I had to stop watching the news as I keep expecting Cameron and Clegg to gel up, fade to Top of the Pops, and burst into a duet of ‘Love of the Common People.’
That precious little premature infant I coddled and carried for years is now… five foot eleven! He has started to tousle my hair and call me Baby!
Oh, the horror – it won’t be long now before he is fully grown and launched, and then what will I do? I’ve been a mother as long as I have been an adult. I’m not equipped with other factory settings.
Speaking of, his sister came to visit, dragging her boyfriend along to enjoy the hospitality of this spacious (and rather surreal) cottage. There is plenty of space- six bedrooms – and the place gradually filled.
Alessandro is considering a move from NYC to the UK and is crashing in my London studio, but he popped over to say hello. Angela, Bjorn, and baby Tor (originally known via Sweden) arrived from Bath.
It was all rather jolly; I can see the benefits of possessing a house, if I could keep it full of friends and family.
In the midst of the festivities I convinced a coterie to come along on an adventure…. the Steam Rally at Didcot!
Recently I was reading a mystery novel (perhaps an Amanda Cross?) in which a character says that anyone who lives in Oxford, no matter how short the sojourn, feels compelled to write a book about it…. whereas nobody feels that way about Cambridge, no matter how long the retreat.
My visit thus far confirms this observation.
Oxford, for whatever reason, truly does have a kind of near mystical appeal. Dreaming spires and all that. How? Why? I do not know.
The only fact I can cite is that I have never dined in college during six years in Cambridge. But last night in Oxford I was seated next to the president at high table in the richest college in the entire world – and he found my scathing commentary amusing.
Later I was taken on a midnight tour of the fellows library, where I handled manuscripts older than my homeland.
The Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers, Maison Blanc cupcakes, the Angel & Greyhound meadow, meandering along the banks of the Cherwell. Picnics on Will & Lyra’s bench, with students wearing togas punting past, and a wild fox scampering at my feet.
My lodgings are in a seventeenth century house with St. John’s at the back and St. Giles to the front. How could a city be more seductive?
The only real problem is my persistent desire to be elsewhere.
My grandmother is still ailing, my aunt and cousin are dead. I can’t go home to help, or for the funerals, because my passport is needed in a faraway office while a bureaucrat considers the viability of my citizenship application. This is my choice, even if I am fated to forever wonder if the compromise is worth the pain.
I walk the streets, and wander through the colleges, in a state of melancholy amazement.
Grief makes even the most alluring adventure seem drab, and guess where I am? Oxford.
Think Cambridge, except the people dress a little bit better.
I am being quite stern and refraining from judgment of this town, since I am in mourning and all of my thoughts about life in general shift with each new death in the family.
However, a few observations: the only thing worse than a Leonard Cohen song? A Leonard Cohen song performed by a British busker. The only thing worse than posh academic Ladychat? Posh academic Ladychat about babies. Ick.
I am at least entertained by the hung parliament and formation of a coalition government. Parliamentary process is so fascinating.
The election, my confusion about where to live, and a separate yet undefined sense of unease conspired to wake me over and over again until I gave up just after dawn and checked my messages.
My mother had emailed to say Christopher is dead.
He was only eight years older than me. We grew up in the same place, raised by the same people. All the cousins were granted a nearly identical set of skills and talents, raw intelligence and curiosity. The only true difference between us? I had a mother who used her fierce love to protect me, body and soul. The others were not so lucky.
I went to college. Chris went to jail.
The last time I saw him was at Mary’s funeral. He told me that he was proud of me for getting out. I told him I was proud of him for holding on.
I’m sitting in a boutique hotel in a posh resort town in a country with a social welfare system. Chris died of treatable illnesses in a shack in a ravine, without even electricity to light his last hours.
Money might not buy happiness, but it can purchase food, shelter, and healthcare. I had to leave our home to find safety. He never had the chance.
I am filled with rage and horror and there is absolutely nothing to do.
I wish, oh how I wish, that things could have been different for all of us.
RIP Christopher. I wish there had been more time for you.
Continuing the marginally obsessive search for a new place to live, I ventured forth to look at Bath and Bristol again. The trip fell on the same day as the general election – fortuitously, because I would have otherwise missed the television coverage of the returns.
The whole event was baffling on many levels, though my kid objected to nonstop viewing of the motley and bizarre collection of “celebrities” chatting on a boat on the Thames. We switched erratically between news and entertainment, and discovered that Flight of Chonchords is excellent – who knew!
During commercial breaks I texted with Iain and read the hilarious twitter posts from my pal Michael Moran in the Times office.
Somewhere around three in the morning I gave up trying to understand which party had won, or indeed, what result would be more desirable.
I drifted into a fitful sleep, determined above all else that from this day forward I will be able to vote in the country where I live.