I’m sitting on a broken bench on the bank of the river Avon, waiting for the sun to set. I’m frustrated because I can’t manipulate this swanky camera into capturing the bright pink bubble-gum patches in the sky. It’s not for me. I don’t need the sunset, but I’d like you to have it. I want it to be given to you in consolation for not being able to see the low orange light the restaurant opposite me is shining onto the water. Have it, in the place of the songs of the roosting birds. If I get you a picture of the sunset, maybe it won’t matter too much that you’re missing the whiteness of the swans’ feathers, how clean and soft they look. No wonder humans got greedy and produced down feather bedsheets.
The clinking of wine glasses across the river triggers a memory in my mouth. How crisp and fresh white wine would taste right now. How nice a plump black cushion on a wicker chair would be instead of these broken slats on my numbing bottom. But then I wouldn’t be an observer anymore; I’d be part of the scene, and that’s exactly what I came here to get away from.
Yesterday I booked two nights away in a totally unknown place. It’s been a hectic week, and although I should have been celebrating my final university marks, there hasn’t been room. I suffer from what feels like mental claustrophobia and its onset tends to be very sudden. My lovely, very messy house shrunk to half the size in just a few hours and I felt restrained to the point where the only thing that would help would be to escape it. So today I hopscotched between a few trains, ordered a glass of cold water whilst I waited for my Airbnb host at a local bistro, and found relaxation for the first time in weeks and weeks.
After collapsing at my very beautiful, very cheap apartment for a few hours with a helping of J.K Rowling and a nap, I decided to go for a walk. My first impressions of this place had left me starving for more. On my walk from the station I had crossed several beautiful bridges, and with water that effortlessly reflected all the light and scenery of the town above it, I had this wonderfully romantic idea of watching the sunset. The sun setting – and all that it stands for – I really thought could help me find peace tonight.
Google told me that the sun would set at 20:48. To ensure that I was ready, I left my apartment at 20:00 and set out to find the perfect viewing platform. About 20 minutes into my walk I did. The problem was it was a private garden.
I ran across train tracks and squeezed through Audis and BMWs to take pictures that would do this place justice. Unfortunately, my photography skills leave a fair bit to be desired and the scenes I was convinced were money shots came out blurry. At 21:00 I started to get concerned because the sky was darkening, but only to a dark grey blue colour. As much as I willed it, there were no purple streaks, no golden wisps. The sun set that night, but not how I imagined.
Even when I was back in bed I was thinking about it. It somehow seemed to be in conjunction with having still not celebrated the outcome of my university degree. I’d had some gin cocktails with my friends, yes, but I hadn’t yet felt proud yet. And here I was struggling to forgive the clouds for obscuring my sunset. Why didn’t I want to let go of this stress?
I’m sitting in The Teapot café to finish this article. I ordered something called a ‘bold cappuccino’ (which turns out to be just a large cappuccino), and the rain is pouring down outside. The humidity of the last few days has finally broken.
Bradford-on Avon gave me so much more than I could have expected. What a lucky gamble to find my ace of spades on a random internet search.
Coming here has given me the space to accept that goodbyes aren’t always perfect, especially not for a perfectionist. Letting go isn’t something that you have to be okay with, because I’m not. I don’t want to leave Bradford-on-Avon. Three days hasn’t been long enough. I don’t want to leave university; three years hasn’t been long enough. But here it is, happening. I’m not quite sure what do to, except head out to the station in the rain and appreciate each drop for the relief it’s brought the pressure in the atmosphere.