Swallows, bees and butterflies

An exclusive short story by Matthew Williamson...

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All images by Matthew Williamson.

Matthew Williamson's no stranger to travel but on a recent jaunt to Bali, he was inspired to pick up his pen and chronicle a particularly beautiful bike ride.

Here, he opens his travel diary, exclusively for ELLE.

ELLE's holiday inspiration

Today I set off on a short journey through the villages and paddy fields of north Bali.

Never before has a bike ride been so enjoyable. Perhaps it's the unfamiliar suburban streets and the not knowing what's around the corner. Maybe it's the visual impact of a place bursting with nature and a simple civilisation setting my creative imagination alight.

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It's a muggy, warm afternoon with the sun hiding behind the thin white clouds, draped over the water-drenched rice fields stretching as far as the eye can see.

The air is still, occasionally scented with heavily-perfumed burning incense wafting from doorways lining the roadside. Doorways carved as intricately as the lacy icing on a wedding cake.

The wedding-cake doorways and filigree gates ajar give a fleeting glimpse into what goes on beyond: daily life unfolds with chickens, dogs and cockerels roaming fee, mothers tending to dinner, rocking babies or plaiting palm leaves into intricate ceremonial baskets. Fathers ride the bikes, chop the wood and see to other more manly tasks whilst the kids seem carefree and casual, contented and optimistic, despite their lack of western gadgetry and threads.

My lack of botanical expertise is undoubted but nonetheless my eye is drawn to the papery thin scarlet red blooms that remind me of Marie Helvin poolside in the seventies and inspire all manner of possibilities. I spot a group of trees I've seen before which bloom simply perfect white, five-petalled flowers, but this enclave of trees offers blooming buds of the most perfect shade of lemon - surely a frangipani sister. Like the fluttering butterflies and bees, it seems I'm not the only admirer of this wonder.

On my short round-trip ride, I've never felt so inspired and touched by the warm, friendly community who seem so happy to say hello. A woman passes by in a burgundy sarong and inky lace shirt covered by a faded and threadbare cardigan - which at one point must have been the brightest shade of fuchsia. She's carrying a heavy bundle but still stops and looks up and smiles to say hello. Inspiring she looked and inspiring she was.

As the sun drops away to mark the end of the day, the swallows take flight and jostle for the light. I head back home, thankful for such a simple yet unforgettable sight.

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