“The moving finger writes, and having written, moves on. Or in my case, stays behind.”
-with apologies to Omar Khayyam
I have been an Anglophile for as long as I can remember. My grandmother often regaled me with tales of the ancestral home in Kidderminster, Gloucestershire, now, alas, nothing more than a parking lot for a Waitrose supercenter. From Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan to the Beatles and Monty Python, to Dickens and Trollope and just about anything produced by the BBC, I have been in love with all things originating across the pond.
For most of my life my Anglophilia has been a wistful sort of love, as time and resources to visit never seemed to coalesce at the same time. Until one day our younger son, Ben, announced to us with some trepidation that his company was transferring him to London. My husband took the news stoically; understanding that a young man must do what he must do to further his career. I, on the other hand, drove my fist in the air and exulted “Yessssssss.!”
Is it normal for a mother to delight in the fact that her youngest child is about to move 3,000 miles away? Well, let’s just say that had the 3,000 miles terminated in California I would have been heartbroken, but he was going to England. And Ben in England meant that we would visit. And visit we did.
Having worn out my husband and both sisters-in-law in 4 consecutive lengthy summer trips, last summer I went on my own. It wasn’t entirely on my own, of course, because the B&B in Windsor where I stayed had become like a second home and I did manage to spend a considerable amount of time with Ben, doing touristy things that he hadn’t gotten around to doing with his expat friends.
Our last Sunday together was spent at Hampstead Heath, a vast and largely unmanicured park area north of London. After a solid 6 weeks of dreary, chilly, rainy weather, making Londoners a bit edgy about the weather prospects for the rapidly approaching Olympics, the sun had finally made an appearance. And it did so with a vengeance; not the breezy, cool sunny days I had come to enjoy in previous summer visits, but thick, intense, sweltering summer sunshine worthy of New York in July.
The poor, sun starved Brits were beside themselves. They came to Hampstead Heath in droves and spread their blankets on any relatively horizontal patch of land, regardless of whether or not it had been recently mowed.
Here and there, amid patches of tall grass, small clusters of heads could be seen, one occasionally popping up to check on the path of a Frisbee emerging from the undergrowth, followed by a small dog leaping enthusiastically into view until it nabbed the Frisbee. On the flats near the numerous ponds young people lay spread-eagled and worshipful on their backs or bellies, exposing their poor fish belly torsos to all the sun they could possibly absorb in a weekend afternoon. Even from a distance, tomorrow’s sunburn pain was becoming visible creeping out beyond the boundaries of their shorts and tank tops.
The only benefit I could see from this most un-English weather phenomenon was that the tears I shed saying goodbye to Ben for the last time this trip could be blamed on the streams of sweat coursing down my face.
My last day on my own was another glorious though unseasonably warm (well, for England) day, and my plan was to go for a ride in the Queen’s own Windsor Great Park.
What a fantasy – my trusty steed and me gently cantering down the Long Walk in Her Majesty’s Great Park!
I’m an experienced though thoroughly rusty rider, and the cheery woman at the stable thought I’d do splendidly with their 10:30 group outing. Lack of appropriate gear not a problem; they would supply both helmet and footwear. I was to arrive at the stable at 10, suit up and meet my fellow riders, and then we all, human and horse, would be transported by horse lorry to the Great Park. The folks were congenial and the horses magnificent. (These were after all, the Queen’s own bridle paths, and it wouldn’t do to have unpresentable nags sharing the paths with Her Majesty)
I greeted my own mount, a little bay named Prado, thinking a bit smugly about how impressed my horsewoman sister-in-law would be when she heard I had ridden an Andalusian bay in the Great Park.
Turns out my sister-in-law was impressed, all right, but not by my experience on horseback.
And how on earth, I hear you cry, does all this tie in with the title of this piece and a quotation at least partially attributable to a 12th century Persian mathematician and writer? Check out the next post to learn more.