The Open Road 2

Back in September I wrote about our experience of hiring a motorhome, not an unalloyed success…….but Cannyrob (my other half) was interested enough to book tickets for the Scottish Carvanning and Camping Show in Glasgow. There was nothing that appealed – wood effect chalets, huge vehicles with proper bathrooms, vast tents, all kinds of accessories – but then……….we spotted the new Volkswagen Campervan, the California Ocean. We talked about it all the way home. Cannyrob has been researching online ever since and we are hoping to rent one for a few days next month. We’ve still to make up a Pros and Cons list, while coming up with good reasons for buying.

We’ve been getting around by train and car meantime. I had an interesting weekend away on my own, staying in a hotel, a Georgian house which was once a private nursing home.

I was born there in 1947. In my comfortable en suite room, I imagined my mother, with me a tiny baby, spending her two weeks ‘lying in’ and coming to terms with this huge change to her life, having no experience at all of babies. It was a stormy night, as it might well have been that November, and my sister and I, armed with umbrellas, battled through the dark streets to a cosy Italian restaurant, where we managed to scoff the free bottle of wine over a good meal with lots of laughter.

That afternoon, I’d had a catch up chat with my grown-up niece in Edinburgh, remembering her as a little girl with her sister, coming to stay with me, and the fun we had. Now she’s facing adult choices with admirable equanimity. I took her a sampler which came from my great-aunt’s house in London, embroidered by ten year old Ann Crouch in 1830. Her father was a high-ranking official in the household of an Oxford Dean.I imagine this little girl, hair in ringlets or maybe in a cap, bent over her work somewhere like the ‘breakfast’ room in my great-aunt’s house, full of chairs and little tables draped in velvet and lace, as it still was when my sister and I stayed there in 1960. I wonder if she liked to sew, or if it was a chore she had to tackle each day, and reflect on the limited options she would have had for her adult life.

Sunday breakfast was just too early (I had to get up at 7.30!) and my plans to explore the old part of town were foiled by yet more torrential rain. I headed for a bright modern shopping centre for some enjoyable browsing and lunch, appreciating just having time on my own. The afternoon was spent with a lovely family, the children as imaginative and lively as their parents, a dramatherapist and a musician, then a night staying with my oldest pal in her cosy house on the top of a hill. We talked through our current concerns, with another bottle of wine, falling into bed with the wonderful prospect of Monday morning without work, possibly the single best thing about retirement. The weather had improved and I spent a peaceful half-hour listening to the birds and the susurrus of the leaves, walking up to where my parents are buried, on a slope overlooking the village where my mother grew up. It was just the kind of day they would have enjoyed, Mum getting out into the garden to do some tidying, Dad off to the golf range……
For me, now, there’s a calm peacefulness now where there used to be pain and grief.

I eventually set off for home, thinking how fortunate I was to have the car. Cannyrob selflessly travelled to the rugby international in Edinburgh by bus (a five hour return trip). Now if we’d had the campervan…..we think this one is small enough to use as a second car. And I’m back on the open road theme again. We’ve now made a booking to rent a Volkswagen T5 California Ocean the first weekend in April.

Glad to get back to my Tuesday art classes again after a break over Christmas and New Year. Tackling oil paints is challenging, but really enjoyable. I’ve bought pretty much everything I need, causing some hilarity in class when I took out my new double dipper (large, as recommended, but not that large, apparently) and my palette knife (I’m useless at metric, especially online) which could be used by a plasterer. However, I have completed a first still life.

See my Sketchbook at the top of the blog for recent drawings.

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