Despite my best intentions of doing one more Cultural Thing That I Would Be Proud Of, my body screamed a resounding NO. I slept poorly last night: two separate bouts of insomnia, during which I finally got up to meditate. Even so, I had an idea that I would try to get down to St. Paul’s Cathedral to hear the boys singing at 3:15, but that did not happen either. I am exhausted. As Katryna says, I need a vacation from my vacation. So I went for a walk up to Waterlow Park, listening to White Teeth all the while. Lila and I practiced again for Falcon Ridge (singing “Love Love Love” winded me!) while Tom and Johnny did their best to introduce baseball to Great Britain. We roused ourselves to venture down a whopping two tube stops to Kentish Town (how can you not LOVE the names of these stops???) where we found a fantastic book store called Owl Bookshop. Tom got a novel by Finish writer Ulla Lena Lundberg called Ice, and I abstained, since I am reading both Homegoing and White Teeth (plus, um, War and Peace… to Rosie…) But even this meager outing reduced the 8-year-old to tears. Tom took the kids home, and I walked the short distance to Archway under rare, beautiful blue skies.
Speaking of White Teeth, Tom read my copy in record time, which is why he needed a new book. He is able to just sit on a couch during a vacation and read a juicy novel. How does he do this? I used to have this skill. I used to read and read and read. Couches were my friend. But these days, I feel so guilty if I sit and read, unless it’s right before bed. Or on a train or plane. I “read” via Audible while I am doing housework. But that is not the same. So when I returned to the flat, I picked up the copy of the book he’d finished, located my place, and sat with a glass of water and dove into the world of the Joneses and the Iqbals. Bliss! And then….I TOOK A BATH!!!! These are the kinds of things I only do when I am killing time. Which is what we did today. Only we didn’t kill time at all. That walk, that bath, that sitting-and-reading–this is what I wanted all along in a vacation. Maybe I had to go to England with shingles and exhaustion to get it.
I would recommend this trip to anyone. I do not regret having taken it, as I had expected I might, given how strong-willed my kids can be, how averse they are to being dragged around. At some point on this trip, Tom said to the kids, “I’m proud of you for sticking up to us. Especially to your mom. If you can withstand your mom, you can withstand anything!” Poor kids. I think this might be true. But anyway, as I think I mentioned in the first post of this series, two weeks is by far the longest vacation we’ve ever taken as a family, and Tom can’t remember ever taking a two-week vacation. My family used to vacation for two weeks in the summer, but I haven’t done this since, well, that last trip to the UK in 1985, which I wrote about here. We learned that this trip was about four days too long. If we had to plan it again, we’d return earlier and skip Paris. (But not Liverpool!) (Well, maybe…) But I am glad we didn’t know, because I wouldn’t really want to change a thing about this trip; not the shingles, not the complaints, not the missed opportunities. I learned so much. I spent so much quality time with my family. I got to see that we all still love each other in our complete worst-selved-crankitude. This is the golden era for our family. Mom pre-menopause, kids pre-pubescent. Kids still having little kid problems and not delinquency issues. And you know what? It’s a good thing to love one’s home so much one can’t wait to get back there.
Dinner was more Sitara take-away, plain pasta for Johnny (“YahooooOOOOOOO!” he rejoiced), plus Cadbury for all the chocolate-eaters. We’ve packed our suitcases, ordered our car service. More football on the telly, an early night.I have heard more languages spoken here than in any city I’ve ever visited. This is the most multicultural place I have ever been. It puts NYC to shame in that department. (At least our neighborhood). I see the homeless, the mentally ill, miserable poverty, just as I do in the cities in the States. I don’t think universal health care has solved all their problems, but it doesn’t seem to hurt, either. And I don’t see the insane wealth that’s rampant in the US. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places. London, I hope I return to you in better health. I hope YOU are as brave and resilient as you are today. I hope your skies are sunny just the right amount, and your people are as friendly to all as they have been to us. I hope I can see a play at the Globe, visit the mummies at the British Museum and tour the Tate in a more leisurely manner. I hope my kids remember you fondly, laugh at the fights we had, or remember only the cuddles on the couch and the Cadbury. Till then.