Tuesday, February 15, 2005
February break. My colleagues have raced off to foreign parts for the week - Eastern Europe, Italy, North Africa, Sweden, and the 'States. We've elected to stay in the UK, sleep and eat when we want and plan our days one day at a time.
I don't usually find it very relaxing to travel. If you're visiting friends, you have to keep to their hours. You worry about being in the way. Both guest and host participate in a complicated dance, negotiating how each minute of the day is to be played. If you're staying in hotels, you feel pressed to get the most out of your trip by visiting every museum, cathedral, souvenir shop, and historic building in the area. You eat strange things and overindulge at the table and the bar. That's not my idea of a relaxing holiday.
I have a friend in the 'States, a former high school classmate, who has a yacht which he sails from California to Mexico. That's the perfect way to go - take your home with you!
I DO enjoy the adventure of visiting new places, but I know in advance that it will not be relaxing. You have to gear up for it and the purpose of the trip is entirely different. (This from someone who took a Greyhound from El Paso to Mexico City and spent six weeks of Peace Corps training in Afghanistan.) I think Easter might be a better time to set out on a mini-adventure. Spring will have truly arrived and the light will be different.
After months of short grey days and long dark nights, of going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark, February break is for recharging the batteries. Tomorrow, we head off on a three-hour drive to visit friends who run a Bed and Breakfast in Norfolk, East Anglia. It's not like being a guest; it's like going to Grandmother's house.
I'm not sure that they would appreciate the analogy, but it reflects the welcome we receive when visiting them. Their 16th century thatched farmhouse is decorated with warm colours, plump, comfortable furnishings, Persian rugs, and dozens of ticking clocks which chime at different times. In the huge, farmhouse kitchen, they create multi-course gourmet meals. The days are filled with quiet times for reading, easy conversation, walking the dog in the woods and occasional excursions into the local market town. In the evenings, we linger over a late supper, good wine and good company with the fireplace crackling in the background.
This is rural England. The nights are pitch black. There are no streetlights, so if you're visiting the neighbours, you need to carry a torch (flashlight). Unlike where we live in Surrey, there is no light pollution from nearby towns. On a clear night, you can see the whole dome of stars. During the summer, the garden can be enjoyed until at least ten o'clock without lanterns or candles. The restful sound of water from the two fountains trickles over the stones. There is traffic, but nothing like the constant roar of the M25 which we hear day and night from our house.
Lots of schoolwork to do before we go back on Monday, but I'm looking forward to this mini rural retreat. Our friends have just returned from a six-week trip around the world - Dubai, Thailand, New Zealand, Easter Island, Ecuador, The Galapagos, and Florida. We'll enjoy hearing about it and be grateful that they, not we, made the journey. Thankfully, they don't think of us as guests; we're family and it'll be good to be home.