The past few months have been wonderfully, bizarrely busy. The thing about a year off is that everyone else says ‘aha. she is free!’. So, since Easter, I have have been constantly, intensely catching up with friends and travelling.
It began with the swings-and-play-parks tour of Durham. An old univeristy friend came to visit with her nearly two-year old, and we spent the week getting cold, getting wet, taking naps, and evaluating where we could find the best, the very best, place to play. (Chester-le-Street, as it happens. Thank you Mumsnet.) I even persuaded my sceptic little house-guest to try Boston Brown Bread and Baked Beans alonside her hot-dog. Success.
Next, another visitor from Scotland. Simpler this time (no nappies), and blessed with better weather. We did the usual sorts of things: walked by the river, visited the otters, enjoyed the sudden (brief) burst of Spring.
Then, it was time to welcome an old school friend whom I hadn’t seen since I was 16. The next time I hear someone say that facebook isn’t about real friendship I will offer this: without facebook, this friend and I may never have spoken again. Instead we have chatted and laughed through major changes in our lives, and when the time was right, she flew from Los Angeles to Newcastle so that the conversation could go deeper. We had a fabulous (albeit chilly) few weeks, drinking tea and visiting Roman Britain.
After that, I broke the news to Molly-cat that it was now her turn to go on holiday, and off we went to the cattery. I love this cattery. The owners have a great sense of humour and send twitter-pics of the cats for our amusement and reassurance. (@RGLCH)
I flew to Newark, took the train up to Connecticut and spent a few weeks with my parents. I watched loons on the lake and swallows in the orchards. I visited old haunts and enjoyed the ice cream. I caught up with friends and met the amazingly passionate owners of Extra Virgin in Mystic, CT, who gave up the rat-race to start a business that they love, and are turning tourists into connoisseurs bite by bite.
For Assension Day, I was thankful to be at Christ Church, New Haven and delighted in the smoke. On the Sundays, there was all the joy of St Thomas’, New Haven, with its slightly chaotic but beautiful liturgy and the most creative normal-church (rather than cathedral) music I have come across in a long while.
I came home and rescued Molly from the cattery, spent the week offering her a lap and getting over a bug. I met friends in York and watched my god-son get the hang of bungee-jumping. Then another friend came down from Scotland. We walked the beach and found amazing rock-pools at Warkworth. We visited the Southern Crested Screamer, and the fluffy chicks at Washington Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and we wandered down to Whitby to share fish and chips with the gulls.
It has been a fabulous few months, which could never have happened without the gift of this year off. And now, I am looking forward to a few weeks of quiet: to read again, and to write, and to see what comes next.