May 25th – June 12th, 2016

At the start of June, we were to have our first ever visitors. Emily and her mum, Elizabeth, were travelling to the UK and then Canada for a conference. In the lead up to their arrival there was much excitement and apprehension in the Fletcher Flat as we wondered how we would go fitting four people in the tiny space instead of two. An air mattress was obtained and spare pillows and sheets, dietary requirements were found out and much tidying was done – it is very surprising how much dirt and mess can fit in a very small flat.

In the interim it was Lloyd’s Dad’s birthday, and we wanted to give him something nice that wouldn’t cost lots or be something he could get himself, so we made him a book of Feathers Wood ‘N’ String songs TAB for guitar. We also released a new song called Not My Song. A few days before Emily and Elizabeth’s arrival I visited Maddy in Old Sarum for an open air production of Tess of the D’urbervilles at the Old Sarum hill fort ruins which was a really cool night out.

 

Emily and Elizabeth arrived on the evening of the 4th June after a long day with some relatives who live nearer London, who had many activities planned for them in their short time there, followed by a long train ride. They looked pretty exhausted when they came out of the train station at 8.45pm! We towed their cases the short walk home where I had pizza and cake waiting and they handed over an extensive collection of T Bar tea provisions and our wedding guest book, which I had left in Australia with my mum to get messages from people. Emily was excited about the dark chocolate and rosewater cake I had made. We had a hilarious time getting the air mattress pumped up and trying some sweets Emily had brought called ‘surprising fantasy’ and ‘blueberry cuddles’.

Over the course of the following days I introduced the two of them to Southampton Common and the university, with Lloyd showing us a beautiful garden containing a long-haired grey cat in which to have our picnic. However, on the first day our visitors were with us, a hilarious turn of events saw the Southbrook Rise building’s fire alarm going off repeatedly, getting all the residents out in the carpark for no apparent fire, and making for some very confused firemen. We had some fun dreaming up possible causes, such as a tenant with a crush on a specific fireman who kept pressing the button until the right person came, or someone being lonely and wanting to meet everyone. We met our neighbour Ashley, who was very nice, and everyone was a bit bemused.

Our guests helped me to document my handstand practice while they were with us, culminating in Emily helping me to do my first handstand unsupported by a wall or tree by holding onto my foot on an open area of grass.

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Emily and Elizabeth also wanted to see Salisbury and took me along with them, as a group ticket was no more expensive than tickets for two. I ambled round the markets and did some reading in the library there while they went to see Stonehenge and accompanied them to Salisbury Cathedral.

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Reflections in the font at Salisbury Cathedral

On one very memorable day Elizabeth decided to explore Bath while Emily decided to take me with her on a trip to explore The New Forest. We took the train to Brockenhurst and this time knew where to get a map. We navigated our way to a completely different area to where Lloyd and I had gone, and discovered a much more dense, fairyland style of forest. There we saw many things that brought to mind childhood dreams. For example, when we stood at a stile, wondering whether to enter the forest at a certain point, our choice was made for us by a mother and baby deer walking across the path and disappearing into the woods before our eyes. Further on, we found some children had built a very good forest hut, which we could sit inside, and then emerged from the trees onto Fletchers Green to meet ponies everywhere.

Returning to the town we then caught a train to a coastal town in The New Forest called Limington. In Limington we found a strawberry farm and had cream tea, before going on a mission to see the coast. We walked through fields and down tiny narrow roads bordered by hedges and high grasses, to glimpse the water and the Isle of Wight in the distance over an area of marsh while standing in a meadow. Emily is an amazing portrait photographer and took some pictures of me in the meadow even though I couldn’t return the favour because of her hayfever (see her work at blackwoolholiday.com).

On the walk back to the station, again through beautiful hedged narrow paths, we met with a group of young people carrying bags of broken up timber and chairs and an old dresser. When asked what they were up to, this interesting party replied that they were going to have a little campfire on the beach. Presumably they knew the way to an area of pebble beach or a tiny bit of sand which we did not see. I hope to go back and find it. I found the farmland at Limington like a daydream of a place I imagine spending time when I try to think of a ‘happy place’. It felt so tranquil. Being there with Emily was very special and I wished that Lloyd and Ashton could have seen it too.

 

On the last full day of our guests being with us, Emily and I set out to take some new portrait photos of each other at the Common during the very extended twilight time that occurs here in Summer. I dug out my ballet pointe shoes which had come in the sea freight but which I had had no opportunity to use for anything as yet, and had some of my photos taken in ballerina poses. Emily had also gifted me a beautiful, flowy maroon skirt, which paired very well with my deep red caplet so that I felt as though I could have been in some kind of story. Emily, being the coolest person I know, was decked out in leather jacket and mauve boots and looking like she could probably influence armies of dragons.

Emily and Elizabeth headed back on London on the 11th June after a hilarious time writing folding stories. From there they travelled to Edinburgh and Emily took with her the paper crane I folded her on the morning of their leaving. ‘Mr No-Name’ the paper crane subsequently viewed all kinds of places on my behalf, including Canada when they arrived there. It was a tough goodbye after such a special time having these lovely people with us. As a result, I began an attempt at an electronic folding story to carry on some of the fun, and keep us all connected. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to these two for the precious time they gave us.

 

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