Tuesday, October 27, 2009


It is almost impossible to put into words how thrilled I was to get all the 'welcome back' comments after resuming my blog. I am slowly realising how many great people there are out there in cyberspace - thank you.

Reading the senior daughter's descriptions of the Fall in and around New York, I have been gripped with an intense jealousy and feelings of nostalgia. For 17 years, I have visited America many times, and especially have loved visiting New York and the East Coast. We always visited New York on business in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. I used to so look forward to it. Over the years, we did so many interesting things, and got to know the city so well.

On arrival at JFK, my heart used to lift as we queued for a cab, and I always used to appreciate the orderly way that the queue was managed, everyone getting a ticket, and the cabs arriving, loading and departing in double quick time. I got a buzz as we sped Manhattanwards, bumping over the Triborough bridge, as I silently used to plot and plan my time whilst my husband had business meetings.

I grew to know New York so well that it was never a problem to move around. I had my itinerary/shopping/culture set in stone. In no particular order, it went something like this - Dean and DeLuca in SoHo for great spices, cooking utensils and unusual foody Christmas presents, Kate's Paperie and Crane's for stationery, Cole Haan, Banana Republic on Fifth, Strand Books, the Metropolitan Museum on Sunday morning followed by brunch at the Carlyle, the Metropolitan Opera, which was the most fantastic experience. Everyone dressed up, there was a great sense of occasion. The operas we saw were magical, the stagings always traditional, how I loved the atmosphere. I remember the old barman in the hotel where we used to stay, who mixed great cocktails, the trip to Ellis Island with friends who had joined us on that particular trip, and afterwards they took us to lunch with friends of theirs who lived in an apartment in Battery Park. I always bought my Christmas cards and desk diaries from the MoMA shop, and Christmas bits and pieces from Crate and Barrel. I especially loved a visit to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens with both daughters two summers ago. I loved to walk, exploring and each time, discovering another neighbourhood. how spoilt I was, and how I enjoyed it all, and now, Thanksgiving is approaching, and I will not be returning.

Last year, the first autumn on my own, I did return, to see the senior daughter. We had an amazing time, we went upstate by train from Penn Station to an organic farm, to a wonderful concert at the Metropolitan, to the Cloisters, the annexe of the Metropolitan Museum, oh, we had a brilliant time. She introduced me to her neighbourhood beauty salon, my hair was done beautifully by a Japanese girl, and I had a wonderful massage by a girl from Beijing. I have such happy memories to fall back on. I can smell New York, see the steam rising from the gratings in the street, feel the crisp air in the early morning as I set out for my day's adventures, hear the cab's honking, smell the chestnuts roasting on the stalls on the street corners, the continual noise of the sirens on the police cars, remember craning my neck to look up at the vast skyscrapers, the excited children queueing to get into F A O Schwartz, the ultimate toy store, and the tourists crowding Tiffany's, to look rather than buy. How I miss it. How lucky I was to be able to enjoy it, and how lucky I am to have the memories. New York got under my skin, and one day I will return.

Nostalgia is an interesting emotion - for a while, after I was first on my own, my memory seemed dulled and nothing was clear. But - now - nostalgia has crept in and suddenly, everything is recalled with crystal clarity, and I hug these memories which are flooding back, the smells, the sounds, triggered each time by some tiny thread which jolts the consciousness. I find this fascinating, because for years I have rather sniffed at people who write autobiographies late in life, recalling minutiae which happened many years before. Now - I realise, for the first time in my life that it is perfectly possible to do so, although I still think a little poetic licence must be involved. I certainly do not recall what my nanny said to me at the age of three. But I do remember her name, and that she had a hairy mole on her chin!

I have so much to do today - boring domestic chores. It is drizzling with rain, the dogs are supine, gently snoring, and even a walk holds no temptation for the three of us. It is time for another mug of freshly ground coffee, and perhaps that will fire me with domesticity. Actually, I prefer the Daily Telegraph cryptic crossword.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Falling leaves - on the cusp of Autumn and Winter

I am back - sitting at my kitchen table, wonderful calming music on the wireless, a large whisky
and dry ginger, with lots of ice, at my elbow. The ginger ale is Fever Tree, absolutely delicious, all natural fruit sugars, I strongly recommend it. My silence has been due to a severe depression, a huge low in my life, but today I feel able to shake it off, dust myself down, and get on with the business of living my life.

Why are human beings so spiteful, so vengeful, so petty, so downright nasty? That describes the philandering husband - his behaviour is beyond appalling. I have been desperate to divorce him for nearly 18 months, and he just will not cooperate. Every night, under my pillow, is an ugly wax doll, full of sharp pins. Who do you think that could be?

Enough - I must move on.

I feel as if I am in a cocoon. The first day after the clocks change, it is as if one is in another world. The evening closes in, it could be any time, everything around is quiet, occasionally one of the dogs muffles a little bark, and there is absolutely nothing else except the beautiful music in the background. I woke early this morning, and after letting the dogs out and feeding all the various animals, crept back to bed, mug of tea to hand, and the dogs and I snuggled up, and I read for two hours, before going to Matins. Divine.

These last weeks, the autumn colours and weather have been exceptional. The most glorious colours of the leaves turning, equally as beautiful as the Fall in the States. The days have been warm, everything bathed in a golden glow of a fading Indian Summer. The dogs and I have so enjoyed our walks: they run through the fallen leaves, put up pheasants from the hedgerows, the birds rising angrily, tails down, making their weird clacking noise, with Billy in full flight, jumping up, and nearly catching their tail feathers. He soon loses interest, and careers off after some poor rabbit, with Maud bringing up the rear, her little Jack Russell legs working like pistons trying to keep up. The pleasure I get from my dogs is infinite, which, I believe, is well-documented!

Today, we went our usual route, but it was windy, and the leaves just billowed down from the trees, carpeting the track like silent snowflakes. Such a difference in just 24 hours. I took a basket, and because the leaves were dropping, masses of sloes were exposed, which before had been hidden. I picked another large bag of the huge glistening berries, and will now have two huge flagons of sloe gin to enjoy in a few months' time.

I do a lot of thinking on these walks; it is a huge pleasure to have this solitude, and I find myself talking out loud, the dogs looking up at me quizzically, not understanding that I am not talking to them, but to myself. It is so therapeutic - my own personal therapy sessions. I know it is pointless to rail at the injustices in my life, I just have to try to make sense of everything. What I have discovered, is that compared to many people, my life is not all bad, and this seismic fracture will make me so much happier ultimately.

I have written before of my wonderful drive through Pakistan three and a half years ago, and how I was so distressed at recent events in that wonderful country. These last few weeks, my heart has truly bled for the Pakistani people. As I said, we visited Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and the Afghan border.

I find it unimaginable, knowing these places, what the inhabitants must be going through, witnessing the destruction of their country. The turmoil, the heartbreak, the bewilderment. I cannot reconcile in my own mind that this misery is, simplistically, in the name of religion. Shame on the perpetrators.

So often, on the television news, the places we see suffering such turmoil and destruction, mean nothing because we have no knowledge of the places. This time, I have been there, it is a wonderful country, they are a kind and hospitable people, and I truly hope for a peaceful resolution for the people of Pakistan.

Finally, the senior daughter is coming home from the States for a few weeks. I am so looking forward to having her home, how long she will be here, if indeed even for Christmas, I do not know, but I look forward to some lessons on the laptop, so at long last, I can get to grips with the essentials. In other words, getting a dialogue going with fellow bloggers. Watch this space!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

a maudlin late night ramble

Hey, you divine people who have responded to my posts today. I can't respond because I can't cope with the technology required to do so at midnight! We are talking about a Luddite here.

All of you, you have no idea how much I appreciate your interest and support and I am amazed if I have touched a nerve. Which one of you said I needed to let go? How right you are. However gross the philanderer's behaviour. hey, I had feelings, and how do you wipe a life at a touch of a button? How do you acknowledge a deep seated gut feeling that things were not as they should be? I have two beautiful feisty intelligent daughters, they are the reason that I clung on to an impossible situation. They do not thank me for so doing, but I come from a generation that was taught to make do and mend, and that is a good tenet to hold on to in the scheme of things.

I find it fascinating that we bare our souls to an anonymous public - but surely so much better than to a sanctimonious counsellor who thrives on other people's misery! Yes, I am a sceptic, and all the better for it.

Life has always been tricky, and there is no easy solution. No one has a perfect life, how inviduous to think that each one of us is so important that life must be ideal. Human beings are cruel, expedient, self-seeking, we are all out of the same mould.

This evening our Harvest Festival service was life-enhancing. It was like stepping back in time - familiar hymns with familiar tunes, a beautifully decorated church, a harking back to a time when life was focused on the changing seasons, on village life. We will be the poorer if these rituals disappear, they are the cement which binds country communities together. The constant blurring of the boundaries between country and town will not enhance either community and should be halted before irreparable damage is done to both communities. It is a lemming-like rush to the cliff edge, without thought for the consequences.

I had a delicious supper tonight, good wine, and good debate round the dinner table. I would say that since I have been on my own, the conversational topics round the dinner table have been definitely more meaty and thought provoking than before! Far less trivial! A naughty comment, but so true.


An Indian Summer weekend enhanced by Handel

Suddenly, as so often happens to me, something happens that suddenly lifts my spirits.

This weekend is Harvest weekend in our village. Friday night it was Harvest Supper and this evening, our Harvest Festival service in our little church.

As the weather of late has been so wonderful, an Indian Summer in all its glory, it has been a joy to decorate the church. I have now been in charge of the flower rota for 18 years, and have so enjoyed all that entails. I love flowers, I love picking big bunches of cottage garden flowers, flowers from the hedgerows and verges, and now, branches of the berries that I hsve written about before.

I did my usual dog walk up the tracks past my house yesterday morning. The dogs were not too pleased with all the stopping and restarting that involved, but I had a ball. Great armfuls of glossy green ivy with the soft green ball heads of berries, sprays of the ripe hawthorn, rosehips and great tangled strings of the wild bryony, snaking up through the hedges, requiring all sorts of contortions to unravel them and keep them intact. Some of these berries were almost translucent, like a lipstick stain, bright red and glossy, some were still orange, and some pale green. They looked so pretty all on the same skein of tangled stalk. I also picked oak leaves, turning a lovely soft yellowy orange, and some long grasses with pendulous dried seed heads. My bounty was carefully carried home, and then onwards to the church.

It was so therapeutic to spend the afternoon in the church, filling big glass candle lanterns, to place on the window sills. The sun streamed in, and bathed the window sills in a lovely autumnal glow. I added some bronze green centred sprays of chrysanthemums and, stripping the skeins of wild bryony so only the berries were left, I draped them through and left them hanging down, to catch the sunlight.

I shall miss all this - there is so much pleasure in living in a small English country village. I am not a hugely social person, and enjoy my own company, and all the countryside has to offer. This autumn has been so magical, you almost want to hug yourself with pleasure.

This afternoon I went back up to the church to check that all was well before tonight's Harvest Service. The dogs had a run through the churchyard - it is a wonderful place, the church is quite plain, the churchyard is mown in strips around the graves, and towards the footpath that wends its way across the fields behind. There are a handful of Jacob's sheep who keep the longer grass short, and it is peaceful and redolent of a bygone less stressful age.

The dogs and I then drove off to the next village, to collect something, and I turned on Classic FM. Oh joy, oh joy, a programme entirely devoted to Handel. I love Handel with a passion. We bowled along, the windows open, Billy and Maud with heads lolling out of the back windows, me singing along at the top of my voice to Semele and Where Ere You Walk, and suddenly I felt immeasurably better, and able to better face the world. I listened to a singer called Richard Lewis, who apparently died in 1990, who was a true exponent of Handel. I had never heard of him before, but he had a marvellous voice. Also - Andreas Scholl - my day was made.

I am home now, the sun has suddenly broken through, the wretched jackdaws are squawking on the roof, the dogs are collapsed on their bed soaking up the sun on the terrace, and I am going to make myself a tomato, basil and mozzarella bruschetta, and sit in the sun and count my blessings. I shall also have a chilled glass of white wine and read the Sunday papers and continue to listen to Handel. Tonight after the church service, I have been invited out to supper, next door to the church, so no driving and I can walk safely home afterwards. All in all, I count my blessings. My future is sealed - I can do no more.

A final homecoming

Hello again, loyal followers. I confess that I have not had the heart to post anything for a while.

Now - I have decided to try and rise like phoenix from the ashes. Life is so bloody, that maybe a gentle Sunday morning stint at the laptop may be cathartic.

The junior daughter and I had a great time in Cornwall. Unfortunately, my great niece was christened three days into our holiday week, so we had to miss the first few days of the break. The weather was divine and missing 3 days of it was a great shame. I really needed a break - but - the time we had was restorative.

I join friends every year for a week in September. These friends have been so good to me, kind and loyal, and their young are a delight, such good company, and I love them all. They take a house outside Fowey on a little creek, and I take the little cottsge attached to the side. The views across to Fowey harbour are lovely, and we go over to Fowey everyday in a little dinghy to get provisions, newspapers, and to get a cappucino, which I cannot do without! We sit on the lovely terrace of the house, overlooking the creek and the sea, and do the crosswords, gossip, eat, and drink gallons of rose. Meals all arrive somehow, someone is deputed to produce each one, bits get pooled, and it is so hassle-free. We are a mixture of young and middle-aged, people come and go all the time, trips to Lostwithiel station to and fro to fetch and drop off, it is a very enjoyable time. I read not a book - all the posey nonsense about which ones I should take! In truth, this is not the sort of holiday where much reading gets done. I always live in hope.

For once, I was not looking forward to coming home. Just to seal the dullness, it took me six and a half hours to get back, the traffic was a complete nightmare. It makes one realise that the sainted 'staycation' the media ramble on about, is not to be attempted. The roads cannot cope. The junior daughter had returned to London the night before, thank goodness, and her train journey was quick, comfortable, and a better idea altogether. I took her and Possetta Baddog to Lostwithiel station, she looked so small and Christopher Robin-like, clutching the Baddog as if she was Pooh Bear, they clambered onto the tiny three carriage train and disappeared almost in a puff of smoke, up the track towards Newton Abbott, and so on to Paddington.

During my journey home, Billy was panting and hyperventilating in the back of the car, and hated every moment. I could feel his hot breath blasting through the gap in the front seats, and I longed for the journey to end. Maud, the seasoned traveller, lay curled up on her sheepy bed on the front passenger seat, very occasionally raising her head disdainfully and glaring at Billy, as if to say, 'Calm down'. My dogs are my salvation, as I have said before. So companionable, funny, warm and loving.

We eventually arrived home. As I opened the front door, I was met with a wave of nostalgia and then a feeling of emptiness. This was not a home any more - it was a shell, full of memories, memories of happier times, family life, a life gone for ever, there was no warmth, just a chill in the air, ghosts hanging suspended. For the first time in the twenty-four years I had lived here, I realised it was not a homecoming, and never would be again.

I have loved this house, every nook and cranny of its honey-coloured ironstone walls, 18 inches thick, the warmth of those walls at the end of a hot sunny day, the masonry bees buzzing around the myriad holes in the stonework. Inside it is always cool yet light and sunny, this house is my life. I have made the garden, loved every minute I have spent in it - however, the last four years have been so unhappy and traumatic, that I have slowly abandoned it - unable to put my love and heart into it any more. I know now when I wake early, and lie in bed looking out over the garden, and the field with my three sheep quietly grazing, that soon it will be gone for ever, and I will never forgive my venal, philandering, cheating husband for the misery and unhappiness he has brought to my family.