We're back from New York and I've hopped over to Suffolk to see my mother since I last blogged. We've also put up details of next year's volunteer week, and, although we have a pretty full list, we are still taking applications in case we have any cancellations.
I haven't had any time with my mum on her own since I was about five, so it was just wonderful to spend four days in England with her last week. We had a hugely enjoyable meander through all the places we lived when I was a young child, Bury St Edmunds, Lavenham, Hadleigh - all beautiful places in deepest Suffolk.
The day was a stunner, balmy and sunny and we didn't have any of the frustrations that an itinerary might have brought. Easy parking space on Angel Hill, totter through the alleyway to Churchgate Street, meander round the art gallery that sits in the space where my mum coiffed women's hair fifty years ago, and where my brother was born. Notice a good-looking french restaurant over the road. Have a wonderful lunch surrounded by french-speaking hosts and chefs - thank you Maison Bleue . Toddle off to Lavenham to buy luscious black Suffolk dry cured bacon , (which I've left in my mum's fridge, dammit). We laughed and reminisced and thanked God that we don't suffer the privations that those times carried.
I've lived in France for seven years now, and I'm used to the ramshackle look of the place. The summer dries and crumbles the stone of buildings, the water-starved hedges deserve the winter to regrow and are rarely trimmed, verges die down in the blasting heat of the summer and our eyes are rested by the reappearance of green, so grass is allowed to grow unchecked in the cooler months. It's considered vulgar here to make the outside of your house a showpiece, one keeps one's jewels hidden so to speak. So it comes as something of a shock to travel through the pristine villages of Suffolk. Pretty gentrified cottages that once held farm workers now coddle wealthy Londoners each weekend, hedges are clipped and trimmed as if prepared for Crufts, verges are tamed into billiard tables. It's all perfect and leaves me relieved that I'm not part of that form of keeping up with the Joneses. Life's a lot less stressful here.
Meanwhile, making the most of my absence, Ali set to and redecorated our bathroom as a surprise. And very beautiful it is too. Thanks a million.
It's feeling an unusually English autumn at the moment, since we now have UK television. When we arrived in France, mute because we didn't speak the language, we took the decision not to have British TV, reasoning that we'd neither speak french nor understand anything of the culture if we didn't move here wholesale. So we stuck with french television for seven years and our french improved immeasurably. Then my mum agreed to come to stay for a month, for the whole of this December. At 79 it seems unfair to force her to endure endless chat programs in a new language so we've used her as the excuse to install a satellite dish. And now we're enjoying watching all those programmes that our UK friends are sick of. Without subtitles. Or dubbing. But I'm conscious that it does shift the culture inside this old house, so I'm hoping the novelty will wear off soon.
Just to keep the English theme going I'm about to order my mother some chocolate as a birthday present from Cadbury Gifts Direct. Sadly they don't deliver to France, but it does make a change from flowers.
PS A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all our lovely chums in the USA.