Any excuse for me to get outside, really. In the last couple of weeks I've been heading up the road to a grassy area with huge, bare trees to study. There are banks of crocuses and snowdrops, and bluebells and the first brave daffodils bursting into life on the grass. A gnarled old tree towards the crooked walls has a perfect hollow near the base of the trunk, which is really quite comfortable when you curl up with a flask of coffee and a volume of Baudelaire. Today was the first day I've been able to go without wrapping up like an eskimo, just for an hour of being outside.
And oh! - Bristol. I love this city. I love its busyness, the never-ending hum, the people and the places tucked away like flavours, waiting to be discovered. In this quiet patch of green, I can watch the world go by as I read, eyes flicking up towards the street if ever I need some distraction. Dog walkers glance curiously at you, but otherwise let you be. I took a plastic mug with me today, and ended up sharing my coffee with an elderly man called Ronald. It tastes just as good out of the lid.
"Bit brisk to be reading, isn't it?" I looked up at the voice, possibly with a slightly startled look on my face. Apparently I look like that often when I'm really engrossed in a book - and it's likely, because he laughed. He was quite tall, the sort of man who has always towered over everyone else, and is now bent a little by age, thin underneath the grey duffel coat. He sat down on a bench pretty near my tree, and waited for an answer.
"Sorry!" I said, a bit belatedly. I blinked. "It's not too bad actually, especially if you've got coffee." I nodded towards the flask nestled at my side. "Would you like some?"
I'm not going to relate our entire conversation, but it really lifted my heart. He's in his eighties, and has a companion in a scruffy ol' mongrel of indeterminate breed (but who is obviously very well-looked after), called Pat. He was a ridiculously fluffy sort of dog, with wiry fur all around his middle, a scrunched up nose and warm brown silky ears. He collapsed contentedly under the bench when his owner sat down.
We talked Tennyson, walking, mud and the universal application of Tea (while sipping coffee). We also nattered for a bit about my degree, and why I chose languages - and I heard about his career as a teacher, which lasted forty-eight years! I find it incredible that he still smiles when talking about inspiring young people - although now, his passion is his grandchildren. Who knows? Perhaps I'll see those two again next time I'm there. I hope so. I'll have that extra cup on me from now on - it was a good idea.
It's so easy for us to get caught up in life's busyness - and not without good reason! Work, and bills, and Life tend to consume all of our time, I agree. I've recently realised, though, that however busy we are, taking a breath is sometimes necessary. Just... letting be. Whether it's for a cup of tea at work with the phone line disconnected, running into the car park and locking yourself in the car with a newspaper and a costa coffee, or sitting in a park on those oft-forgotten lunch breaks... it makes all the difference.
Much love and laughter,