They met for tea every Friday, but each time, just as the second brew was ready, Lorna’s lunch hour was over. For the first of these meetings she’d spent a considerable time choosing what to wear. Anders arrived on a beat-up old bike in a grey sweater peppered with moth holes – and Lorna resigned herself to having made another friend, a dear friend, but just a friend all the same. Their conversation was always easy, meandering from Japanese cooking to Chinese medicine to Lorna’s Amatsu exams to the flavour of the steak and wine Anders had ordered after an abstemious week on a Buddhist retreat. It was this refreshing absence of earnestness that Lorna, a self described ‘spiritual but no nonsense Yorkshire lass’, loved. Their tea dates evolved into date dates and they moved in together. Every night they had tea, laughing over the increasingly naff aphorisms – ‘nafforisms’ on the tags of their herbal Yogi. One uncharacteristically balmy London night, Anders returned home with flowers and Prosecco. He made a lovely, lazy supper of leftovers and they sat out in the garden. By 10pm Lorna was sleepy from the booze, she said she’d skip their customary tea and head for bed. Anders suggested she get ready for bed and he’d make tea. So Lorna sat outside in her pajamas while the kettle boiled. Anders read the tag on his tea ‘ “Truth is everlasting”…what does yours say?’. He smiled as she read out, ‘After drinking this tea, would you like to marry me?’.
Gustav and Edith collected eggs from their chickens, grew vegetables and harvested honey from their bees. They were both deeply practical. This extended to Gustav’s job, he was a toolmaker. At home he used a vast barn to store hay, logs, chicken feed and an array of the tools he’d made, each one hooked onto a panelled wall, hanging over it’s own wobbly, painted shadow. From age 5 Carolin would make the short walk to her grandparents’ on her own, she’d head for the barn to find her grandad. It was a labyrinth of different levels, seemingly growing new rooms with each visit. She’d follow the gentle percussive hammering until she found him. He’d be bent over, bathed in a beam of light from a hanging lamp in an otherwise dim corner of the barn. There was a utility to much of his output, he built pens for the chickens, lean-tos to protect logs from the rain and hives to house the bees. But sometimes his arms would reach up to collect something from a dark shelf, and the pool of light cast on the work bench would reveal a rocking horse or a turreted castle or an engine pulling a trio of carriages.
The bus was empty when it arrived. Emily’s was the first stop. The 7 miles to Towcester took 50 minutes as the bus snaked through the countryside, stopping at every village to pick up more school kids. The return journey felt even longer, by the time she arrived in Weedon Lois, Emily’s legs had welded themselves to the sticky leather seat. It was 1976 and Emily had just turned 15. She’d asked for a radio for her birthday so when she opened her present she had to hide her disappointment. It was a radio, but a 30 year old radio. It had been her father’s. It didn’t have FM and the Bakelite was the same dull red as her school bus. Emily’s dad, sensing her mood, said the radio had served him well. And so it came to serve Emily well. ‘It became quite a friend’, with the isolation that came from living in a small village, the radio gave her solace. At night she listened to Annie Nightingale. A few years later she left home for University St Andrews. Her halls of residence was a cacophony of fancy stereos playing Pink Floyd, Ultravox, Dire Straits and David Bowie. If you listened hard you could just pick out Grinderswitch’s ‘Pickin’ The Blues’ introducing the John Peel show on Emily’s old Murphy radio.
London eclipsed everywhere. The fall of the Berlin wall only temporarily wrenched Inga’s attention from her adopted city. Steffi Graf and Boris Becker had just won Wimbledon and Germany was riding high but Inga was a student at St Martins. The very same college where a brown-clad Jarvis Cocker sat nursing milky brown cappuccinos in the student canteen. To Inga, this was the crucible of Cool Britannia. But as the 90s came to an end, Berlin became the new apogee of cool and in 2000 Inga moved east. Fifteen years later she still lives in Berlin, even as another city is determined the moniker for hipdom, Inga is staying put. This collection of old postcards of Berlin celebrate Inga feeling at home. They celebrate her real love for her city and her being part of it. They celebrate her being wrong when, as 17 year old exchange student in the US, she wrote an essay ‘Why the two Germanys will never re-unite’.
As a kid, holidaying in Mallorca, Thomas’s parents had refused to let him take home a dog that he’d befriended. 30 years later, on a trip to Greece, a puppy was again circling his ankles. He locked his eyes on the sky until they stung in an effort to avoid meeting its gaze. It was tourist season so the fountains were on – the puppy had a ready supply of water. Predictably, with some unnecessary encouragement from Thomas’s old friend Torsten, the puppy finagled its way into their plans. They named her Ida. They took her to the beach. She tagged along on hikes. They fed her, she refused any dog food until Thomas had heated and salted it – her palette refined by a diet of scraps begged from the tourists crowding Ios’s restaurants. Ida was happy but Thomas and Torsten were increasingly uneasy about leaving her, in two days they were due to fly home. Sitting in their regular cafe, an immaculately dressed woman approached their table, clearly touched by the bond between them, she asked if it was their dog. Thomas explained. The woman left but after ten minutes she’d returned. ‘This is my gift, not to you but to her’, she handed Thomas a collar, a lead and a tin of dog food. She was an angel. Thomas fully expected that under her grey, cropped hair was a head of magic, blue curls to match her Chanel suit. The woman insisted that they take Ida, that she’d bring them ‘luck, health and happiness’. Their return flight was booked for September 13th. It was two days after 9.11 and in the wake of the attacks, security staff were too busy to notice a puppy travelling without documentation.
Taro was a summer baby. His birth one hot July day in north London meant that he would always be young for his class. He’d left his nursery, with its familiar smells of paint and plastic chairs, left friends and the gentleness of just three days of classes. It was now September and he was moving to the big school with the big kids. Friendships were already tight between children who’d not moved schools but were simply shifting from the affiliated nursery to its primary school. On Taro’s first day he refused to let his mum leave, so Kazuko locked her small frame into a kid’s chair and sat quietly in the corner of the classroom. Taro spent the day absorbed in making a paper plane, this complete involvement was deliberate – he never once looked up to engage with the other kids. The objects and drawings he made were always figurative, so it was strange when, in his first two weeks of school, he began drawing an abstract scatter of circles. Sitting in his bedroom he directed his mum to copy him, she drew one small circle at a time, then a speckle of dots. Their pens then stained the tiny fibres of the sugar paper with a series of lines linking each circle to the next. The symbolism was clear to Kazuko. It’s two years since Taro moved schools and made this drawing, in that time he has made lots of friends.