Saturday, 14 May 2011


The great thing about going away is coming home, seeing your familiar places through new eyes. The effect does not last long. But I thought how quaint and charming our town is as we came home. I still have in my mind's eye the amazing harbour at Fécamp with the tide powering in and out even though I am not there to see it. This melancholy is particuarly evoked, for me, by moving water... I think of rivers and waterfalls just doing their thing far away, and me not there to see them. It is something about the intensity of the moment while you are there, the now-ness of now, the here-ness of here. The fall of light on the land, and the quality of shadows in different places.

I should say our last night in Fécamp was a delightful supper party in our new acquaintance's house, and one of their neighbours dropped in - a French-Portuguese film-maker. We were given a succession of dishes of local food - chicory leaves spread with a little soft cheese with herbs, a dish of very fragrant tomatoes, then a 'salad' of soft potatoes mixed with herring - absolutely divine and a speciality of Fécamp. Then we had some local cheeses, all perfect and finished with an ice-cream topped with sliced pears-in-syrup from our hostess's dad's tree. This is a very very very hard little fruit, which has to be stewed for a long time. It turns from white to dark red, almost like a marmalade. The pears can be frozen if required. They have a quincey quality, so these slices were rather like membrillo from Spain. Delicious.

Now getting ready for the trip to Kenya I am paralysed once again by not knowing what to pack. I realise this is my neurosis, my deep anxiety - I have shared it before - but I am transfixed by inner queries about whether to pack bright coloured things or soft colours, whether I will need more than one pair of socks, where to find my rain-hood thing, do I need nail-varnish remover, etc. I really dislike this about myself, can see how trivial the questions are, how lucky I am to be able to travel at all. My green self would certainly not be going on this trip, but it such a curiosity.

Our hosts have asked us to bring as much bubblewrap as we can manage. Their son has just arrived with a roll of it... monstrous size, though weighing almost nothing. It takes up much more than a suitcase. We are fortunate that our host has not asked us to bring a lawnmower with us. That is what he demanded when the same son flew there last year. True. It seems inconceivable to me that neither bubblewrap nor Flymo-s are available in Nairobi. If it is really true, we have clearly identified a gap in the market for someone to start exporting these crucial items to Kenya immediately. I think maybe while my own anxiety is about getting on a plane and zooming into the stratosphere, our host has a dread of being away from England and comforts which can be found in any quaint old English shopping mall, so he uses family and friends as a personal import service. Nothing wrong with that, really apart from the extra worry about getting the stuff there.

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