Tuesday 21 July 2015
Furnace hot at home
Woke up horrifically early after restless night with cramp, heat and rib pain. Felt exhausted. OH woke up at eight and started going on about things I 'needed' to do before we left. He also said he wouldn't be checking my emails whilst I was away and I said I was on holiday and I was most certainly not going to be looking at work emails. We had words. Spoke to eldest about September holidays. Finally set off at 11 and, of course, the GPS wasn't working because the end had dropped off the car charger. OH wasn't paying attention and went too far west on the auto route before waking up and insisting on driving back in the other direction and then striking off into unremembered territory to pick up the northern auto route and cut off the long and expensive corner. We had quite a lot of words at this point. Apparently it was my fault for not buying a new adaptor. Drove in stony silence and got to airport at 2 by which time I had to check in immediately.
Flight was absolutely having and, oh joy, I was seated next to the window. A young woman sat next to me. Limpid dark eyes, sparkling white teeth, head band and voluminous ugly brown cotton clothing. She was an Italian trainee Buddhist monk - ex dancer - on her way to stay in a monastery in Warwick. We talked about zen Buddhism, mindfulness and reiki. My former impression of Buddhist monks was that they shaved their heads and wore orange and were all blokes - opinion largely formed by 1970's TV series Kung Fu (ah glasshopper....). The ocean was a blue bowl with tiny white boats, the size of shrimp, their sparkling wakes spinning out behind them. Within an hour, the white cliffs of Kent appeared, clouds piling up on the like like freshly squirted Chantilly and the Buddhist and I watched people turn on phones and frantically scrabble for their luggage. You will find people are not zen here, I remarked. We waited for the throng to go and left last. The air was fresh and the temperature could not have been more than 22. It was utterly delightful. By the time we got into the terminal building, all 223 other passengers had disappeared from sight and we ambled along the long corridors and stopped to admire two portraits of the Queen, done in pixelated form and using real photographs of people. The Queen as her people. Loved the symbolism.
I lost the young Buddhist somewhere in the ticket pickup zone, picked up my bag, which was the last one on the moving carpet and got to the platform just in time to get the train to Clapham Junction and thereafter the connection to Basingstoke. It was heaving and very very hot. Managed to find a seat in an area between carriages. No one was speaking to one another. After so many years abroad, I habitually strike up conversations but they fizzled out almost immediately. Everyone was glued to their phone. No one looked at one another. I experimentally sang some Abba songs. No one even looked up so I studied my fellow passengers. An Asian girl in voluminous black clothing and headscarf. Eyebrows like Groucho Marx. Man with glasses in grey suit. Tie too tightly tied. Very loose shirt with badly attached buttons. Asian guy with electronic cigarette plugged into his mobile phone. He, like me, was very hot and fanning himself. Woman in heavy checked dress, thick legs encased in beige stockings. Frowning at her phone. Everyone was dressed in shades of grey and black and I was a peacock in bright pink and blue. Finally arrived and the doors opened with a burst of delicious fresh and cool air.
Texted cousin and sat on bench. People were scurrying by, everyone plugged into some sort of electrical device. Non stop flow of traffic. Coffee and tea shops everywhere. What was particularly marked was the lack of smokers - they are everywhere in France - here they are corralled into a small corner of shame. Cousin's OH came and picked me up and we rolled at terrifying speed (low slung MG) through the idyllic country side and villages with names right out of an episode of Miss Marple. Cousin's husband is a bit of a DIYer and nothing is safe. Noticed some complicated wire work hanging down by my ankles and there were liberal amounts of Scotch tape, holding things in place. He is an eye consultant and I imagine people coming around from surgery with bits of Scotch holding their retinas in place and seeing him at the end of their beds and he is telling them not to touch anything and it will settle down in a week or two.
Arrive at cousin's village and it is chocolate box pretty with knapped stone and flint cottages and thatched rooves. Village pond with gently weeping willows. Coots scooting around on the mirrored surface.
Lovely to see cousin and we have cup of tea and chili and then walk. Evening fine and clear with light breeze. We get back and she shows me photos of her trip to India and then produces the most exquisite silk embroidered fabric. I am done in and head up the stairs to gwelli. Cousin's husband has been working on the house for 18 years. Paintwork looks as if it has been eaten by rats. Every other house in the village is immaculate. Where I am has rat eaten paintwork, semi derelict barn, selection of beaten up cars (in various states of repair) and two large and malevolent cats called Bert and Ernie, despite both being girls. Bad cramp in night. Wake to find both insteps fizzing.