My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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Oxford

From 47, rue Claude Bernard in Paris to Yarnton Manor in the middle of the English countryside, where the most disruptive noise is birdsong. Very noisy birds in these here parts. 

Tonight was a blessed moment, a coming together of my many disparate parts. I have come from London to Oxford to speak about my book at the Oxford Centre for Jewish and Hebrew Studies. But this is also a pilgrimage – my parents met in Oxford in 1944, and my mother is from a village not far away. 
In early afternoon, I arrived at the Centre, which is about 15 minutes outside of Oxford in a magnificent 17th century manor house, and got settled in my room in the student housing next door. Incidentally, for those who’ve been following my journey, I travelled today with a VERY SMALL SUITCASE borrowed from Christina. Barely anything in it. I can do it, yes I can, hardly any shoes, a few pants, a few tops. It’s the trade-off – you may not have everything you need with you, but your arms won’t be wrenched out of their sockets. So great to be easily mobile, lifting the thing up and down and in and out. No need for knights with big biceps.
Later I went for a long walk in the nearby fields. “Burial grounds,” said the sign, so I walked that way, to find the exquisite Yarnton cemetary. At least the new one; the old one is in the churchyard next to the manor, the stones illegible. The day had been, of course, rainy and thunderous, but finally the sun came out, and I wandered up and down the rows bathed in unfamiliar light and heat. Fields all around, wildflowers and old trees, people walking across the fields in their wellington boots with their many dogs. One gravestone was for Alfred, “the parish knife sharpener.” There was a separate section of the graveyard for children – one couple had lost their twins; a gravestone in the shape of a teddy bear.
Then I walked down the country lane to the Red Lion Pub, for supper. And it was here that I felt so much come together. On the way, I passed a thatched cottage, such as the one my mother was born in. The pub sound system was playing Mozart, my father’s favourite composer. I sat at the table reading my book, the reason I’m here. It felt like all the different bits and pieces knitting into one. And then, as has happened so often on this trip, I ended up engaged in intense and moving discussion with the couple at the table next to mine. We are about the same age, have children about the same age, the same concerns – these people who live in Yarnton, a village so small there isn’t even a high street, and I, from downtown Toronto – the same concerns about our kids.
As my bus drove through Oxford this morning I caught a glimpse of its glory, the rows of ancient buildings, young people swishing about in black gowns, tweedy men on bicycles – every other man had a beard – a McDonalds in an Elizabethan manor house with undoubtedly fake wood beams. Tomorrow I will do some exploring, and then give my talk in the evening. I just checked the weather forecast. Guess what? Thursday “heavy rain”; Friday “light rain”; but tomorrow, the cheerful “sunny intervals.” 
Well, if life gives you sunny intervals, get out and grab them, that’s what England teaches you. 

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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