Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Day in the Country


Ellie is sick, alas. Not only is she still in dire pain with her back, she has now inherited by Budapest cold and was in misery all day long. While she braved the day for as long as she could, by dinner time she crashed, and decided to stay home.

Otherwise, a lovely day—what else?—in my merrie olde homeland. The weather was mostly rotten, of course, with but few bright patches of sun between the showers. But it was wonderful for spend time with my sister, whom I see too rarely these days, since we live on opposite sides of the globe. She made me a tasty bowl of her own special porridge—that’s oatmeal, for readers across the pond—spiced up with ginger, and Ellie mixed up a bowl of granola.

After breakfast, we walked literally around the corner from this charming little street

and found ourselves immediately in the center of Cirencester, in the shade of the parish church. Ambling down the main street,

we made a detour at a nice little art gallery and turned back into the park behind the church,

with its vestiges of the ancient Roman wall and the abbey that once stood there. Once again, I found myself awed by the trees—great sycamores and oak tree, chestnut and a good few venerable copper beeches,

contrasting the innumerable shades of green with their coppery glow. Centuries of growth—and centuries of work transforming sunlight for the benefit of our species. They deserve out thanks, and our reverence.

And then the lawns—endless, and endlessly green! The rain brings benefits, too.

Back in town, we visited the church--with a special interest in this Clothier tomb

(I think you can read the text of the poem from this picture: it's worth a shot!) Flora led us to a favorite coffee shop where we dallied over latte and carrot cake, and Ellie and I made an extra stop at Boots the chemist to acquire the wherewithal to fight that cold and aching back. One thing I’m unable to find anywhere, it seems, is a travel-sized can of shaving foam. I refuse to cart around those great, heavy things they make in my already overladen suitcase.

At Flora’s house, we had a very pleasant lunch and took ourselves off for a nap. Then ventured out once more, headed for the local Costwold Water Park where, we had learned, the artist Patrick Dougherty had created an environmental art piece. We discovered it there—a primitive dwelling shape, an igloo or a teepee, its walls and roof elaborated into complex patterns by gathering live willow shoots from the roots, then bundling and twisting them together.

Shades of Andy Goldsworthy, we thought. And why should there not be others working in the same manner? My take was that Goldsworthy would not have chosen to destroy the natural material even as he manipulated it. Flora point out that the reeds—many of them broken in the process—would eventually grow back. Maybe. But even so, I prefer the idea of a more quickly replaced ephemerality—the notion that we should take care to leave no trace where our path has taken us.

Interesting, though. And we thoroughly enjoyed the long walk around the lake, a former gravel pit now allowed to fill naturally with water and made available to the public as an expansive park.

Who could resist those lovely trees and hedgerows, the song of the birds at the lake’s edge, and the families of ducks and moorhens enjoying the prerogative of the water’s surface?

This is pretty much when Ellie crashed. When we got back home, she opted out of our planned pub dinner, so Flora and I went out ourselves to a place she recommended, where we found the food to be excellent, but the service… well, lacking. This was an expensive little place, highly mentioned by Les Routuriers, so we expected something more, well, sophisticated than a young man who had obviously never heard of single malt Scotch and was too young to serve it anyway; and an undoubtedly well-meaning young Latvian woman, hugely pregnant and rather shabbily attired, who could not explain what the “confit” meant, in “duck confit” and, when asked about the bream, was able to say that it was “fish.” Asked about the preparation of this fish, she offered that it was “cooked.” It was clearly someone’s night off and, okay, they deserve it. But when I pay as much money as that, I reserve the right to expect at least minimally professional service. Does that make me a food snob? Ah, well.

Ellie was already in bed and quasi-sleeping when we got back. Flora and I watched a little of the television special on the infamous Camilla Parker Bowles, but after that I thought better of getting hooked on a program I’d never see the end of and went off to bed, hoping to find Ellie better in the morning.


carly said...

Your park shot looks a lot like the 6 foot Constables.

PeterAtLarge said...

Ellie and I had the same thought, Carly. Cheer, PaL