05 June 2018

The eternal, great British summer


Because the weather has been nice, the Pihlajas of Harborne have been spending all the time we can outdoors. Most evenings, when the sun is still out at seven thirty or eight, we end up in the cemetery surrounding St Peters church, stone hub of our lives. The church in the centre, then the gravestones, and then the kids’ school on both sides, and then Victoria Road, where I bought my first house this last year. The kids have been cycling on the paths around the church, through the graves, chasing one another, and me walking in circles around and around, thinking about the present as much as I can, rather than the future, rather than the past.

The girls on their bicycles are still children, but when I look at them sometimes, even the youngest one now, when I catch a glimpse of her across the room, she looks like she will in ten or fifteen years. That thought of the future though, can just pass if you let it, and take another few steps in two thousand eighteen, in Harborne, where they are still children, still giggling and screaming and shouting at each other. They eat ice lollies, popsicles, and we hector them into bed some time after nine or ten. The sun doesn’t feel like it goes down in the UK in the summer. It does — it can be quite dark, but by four or four-thirty, the new kitchen and toilet that Wayne the Builder put in over the winter is completely lit up and bright. I have trouble sleeping until my alarm. Instead, I get up and weigh myself and get on with things thinking, well, there’s no point fighting what you want, is there.

All the girls were born in this season, this edge of the great British summer that never actually comes. I think about this, and why there is such an overwhelming sense of positivity in May and the beginning of June, regardless of whatever negative news has come through on the email today. I remember the morning Mia was born and the smell of everything in bloom. I remember the sun, the first time you feel the sun on your face when you leave the clinic or hospital, holding a newborn baby. Now, the school year is almost over, and I can walk a bit and think about what I want to write now, what I need to write. I can browse through charity shops, looking for linen and having breakfast with Yoko at the Plough. I can ride my bike up the canal, through the new tunnel that has been widened and feel like things are straighter and clearer than they have been in the past.

The statute of White Tara in the Birmingham Buddhist centre is adorned with metaphorical meaning. White Tara is touching the ground, it’s a metaphor. White Tara looks happy in a knowing way, the way the Buddha does, it’s a metonymy. White Tara isn’t real in an ontological sense, or she is real in an ontological sense, depending on who you are what you believe. When I was young, all I worried about was what I believed. But what does it matter. I close my eyes, or I don’t close my eyes, and take a breath again and again and again. I can hear the children on bikes behind me, shouting and laughing and joking and I turn around so I can watch them pass and then pass again. The sun is still shining and hanging in the middle of the sky, an eternity if you let it be an eternity.