Not much seems to have improved on the economic front this year but the Christmas lights in central London, though still not quite as elegant as the Champs-Elysées, do have their own special aura. Whoever decides on what lights to choose has themselves been well chosen. I shudder at remembrance of times past and much appreciate the present offerings!
John and I did a whistlestop tour of central London to buy a few gifts before heading off for the Cotswolds. We both mourn the demise of Tower Records at Piccadilly but the helpful and cheerful assistants at the beleaguered HMV still make a journey there worthwhile. I am still not an Amazon fan but no doubt that internet tsunami will swallow us all in time. And cheerful, helpful and well informed assistants will be replaced by robots. On the other hand I love finding things out and the Internet is amazing on that front. But continuing human contact is essential for a life worth living and for the world as a whole.
Next stop, Marylebone, where I have a print waiting to be picked up at Railings Gallery. It’s of a dog (by Helen Fay), which I bought at the RA Summer Exhibition. The frame cost as much as the print but it looks fabulous. Railings are excellent, quality framers. I keep thinking about having a dog but this one will keep me satisfied for the moment. He is called Louis and has lovely lines. And I don’t need to feed him or wipe his muddy paws. But I’d like his company in person on a long walk.
The picture was heavy but we stopped off at Paul Rothe delicatessen in Marylebone Lane to revive ourselves. Established in 1900, Paul Rothe and Son is now into its fourth generation behind the counter. It is run with old fashioned politesse and has the friendliness of a village shop but in upmarket, stylish Marylebone. Look them up – why are the chairs bolted to the floor, for instance?! Don’t pass it by – it’s a real find!
We had homemade hot minestrone soup and tuna sandwiches, surrounded by a ceiling to floor selection of delicious looking jams, pickles and sweets. I remembered Newbery fruits from my childhood. My father’s colleague, Dr. Gilchrist, always brought a box over on New Year’s Day. We now bought two boxes, along with chilli sauce, a favourite of John’s father.
Glitz was to be had in Bond Street but austerity measures were kept up and we made our way home to wrap up Newbery Fruits and the like for the Cotswold contingent. And I looked out my long, cashmere cardigan, bought last year in the sales. An Eileen Fisher – quite special! It’s always colder in the countryside. I must remember my hot water bottle too.
But sadly, not for us. We are expected in the Cotswolds …via a quick visit to Fortnum’s.
The next morning was grey and threatened rain. We got as far as Chiswick Bridge and had to go back for various ‘things forgotten’. However, the roads were passable and not too busy. I spent some time in cloud contemplation and taking photos of water meadows and plain flooded fields at speed. The bypass at Oxford must have been built above the general level as we passed interminable ‘lakes’ on either side, with the tops of hedges sticking out like old toothbrushes.
I had a feeling of ‘déjà vu’ – we’ve done this journey so many times and now we are on the cusp of major change … John’s parents are now 92 and 90. Taking photographs appeals to one’s sense of self … keeping memories of things past while looking towards the future – and meanwhile enjoying what the present has to offer keeps one sane to an extent. Bad weather but good skyscapes today … I wonder what Samuel Johnson or Shakespeare would have taken pictures of… we are so enormously privileged today with all these inventions – yet many people often behave like spoilt three year olds, not realising their good fortune.
And we finally arrive – the steep road into the village resembles a waterfall as we descend but at least the water makes its way onwards – elsewhere …
And the rain continues to accompany Christmas festivities. However, there is good food and jolly company, a nonagenarian dowager dressed in glamorous tartan and a fur hat, a charming black labrador, white Christmas flowers, a sparkling tree and a warm stove.
It’s late afternoon as we make our way home next day. No traffic jams, a break in the rain as we climb the hill out of Burford. An accident at the Burford/Witney roundabout where a car has smashed through the central reservation and ended up on top of the bank opposite. The police wave us round. Then it’s only dramatic pictures of flooded fields, a few 100+ mile an hour drivers – mainly seem to be BMWs – and we’re on the home straight.
It’s very quiet back in Barnes. The house is warm and cosy and I’m looking forward to the holiday with reading, writing, walking and wine. And John will be writing his new book. I will press for a glass of really good champagne on New Year’s Day. I hope 13 will be lucky for once!