Why does everybody want to go away at the same time over the Bank Holiday ?
There are crowds at the airports, crowds on the roads and crowds aided and abetted by every kind of disruption on the railway. So everyone rushes away into a halt and the only good news is for those of us left behind, who find we can walk in the street, breathe on the bus and put our elbows into neutral in the shops. This isn’t the whole story, you understand, but it is some of it. And all the better for it – until every sixth man discovers he was given a horn for Christmas and starts blowing it for Britain, children become bored and I imagine the sales of aspirin and vodka take a national hike upward.
On Saturday it was warm, the weather that inspires me to do the sort of cleaning you’re supposed to do in the spring. I never want to do it in the spring… you can’t leave open the doors and windows, it is too cold and everyone who comes to visit tramps in mud and dust and damp (not their fault) so that the washing of floors and rugs is pretty much a waste of time. So apart from a delightful shopping experience with everybody in a good temper – I swept and garnished, dried the washing on the line and decided that, should the weather last, I would wear a dress next day. And I did and earrings and pretty shoes because I was not shopping for heavy things and could prance about. Trousers are very practical but occasionally, some sort of skirt is in order. And an occasional flourish may be vain but it is good for self-respect.
On the bus I met an acquaintance and we sat together at her companionable instigation, getting off at the same stop and walking together. We were stopped by two young Portuguese women who are starting an online fashion magazine called Felix – could they ask us some questions about clothes and fashion and take a picture ? Diana and I looked at each other and laughed – how flattering – OK, go ahead. I can’t tell you how nicely they did this, they weren’t bored and they were intelligent and D and I who do not know each other well learned a bit more about each other. As a younger woman Diana rode and she still follows racing so I was able to tell her about the map I had recently seen, which showed who sold Arab horses where in the Middle East, in 188- something. And about Mary Gharagozlou, Mary Khanoum of the Bakhtiari in Persia, who researched the bloodlines of the Arab horses there – until we parted, she went off to look at auctions and I to a farmer’s market.
This weekend has been marked too by successfully combining black pudding and scallops (thank you Jamie Oliver) and no I didn’t follow the recipe. I just cooked the pudding and the scallops in the pan (worth every farthing, no oil or fat needed), threw the contents on top of watercress and lemon juice and hooray. It doesn’t get any quicker or easier than that.
And the purchase (reduced – thank you Waterstones) of Philippa Gregory’s new book on The Last Tudor in which I admired all over again her skill at managing to suggest how long everything took to go wrong while keeping the tension of reading about it tight. It was what I so admired about The Other Boleyn Girl. Hard to imagine keeping Henry VIII on a short lease for years.
So the fact that last night there was nothing to watch on television, a sadly familiar state of affairs, didn’t matter because I had the book. And I went to bed and fell asleep and thanked God rejoicing, because these extended weekends while wholly necessary to working people and families (even if I can’t see why they can’t be staggered so that the enjoyment of time off is maximised) are often thin ice on a frozen pool of loneliness when you live alone. Not this time.