Across the ocean and back again

I am home again.  I flew into Vancouver on Saturday from London. 

My trip was a good one.  I vacillated a long time about whether to go or not, and I am glad I went.

The flights are always hard.  On the way to London I sat next to an elderly Muslim woman who was being taken by her niece to Jordan to live with her son.  Because of a stroke last year, she had difficulty coping with the seats and some internal need caused her to lean in my direction.  Her niece and I gently tried to reorient her, but she continued to flop over the arm rest and was more or less in my lap for the entire trip. 

As I knew we would, for the first couple of days my daughter and I talked and talked.  We talked about family, friends, politics, swine flu, our blogs, our gardens, our lives.  We ate some non-fattening food and drank quite a lot of red wine.

I came to England to help her move out of the house she has lived in for 25 years, and I came, as well, to say goodbye to the house and the village I have been visiting for that long.  

We started working on emptying the garden shed.  We hauled out flower pots, rusty tools, golf clubs, large plastic water guns, and other plastic toy parts.  My daughter thought her next door neighbor might like to have the rabbit hutch, once occupied by a pet ferret.  The neighbor, Reggie, keeps a cat shelter but also has rabbits, chickens, ducks and guinea pigs.  She was delighted to accept the hutch.  We asked how many cats she has now.  She said about 30, and she is accepting no more.  At one time, when her husband was still alive, they had 80.  She says the last 30 will get old with her.

The cats are a problem for my daughter.  When she had Fluffy , the poodle, he kept her garden clear of cats.  Now Fluffy lives with me, and cats from next door sleep in flower pots, on benches and tables and make use of the flower beds so that gardening can be risky.

After a while we took a trip to the tip (dump) with a load of stuff from the shed.  I know the tip well, from many past visits.  It is well run, with things sorted by users into garden waste, land fill, scrap metal, electrical, and usable items.  This will be my last visit, so I waved goodbye to the tip. 

off to the tip

off to the tip

One day I went up to London to see Natalie of Blaugustine.  That was a real adventure.  I traveled by bus, starting at 7 in the morning from the village.  I took the bus to Oxford, then caught a bus for London, then took the tube to Natalie’s.  By myself.  I got to Natalie’s at 11 AM.

I always find public transportation a challenge.  I am scared of getting lost and missing connections, of not knowing which train to catch, or what to do with tube tickets and how to deal with machines that dispense tickets and let you in and out of tube stops. 

This time I am pleased to say I did it all correctly. 

Natalie is impressive.  Her flat is full of art, all by her or her mother, who took up painting and sculpture at 90.  Natalie’s work is colorful, quirky, funny and philosophical.  I loved it.  We had a coffee and a chat about our lives, and then I saw her studio and workroom, one for printmaking, one where she writes her blog.  She showed me some of the books she has created in the past.  Artist’s books are treasures.  Seeing Natalie’s books and prints inspired me to get to work once again.



 Next we went for lunch at a great pub across the street from her flat.  My granddaughter, Elizabeth, works nearby, and she joined us.  We started with wine, olives, and lovely bread to dip in olive oil. Elizabeth is a life-long vegetarian, and she and Natalie had courgette (zucchini) tarts with salad.  I had lamb kidneys on toast.  Most Americans would never touch a kidney, but since my mother was English (New Zealand) I have been accustomed to eating kidneys since I was a child.  The food at that pub was all beautifully done.Natalie and Elizabeth

By 3 in the afternoon I had to start back for the village.  I got to Victoria Station and began to hunt for the bus to Oxford.  I walked aimlessly for a while, and decided to head for the bus station.  Suddenly I saw a bus that said Oxford, and luckily it was the right bus (there are 2 different companies).  So I arrived safely back at the village at about 7:30.

When my daughter moves out of her house her only home will be her boat.  It is a narrow boat, moored on a river.  It is 60 feet long and about 8 feet wide, and is an elegant and comfortable, but tiny, home. 

narrow boat

narrow boat

We delivered a few things to the boat on our way to a shopping session in Oxford.  There is a shop there where one can buy T shirts for about $3.50.  I bought 3. 

My daughter and I worked in her garden, as I have done with her over the years.  After a couple of days and a trip to the garden center (the garden center is full of temptations) it looked much tidier and had added color.

For recreation we shopped for yarn to knit tiny garments for the new baby – her first grandchild, my first great-grandchild.  That baby boy will be born in September. 
My three grandchildren who live in England came out to the village a couple of times.  They have busy lives, Tom and Catherine in Oxford and Liz in London, and it was good of them to find time for their grandmother.  We had two family dinners, and lots of conversation.

Tom (22) is going to drama school in October.  We had a long discussion of accents and inflections, and he demonstrated some dialects he does well.  Oddly, he isn’t so good at the American accent, even though he has heard it since birth.  But he says he will learn it in drama school.

We all agreed that the rising inflection is annoying.

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

One evening we went to the movies with Catherine and her father (my daughter’s ex).  The movie was one of the Harry Potters.  I am not a fan of Harry Potter, but it was fun to go with Catherine and the popcorn was plentiful and good. After the movie we had a glass of wine in the Eagle and Child, the pub where Tom is presently working as manager (before drama school.)  Tom is a licensed publican, a good thing, I think, for a man who would be an actor.  The pub he manages is the one where J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis used to spend time in conversation – in the Rabbit Room.

Tom the Publican

Tom the Publican

One evening we had dinner at the house of my daughter’s old friend, Marit, with whom she ran the London marathon 6 years ago.  Marit is originally Norwegian, but has been British for many years and has British children and grandchildren.  We sipped champagne and ate smoked salmon appetizers on tiny pancakes, then had roast chicken with stuffing.  We talked about love affairs gone wrong and laughed (ruefully) at men. 

Marit’s style is to say shocking but funny things; underneath she is generous and kind.  I hope the Duchess will post about Marit and the egg man.  I don’t think I could do the story justice.  In the picture below Marit is holding a box of eggs.



That was my trip.  I came home to a loving husband, glad to see me.  The flowers and tomatoes looked well cared for.  The dogs were ecstatic and the cat, who had gone missing for 6 days, came back.

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21 Responses to Across the ocean and back again

  1. Sophia says:

    How wonderful is it that your daughter is going to live on a narrowboat!Sounds like a great trip.

  2. Alan G says:

    Welcome back home!

    Sounds like you got out and about a lot and had an enjoyable time. That boat is quite the unique item.

  3. Pat W says:

    Welcome back….could you tell us more about your daughter’s boat?

  4. Celeste Maia says:

    How nice to have you back, and to read about your wonderful stay at your daughter’s. You were really busy, your days filled with such pleasant tasks, and going to London and meeting Natalie, and your grandchildren, and the boat where your daughter will now be moving to. So few people know what they are capable of, but you do, and your adventures are a pleasure to read. Your grandchildren are all good looking and interesting young people. You must be very proud.

  5. Jan says:

    Oh, this is wonderful! Thank you so much for the descriptions of everything – and the pictures! Duchess said the boat was small, but I had no idea.

    I so glad you had a good trip and got to spend time with your friends and grandchildren, and that you are now home safe and sound.

  6. Grannymar says:

    A busy and interesting trip. Thanks for sharing so much with us.

  7. Marja-Leena says:

    All sounds wonderful! You have quite an amazing family. I, too, worried about getting lost on public transportation in London (and Paris) and we did a coupe of times but found our way in the end. Wonderful that you met Natalie, this brought back vivid memories. But the best part is coming home again, isn’t it?

  8. zuleme says:

    That boat is just too cool! There is a book about traveling by narrow boat in France, it’s called Narrow Dog.
    Which blog is your daughter’s? Will she write about her travels by boat?

  9. Darlene says:

    Welcome back on this side of the pond. It sounds like you had a great time. Visits with daughters are very special. And add to that a visit with grandchildren and you must have been overjoyed.

    The women in your family are all so beautiful.

  10. Annie says:

    Oh its so nice to have you back. I have missed your stories. I’t sounds like you had a lovely time in England. I would love to see the inside of that Long boat! The photos of your family are lovely. Oh and Milk’s eyes are very blue!

  11. wisewebwoman says:

    Oh welcome back my dear we have missed you. What a great report. Top of the class for you.
    I too would love to see pics of the inside of that fascinating boat!!

  12. Natalie says:

    Anne, it’s good to see this report of your trip and the pics of your family and even the photo of my computer space – it looks so orderly in the picture, why do I always feel it’s a mess? I certainly enjoyed your visit and our lunch with Elizabeth at my local pub (you can see the windows of my flat from the pub’s garden).

  13. Friko says:

    I’ve just read your account of your England trip; I am glad everything went well and you had a lovely time. Journeys are great but it’s also nice to come home again. So I am also glad that you are back and I hope to read many more of your posts.

  14. dale says:

    Ach, so you had the treat of meeting Natalie! That’s wonderful.

    Welcome home!

  15. Duchess says:

    Would that the boat were 8 feet wide!

    It is 6 and a half feet wide (and 62 feet long; that’s why it is called a narrow boat).

  16. herhimnbryn says:

    Now I am well and truly homesick for the UK:)( we go back for a holiday next year). What a grand time you had. Thankyou for sharing your adventures.

  17. rosie says:

    a good time seems to have been had by all…

  18. This was so delightful. My vision of Duchess’ boat was much different. I’ve never seen anything like it. What an adventure! Thanks for taking us along.

  19. Sally says:

    Welcome home, you were missed by many. Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts. I so look forward to reading your posts-so different from my life, yet so similar.

  20. Mage Bailey says:

    Welcome home…….we have all missed you. I love the long canal boat and what she has done with it, but I missed pictures of you. Fascinating adventure… glad you made it both ways. Reading on.

  21. Dick says:

    A wonderful account, Anne, which makes me the sadder that we were unable to meet up. I’m so glad that you got together with Natalie, though, and I shall await the inevitable photo record of your time together on Blaugustine.

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