Thursday, July 24, 2008

The best

I had a fantastic time in England--I experienced a little taste of domestic bliss. My kind hosts welcomed me with open arms and treated me to all the comforts of home without allowing me to lift a finger. Meals were cooked, tours to the countryside were made, tea and coffee were offered frequently--my main "duty" was to play with the children and relax. It's true that a senior cat made itself a little too comfortable in my suitcase the first night--but only a couple of shirts were harmed and not permanently.

Actually, the occasion of the cat peeing (or "weeing" as they like to say) in my suitcase was the subject of my first conversation with Alicia's husband, Ian. She'd left for work around 7am and I didn't get up until after 8. I said hello to Ian and the kids and then went back to my room to choose my outfit for the day. I discovered that things were rather damper than I'd expected. I took the tarnished items to Ian and said, "Is there any chance the cat did this?"

He looked at me, then at the shirts I was holding, and said. "Oh. Yes. The cat is old and that happens. I really don't care." He took the shirts and tossed them in the washing machine. He was in a bit of a rush to get to work and sort out things with the nanny but he did offer me coffee and pointed me in the direction of the cereal before I left.

The business with the cat didn't bother me at all. I think there was a time when I might have been disturbed or possibly upset by it, but I didn't even feel annoyed. I miss my cat and being around these cats was great. I did keep my door shut the rest of the visit, though! Fool me once…

That day, I went into Central London and had a nice long walk with only a little rain falling. I ate in an "authentic" pub and chatted with a man who told me he'd been married to an American. He had nothing good to say about her. Yeesh.

I made my way back to Alicia's town a little after 6pm and was answering a call from her just as I arrived at her front door. She hung up and let me in.

Almost right away her six-year-old son asked if I wanted to play Wii Lego Star Wars. I agreed and a friendship was born.

We spent the next two days exploring places of historical interest. It was a lot of fun and surprisingly tiring.

On Monday, we hung around the house. I helped Ian assemble a swing set. Yes, I did that willingly and thoroughly enjoyed myself. (He didn't ask me to help, I just pitched in. We did it with a minimum of fussing. It's possible that annoying construction projects that proceed with no instructions are best done with people other than your spouse.)

On Tuesday, I waited until almost the last possible minute to leave. It wasn't that I wasn't ready to leave…but that it would have been so easy to stay. I was invited to return for Thanksgiving and I'm already looking forward to it.

With the exception of family, I don't think I've ever been so welcome and comfortable, and sometimes not even then! It was like family without the old wounds, grudges and irritations. As much as I try to let that stuff go, it will sneak in here and there. Our lack of history probably made my time with Alicia's family easier. It also helped that we all got along so well. It was the perfect thing to help cure my feelings of slight disconnection.

And, as a nice welcome back, on my first full day in Paris, I heard from the Americans I'd met and liked so well on Bastille Day. The three of us had dinner last night.

In another week, I'm off for another visit, this time to see friends in Holland. Ideally, I'd have spaced the trips out a little more, but this timing seemed best for all concerned.

Now, back to my relaxing but slightly more challenging Parisian life.

Grateful for: good friends, old and new.

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