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.