A few days and one unreliable Vodafone wireless “broadband” dongle later…
Wednesday: It was door-to-door across continents in one day. An unreasonably short amount of time to semicircumnavigate the globe. Didi was premium-economy stir crazy from Baku onwards, the final protracted phase of the flight. All of you willing that little airplane icon to inch its way across the map.
Hot baths and a night at the Heathrow Novotel. Subzero outside. The country under siege by snow to judge by TV news.
The LED plane // scores a line across // the LED continent
Thursday: Drawing back the single curtain to see the aftermath of the night’s snowfall. The blasted heathland, traffic rotary systems and motorway slip roads of the Heathrow environs all coated with a crust of white. The scenery as desolate as ever: stunted hotels dotting the tundra; trees bare like brown bones.
Later, chasing up a car rental deal, you are back within the airport perimeter proper. Narrow roads among the terminals with fake names like Cherry Lane, Horizon Way. Redbrick traffic dividers topped with unloved shrubs. A mishmash of dead architecture: 1970s administrative buildings, multistorey carparks.
It is no place for pedestrians and not much fun for drivers. An in-between zone. People getting in and out as fast as they can, amid sleet-stained diesel buses, taxis, delivery trucks and car-hire company shuttles. Only the high-visibility-jacketed staff linger, stuck there for the duration of their shift.
This is Heathrow. Welcome, world!
In the darkening winter afternoon a drive by rental car to Oxford. Striking vistas of frosted fields. A softly rolling landscape. Coldly comforting.
Belonging: // this land is yours // you are its
Friday: Getting to know the house. The vagaries of the central-heating system.
A drive through tightly hedge-rowed lanes among the white frozen fields to a town with a famous supermarket, temple of the bourgeoisie. Where ancient rites of animal sacrifice have been reduced to the act of taking a ticket to queue at the meat counter. Well. You’re as unweaned as anyone. You load the back of the vehicle with easily plucked treats for all. GF sausages for dinner.
Certain aspects of life in this country are very congenial.
Convenience // for subservience. // Fair trade?
Saturday: dropping Nana off at the bus-station for her journey back to London. Some shopping among the compulsive Christmas consumers crowding the city’s pedestrianized centre. Primark: an emergency low-cost supply of warmer clothes for the tots. Vodafone: a wireless broadband dongle for the laptops.
Yeye and Nainai visiting in the afternoon. Toys books and treats. A walk in icy drizzle to the village. Pints by a real fire under old English beams. Kids welcome!
The pub: mythical. // The smiles fire and booze: // all real.
Sunday: Driving to Cardiff, most of the way through luminous mist. Various sweeps of land and sky glowing at various intensities. Sometimes the brightest light was that radiating off the sun-green fields. It was like rolling into a continuously unfurling Turner painting – only many times more beautiful and dramatic.
Playdate with K & S and their similarly-aged tots in their house in the suburb of Canton.
A chain hotel with a snoring smiling crescent moon for its logo. “Moon Hotel” says didi.
Fog // soaked with sunlight; sunlight suffuses // fog
Monday: with studied casualness – polished shoes but no tie – you present yourself at HQ for a place in the post-reorganization job queue. Catch up with old colleagues on the 2nd floor. Morale was bad when you left, it’s in the gutter now.
The snow’s all gone from the city but the air is thick with suspended ice in the form of a subzero fog, blanketing the view and penetrating any opening in your outer garments.
No question of leaving the hotel for dinner. Instead a tremendous Bangladeshi take-away from the Juboraj, eaten in the room in front of C Beebies and Channel 4 news.
Like the risen // ghost, you. Back from // the dead