This week I am with my older daughter in Oxford, helping her and the baby as they readjust to life back at home after three weeks in Japan. It is odd to be in a rural place so different from mine. The fields are big here, not flat like those in East Anglia but still open and mainly level, stretching away under crops. There are no hills, no stone walls, no green, rather gold, no sheep, none of the small scale buzz of small farms, tractors working, animals being moved from one field to another. It is beautiful here though and some of the villages are like pictures of that mythical perfect England you can imagine held deep in the memory of Victorian families sweating their lives away in India and Africa.
My little grandson is seven months old now, blue eyed and fair haired and round, full of smiles and laughter. My daughter says that being with him in Tokyo and Kyoto was like travelling with a minor celebrity. Elderly women and teenage girls were both likely to swoop down on him in the street or in the shops, beaming and calling out about how cute he is. My daughter's Japanese extended to understanding the delighted shriek and knowing how to say how old he is and where they come from, and not much more.
Soon he will crawl and leave mayhem in his wake, and walk and talk. He looks so like his father it is uncanny. Sometimes the baby looks up at you and the expression on his face or the line of his eye or his lip is the man he will become. He reminds me strongly of this poem: