I was born here, on a farm, in a cold house that didn't have a lot of central heating. There was a huge wood burning stove in the hallway that heated a fair amount of the house, and log fires in the sitting room, drawing room, dining room and study. I remember being too cold to get out of bed to go to the loo in the middle of the night, even though the loo was next to my bedroom. I remember ice on my windows. I remember frozen fingers and forced dog walks twice a day. And cold Land Rovers. And the damp. And the smell of wet dog. Five or Six of them. But, now I'm back I wonder if Southern California softened me, thinned my blood, made me a princess. There is no doubt I am now a princess. I've had to learn to wash my own floors and do my own ironing (I still suck at ironing). I've had to learn to feel cold, a lot, and to wear a woolly hat in the kitchen sometimes. Charlie is kind and good to me (too kind, too good, my mother says). Yesterday, I got back (freezing) from a funeral in London and there were white tulips on the kitchen table and yellow daffodils on my bedside table. "I wanted to remind you of spring," he said. "And hope. It's not always going to be like this." I'm not sure what to do with all this kindness. I don't ever feel deserving of it. I am not sure how such a lovely man managed to get into my orbit or what divine intervention brought us together. I know this: he makes the cold worthwhile.
When I walk, I warm up. I'm wearing my red and white Norwegian sweater and a huge red pashmina scarf, wrapped three times around my neck to stave off bronchial conditions and scattershot maladies. And on top of this a coat in my brother's tweed. It's the warmest thing I own. I want to wear it every day, even in London. "It's not really a London coat" says Charlie. He fears I'll start to wear one of those furry hatbands that all the Sloanes favor. When I warm up, the world becomes benevolent again, and the fear assuages.
We sang hymns in church. I stood beside my childhood friend who I love very much and he sang in a deep baritone. All public school boys do this. It amuses me. My piping second soprano could not be bridled. I jolly well love to sing hymns. The Lord's My Shepherd (Crimond) and Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, a great Wesleyan hymn. Goodness and kindness all my life shall surely follow me. What lovely, lovely lyrics. What lovely hope.
I hope, deep in my heart, that England is still in my bones in a proper, English way. I hope that I am deserving of its beneficence.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated Of dead and living. Not the intense moment Isolated, with no before and after, But a lifetime burning in every moment And not the lifetime of one man only But of old stones that cannot be deciphered. There is a time for the evening under starlight, A time for the evening under lamplight (The evening with the photograph album). Love is most nearly itself When here and now cease to matter. -- from East Coker, by TS Eliot