At the Porembas’ house we kneel in front of the fire: Al, Sarah, Bex and her daughter Holly – bare dancing feet and the swirl of her new Christmas dress. We are stoning sloe berries, pulling out the hard nut inside and saving the flesh, and our fingers are stained purple. Hol presses a sticker of a boy to the leg of my jeans, and here he is, stuck into my notebook next to my written words.
In Barter Books one day with Sarah, there is the smell of coffee and woodsmoke. A postcard hidden inside a paperback book, addressed to someone unknown in Haddington, the Border village next to my grandparents’ old house.
Low Newton with Laura, talking about our lives in France and London. There are wet dogs sprawled on the floor of the pub and the stars are out as we climb the hill afterwards. Later, as I run around Alnwick, the wind is strong and the streets are dark but as I turn the corner there are lights in the trees along Baliffgate and I remember a night a year ago.
Mollie and Erica I have lunch one day and it is good to see their faces, to catch up their first terms at university and the gossip from the town.
I walk to a friends’ house with my parents and as we go up through the fields, the village falls behind and beneath us. It is great to see them and to see the change in a year from empty rooms and bare walls to a retreat that is still and quiet with views to the sea. They have pigs in the field: three Tamworths who root through the earth – strong, hot, hairy bodies that lean their weight against my legs.
On the last day of the year, Al and I run around the fields and along the river. There is a brisk sideways wind and the sun burns low and cold in the clouds.
The New Year’s Eve party is gold and glittery, false moustaches and shouted toasts. Turquoise of Ruth’s dress and the faces of her uni boys. We stand out under the stars and inside there are lights and music and bodies dancing barefoot on the kitchen floor.