Coming down from the hill

Two reasons for coming down from the hill this week.  The first was the most flying of visits to Oxford and London.

Weeks ago Ian had suggested we see the  production of Timon of Athens at the National Theatre.  We could drive down to Oxford on Tuesday, stay with daughter and son in law and see grandson on Tuesday night, get the Oxford Tube (a coach service) into London in the morning, have lunch, see the play, get the Tube back again and drive home, achieving the whole thing while only being away from home and father in law for a single night.

The arrangements were put in place for father in law care and off we went.  I am struggling a bit with living so far away from various parts of my family at the moment so seeing my daughter and her family was both lovely and oddly hard, yet I am amazed and delighted at how firmly Joseph has bonded to me, following me around talking nineteen to the dozen and insisting that Grandma does his bath.  I should take that as evidence that the physical distance doesn't matter that much perhaps.

The following day we got the coach into London.  It was an easy journey and a delight to end up on the South Bank, watching the boats plying up and down the full, fast flowing Thames and the dear, familiar skyline of the north side of the river piling up against a windy blue sky.  We sat outside the National on a terrace to watch the world and saw the writer Alan Bennett, looking almost ludicrously like himself, coming slowly across to an empty table with his box of sandwiches to eat his lunch.  You have to remind yourself in such situations that you only feel you know this person, that you should not smile and wave and pat the seat next to you to encourage him to sit down, but leave the poor man in peace.  Which we did, in peace, I mean.

The play was a fascinating gallop along in the first act, the world of conspicuous consumption, flattery and insincerity seeming bang up to date and ringing without a false note.  Timon's generosity is built on a mountain of debt.  Outside the streets of Athens throng with protestors.  The play feels right up to date despite talk of Athens and the senate.  It feels like the City or Wall Street.  When Timon needs his friends to help him in his own financial need they slide away from him in slimy orgies of self justification.  In the second half Timon is a down and out.  I found the second half less engaging and satisfying but it was held together by the tour de force of Simon Russell Beale's performance.  Fascinating, funny, uncomfortable. I am very glad we went.

Reversing the journey home took much longer with traffic queuing westward out of London for miles but by midnight we were back on our Welsh hillside.

When we woke in the morning we found our hedges had been cut while we were away.  The world is clearer and sharper.  There is more light.  It looks a bit brutal now when they have first been cut but it will soften and green in the spring and the new native hedges have been left filled with rosehips and haws for the birds.

And the second reason for coming down from the hill was a lunch with some fellow bloggers, including Fennie, Rosie (sorry Rosie, I can't find your blog, must be doing something wrong, will come back again) and Pondside.  Four or five of us have been meeting two or three times a year for about five years now and we have become good friends.  It was great to meet in the flesh new people whose writing I have been reading for some time now.  It short circuits introductions and small talk.  I knew I would like them all and I did and with Pondside felt that odd connection I have had from time to time in reading her blog: a similar temperament, a similar worldview, an odd tenuous friendship across the Atlantic.

Today is a perfect autumn day with the sun pale and golden on the apples and the rosehips.  What a strange, complicated place the world is.

Comments

  1. Yes, Elizabeth; this world is complex. It startles us with its constant shifting and reassures us with it's repetition. Or perhaps rather, we marvel at its changes and yawn at its predicability.

    Either way I have enjoyed reading this account of your time away from your precious home and family obligations - how is your father-in-law, dare I ask? - and, knowing both Oxford and London well I almost felt as if I were there with you.

    Stephanie

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    1. Ah I love your two takes on repetition/predictability! Depends who you are, depends what works for you. And how hard when one person's reassurance is the other person's relentnessness!

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  2. Glad you had such a good meet up - I thought of you all.

    Bizarre that you were in Oxford on Tuesday - so were we! Well nearby anyway at Kingston Bagpuize. We spent an inordinate amount of time on the A34 going home because someone had decided to park their boat across three lanes of the carriageway! Oxford is less than an hour's drive in normal conditions. We sat there for 3.

    I've yet to experience the joy of being a Grandma, so can only imagine the wrench it must be seeing them only occasionally - I know I miss seeing my own children as often as I did now they are busy with their own lives and jobs. I wonder if we ever get used to some changes in our lives?

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    1. Perhaps we could try to get together when I am down there sometime - doesn't happen as often as I would like but would be good to see you!

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  3. It was lovely to meet you, Elizabeth. I felt that we were almost part of a family meeting at a wedding or something like that. I do hope that our paths will cross again at some point. Rosie's blog is at http://underthevirginiacreeper.blogspot.co.uk/ This supersedes the blog she wrote down at the Mill http://cantalcapers.blogspot.co.uk/ She also has a blogs at http://moulinduclout.blogspot.co.uk/ which really just contains photographs and a description of the Mill and the surrounding country.

    I suspect that Alan would actually have been rather pleased had you indeed patted the seat and invited him to join you. He always strikes me as rather a lost soul (I have never met him but have got to know his writing quite well). Glad you had a good trip!

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    1. It did feel rather like an extended family get together - familiar but not frequent if you know what I mean! Great to meet you too. Will follow progress with the book with interest!

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  4. It is always fun meeting other bloggers in real life! I remember when I was younger I always liked eating in the Barbican cafe before performances and seeing the actors there - so sad that the RSC are no longer there. They are too far away for me to see now!

    Pomona x

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    1. so glad to find you blogging again! I loved the Barbican cafe too!

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  5. Great post Elizabeth.
    Felt like I was right there on the Thames.

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    1. The South Bank is one of my favourite places, as is Waterloo Bridge!

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  6. I dont think you should worry about the distance. We didnt move near my parents until the boys were 8 and 10 but because my parents really focussed on them whenever we met up they had a good strong relationship. Dont be so hard on yourself, trying to be all things to all people:)

    I do like a trip to London, its nice for a short time but it makes coming home so much nicer, so much more space, peace, sky and light.

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    1. I agree totally about the focussing on children being what makes the difference.

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  7. Those both sound like perfect excursions, so much crammed in.
    I am currently really missing my granddaughter after only seeing her a month ago, so I quite know what you mean . . . but it does seem that the emotional closeness can be nurtured despite the distance, as you're finding.

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    1. The missing them comes and goes doesn't it. Sometimes I just get on with it and hardly notice, other times it is quite painful.

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  8. Elizabeth, when I read this post of yours, I was first reminded of the very differing geographic scale that does allow you to live where you do, and also be able to travel and do what you describe doing. Some green-tinged thought emerged.

    I do know about that Tube bus to London. It's always sounded grand to me.

    Wonderful for you to visit with your family, particularly that grandchild, en route to a fabulous theatre production in London. I'm pretty sure that I would have also recognized Mr Bennett, and pretty sure that I would have also granted him his space, as we do here in New York when we recognize a Face in the crowd.

    Ahhh, but what I truly envy is your opportunity to meet up with Pondside, Fennie and Rosie. I have myself had the pleasure of meeting Rosie here in NYC. I would love to also be able to meet the rest of your grouping.

    I keep thinking that this will eventually happen. xo

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    1. Make plans and come over Frances. I would love to meet you too. If you come up here to North Wales/Shropshire borders we can arrange quite a few people for you to meet! That would be great fun.

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  9. I enjoy reading your "coming down from the hill.". Such an ease and zest in your words. Fun to see the name, Pondside. I knew she was traveling most of September and there she was visiting with yaddams others. Sounds like you have found a kinship with one another.

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    1. It is fascinating to find this sense of connection with people and one of the best things about living in an internet world!

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  10. You made me realise how long it is since I've visited London, despite living there for over 20 years... loved this time of year in the city and Thames-side walks are at their best about now, I think. Thanks for reminding me!

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    1. I don't want to live in London but I do like to visit every now and then!

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  11. You've just come home from travels and I'm just off on some travels! The play sounds like it was fun... I haven't been to a live performance in so long - first world problems, aye? Enjoy being home!

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    1. First world problems indeed! What a great phrase.

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  12. Having met the lovely Alan Bennett - at an after-play event, so a legitimate invasion of his space - I suspect he wouldn't have objected to a Hello! And I'm green with envy at your Shakespearian excursion, I honestly think I could watch the awesome Simon Russell Beale in anything.

    Isn't it wonderful, the way we bloggers can become friends across oceans :D

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    1. Yes to both bits of this! Great theatre, great friendships.

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  13. We each have to come down off our hills or away from our ponds - if only for the pleasure of coming home at the end of our journeys. It was such a treat to meet you!

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  14. Glad you enjoyed your trips down the hill, Elizabeth. Sounds like you had some good experiences and then enjoyed being back home again, which is just as it should be!

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    1. I think one of real pleasures of going away is the joy of being home again. If you never go, you never know!

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  15. Ah, the magic of London, lunching near Alan Bennett! Am impressed you restrained yourself, though I think I would have been too embarrassed to invade the poor man's privacy had I been in your place.

    I don't have children - and therefore no grandchildren! - but I do know how much I loved my grandparents, who we only saw twice a year because they lived so far away. That didn't matter because when we did see them, they were so very there. I still think about them every week, one way or another. Every time I cut up a cauliflower I remember my Nan passing me a piece of the "stump" to chew on as she prepared dinner. I have also observed mil and fil establishing relationships with their grandchildren, and although they worry about not seeing them as often as they would like, the kids patently adore them and know them well. Which is a long-winded way of saying I don't think you need to worry from the relationship point of view, but I do understand how hard it can be to live far away from the people you love.

    Enjoy your extra light, such a precious commodity at this time of year!

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    1. Yes about the relationships over distance. You are right I know!

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  16. this piece is a reminder of what a good writer you are yourself (Alan Bennett is another) - and reviewer. Glad you were able to descend on family and friends - closeness is not measured in miles!

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    1. I have always thought that closeness is not measured in miles. It is health problems in my family that have made me feel very far away. Thank you for your lovely comment about writing! Made my day!

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    2. (I was just thinking the same. You put your finger on how we feel when we come across celebrities so neatly.)

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