Moments with Strangers

two_seagulls

We caught the early light down on the seafront, whizzing down on our bikes, surprised by the bite in the wind, and feeling bad for the Rusts, who were cycling east in the headwind to visit us for Mother’s Day brunch.

Brunch supplies in hand, we walked back home up the steps in Northwood Park and bumped in to a delightful woman; a bundle of wispy grey hair amidst layers of multicoloured wool, shepherding an old springer spaniel in her shadow. She quite decidedly stopped us for a chat and we were swept along in her talk of finding missing gloves, temperamental animals, and local walking routes.

I love the little connections with unknown neighbours that stretch just a little beyond ‘how’s the weather’. These early spring days are filled with a million things, but a five minute stop on a chilly path reminded me to just slow down for a moment.

Monday Mornings

Harbour Bikes

I have only four more of these Monday mornings headed Up Mainland, before these plans kick in full time. I’m trying to enjoy the early starts, the extra coffees, and motorway mayhem, knowing that in less than four weeks I’ll be having none of it.

So, for now, my mornings go something like this.

6am wake-up: with Radio 4 and the gentle negotiation over who will have first shower and consequently forfeit the default lie-in. I’m usually up first. Strangely, Tom doesn’t spend so long with the hair dryer.

Coffee in the grinder, kettle on, and a general fret over what to wear, specifically whether I can get away with spending the day in trainers.

Down the Hill

6.30am breakfast: better be happening about now if I’m to catch the ferry. After granola/toast/yoghurt/all of the above I faff around in a haphazard fashion until the radio pips push me out the door.

7am walk down the hill. The way the morning light grows every day feels like the most optimistic thing. Gravity is with me on this easy stride down to the sea. No more dark, windy, rainy mornings. Now it’s just the long downhill to summer.

Red Jet

7.15am boat ride: across the Solent. At it’s best a peaceful, spacious glide across sunlit seas. It’s not always at its best.

7.45am skate: across Southampton to my parked car. Addictive fun. Don’t know why I didn’t think of this two years ago.

Penny Board

8am battle through Southampton traffic: to wherever I’m headed first. Today, it’s a visit to a nursery to see how they support children’s talking through play. I hope your Monday morning is a good one.

M3

Discovering the Woods

heather and tit

Our weekend started in a flurry of activity – work for me and a 30k run for Tom |shucks.. so sorry to miss that..:|

So a lazy Sunday explore in the golden light seemed the best of plans. We ambled off without a map, up some common downland (the same spot where we slept a few summers back).

coast view

From the top, we could spot the nearby pine forest that we’d never explored together. Any new patch of wilderness is crying out to be investigated.

branchesbark

It was worth fighting through the undergrowth on the lee side of the hill, to get to the top complete with climbing tree and swing. We soon discovered we were not alone. The top of a hill this perfect, is too irresistible to not ride down. The woodland is scattered with seriously tempting downhill trails (though I completely lack the mtb skills.)

climb and swing

I was happy to settle for a slow pace, the chance to notice the small flutterings and leaf rustlings that are usually drowned out as our muddy feet come crashing through. Trying out tiny footpaths, collecting pine cones, and generally putting the world to rights felt like the right kind of pace for this slice of winter sunshine.

Buzzard

Photos by the ever-talented Tom Pratt.

The Five Ingredients of a Good Coffee Shop

CoffeeShopIngredients

There are few things that I find myself overly opinionated about, but coffee shops are one of them. You could say I should shout about something more important, but then you would be failing to realise quite how important these beverage stops are.

Done well, a coffee shop can be the centre of a community, a welcome slice of calm, or inspiring dose of conversation. For that to happen, the following things are non-negotiable.

Seriously good coffee
The kind that tastes good in its simplest form, without the need for extra froth/syrup/gingerbread toppings.

Friendly staff
Surely everyone prefers to start the day with a genuine smile and a few easy words. Extra points for remembering the regulars’ usual order.

Free and easy wifi
An internet connection that really works is a rare treat. So many places promise wifi, only to offer the equivalent of a string and a tin can.

Carefully chosen music
I like to hear what different staff will choose in the morning: always a better variety than radio, with the added delight of no radio adverts. If you host live music events, all the better.

Plenty of space
Like it or not, the coffice is a real thing. The busy hum of a cafe is the best thing for focusing on a task. I like space enough that I can sit quietly in a corner and finish my thoughts, even after I’ve finished my coffee. That only works if you’re not taking up the last table in a tiny hole-in-the-wall (though I do love those places too!)

With good music, plenty of space, and friendly baristas who know the locals, you have the makings of a genuine community space.

Other seemingly-unimportant things on which I hold strong opinions: campsites, banter, and acrylic wool. I’ll save those for another day…

(This post was inspired by my favourite local: Mettricks.)

Running in the Snow

South_Downs_Snow

What better way to beat the January blues than run away for the weekend, on a last minute adventure to the not-too-distant South Downs. If we were sentimental about it, I could also say we were marking the fact we’ve been together fifteen years (sentimental? Me?!)

Snowy_Heart

We woke up to the lightest dusting of snow in our little corner of Petworth and threw on our running gear to go in search of the highest point around. This is the first time I’ve ever run in the snow. It felt strange to head out in to the white stuff without multiple bulky woolly layers, but I’ve learnt that as long as your toes, fingers and ears are warm, the rest of you will cope just fine.

Rusty_JumpsTommy_Runs

After a couple hours exploring the high land (high by southern standards at least) we ambled back down to the now-muddy puddles and shrieked our way through icy streams on the trail back home.

We filled the rest of our weekend with hearty pub food, exploring old towns, and ambling at a delightful easy pace, bulky woolly layers firmly restored against those winter winds. A weekend away in January is a Prust tradition I’m very happy to uphold.

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S is for Skating

Huts

You might have spotted in my alphabet list for 2015 a potentially foolhardy S: skateboarding.  I spent my childhood way out in the countryside, at the top of a steep gravelly drive.  Not ideal for learning to skate, though I did have a classic 80s board, with neon deck and hot pink wheels.  I got as far as sitting and rolling hesitantly.  

secretbeach

So here I am twenty years later with renewed resolve to learn a useful and generally pretty awesome skill.  Walking is slow, bikes are bulky, and buses are just painful.  The obvious addition to my epic commute is a nifty penny board.

It’ll be a while before I’m whizzing round anywhere on these four little wheels.  For now, I am having great fun throwing myself in to something that is deceptively difficult.  I spent the first few days in the house, pushing myself from staircase to countertop, and balancing on the carpet, figuring out where my feet should go.

wheels

I’m enjoying being terrible at something, knowing I can only get better.  I would have been way too self-conscious to try boarding in my teen years.  Now I couldn’t care less.  I’m looking forward to the day I can breeze by, without my trailing, shuffling foot.  Even at my slow faltering pace, this S in my alphabet is seriously good fun.

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sunset