My British friend Dorothy, who was my neighbour in Cabbagetown, used to say, “I’m going to the village to do a bit of shopping.” What she meant was Parliament Street, which for those of you who know this bit of inner city, is as unlike a village high street as it’s possible to be. But it was Dorothy’s village, where she knew the shopkeepers and ran into friends. Today, in Barnes, I am doing as little as possible; I’m fighting a cold, which isn’t a surprise with all the chill rain, and am exhausted, I guess from the stress of leaving my sunny Parisian nest and getting here with a mountain of worldly possessions. But I am going to go to the village to do a bit of shopping – and here, it really is a village high street, a row of small shops where everyone knows everyone.
Tomorrow I leave for Oxford, where I’ll spend four nights at the Oxford Centre for Jewish and Hebrew Studies; they’re putting me up in return for my talk about the book, which I give on Wednesday. On Thursday, I’ll visit Potterspury, the village where my mother was born in a thatched cottage, whose current owners are going to show me the house, the village and the school where my grandfather was the schoolmaster throughout the Thirties. And on Saturday, I’m off to Sheffield, where my new friend Penny, whom I met briefly once in 1964, is going to take me in. Penny has planned a week-long excursion for us both around the country. If it rains, we will visit pubs.
As I sit here looking out at Christina’s beautiful garden, I can see the tiny British robin redbreast who has a nest nearby, very close to the fox family who also live in the garden. Archie the wonderdog is curled up beside me. It poured this morning but is not raining at the moment. Quick – to the village, to buy wine and supper for Christina and me. And a newspaper – I’ve been reading the Times and the Guardian; the level of writing is superb. Poland won the European Song Contest, in case you wondered, and the scandal here about British M.P.’s padding their allowances has not yet begun to die down. This is a glorious country. It’s just too bad about the weath … no.
I won’t say it. That would be churlish. Life is too short for churl. The sun is out now, that’s all that matters, and the adventure continues.