The Joy in Small Things

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2020 has seen many of the things that I enjoy get cancelled. The spring shutdown meant that I couldn’t get out to the hills, couldn’t go hiking in Wales, and couldn’t work – weddings were banned and physical distancing meant that I couldn’t work on portraits or my documentaries either. The continuation of restrictions – and uncertainty – throughout the summer meant that we didn’t go camping like we usually would, and now that we’re heading into autumn, I can feel the walls closing in again as the second spike / peak / wave / call it what you will of the pandemic begins. I have no idea when I will next go to a punk show, go camping, or work – either a wedding or on my documentaries which require me to be in close proximity to people in their homes. It’s shit. There’s no two ways about it.

In amongst all of this, I have taken great comfort in the small things. I have always enjoyed the small things in life – flickering light through trees, the taste of my first cup of tea each morning, the moment I climb in the swimming pool and plunge to the bottom to check that my goggles are tight, and the satisfaction in completing the scales game – where I play through every single key including harmonic and melodic minor variants on the piano without making a mistake. This year though, the small things are the big things, and they’ve helped me get through the past six months where every day feels exactly the same.

In search of new ways to watch paint dry and mark the passing of time, this was the year that I got into plants in a big way. I have always been terrible with plants, killing them with kindness (overwatering). This year I took it upon myself to learn how to care for plants, and built up my collection of succulents through cheap little starter plants sourced from supermarkets and my local botanical gardens, as well as cuttings from sellers on eBay. With the colder months approaching and limited window space indoors, I have bought a little cold frame for the balcony. It’s a small thing, but has just enough space for my plants. I’ve painted it black, and set it on top of a pallet I scrounged from a pile of wood left outside a block of flats on my street. Together with a few sheets of scrap bubble wrap and some reed screening leftovers, I’ve insulated it from the metal balcony floor and took great pleasure in tucking my plants in to their new home for the autumn and winter. On super cold and wet nights I’ll still bring them in, but it’ll keep the damp and cold off them for most of autumn and all but the handful of sub-zero nights we get each winter, and hopefully mean they don’t stretch out too much from low light.

I can’t wait for the big things to be possible again, but until then I’m just glad that I’m easily amused.

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