1. As I said on Twitter this week, the great thing about an empty life – which isn’t a fair description; let’s rather say, a life in which actual measurable achievements are pretty thin on the ground – is that every tiny step in the right direction, every small tick on a checklist, feels ever so exciting. Wednesday held three ticks: one mildly positive response to a cheeky/optimistic email I’d sent, one approach to someone I hope will help me with a small thing that’s part of a big thing, one brief but productive email exchange (in German!) on a minor domestic matter. Wednesday was a pretty great day.
2. You’ll note that all three of those ticks involved having to contact other people. I hadn’t realised it until I actually wrote that all down, but this is key. Chugging away on my own also produces ticks, but (1) none of them feel significant until they result in something being sent out into the world, and (2) doing something all by myself isn’t scary, and so isn’t exciting. I hate having to talk to other people, so having actually done the talking (or even emailing) is that much more gratifying.
3. I was struck by the first line of this post from the Yarn Harlot: “the way I’d look if my outsides matched my insides”. I realised that my outsides really do match my insides, by and large. (Vaguely pre-Raphaelite.* A bit messy. Into indulgence.) This makes me feel both lucky, and… well. Sigh. That indulgence part. I do believe there’s a whole complicated self-image feedback loop around me and food. I wonder what might change if I looked like someone fully disciplined and in control of herself. I wonder if losing the idea of myself as someone who should be lolling around on an artist’s couch with wine and chocolate might change the way I manage other things.
4. A random Twitter interaction (a request for non-obvious tourist tips) had me remembering how great London could be. I was never completely happy living there (it’s too much), but London is a generous source of the pleasures that come from traipsing around on foot, discovering unexpected delights completely by chance. Small things like a statue to someone you’ve never heard of, portrayed as an absentminded professor in rumpled clothes with loose pages of work about to fly off. (Red Lion Square.) A painting of a library that shifts perspective as you walk past it. (Paradoxymoron, basement of the British Library.) A gift shop’s back room, startlingly but delightfully stocked with very elegant sex toys and lingerie. (Lamb’s Conduit Street, but it’s gone now.) Secondhand bookshops specialising in vintage children’s books and run by a gnome (Bloomsbury, but it’s gone now, because obviously magical gnome bookshops don’t stay in one location very long), or astonishingly overcrowded, idiosyncratically shelved and bestrewn with highly opinionated, handwritten notices on grammar and such – oh, and also selling vintage clothing, bric a brac, local honey and eggs, what the hell. (Osterley Bookshop, and yes it’s out of the way, but you should totally go there on your way to a picnic in the glorious hidden farm that is Osterley Park.) Sculptures halfway up buildings, ranging from a giant electric plug (just off Carnaby Street) to a boy wringing a goose’s neck (somewhere on Strand I think, and WHY?!). Watching Tower Bridge open (you can check the PLA website for ship arrival times). Watching one of those huge ships turn around, at the bend in the river just after Canary Wharf, before getting tugged into the city. (We lived here for a while, which is exactly where this would happen, so we had front row seats. It never stopped being amazing, like seeing a city block ponderously spin on its axis.)
It’s those little secrets that give you a sense of owning a city – not just of belonging there, but of making it yours. Because these discoveries are so personal, so random, they can only come from living your specific life: working and living in your patch, doing the things you do, travelling the way you travel. Sure, each one of them may be well known to thousands, millions of other people. But put together, that psychic map belongs to you alone. London, being so very dense and so very layered, age upon age, is particularly rewarding this way.
And a few hours later the Guardian published its Alternative Guide to Cape Town, along with selected Instagrams, and the collision of nostalgia for two of my former homes just about broke me.
5. My mind has also been greatly occupied this week with fantasies of a business I’d like to run… one day. Daydreaming like this is of course not new, and the specific idea isn’t new either, it’s just taken on a few more details that give it extra heft and plausibility.
The daydreaming is fun. But it’s also frustrating, because I’m not ready to do anything about it just yet. Probably not for a few more years. Maybe never. But… the picture is there, now. I call this imagiplanning: gathering ideas to feed my fantasy. A little bit of research here and there. Lots of notes, lots of fun details. And who knows? Maybe one day Studio Miranda will be a real, physical space.
* This is actually a bit misleading, but in a fun way. I enjoy the idea that I just stepped out of a Waterhouse painting; I also enjoy confusing people who expect me to actually be as oldfashioned as I look.