Life seems more than a little surreal at the moment, fragmented into packing boxes and form filling and general disarray. Jess is now in situ in London and I’m following on in a few weeks time. We're prepping for a big wedding in the Cotswolds this week, and planning others throughout the year around the South of England, and growing flowers down in Hampshire and trying to sort out our little studio in Oxford which we will be vacating at some point in the next few months. Our lives are etched in a triangle of three locations and it is all slightly discombobulating, in the best possible way.
Just as we come to quit it, the cottage has come into its own to coincide with the arrival of spring - dappled sunlight on the floorboards, colonies of bees buzzing in the rosemary, climbing rose and clematis trembling at the bedroom window. There are carpets of primroses, cobbled stone, orchards of blossom and bluebells. It’s the most filmic situation you can imagine.
We’ve been here eighteen months now - moved in as newlyweds freshly back from our honeymoon and proceeded to gamely live out all the country clichés; I donned an apron and baked, he chopped wood, we had dinner parties, we spent long lingering evenings by the fire staring at the flames. Some mornings I would wake up and think I might be living in some alternate reality, as if, opening the bedroom window I might burst into song and then clean the house with the help of local squirrels and tiny wrens. This place has that effect on you, it’s a sort of dream-like idyll, a spell that bursts into life the moment you enter the drive, and ends abruptly on the winding lane back down into Oxford.
This morning I'm collecting myself after a few days in London and Hampshire but to write this (long overdue) post have dragged the kitchen table to the ultimate vantage point in the sitting room, with the door open and the sunlight streaming in, hens and ducks pecking around a few feet away in the yard. It’s the ultimate bucolic Cotswolds scene. A Hollywood actress must surely walk around the corner any minute, freshly showered, with perfectly combed wet hair, wearing a peasant blouse and carrying a basket of freshly laid eggs.
To some extent, though, this has never been ‘home’ - always somewhere we would luxuriate in for a while and then hand back. Like a holiday rental; we’ve been on the loveliest staycation, like playing grown-ups in a wendy house. But every holiday has to end and over the past few months I’ve found myself getting itchy with the rhythm of country life and eager for the momentum and din of the city again. I don’t want to settle down yet, I don’t want a baby or a spaniel, or peace and quiet - yet. Slow living is something I can take, but only in moderation, at weekends. Right now I want to work hard & fast, and live in an apartment again, and get good takeout whenever I want it, and be on the road. (Plus, those squirrels and wrens never did show up to help with the house-cleaning.)
Jess and I have been revisiting some of our favourite haunts in Oxford over the last few weeks - the Botanic Gardens, the Ashmolean, various crannies and corners where we have spent happy moments over the last few years. I stood, recently, on the pretty white wrought-iron footbridge over Headington Hill that links the two sides of Oxford Brookes University campus. It was raining and the domes and spires of Oxford were obscured by mist. Who was I, driving up this hill for the first time twelve years ago in autumn? I'd barely recognize the person I was then. It seems a lifetime - several lifetimes ago. Those were carefree, privileged, stupid times. We were young and entitled, an army of fresh recruits, exuberant from gap years, released to colonize an unknown city. We owned it, it was ours for the taking. I still remember Oxford, how it was to me back then - Queens Lane and cobbles and dark, creaky pubs. We drank cocktails, to avoid writing essays, took cabs, to avoid walking, made eccentric friends (or so we imagined at the time). I find myself now eager to not have my bearings again, to be somewhere I need a map to navigate. A new neighbourhood and community. Where I am moving to in West London I don’t know where to buy my groceries or where the nearest chemist is - and I purposefully haven't yet tried to find out yet. People ask me why I would move into the city just when people my age and stage are busily trying to move away, for more space, more air, better schools, a safer, cleaner rural/provincial life for bringing up a family. I am swimming against the tide. But London is in my blood, it's where my family are from, and even though I haven’t lived there since I was a child, it feels, in some strange, intimate way like a homecoming. One day, quite suddenly, driving out of town felt like it was the wrong way around, as though my allegiance had shifted somehow - I slowly, unconsciously, began to feel homesick for it, displaced elsewhere.
In our flowery world, wedding season has well and truly begun. With the arrival of patches of warmer weather and tulips, it's as though work has shifted up a gear at last after a long winter. I’m still getting used to this - the pace of working in the world of flowers - the quiet and inactivity of the first months of the year, followed by a headlong descent into the fever-pitch world of tulle and roses and relentless emails and whatsapping. This morning, on the hunt for the finest apple blossom boughs, I've been deluged by images of branches in varying stages of bud and bloom, sugar-pink and white froth. The blossom is all over the place this year - it's hit and miss when the weather has been so unpredictable and we’re spinning from snow one day to warm afternoon sun the next. But that's the nature of the game - you can’t second guess it. I’m learning to love that now.
We are looking forward to sharing more on our new base with you soon and getting back to some degree of normality, whatever that means. In the meantime stay tuned on Instagram where we’ll be posting daily.
And thanks to The Green Gallery, who published a few of our photographs for their trend story 'Ode to Anemone' in their beautiful third issue - see it online here.