I had a bit of a blogging break recently as I rushed to get some work finished up before we went away. There was work that I'd not managed to do because the heatwave knocked me for six and other work that was fast approaching a deadline and more work that had been put aside because I'd got carried away helping a client set up an exhibition.
Actually, the latter made me realise that, whilst the freelance life suits me, I do miss the energy and buzz of being in a museum, working towards a common goal, rather than sat solo in my little office, tapping silently away. It's nice to have a taste of it every now and then. So now, once a week, I catch the train into Gloucester and work and chatter and plan and help out. It's a lot of fun and very good for my soul.
Last week we made an escape up to Northumberland, that beautiful county full of moors, hills, woodlands and beaches. Ruined castles staring moodily out to sea. Viking lore. Big brooding skies that stretch over wide empty sands. Hills turning slowly purple as the heather flowers. Yeavering Bell. Lindisfarne. The Laidly Worm of Spindlestone Heugh. Grace Darling and the heaving North Sea. Corned beef pasties. Craster kippers. I'll blog more about it next time.
The week has helped to reset my head and revive my energy. Grief is a strange, shifting thing that, this year, has made me mostly sad (as opposed to last year's incandescent anger) and feeling as though joy might have been locked up forever. I could find enjoyment in the moment of things, but that pure joy, with its giddy laughter and keen eye for nonsense, had gone.
Or rather, not gone but hiding. Time away, some spent with good friends, and the absolute determination that I would not go through life joyless, found it for me again. I'm very grateful.
And also grateful for the shift from August to September that occurred while we were away. There has been much-welcome rain. Dew on the ground. Stripy spiders creating complex and beautiful webs right across the very path you need to walk down. Socks are required once more and I had to, brace yourselves, Put A Cardigan On last night. When Mabel comes in at night, she is no longer dusty from lying under bushes, but speckled with water from damp grasses. The smell of the air is different and I can feel my lungs opening up to it.
The Kid looked after both house and cats extremely well. So well that neither cat bothered to get up when we got back. Actually, that's their standard behaviour. The house was clean (we had given him 4 hours warning of our return) - even the bins had been emptied - and I think he'd seen it as a bit of a holiday for himself too. It is hard: at 24 you don't want to go on holiday with your Mum and her partner necessarily, but you can't always afford to go by yourself. Have decided to put the offer in of a break regardless and see what he says.
A stay away always makes me think back to my stint in hospitality, over 25 years ago now. How I took pleasure in making sure guests had everything they needed so that the first thing they could do was kick off their shoes, make a cup of tea and just sit for a while in a chair that held them like a hug. I wanted them to say "oh it is good to be here."
What does not make people say that is making them track down the nearest supermarket for milk the minute they arrive, or expecting them wrestle with a coffee machine/kettle that needs a NASA degree to operate and then sit on a sofa that fair rattles the bones. Luckily, we were only there for a couple of nights before moving on to our Friends in the North.
I think self-catering providers should be made to stay in their own properties for a month before letting paying guests in. Trust me, once I rule the world, that will become law.
N starts uni on Monday and is keeping a very careful lid on how nerve-wracking he's finding the notion of returning to education. Rationally, we both know he'll be absolutely fine. Irrationally, I'm fighting the urge to make him a packed lunch and iron him a clean handkerchief.
Later today, I shall take myself off to the allotment to see what it's been up to during my absence. Hopefully there will be more damsons on the wild trees for me to scrump on the way back. I'm going to make a hearty risotto full of mushrooms and garlic. I'm going to put on fresh bedding that carries the smell of autumn with it. I'm going to soak for a long time in the bath and remove the summer peach polish from my toenails. I'm going to book tickets for See How They Run.
But first, I'm going to savour being back in my little office, tapping solo at my laptop, In Our Time teaching me new things at a low volume, gently closing the window against the sound of the aggressive needless lawn-cutting going on outside. It's good to be back.