Sunday, May 16, 2004


The timing of my move out to Matt and Monica's house couldn't have been more auspicious, the spring weather is glorious, but definitely more enjoyable with a forest on your doorstep. When I got to London in August an unusually hot summer was ending and the gardens were parched. Even so, to my eyes the greens were amazing and the pure abundance of growing things astounding. Now I understand why people live through the winter – the spring is a pleasure that makes the dreary months almost worthwhile. A sunny weekend was exactly what I needed – starved of sun, warmth and the chance to bare more than just my hands and face, I went a little crazy and became a dedicated Suntoucher. I missed one day of stunning weather frantically doing all the jobs I had to do inside, and finally escaped the house with Monica as my guide in the late evening.

From home, it is only a short walk to a slice of forest surrounding a lake and the Snaresbrook Crown Court. It must have been about 7pm when we started out and the air was soft, warm and glowing – illuminating verdant green trees and sharpening the shadows. As we strolled around the winding banks of the lake we passed people meditating, little girls in party dresses feeding geese and groups of couples piled on top of each other on picnic rugs. There were leaf-blanketed clearings with arching tree branch avenues running off them, just made for thundering horses and flashing sword fights. Passing under the trees, Monica's height meant she walked through spider webs and collided with tiny green caterpillars’ bungee-ing to the floor below on silken threads. I was completely enchanted with this little slice of heaven and had to stop searching for superlatives to describe it.

The next morning I woke up baking in the sunlight scorching my sheets. Such a wake up call put me in a superb mood – my bedrooms at home always faced the rising sun and topping up my tan in the morning in bed made me feel that little bit more at home. I hauled my bathers and board-shorts out of the depths of my bags, packed a picnic and headed out to worship the sun in an earthly temple. I emerged from the first stand of trees at about ten and started out across the field towards the lake, suppressing a rueful grin at the irony of joining the unclothed and white forms of the loungers on the long grass. I had always sniggered somewhat at the pictures of English people rolling up their trousers and shirts and lying in parks to catch a few rays. Now I was in their ranks, stripping off to a bikini and lying on a beach towel, sunglasses perched on my nose and not a board-wielding, wet-suited surfer in sight.

It was a blissful five hours of turning myself carefully so as to get an even first tan of summer, and I got home with a 'touch of colour' – best described as a baby pink.