The thing is, I hate leaving this place. We've been away from Los Angeles too long. I miss my lovely husband, the greater and lesser spotteds, my bed, but I love that I can sit in my mother's kitchen overlooking the Vale of Aylesbury at six in the morning, with my cup of tea, and the sky is palest pink and the oak trees are still, and there are rabbits cropping (a word I learned from my ten year old self) on the lawn. I love that we went to Mr. Leach's farm stand yesterday afternoon to find a marrow of just the right size to stuff for supper for the three of us, that there were scores of big, fat green marrows lined up on a table, all for 60p (mine was 30p because, in comparision, it was a tiddler). I love that I could walk the dog for miles in Ashridge yesterday in mixed woodland (silver birch, oak, some fir) and not see another human. Although some West Highland terriers did interrupt my very scientific self-timed portrait on Berkhamsted Heath.
You see, the house we grew up in is here, just a few hundred yards away from my mother's house. But it has changed a little, as you will see from the following two photographs:
But there are still sloes in the hedgerows.
And horses that greet us in Claridge's field.
And cattle that lie down in the pasture on soft mornings.
And old beech trees, silver birch and naughty dogs to walk with.
At the bottom of the garden is an ancient garden, full of fruit trees, amongst them four damson trees, heavy with purple fruit. I've promised myself I shall make damson jam, and secret it into my suitcase, with all my other treasures. My mother is preparing for 25 women from her Keep Fit class (hopefully not in leotards) to come to tea. Downstairs, she has laid out tables with white, embroidered cloths; we've pulled tables out of the garden shed and let them be washed by the rain; there are cucumbers and smoked salmon in the fridge for sandwiches, plenty of brown bread. My damson jam-making must be done on the QT and quickly for we must leave here at noon to catch our plane back home to Los Angeles. And of course there has to be one last walk, one more reason to take photographs of nettles and bracken and tiny, wee birds I can't name, to listen to the London train hurtle by the Grand Union canal, to eat brambles fresh from the bushes, the way one does in England when Autumn's on the doorstep.