Well, here I am, waking up at five in the morning at my sister Flora's house in Cirencester, England. It never fails to seem somewhat miraculous to me, to start in one part of the globe one morning and wake up thousands of miles elsewhere the next. It's a small planet, these days, and increasingly fragile, as we all now know. Cna't help wondering, can you, how much your jaunt across the globe contributed to its pollution.
But this time it was worth it. Today is my sister's birthday--an occasion we have not celebrated together since we were very small children. Flora was always away at school for her birthday after those first few birthdays, and boarding school lasted for both of us until we were eighteen, when we started to go our separate ways. It does feel like a sad reflection on the way we were brought up, brother and sister scarcely knowing each other because our parents deemed that kind of education (I think we both thought of it as torture) to be more important than our family life. We came together three times a year: two weeks at Christmas, two weeks at Easter, and a month in August. That was it. Then Flora, one and a half years my senior, went off to Africa for a while, and took a job on the high seas, traveling on the Queen Mary and other cunard liners to New York and back... then lived in London; all while I was at Cambridge, and soon after off to Germany, first, then over the Atlantic, where I have spent all my years since my early twenties.
So there has not been much brother and sister time, and now that we're getting on (just a bit) in years, it seemed like the best gift I could give us both was a few short days together. The flight was relatively easy. I had managed to upgrade my ticket to business class, which made it that much easier. The bigger seats made it it possible to grab at least a couple of hours of slumber--though I was annoyed that, having specifically requested and in fact booked an aisle seat, I had been moved to the window--making it virtually impossible to get out to the "lavatory," as they like to call it, or to stretch one's legs. It was also a good decision to carry on my bag: getting through immigration and customs was that much easier, ahead of the crowd.
Flora picked me up at Heathrow with her friend, Marigold, who graciously drove us back to Cirencester from the airport. Very easy, very comfortable. And Flora had cooked up a wonderful, warming soup for lunch, along with a bite of cheese. After a quick nap, I felt refreshed and ready to go when my ten-year-old great-nephew Hugo (have I got that right, my sister's daughter's son?) arrived, and we ventured out into the town to buy shoes (for Hugo) before wandering on, he and I, to a bookshop, where I wanted to catch up with my delinquent gift-giving (he found three books by authors who arrived long after my departure from these hallowed shores.) And on, we guys, leaving my sister behind, to Boots to find some corn plasters (for me) and a coffee shop, where we indulged in a hot chocolate (Hugo) and a cup of English tea (me) and a very sweet hour of guy talk.
Dinner at home, at Flora's--a delicious lamb roast with various mashed potatoes, vegetables and mint sauce, with a nice bottle of Beaujolais, and for dessert, delicious pears prepared with wine, ginger, and citrus zest. After which I pretty much collapsed and went to sleep three times in front of the TV before having the good sense to get myself up to bed.