Thursday, August 6, 2015
Rainy days bring a certain quiet. Strangely, is seems that fewer vehicles drive by, and everything seems more somber. I rather like it. If you would replace the cows with sheep and the barns with cottages or castle ruins, it would look very much like parts of Ireland. Or the south of England.
Speaking of England and somber moods, I am feeling a bit sad, having found out yesterday that a friend I'd made in Bristol, England way back in 1984 when I was 20 and she was 34, passed away rather suddenly a few years ago. Mary was an amazing woman, and I was thrilled to know her. She cooked the most amazing vegetarian food, knit gloves, sewed her boys' clothes, was a picture framer and herbalist. She was also one of the most unpretentious, genuine, human beings I'd ever met.
I lived with her family in their Victorian townhouse for a few months, which was undergoing renovations. First I was in the attic, tucked in a tiny room beneath a sloping ceiling. In the evening I would watch the sun set over the Downs, sitting in the window with my feet on the cold slate tiles. Later, when that room was being redone, I was moved to the basement. I had an outhouse for a toilet and shared the room with the water-heater.
We drank tea all day, but she liked coffee in the morning, and I would drink mine with her, sitting in her large kitchen with its enormous, cobalt-blue Aga stove. On Sundays she and I would have sauteed onions and mushrooms on her homemade wholewheat toast for breakfast. I was invited to hang out in the enormous bed with the whole family to watch Robin Hood with them, and it was cozy and fun. Their boys took a liking to me, and I to them, right off the bat. Sometimes she and I would watch Blackadder together, and nearly split our sides laughing, and she sometimes sucked her thumb, and I would scowl at her, and she'd say, "I never outgrew it, I'm afraid." Occasionally we would get a little drunk on Taunton Blackthorn hard cider ("Scrumpy" as hard cider is called there), and suddenly even something as mundane as doing the shopping with her became an adventure.
Mary's feelings ran deep. When she would speak of something she felt strongly about, you could see the depth of emotion in her face. She seemed decades older than her 34 years.
I did not stay in touch for very long after leaving Bristol. I had made another friend over there, my friend Tom, who was 63 at the time. He and I continued to write one another for the next 20 years until his death. He occasionally would go by Mary's and have a tea with her, then report his visit in a letter to me. I called him 'Bwana Tom' (he'd spent most of his adult life in Africa, living the life he'd dreamed of having as a boy), and he called me 'Jackson', although I can no longer remember why.
So...today is a good one to make a pot of Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea and pull out my old journals and reminisce while listening to the rain fall.