the night we hid our childhood memories in drawers and cupboards and make believe-safes?
How we wrapped secrets and fairy tales in the blankets our five-year-old selves couldn’t sleep without.
Whispering, we gently placed them all in unforgettable treasure chambers.
Do you remember how the shoes that blinked when we walked slowly faded, greying like streets heavy with rain, as electricity bills ate all our ice cream pennies.
Our hiding places got more secret, and as we walked past them yelling Marco, they stopped replying, as deadlines and invoices and parking tickets called louder than memories ever dared.
If you do, then please let me tell you how last night I found that childhood drawer, and today I’m sat here on the floor, flicking through dusty sweet wrappers wondering whether I should give them back or not.
I almost throw them away.
Stamps are expensive and memories are heavy. I’ve learned it’s not cheap, to wrap nostalgia up in polaroid pictures and Royal Mail envelopes.
I won’t throw them away though. I don’t think I ever will.
Most years I hold onto summer like it’s the railing of a bridge I’m not entirely sure whether to trust or not – fingers clenched around long summer evenings, oceans to swim in and the sun never really setting.
Now it’s September 1st and the fog is rolling in over the hills and the fields of my little hometown. This year something is different. This year, I can’t wait for long dark evenings enveloping us, blankets on the sofa and thicker jumpers in the office. I can’t wait for mugs of tea and warm woolen mittens, for lighting candles and having to turn the lights on in every room I enter. Maybe life’ll slow down a bit around autumn time this year, and I’m excited about that too. Spring brings life and summer brings energy – maybe this autumn can bring a sense of calm. I’m excited for books and for blankets, for sitting inside while September paints the sky with the sun rising and setting.
Yeah, I’m ready for autumn to roll around, but before that I’ll have a think about the months that have passed. May to August of 2020 have been months of moving flats twice, moving away from some very good friends, wonderful summer weekends, boat trips, cutting most of my hair off, starting an internship and seeing that internship turn into a permanent position. They’ve been months of not cooking as much as I’d like, of scouring town for a picture frame with three slots, and of nephew cuddles galore. They’ve been months of corona testing and quarantining and chewing your bottom lip wondering what the future holds. They’ve also surprisingly enough been months of woolen scarves and thunderstorms in July, but hey ho – this year’s a strange one anyway, so who’s to be surprised about having to don a bikini one day and a knitted scarf the next.
We’ve made it through the first half of 2020 – let’s get on with the next one!
The first poetry stage I ever experienced, and my favourite to this day, is Winchester’s Poetry Platform. A monthly open mic-poetry night, hosted in the attic space above the Railway Inn in Winchester — this vibrant spot of poets and writers who travelled in from (very) near and (a little bit) far, was the most wonderful introduction to live poetry. I loved it from the get go; the vibe of “everything’s okay here”, the little stage that welcomed everyone, how there was always room for one more person. It was like one of those big round tables where you can always pull up one more chair. I spent the first couple of months just listening, sat in awe taking in the words of the brave people on the stage, before I worked up the courage to join in myself. After that I never missed an event.
Moving away from Winchester meant moving away from a lot of things that meant the world to me, and Poetry Platform was honestly one of those things I was so sad to let go of. It was truly a space in which I found myself grow, both as a writer, as a listener and as a person.
Looking at this video though, you can tell I’m still as awkward a bean as ever. Gosh, I need to up my performance game, especially now that performance means talking to your own laptop screen and not the expectant darkness of an audience.
One of the very few good things to come out of this global pandemic, is the Poetry Platform going online and moving locations from the Railway Inn to Zoom. Poetry readings in your Living room aren’t the same as being in that attic space above a pub, with the smells and the sounds and the textures of pub chairs and cider bottle condensation, but it’s a hell of a lot better than no poetry readings at all.
I read two new work-in-progress poems on August’s poetry platform, from the safety of my temporary central Oslo living room. How strange to sit in this flat who represents everything that’s new and a little intimidating, reading poems about the sea outside my parents’ house, to people still living in the city that will forever hold my first proper adventure.
I suddenly find myself in a situation I haven’t been in before. I’m sat in a borrowed fifth floor flat in the middle of the biggest city in Norway, looking out over the sun setting over Oslo, shrouding the parks and the buildings and the castle in mid-July nighttime. This is a fairly quiet part of the city center, but compared to my 2000 people-hometown, everything seems grand and loud. People are wandering on the streets below me, and I am both in the middle of more bustle than I’m used to, and also so incredibly on the outside of it. Not a bad place to be, really.
Big cities are strange. It’s in the cities stuff is happening. Big cities mean life, big cities are synonymous with energy, big cities smell of adventure, new foods and bright colours. People gather in big cities, huddle together in big cities, but people are also incredibly lonely in big cities. Big cities are for dreams and worries and ambitions and nails bitten short.
At the moment I’m so very new to this city. I’ve never lived with the sounds of trams passing outside my window, and it’s a new experience. Maybe the best way to get used to the city bustle is to sing with it. I tried that; a song about how no matter what else you have or haven’t got, at least you’ll always have tomorrow. Maybe the city is a little bit more mine now than it was this morning. Maybe it’ll be a little bit more mine tomorrow. Like I said, I’m so incredibly new to this city. I don’t know it properly and it certainly doesn’t know me, yet. But maybe one day. Maybe this city will lead to small changes that will lead to big changes, maybe this first temporary stay will lead to some sort of personal growth I’m not prepared for and certainly not aware of at the moment. This feels like the beginning of something – I’m just not sure what.
I brought one of my favourite mugs, filled it with tea and now I’m sat overlooking the buildings and the trees in the park. Cars, trams, taxis and electric scooters; meters below me life is going on and on. I can’t wait to join in, but for tonight I think I’m just going to feel oh so very fortunate to suddenly find myself on the rooftops of the capital, to see the city from above, to be in the middle of what feels like everything, and still be a little bit distanced from it. I’ll learn and grow and get to know this city tomorrow. I’m very excited about it.
As cliche as it might be, sometimes books just speak to you. I was looking through old folders of videos, and I found two videos recounting my favourite book quotes of years long gone and passed. There was one video from 2010 and one from 2013 and it was interesting to see what kind of quotes and books made it into those videos, what quotes I felt it important to remember “for ever” and what words I wanted to share with the world. It made me think about the quotes that are important to me now, and it made me want to remake that video with my favourite books as of late.
So here goes; a couple of words to live by, some to laugh at, and others to simply enjoy.
This morning finds me with a cup of tea and the fourth Witcher book wide open, the window cracked and the sun streaming in. Last night I handed in the last assignment I’ll ever do at uni, my BA thesis has been safely handed in too, and there is nothing else left to do with five years of university. This might be as close to a perfect morning as I can imagine. A perfect spring day.
No one anticipated how this year was going to go, and not in our wildest imaginations would any of us guess that this would be how we’d spend our spring: quarantines and travel bans and social distancing. Working on exams and hand-ins and the thesis has been a godsend in keeping my routine quite close to normal, and for that I’m grateful.
This situation has brought a strange end to my time in Kristiansand, though, and I’m trying to come to terms with it. This city, which has been synonymous with lovely people, social gatherings, study groups and wine nights with people who’ve become my closest friends, now seems rather cold and lonely. Luckily I’ve made friends with the next-next-door neighbor, and we wave and chat across our balconies, both in our own little spheres. Cross-balcony tea parties have become our specialty, and they’re definitely something that’s gonna stand out as the marker of 2020. So, what did you do in April ’20? I finally got into rooibos tea, and drank copious amounts of it while chatting to my new German friend who got virus-stuck in Norway, while both chillin’ out in our respective flats.
I wonder how many times people have said “I’ll never take a hug for granted again”, from their little self-isolated bubbles, but I’ll join the choir. I hope we don’t forget this time too easily when “normality” comes knocking on our doors; I hope I never take socialising for granted again. Not that every single night out needs to be filled with mindfullness and extreme gratitude, but maybe there’ll be time for a little thought sent to just how lucky I am to have kind people around me. Maybe I’ll just have an extra little think when I’m sat next to someone I care about, with their arm around me as the waves crash against a shore we’ve dragged the boat up on. Maybe I’ll be a bit more grateful for the loud music escaping speakers on a massive stage, and enjoy the feeling of a really good summer concert outside, on one of those nights where the mosquitos forget to bite and the breeze is warm and calm and the sun never really sets. Maybe that will be the time to send a small thought to when we weren’t allowed to gather more than five people in total, to when hugs were out of the question and bright spring nights were intended spent indoors.
However, this time has made me reconnect properly with friends who have moved away, friends in other corners of the world and different countries, and I really appreciate that. Having to suddenly do all socialising online really bridges the gap of “moved to a different country”.
I’m still filming a second a day, and those seconds are strange to watch back when times are so quickly a-changing. I’ve decided to split 2020 into 3 videos, “January to April”, “May to August” and “September to December”. I did intend to post this earlier than now in mid-May, but oh well.. This year has already proven that it can take us for a ride, that it can twist and turn and properly surprise us, and I’m both anxious and excited to see what else this year has in store for all of us.
I’m moving out of my flat on the 15th of June, which is, objectively, still more than a month away. However, spending so much time inside this flat lately has really made me think about what this flat means (and has meant) to me and what the future will hopefully bring, and in a fit of … not really inspiration and definitely not passion, but in a fit of something, I decided to dismantle my postcard wall today.
I love my postcard wall. When I first moved to Kristiansand I bought my first ever mailbox, and for a couple of moments, I felt like a proper adult. To fill the mailbox with nice things, I joined Postcrossing, and since September 2018 I’ve sent 203 cards and received 202. Every single card has been meticulously pinned to my wall, and today I’ve taken them all down. It took me about an hour – I wanted to have a read through, and properly look at all of them, not just tear them down.
The postcard wall has served as an interesting and unique piece of decoration to make a student flat seem a bit less dull (and orange, that wall is oh so very orange). It was the one thing people always commented on when they entered my flat; there was always a “wow” or a “what on earth is all this?” But more important than that – it made the flat feel a bit less temporary. The postcard wall was “my thing”; 202 greetings from 202 people I’ve never met, 202 people’s handwritings and well-wishes from around the world, and something that slowly built itself up around me. And as I was taking the cards down, I looked at so many of them and I realised that I can remember receiving almost all of them. I remember when specific cards popped into my mailbox, how quickly I ran inside to register them and pop a message back to the sender, before putting them up on the wall, contemplating whether the front or the back should be on show. I do not know where any of the cards I’ve sent ended up, but maybe they’re on someone else’s postcard wall, or in an album or a box that someone flicks through when they need a smile or a giggle. The postcard wall has definitely made me feel safe and at home, like I’m surrounded by these snippets of time, these conversations happening at kitchen tables and desks all around the globe. What a privilege to get to be a part of such a thing.
I’ve moved six times in the last six years, but this is the first flat I’m genuinely sad to leave. Taking down this wall, which I’ve appreciated so much, felt like the first step to taking my time to thank the flat and start moving out of it. Having to rush all of these cards down, while simultaneously trying to pack up everything else just felt wrong; the cards needed their own time and their own moments. Silly, I know, but it just felt right.
So here you go, I hope you enjoy this little snippet of how the postcard wall came to be history. A lot less dramatic than I make it sound, but to be fair, removing the first card felt quite dramatic to me. Then it became a bit meditative, as I read through the kind words of strangers who’ve all given me a little bit of their time on the back of a card, who all helped make this flat feel a little bit more like mine. And without planning for it, the very last card left on the wall, the very last to be carefully taken down, was actually the very first I received. Full circle, and all that.
Here’s to many more postcards, in many more mailboxes to come. I hope you’re having a lovely day, and that you’re staying safe wherever you are.
~ The Horror and the Wild album ~ world poetry day ~ the first dandelions of the season ~ spring starting to peek its head through ~ “Fair” by The Amazing Devil ~ (almost) daily snapchats of my best friend’s son of about 2 and a half ~ Microsoft Teams ~ The 2016 Moomin Summer mug ~ my nephew’s small hands tucked into warm mittens ~ lavender hand soap ~ hula hoops ~ the coastline ~ the blue table cloth-turned-bedspread which I bought at a stall on the Winchester high street and still love and cherish ~ surprising messages from people I haven’t spoken to in a while ~ loving messages from people I talk to every single day ~ the bluetooth speakers I just managed to get working ~ gathering data for my BA thesis ~ the day getting longer and longer ~ people taking the corona epidemic seriously and coming together to fight the spread of the virus ~ walks along the rocks by the fjord on my own ~ the fjord~ my little uni flat ~ the bookshelves at my parents’ house ~ my mum’s knitted cardis ~ ao3 subscription emails ~ the on-going search for the perfect jar to store tea in ~ “morning coffee” at work ~ all the musicians live streaming home gigs right now ~ my mum’s chocolate cake ~ a clean kitchen ~ cheesy 2010-romances ~ old diaries ~ a tidy room ~ nicknames ~ finding the perfect birthday present for someone even though it’s not their birthday for many many months and being so excited to give the present that you almost let slip what it is ~ The Witcher book series ~ my IKEA stuffed shark called Willie ~ crossing stuff off my to do list ~ a good sleep schedule ~ living by the sea ~ donating blood ~ being the first one to get up in the morning and popping the kettle on ~ home-knitted slippers~ “your package has been shipped” ~ rediscovering old favourite books ~ being ahead on tomorrow’s to do list ~ the quiet of living in a tiny place ~ coincidences ~ discount coach fares ~ succulents ~ emails that are easy to write ~ BA thesis tutorials on skype~ the sun ~ good colleagues ~ skype hang-outs with friends ~ plans for the future ~
Have a poem, with the aforementioned cliched title, filmed on my webcam complete with the noises of both my mum and dad in separate skype-meetings upstairs. I was only supposed to be home for a couple of days, but then the travel ban hit and now I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back to my uni town. Now we’re three people all trying to do our separate jobs in one house with strangely few doors and a lot of open doorways; it’s not the best solution, but we’re making do. And to be fair, I’d much rather be here right now than isolated all alone in a student flat. Take care of each other, folks.
Love in the time of Covid is waving at each other from across the street is walking two meters apart is «I’ll leave your groceries on the porch, take care».
Love in the time of Covid is travel bans and cancelled plans and waterfall worries and loneliness.
Love in the time of Covid is creating an everyday in cramped houses is home office landscapes and nurseries in living rooms is a kettle constantly boiling in the kitchen.
Love in the time of Covid is empty streets and darkened towns and school grounds void of children.
Love in the time of Covid is learning to be productive in a new normal is being together by being apart is showing we care by breaking the chain.
Love in the time of Covid is a team effort, a global population staying inside, a world worth of shoes left waiting by the door.
Love in the time of Covid is making the best of strange days to come, strange days we won’t know how to handle strange days we never even dreamed of.
Love in the time of Covid is singing together through open windows is lighting candles for people we do not know is gathering in applause in houses across the nation.
Love in the time of Covid is staying inside today so others can see tomorrow it is solidarity it is compassion. it is a choice.