Outside my bedroom window boisterous gusts shake the blossomed saplings on the front lawns, and far away down the hill the sea is casting off mists the colour of the dusk sky, which are rising up and settling across the Cumbrian moors like a cold, wet duvet. I am sitting on the edge of my bed, surrounded by piles of clothes, while beside me on the floor are two suitcases stacked inside with more clothes and with books. The room is strewn with things that I can’t pack yet (pyjamas, towels) and oddments that don’t seem to belong in any of the bags (three oranges, my camera, a handful of coppers). It is time to go home.
Working a long way from home has had its moments: the friendliness of the Cumbrians, the view of Ennerdale across Harras Moor, the change of scene, rediscovering the Lakes… but there is much that I have missed, and (apart from the obvious things) one of those things has been the elegant city in which I live: its civilities, its repose, its quietitude, the cobbled streets, the looming volcanic core of Arthur’s Seat, the straightforwardness of the Scottish. When you live in Edinburgh, there’s just no place like hame.
Two weeks ago I drove back for the May bank holiday. I arrived just as a magical spring scene was unfolding upon the Meadows: golden shafts of sunlight backlighting the famous cherry blossoms that line the zig-zagging paths. I hurriedly parked the car and rushed back with my camera, but I was too late: that golden moment had been fleeting and the sun had gone behind a cloud. Later that night I went back out with my camera and a tripod and photographed the blossom trees in the dark, now fetchingly backlit by lamplight, trees young, trees old, all resembling Frenchie from Grease in their pink wigs. A young Japanese couple passed me by and idled romantically along the deserted walks. When I returned to Cumbria, it was this vignette that stayed in my mind and I thought of it often, knowing that when I returned home again the blossoms would all but have disappeared.