The New Leaf #24 - Elemental
Hi, and welcome to the twenty-fourth instalment of The New Leaf, an informal and infrequent email bulletin with the things I’ve been writing and reading lately.
“I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again.” - Georgia O’Keeffe
I took August off. My tank was thoroughly empty after that last lockdown, and in the month leading up to August I was obsessed with the idea of feeling like a child on their summer holidays. I was desperate to just knock about for a bit, taking a moment to process and just be, before having to think about the next thing. I guess that's kind of what every summer is for, in a sense?
I went to Berlin with Luke, flexing that vaccine passport for a good old fashioned European summer holiday. It was just so nice being somewhere else for a bit, and experiencing the world being open again, after everything. I went to Norway too, enjoying seeing everyone as I travelled west then north then south - it really is a beautiful country (I mean, just look at it), and such a steady place to be from.
But in between travelling I had two weeks at home in London, where I deliberately made no plans - I just got up every day thinking, what would feel good today? More often than not, that meant going swimming - it came as a surprise to me too, as I've never been a water baby. But I spent the summer in London's ponds, docks, reservoirs, lidos and lakes - anywhere that's cool and outside, expose to the elements. It's important to talk about things, but sometimes, you need to get into your body to unlock yourself. In the water, the brain empties, the body feels weightless and nothing hurts. 💙
Here’s what I wrote recently.
Into the dark heart of licorice - Eater
“So much drama within one candy!” I went deep into the dark, salty heart of liquorice (as it's spelled in the UK) for Eater, and it was some of the most fun I’ve had with reporting (because as often is the case when people talk about things they know a lot about and really love, enthusiasm is catching). I asked everyone to describe the taste of liquorice and they all said completely different things, and after all of this I’m no closer to a definite description. This is a win. 🖤
How we make - and remake - our memories - The Simple Things
I have a feature in the August issue of The Simple Things on how we make and recall memories, and how it’s not the perfect recall of the past that we might wish it were. We remake our memories all the time, it turns out, because the brain doesn’t actually care very much about the past if it gets in the way of the future. It’s ok, it might actually be a good thing.
The year spent inside our minds - Lionheart Magazine
“Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere,” David Bowie sang - but during lockdown it got pretty close. The theme of issue 13 of Lionheart Magazine is “Magic”, and because my life at the time of writing was mostly one big blur of “what the hell just happened” I wrote about the only thing on my mind - all that walking we used to do, and how hard we worked to get through it with a little bit of grace. It often wasn’t successful but sometimes, the magic is in the attempt. 💛🦁💫
My wedding tattoo, my divorce, my self - The Doe
The Doe publishes anonymous essays - it’s a place to say the things you’re not sure you want Google to know about. I’m not sure I need this to be anonymous anymore, but the fact that it was made it a little more relaxing to write. I learned some things from this story that feel true x
Why is the British citizenship test so weird? - Prospect Magazine
The 'Life in the UK' test is mandatory for all citizenship applications and longterm visas, and after 21 years in the UK my time has come to prove myself. But this test is a heck of a ride through this country's "long and illustrious" history, with endless facts about the Tudors and the Corn Laws. It begs the question - what, exactly, is this test trying to do? They claim it's about teaching British values, but I've been in the UK long enough to know that this test isn't it and we can do better.
Here’s what I read recently.
Reading List, Elemental edition.
Reading List, Ten Year Anniversary (double) edition.
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