The Slow Lane in London
As we were recounting wild tales of almost three years living home free to some willing new listeners in California over dinner this week, it occurred to me that we appear to live an exciting, fast-paced life when we’re on the move. Friends are amazed that people our age can dash around Europe, dining in Berlin’s exotic, exclusive China Club, taking in ballet in Buenos Aires, seeing palaces in Paris, or devouring Moroccan stews in Marrakech, but the fact is that we don’t run very fast. You need to know that there’s a lot of down time between those highlights! I started looking at our pictures and observed that most show us being very busy!
Have you ever noticed that almost all the photos in your family albums feature people laughing, having fun, posed in lovely spots, or celebrating an occasion? There’s a reason – and it’s the same one that compels me to usually show you only the exciting moments of our travels, not the every day humdrum part. Ordinary stuff can seem really dull. I mean, who wants to see someone reading or watching TV or banging away at a computer? But when I look at photos of our life in other places, I realize that some of the best days weren’t special at all…just fun and easy, almost routine, like being at home without having one of our own!
As I looked at our September pictures, I realized that we didn’t do much at all. Nine months, five countries, one transatlantic voyage, one completed book and thorough edit, many magazine articles, and a lot of sightseeing squeezed in between sight seeing and making new friends had left our tanks on empty. I realize now that we never really spoke about it, but when we walked into our English apartment in East Molesey, Surrey, near London, put our travel-worn clothes in the tiny wardrobe, stocked up the comfortable kitchen with necessities, rearranged the furniture to our liking, inspected our much-loved view of the River Thames, and plopped down on a familiar couch for the cocktail hour, we knew we were beat and ready to stay put for a while! It was especially appealing since we had rented the same place the year before, so we knew exactly where everything, including the toaster and the hair dryer, was located.
During most of September we relaxed, drank and dined with new and old friends, and enjoyed a low-impact month of re-charging in a country whose language we speak, more or less. We had spent most of eight months in places where we might as well have been interplanetary beings, not equipped to read many signs or labels, and certainly unable to eavesdrop or follow conversations more sophisticated than the weather or which bus to take.
On the one hand, the isolation certainly enhanced Tim’s and my personal relationship because most of the time it was impossible to communicate with anyone but each other; on the other hand, knowing almost nothing about what’s going on in one’s immediate vicinity was odd and strangely tiring. Local TV news does not exist for us when we are in France, Portugal or Germany unless events makes it to CNN. When there were strikes or protests in Paris, which are almost daily events, most of them benign, we had to rely on a Yahoo search to find out the cause, and even then the reasons for the upset were sometimes so obscure that we didn’t understand it anyway!
So in England we reveled in some down time, making our way into the big city, which we do adore, only a few times, and even on those occasions we went to see friends and gobble up their delicious home made barbecue or dine out in their neighborhood. We did see Helen Mirren do her fabulous Queen Elizabeth interpretation live in the lovely play, “The Audience,” indulge in some really great Mexican food (imagine), and spend a damp but hilarious day with our friends from Paris who came for Design Week. But after each trip we would scuttle back to our quiet little East Molesey where we could meander by the river, watch fabulous British TV, cook in our kitchen with real human-sized equipment, and generally kick back in the gorgeous autumn weather. It was a thoroughly enchanting September for us and we were happy to be low-key for a while.
September passed quickly, and it finally occurred to us that we are now so familiar with London, particularly with our little hidey-hole in Surrey, that it could become a habit. So we’re now making plans to take our home free act on the road to new places. Africa, Australia, South America. Viet Nam, Korea, and the South Pacific are real contenders, too. Notions of those places titillate us and remind us why we hatched this magical plan in the first place. So once again, rested and restored, with the book on its way at last, we are in our favorite mode; crouched over computers, pawing the book stores’ travel sections, scouring the internet, and asking friends and fellow travelers to share their experiences as our adventures for 2014 and 15 take shape. I have a hunch that we’ll find new hidey-holes in places we have yet to see!