After years of my time belonging to others, I find I am rather poor at filling empty spaces in the day. I am slightly clumsy at this new, slower pace, and not sure how to appreciate it. My mind races with possibilities and ideas and is unsure how to organise them.
Sitting in a little gallery in a nearby Northumbrian village, I inhale the waxy perfume of candles and envy the prism-shaped logs stacked neatly at the sides of the stone fireplace. The sky outside is a cool grey, stubborn and still. This is a village where curtains twitch and the man on the next table is reading the Daily Mail. He also says ‘scone’ to rhyme with ‘bone’, which concerns me, though not as much as his reading matter.
I sense an awkward juxtaposition between the harmless tapestries of ferns and the absence of youth. Where I live it is so pretty, bordered by the frothing North Sea and the majestic Cheviot Hills. My town is topped and tailed between two great cities, Newcastle and Edinburgh, but is completely removed from any urban buzz. The gentle honey stone of the houses and the coastal castles make this area a magnet for wealthy retired holiday makers during the term time, whilst families from the trendy south escape for a dose of sea air in the school holidays.
I once met a woman in Cambridge, where the girls and I were youth hostelling for a few days. She worked in a museum and wore tunic dresses and a matt red lipstick. As my daughters dressed up as polar explorers she told me that she loved to spend holidays in Northumberland, but was always glad to come home.
Recently I have started sporting a red lipstick and I wonder where it will take me.