 20 minutes, like I did this morning. I'd like to build up to more. That feeling - where everything drops away and I witness my mind emptying and getting still - has only ever lasted for a few seconds, so far. I've never been able to maintain it for very long but those few seconds are always worth it. They make me think "ah, this is the point of it all."

Meditation has helped me find ways to relax, to check in, to be in the present throughout the day, not just when I've got the app timer running. When you force yourself to stop and just be where you are right now, you start to realise how much of our mind's energy is spent fretting over the past and the future. 

Stress has not vanished from my life because I've been meditating every day. If anything, I'm more aware of how stress feels in my body. But when that happens, I employ a breathing technique which clears the mind and helps me relax. 

Meditation has helped me to be (slightly) more patient with and forgiving of myself, which I hope will translate into my interactions with others. 

It's become a wonderful way to start the day. I meditate before I do anything - no checking my phone first, and ideally immediately afterward I write in my journal or do Morning Pages (but that doesn't always happen). Once I've meditated, I go into the kitchen and find Tom has made a coffee for me (and unloaded the dishwasher!) and sit there, taking in the taste of the coffee, feeling reset for the day, my senses heightened.

Meditation has helped me feel more peaceful and content in my heart. Every time I hear the closing bell, I feel reassured that I'm a good person doing my best, trying to be kind, improve and move forward.

And that's worth making time for each day.

So what if instead of fearing the power of dark thoughts, we used our minds’ power to create safe havens within ourselves to explore them. Maybe literally envisioning cocoons inside our hearts where we can sit before cozy fires, hot drinks in hand, and ask of our fear and laziness and depression and shame and lust and rage and whatever other thing we might otherwise try to ignore: What is it you’d like to say to me? What indispensable nourishment do you have for the Life of trust I want to live? – Kristen Noelle (via Leonie Wise)

 

* Insight Timer is a free app and is the one I use based on recommendations from friends and well-wishers. I absolutely love it and am not being paid to mention it in any way! I just wanted to share because it has genuinely improved my life.