by Neon Yang

This is part of the Walking Norwich series.

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June 14, 2019

Finally! Finally. After an absence of too bloody long the SUN has returned to Norwich. Of course the first thing I did was to hop on a bus and go on an evening walk at UEA. I am here at the right, exact time to witness the one week in June the trees by the river erupt in fluff and cover the campus in a layer of white down. There are no words that describe, really, the unusual and fragile peace specifically derived from walking down the sun-glazed path circumnavigating the lake while around you the air is alive with the slow, soft drift of white. Like a snowstorm, but in summer, your limbs warm and the margins bursting with life, the air sweetly perfumed by grass and leaf, bud and stem.

God, for years I have been plagued by the nostalgia for this particular period of time. Today I got off at the stop that let me walk past Crome Court (and the ironic juxtaposition of the CCTV at Orwell Close, unchanged), and I climbed the old hill and walked the path I always took down to the lake back then. It’s strange, but I get a better sense of the then when I am away— when I am recalling those memories, invoking them with the right piece of music, the right kind of smell (that absinthe hand cream from The Body Shop…) But when I am at the lake, walking, I don’t feel that. I am fully immersed in the now, and although the now feels so acutely familiar—as though I had never left—I don’t get the jab of nostalgia like I expected I would. Because I am not there, in the past, in the bowl of memory stored inside my head (and all the associations, the connections, the JY-who-was-then all tangled up in it). I am here, in the present, in the now, the JY-who-is-right-now building a new set of memories. New associations. I’ll tell you what, though, I’d forgotten until now the summery smell that is the sunbaked vegetation around the River Yare, and walking the creaky boards around the lake while breathing it in can remind me of the way it felt in 2016, that strange and wild and uncertain summer, where I was just at the beginning of my career, freshly agented and having sold my first book, and yet the world around me seemed to be on the verge of upending. The mess of that summer, the wild hope and the silty despair all the same. All that happened here, and I still miss it.

Neon’s residency in Norwich was generously supported by the National Arts Council of Singapore.

Neon is the author of the Tensorate series from Publishing, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy and Lambda Literary awards.

In 2016 Neon graduated with an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, for which they were the recipient of a Postgraduate Arts Scholarship from the National Arts Council of Singapore. Neon is currently a Writer-In-Residence at the Jalan Besar Writing Residency with SingLit Station.

Don’t miss Neon on our podcast, discussing world building in fantasy:

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