3Cs, 2 places, 1 person.

Dear Mary-Kate,

So these last few weeks I’ve been coming and going and so has the world – I went away for two weekends and had you and Albie each up to stay. Apologies for the sickeningly self-indulgent reflection that’s about to hit you but if you won’t reply to my posts I’m just going to shout into the abyss that is the internet.

All this has been very confusing. It doesn’t sound like it should be – you would think by the age of 18 I would have mastered the whole idea of travelling, what with boarding school and Hong Kong and divorced parents, but apparently not. I think it’s Cambridge that just messes everything up; time here runs like shampoo into my eyes (3 days in a row). My friends have had infuriating discussions around me on why an hour can’t feel like a day and vice versa because blah blah maths blah ratios blah chips (okay my brain may have added that last one… it was a very dull conversation and it had to wander somewhere). Here, hours evaporate like water from a forgotten kettle, and you can never quite pour them where you want them to go. Days slip past so quickly its like trying to watch tennis from the net – confusing, distracting and afterwards my neck is killing me – but that could also be from my super cool black backpack. And yet people here fit so much into their days that it makes me out of breath just watching them flitting round town.

It is this inexplicable phenomenon that makes it difficult to reconcile home and Uni. (Sorry for the essay-speak but its pretty much taken over my mouth – even in my dreams characters speak in well-proved syllogisms). It’s weird having people up to stay: because of the Cambridge accelerated continuum I don’t really know what I spend half my time on, since my routine is so undisciplined it’s practically French. Everything is strange and new still and that makes it exciting but I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I hope this is what life is like.

But there’s something else as well,which I thought especially in going to Cheltenham. The places that we remember aren’t just places at all; that’s the x-axis but there’s also the secret y-axis of time, so that everything we think we know about a place really just describes a situation. As you move forwards, so do places, even though you secretly expect them to freeze when you turn your head. But like grandmother’s footsteps, as soon as you look away everything creaks into action and slowly, quietly, creeps onwards. It’s a strange realisation in that it’s so obvious and yet hits you even though you know it already.

In the same way, no one ever tells us that the places that we love aren’t really places at all. I love Number 16, the top flat, and when I saw someone walking in there I wanted to shout at them. It doesn’t exist anymore but it was wholly and gloriously ours at a time – as Perks of Being A Wallflower would say, ‘In that moment I swear we were infinite’. Places are situations –The walls and ceilings in our memories are really made of faces and words, and so they don’t wait for us, but are instead scattered by the scuffling feet of these secret people. It’s not so bad though, since friendship stretches through time as well as space. It’s this that makes it possible for us to move on – to take all we can from a place and time and split off in a different direction. But still. Being in Cheltenham was great, so thank you Isaiah and your father Sam* for always welcoming me, having me to stay and for sitting on your bed doing crosswords and planning a life right down to the Weimaraners. Your absence is always felt, just like Kyle’s. Have a song.

I guess life is sometimes just trying to make the old meet the new. The Greeks thought of us as walking backwards through life, since we can see what has already gone but not what is to come. This sounds about right to me – walking backwards we fall over a lot, stare at the past, and rarely take the time to look around us Ferris Bueller style, but that’s what makes it interesting. And so that’s why, leaving Cheltenham on my casual 6 hour journey, I set my watch back to Cambridge time and took a seat that faced forwards.

I will leave you with some Tennyson because he is my baby and could this get any cheesier:

“Or that the past will always win

A glory from its being far;

And orb into the perfect star

we saw not, when we moved therein?”

From Ashley

*Some names/genders may have been unsubtly changed for protection or something…

P.S. I have resigned myself to the fact that I have taken a Jackson Pollock approach to apostrophes. Sorry Mother.

P.P.S. This was super cheesy but ah well, could be worse.

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