k a y a k

[ 15:23 sunday 13 august – sandhurst,  gloucestershire ]

i’m with mum and dad for the weekend, perched in the sitting room   with the garden a mass of lively greens against the overcast sky. mum   remedying my botched efforts turning up a pair of linen trousers i   bought from chieko’s stall at spitalfiends. on the radio the bach  cello suites are being played in a curious transcription for guitar.

yesterday we all went canoeing on the river wye, mum and dad together  in an open canoe and me in a bright yellow kayak. we did an eight  mile stretch around the symonds yat gorge in the middle of the forest  of dean, a gorgeous and mysterious landscape. we saw salmon jumping,  buzzards wheeling overhead and even a kingfisher darting azure across  the water. the river was very low and at several points the water  formed races over the stony bed. at one such race i made an idiot of  myself and succeeded in capsizing, to the amusement of mum and dad.  the water was so deliciously warm that when we’d finished the journey  and hauled the canoes out of the water i found a secluded spot and  went for a swim.

for the past month or two i’ve been looking for a house to buy in  london but truth be told i’m ambivalent about the whole exercise. one  of my experiments from 1998 to 2003 involved trying to avoid owning  things and it left me with a strong sense that the less i owned the  happier i was. so long as i have access to necessary things and  services i have no desire to own them. people usually talk about the  feelings of security that come with ownership but in my experience  there is much more sense of burden and restriction.

a house is probably the pinnacle of the ownership malaise, surrounded  as it is by long-term financial obligations and a multitude of  complex maintenance requirements. i have no interest in a house as an  investment, which seems to have become a primary motivator for many  people. i just want somewhere to live.

the thing that started me thinking about buying somewhere was the  realisation that there are a hundred things i’d like to change in the  flat where i live, but because i rent it i’m not able to do it. the  bathroom and kitchen need refitting, the roof needs strengthening and  given proper access, the brickwork on the western wall needs sealing  so rainwater doesn’t seep in, more storage needs building in. all  these things would make a difference to my daily life.

of course i don’t really like living in london, which further  diminishes my enthusiasm for buying a house here. when i returned  from stromboli in 2003 i sincerely believed it would be possible to  set up trampoline and be on my way again after six months. three  years later this looks somewhat naive, but i’m glad i made the choice  and i doubt i’d have done so had i realised how long it would take,  so that original naivety was a blessing. the company’s at a point now  where i expect to be able to start spending a portion of my time  working remotely before long. but i’ll still be spending a lot of my  time in london for the next few years so it makes sense to sort out a  living environment in which i feel comfortable.

amongst the many odious aspects of house-hunting there’s been one  real pleasure. in the process of determining which areas i’d like to  live in i’ve spent hours cycling round unfamiliar areas of hackney,  islington highbury, haggerston and canonbury. this has given me a  much richer sense of where the mediaeval village centres were and of  the explosive waves of residential development during the second half  of the nineteenth century. a bicycle is a wonderful aid to  understanding a city’s development and topography.

: c :

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