i am sitting writing this in the sun, in a plastic chair in the back garden. at my feet, one of the dogs is giving herself a wash, and the other is having a barking contest with the duck. We've just had a chat with the neighbours about their tree - her mum's looking out for seedlings so my foster mum can plant one too. after a tour of my foster mum's greenhouse, and a pause to spot a newt in the frog pond, and marvel at how many tadpoles there are, and how big, we've sat down to chat about planting seedlings in the cardboard from toilet rolls (something i've heard from another friend), and how i've maybe left it a little late to plant seeds, so maybe will have to go for seedlings instead. still, it might be worth trying a few, and my foster mum promises to give me some runner bean seeds from her crop last year to have a go at planting. 'you've got up to may the 25th to plant your beans, as my uncle used to tell me' she says 'keep them well moist - they like a lot of water, beans'.
she is sitting, relaxing from a morning of working on the garden, extending the space they have for planting. she wants to be able to grow more of her own food, she tells me. i spot a turtle-shaped pot plant i bought for her when i was still a child - she tells me: 'it has a plant in it every year - i always think of you when i put something in there'. from indoors, my foster dad jokes about needing 'grecian 2000' for his hair, while he boils the kettle for the day's 5th pot of tea. he sits down with the crossword, stays in the shade. i am sitting, wearing one of his t-shirts and cardigan - i did some cleaning this morning, and it took the last wear out of the one top i brought with me. the dog settles, lays across my feet. the pond waterfalls splash and trickle, and inside its pen, the duck quacks a reminder of its presence.
i have been reading a blog about minimalism recently (mnmlist.com) and enjoying a lot of what it has to say, wondering how i can hold on to the calm and contentment of this past few days once i go back home, to london, and once i go back to work. i've been ignoring my phone a lot since i've been down here, and the last money i spent was on saturday morning, when i bought an ice-lolly. i suppose it helps that i've barely left the house since i came down on friday.
except for a friend's wedding. it was the loveliest and happiest wedding i've been to in a long while - and being nigerian, i go to a lot of weddings!
on friday afternoon, i joined the bride and groom to be, along with a group of their friends, part of the decoration squad. their reception was to be the next day at the local village hall. over the course of the afternoon and evening, we hung bunting and fairy lights, prettified tables with jam jars of flowers from the back garden. and all around their were other brilliant home-made touches: a giant purple heart, made to match the bunting, a present from the groom's sister; table names held in place by blocks cut by the groom's dad; a hand-made cardboard suitcase to hold wedding cards and gifts.
on the day, the bride wore a dress she'd bought on e-bay ('only used once'!), and the registrar was a friend of the family. myself and another friend sang and read, and another orchestrated the photos afterwards. the wedding breakfast was provided by a local caterer (delicious salads, some quiche and salmon, and three choices of praise-showered desserts - i opted for the double chocolate fudge cake…).
as the day became dusk became dark, the dj took over from the home-made music mix, people hit the dance floor, and the joy that had bubbled up throughout the day spilled over into un-self-conscious jumping and gyrating, shimmying and shaking - joy dance-onified.
and i'm overwhelmed by how much everyone talked to everyone else. and how blatantly people enjoyed each others company. it didn't seem ridiculous that i felt i left with new friends. people i'd never met before with whom i now have plans to organise a piano based sing along at their not yet found new home. people i'd never met before who i've arranged to meet for tea next time i'm in their town. it was a brilliant, lovely day.
in the reflection of my laptop screen, i see a bird alight on the duck pen - look around, and fly off again. and as i look up, i swear i see a swallow heading west. the sun warms my ears, throws dark shapes across the lawn, and my foster parents discuss their grand-children as they pat the dogs.
i am not surprised by my contentment here, by how little i miss the movement and bustle of london. i'm definitely not surprised by how little i miss work. inklings of the possibility of packing it all in now (rather than sensibly saving and waiting until next year) play around the edges of my mind. perhaps it's a short -term thing, but it feels good not to be rushing to this or to that. it feels good to sit and not worry about what next. it feels good to have been able to put all the usual clutter and worry out of my head - for now. i'm hoping i can hold onto this when i go home. hoping i can find it increasingly easy to minimalise, detach a little more. just slow down.