If you are ever stuck for a while at Waterloo Station, take a short 5 minute walk to Lower Marsh to the delightful and unexpected bookshop, ‘Travelling Through’– not only do they make you a very good cuppa and always a delicious nibble- my favourite being a sort of almond ball- but you can sit, think, browse and be inspired by travel books of all kinds. Having just come back from our Moscow-Trans-Siberian-Beijing-Japan-Australia journey, I am really looking forward to what leaps out from the shelves when I visit ‘Travelling Through’ in a few weeks.
On the trip, we sampled the beginning of autumn in Moscow, the brilliant sunshine and golden colours of Siberian birch forest as well as Mongolian steppe, an Indian summer in Japan- and then shifted backwards a gear to mid-Spring in Australia- where we could be knee-deep in snow unable to walk up Mount Kosciuszko, while three days earlier we had been walking in semi-tropical bush. We could watch King parrots feeding in the back garden of kind friends who were putting us up one week, and two weeks or so later, watch pelicans swimming in the Murray River.
Our experiences were so vivid and different that I didn’t think about home or our garden once. I narrowly missed the chance to meet Jane of the blog, Jane’s Mudgee Garden, as we drove South through Mudgee. That would perhaps have been a really surreal moment- finding real life colliding with a virtual life through our respective blogs and with me appearing suddenly on the other side of the world.
Coming back has been strange. The garden has been doing its own thing by itself- and doing a pretty good, if slightly wayward job of it. Strangely, now that I have got used to it again and it to me, I notice that I am not mentally compiling lists of things to be done, and for once I haven’t found it difficult to focus on the most important things to do. They seem clearer with the benefit of time and distance. Just before leaving, I had been filled with a dread and panic about abandoning the garden in mid-swim. Coming back, I can see that it has carried on growing and has had no need of my help. Given that fastidious tidiness is not my thing, maybe I can calibrate the need to be quite so attentive down a notch or two.
I loved this scene. The Trans-Siberian had stopped, not far from Lake Baikal, en route for the Mongolian border. A slow approaching and very long goods train had taken the single-track section up, and we had to wait for 25 minutes or so. Just beneath the train was a small farmstead with a flower and vegetable garden, and the owners were tending the garden in the bright autumn sunshine. The slow, repetitive motions of weeding, removing spent flower and vegetable growth to make way for winter planting were so familiar to me. Despite the thousands of miles between us, we would have gardened well alongside one another without knowing each other’s language. I found those thoughts very touching.
At the last station stop in Russia before the Mongolian border, the owner of the shop was standing looking out at our train as we set off for the next country, caught in a moment of stillness. She may have been regretting the loss of business, or she may have been barely registering the train with thoughts that were far away. I don’t know, nor does it matter really. But travel opens up the possibilities of encounters, of meeting or observations of people in other lives and situations than those you are familiar with.
I also loved this scene. A young couple are just married, and friends are looking on and photographing them. The smiles, the tilts of their heads, made me smile from my railway carriage- a silent, passing observer of their lives.
And in the garden, there is always another year, another season to think about and to experience. Just as there is always more travelling to be done…