We did, though, make it to Harpenden in time for lunch. What had started out as a beautiful sunny day, had by this time changed into the familiar English gloom, but inside all was cheery with a fine spread set out by Diane. Matthew had an afternoon rehearsal scheduled for his local theatrical production of "Guys and Dolls." Like his children he is blessed with a wonderful creative talent--in his case, for music and drama. Having had to change our travel plans from October, when we might have seen the production, to September, we had wanted to see him at least in a rehearsal but he felt that this would not be the best of moments.
Instead, we drove downtown with the three children to do a bit of shopping. Expert guidance from Alice, now 11--a much more reliable guide than our GPS! We made our mark at the local Waitrose with the twins, now 9 years old charging about among the aisles while Ellie and Alice engaged in the more serious purpose of grocery shopping. Then across the main street to Boots, the chemist, to replaced my nail clippers, mysteriously mislaid along the way. With rain threatening and shops everywhere starting to close (closing time is 4:00 in Harpenden on a Sunday!) We stopped at a small cafe for an inordinately expensive cup of coffee and milkshakes. We dashed back to the car to the car in a downpour--one of those English showers that end almost as soon as they started.
Back at the house Diane was busy working on a feast for the evening and the children were playing happily outside in the garden. Ellie and I lounged around on the couch watching 9/11 memorial ceremonies in New York on a grand high-def television, much moved once again by the pain of those who had suffered unimaginable loss--with particular thoughts for our own very close friends who lost a loved one. Thinking back to that moment of great national unity, it is hard not to regret the dreadful mess we have made of it all.
On Matthew's return we all braved the gathering cool of a damp twilight and headed out to the garden for a pre-dinner glass of plum wine (our feast was to be Japanese!) and snacks. Diane had done a beautiful job of setting up a table and preparing sticky rice and the other makings for a self-made sushi lesson. We all tucked in with a will and the children proved particularly adept at putting together their sushi. The results for most of us were less aesthetically pleasing than those of the expert sushi chef, but just as delicious.
After dinner we negotiated the trip back to Islington via the M1 with growing confidence and ease. Today as I write this, the children are back at school and Matthew and Diane back to their extaordinarily busy schedules. We will rejoin them next weekend. Meanwhile, an excursion to visit my sister in the Cotswolds...
(No pictures today, I fear. We were negligent.)