I have spent the last five days feeling very at home in five different places, each hundreds of miles away from the other, which is a little odd. Why did I feel at so at home at each place? I guess because of the friend/family where I was and the food and drink they served me. It’s odd to travel so far, journey on planes, buses and trains, and then put my feet up in the company of that person, eat a meal, drink a glass, feel very at home, and then move on to a totally different place where I feel equally at home.
However, I must tell you, to my horror, and his chagrin, one of these old beloved friends didn’t recognise me while walking past me at the airport, probably because I was walking with a stick rather than a glass of wine in my hand!!
Anyway, after finally tracking each other down in the Orange Car Park in Stanstead with the help of mobile phones, we stood appraising each other. His hair, like mine, is on the turn. It’s at a grubby, mid-way between brown and grey, two tone stage. We have both got droopier and have bulges which we try hide with shapeless baggy clothes. He has crooked fingers due to arthritis, I have the aforementioned stick, due to the same condition. But he still had his long nose, shaggy eyebrows, deep voice which launched into a familiar rant about the decline of the country, the stupidity of the Tory party, and the bullying unions while we succeeded (with irritated muttered asides, and various about turns) in navigating ourselves out of the airport complex.
Finally, we got to his posh new house where I spent the next ice ridden day either stretched out on his sofa, in front of the new stove fire, with a glass in one hand and a fork in the other or exploring the idiosyncratic architecture of the well appointed local streets of six bedroomed houses and the charming alleyways and lanes in the centre of the endless Colchester ring roads and roundabouts. The focal points of my short stay were the noodle restaurant where we had delicious ramen and other delicacies for lunch, the new air fryer, and the cheese feast.
Having had my fill of the above, and they of me sprawling on their couch, Martin dropped me at Colchester station, still decrying the unswept streets, and ineffective practices of the council, en-route. There, I got an on time, working train to Liverpool St, and caught an efficient tube to Green Park and made my way to the upstairs bar of The Goat for the 40th plus reunion of friends from my alma mater, the University of East Anglia. There was only one person I didn’t recognise due to age altering differences (and I would have done had I crossed the room), and the afternoon passed very pleasantly with me finding out what everyone was doing and explaining to them what it is a poet does while imbibing pink champagne…. so, obviously, one or two were doing extremely profitable things and happy to share the fruits of their labour! Thank you, Ray, in particular.
Maria (one of my best alma mater mates) and I made our way back to her house where I was staying overnight, stopping off at the new Marks and Spencer in Finsbury Park to pick up a fish pie, watercress and salad leaves, some St Agur, a bag of peas, mangetous and spinach, as well as bars of alcohol soaked stollen for dessert, not forgetting a bottle of Pro Secco and we spent a happy evening, feet up, discussing all our other old friends and relations which is what you do while eating and drinking with bestest and oldest friends.
The next day, after joining Maria in a few irritating banking chores, and after further foraging in Waitrose in Holloway, I caught an on time and efficient Stanstead Express. Sadly, there, the woes of Blighty finally caught up with me and I was delayed for hours, while Ryanair battled the elements and I got charged £12 for a glass of red. Actually, I was lucky to escape the strike embattled / high cost of living UK at all. Many poor people got stranded but, thankfully, I was able to make my way through the snow driven streets of Dublin to the warm hearth of my very pregnant daughter in Stoneybatter. This was my third ‘home’ from ‘home’ in four days, and I got served a tasty plate of roast pork cooked in honey and mustard with roast vegetables, and a delicious bottle of red.
The next day, at 9.30am at Pauline’s home, one of Roisin’s best friends, the last home I went to on this trek other than my own, for breakfast we had delicious pain au chocolat, croissants, strawberries, raspberries, blue berries, grapes, granola and coffee. This was followed by a birth blessing ceremony beautifully facilitated by Jenny Lee. Six of Roisin’s best friends came, three with lovely babies, and we did breathing exercises, sent good intentions to my beautiful daughter for her labour and symbolically bound ourselves and our female ancestors with red wool binding our love and loyalty. I was chuffed to be asked and felt strangely at home in this lovely group of young women and mothers. I was treated as if I was a wise woman (which I’m obviously not, but it was a good feeling). Funnily enough, I burst into tears and wasn’t able for the beetroot coleslaw, the wensleydale, cold roast chicken, the avocado smash on brown bread, not even a smidgeon of the array of colourful hummus’.
At the end of my five day trek, I was pleased to see husband Jerry who came to collect me and we drove home to fog bound Cavan, put up the Christmas Tree, and while I cooked spaghetti carbonara for supper, we toasted ourselves and our own lovely home with the last of the crémant from France!