Monday, September 05, 2016

Playing Catch Up

I have got to stop saying that I'm going to do things on this blog. Every time I do, the universe kicks me in the backside, and then stands back laughing.

We came back from India sick; David with a chest infection that turned into pneumonia, and me with a cold/ear infection. Because of all the immunosuppressants I am on I have to nip infections in the bud so I went straight to my ENT and she said I had such a classic blister on my eardrum she wished she had students there she could show it to. Thanks Doc.

Anyway, we were pretty much down for the count for the whole of March. Then I spent April and the first part of May in a funk, realizing that this is now my life. (More on that in another post.)

However, on the whole, 2016 has been a year of milestones and ticking items off the bucket-list.

India - see previous posts.

Thirtieth High School Reunion - 30 years! How did that happen?

Only five of us turned up, partly because the school had moved Alumni Weekend up a week, so it caught people by surprise. We had a great time anyway. Amusingly (in a dark way), our dinner conversation ranged through stories about our jobs, our children's escapades, and eventually turned to our parents' health and I realized we were at that age now. All of us had either already lost or parent, or had at least one with some serious health issues.

Girly Weekend

I had a Canada Air voucher I needed to use, so I contacted my college friend, Alicia, in Toronto and asked her if she was up for a weekend visit. Happily, she was, so I left the husband behind for a weekend of long conversations, macarons, yarn shopping, pink lattes, playing with Miss Mable (the cat), and (me) trying poutine for the first time. Seriously, what's not to like about fried potatoes, cheese, and gravy?

Photo courtesy of Alicia Homer

This was the first girly weekend I've had in years, and Alicia is a very gracious hostess: to the point of giving up her bed and sleeping on a mattress in the living room, so I didn't have to heave my arthritic bones up and down off the floor.

Annual Leave in England

We took our Annual Leave (previously known as furlough) at the end of May. David had to attend meetings at Newbold the first few days, so we rented a cottage on a farm near Maidenhead, and drove to Binfield nearly every day, partly for the meetings, but also to see as many friends as we could while we had the chance, which was lovely. We had so many meals out that week I hardly had to cook!

The second week we spent in Cornwall. Finally! All that time we lived in England, and Cornwall was one of the places we never managed to get to. I've wanted to visit Tintagel since the first time I read about King Arthur as a child, so that was definitely a check mark on the bucket-list. There's a lot of steps to climb to get up to the top of the island, and many stops were made to catch our breath, but it was totally worth it. I wasn't expecting an atmosphere, as there were a lot of people about (unfortunately our week in Cornwall turned out to be half term), and also because it was a blazingly hot day, but somehow, despite the people and the cheerful sunshine, I could feel the history of the place. There were several places I could just sit on the grass, or a bit of stone, and stare out over the sea, as clear and green as glass, and imagine Merlin smuggling the baby Arthur down the cliffs in the dead of night.

 Knitting was done.

We went to the Eden Project, which is an amazing accomplishment, and I'm glad we saw it, but what I really loved was the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Just the name alone is enough to tantalize. It's an estate that lost most of its gardeners in the First World War and was allowed to fall into ruin until a couple of crazy people discovered it in the early 90s and brought it back to life. (They went on to create the Eden project later.) It was another hot, sunny day, so the walks in the woods were very welcome, but my favourite thing, and the reason I knew about Heligan, was the Mud Maid. I'd seen a postcard of her at my friend Stacy's house years ago and have been fascinated every since.

So many cream teas were eaten in Cornwall. This one was the best.

Turkey and Greece

Every five years, after the church elections, each of the executive departments (Presidential, Secretariat, and Treasury) have a "bonding" trip. David's department comes under Secretariat so, as head of department, he gets to go on the trip, and spouses are encouraged to come as well. We moved to Maryland in 2011, so three weeks after we moved into our house, we were off to Italy, Germany, and Switzerland for "The Reformation Tour" - sites related to the Protestant Reformation. This time it was the Journeys of Paul, so we got to visit Turkey and Greece.

We started in Izmir (Smyrna) and saw various sites in Western Turkey, including Ephesus and Troy! We weren't originally scheduled to go to Troy (no connection with Paul) but our guide decided at the last minute to go anyway, since we were going to be so close. David and I were mentally punching the air when that was announced!

It was so hot! The first few days we were there, when our schedule was the heaviest, it got up to 105F. As we clambered over dusty ruins, every time the guide would stop speaking, everyone would scatter in the search for shade, wherever it could be found.

We travelled up and around the north eastern part of Greece and then down the center, visiting the monasteries at Meteora, and then stopped at the site of the Battle of Thermopylae, where the 300 Spartans faced down the armies of Persia. David, in particular, was very excited about this.

In Athens we saw the Pergamon Parthenon (we did go to Pergamon, but the week before, obviously), visited the Pergamon Parthenon museum and, because we had a free day, wandered over to the Archaeological Museum, where David got to fulfill another boyhood dream and saw items from the excavations at Mycenae and the Mask of Agamemnon. We didn't even realize it was there until we turned a corner, and there it was, staring at us.

The final thrill was taking a ferry to Patmos and seeing the Cave of the Apocalypse, where John is said to have had his vision, and written Revelation. I am totally in love with the Greek Islands. I was determined to swim in the Aegean Sea, so we spent an hour in the afternoon paddling at the tiny beach in Skala, near our hotel. The water is indescribably blue. It's no wonder artists go mad trying to capture just that particular shade, which seems to shift every time you look away.

Folk Singers and Children's Books

Last month, David had a conference to attend at Harvard. Normally he'd fly up, but we discovered that the night before the conference was to start, one of our favourite folk singers, Dougie MacLean, was going to be in Schenectady, NY. I saw Dougie in Seattle a few years ago, but David hadn't seen him live, so we decided to drive up to Schenectady on the Monday, attend the concert, stay the night, and then drive to Cambridge, MA, Tuesday morning. We were hoping to get there in time to check into our hotel and unpack, but it took longer to drive up than we expected to we drove right to the theatre, and were about half an hour late. He hadn't brought his band on this tour, just himself and a guitar. I think it was the first concert of his tour as he said he'd only been in the country for 48 hours and was still jetlagged; his energy levels were lower than the last time I saw him, but it was so worth the drive.

The next day we drove to Harvard. I've never even been to Massachusetts before, let alone Harvard,  so it was a week of firsts. I had been hoping to get into Boston, but I had to work that week so I spent Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday on the computer. However, I was absolutely determined to get to Concord. I've loved Little Women for as long as I can remember. It was one of the first "big" books I ever read; I think when I was about seven, I pretty much had it on permanent loan from the library until my parents finally bought it for me one Christmas. After that, I think I read it about every other Christmas for the next 20 years. It's been a while since I've read it now - I should get it out again. And of course I read almost all her other children's books over the course of time.

On the Thursday I drove out to Concord and got to Orchard House just before it opened. I browsed around the exceedingly charming gift shop until the first tour started. I'd been excited (by my phlegmatic standards) about getting to finally see the house, but I wasn't expecting to get as emotional as I did - I actually teared up as we started the tour.

I take terrible selfies. So I don't take them very often - only when I'm really excited to be doing something, and there is no one else around to take a picture for me. Also, the sun was in my eyes and I couldn't see the screen, so I had to kind of guess when I had both the house and myself in the frame. But here's me - at Louisa May Alcott's house!!!!!!

I also visited the Concord Museum and Emerson's house, which I very much enjoyed, but neither gave me the sheer joy of the Alcott's house. I would have liked to see Walden Pond, but it was $10 just to park in the parking lot, and by that time I was getting tired. If I'd had time and energy I'd have liked to walk around the lake, but as it was, all I would have done was walked to the pond, looked, and left, and I'd already spent a fair amount of money for the other three sites. So, I left it for another visit. I'd seen the things I really had to see.

Wow, looking back it's been a lot of travel this year! A lot of really good travel. I'm glad I'm home for a while now. I had the chance to go to Bermuda with David next week but I'm really ready for a break. Nothing now until Thanksgiving.

Next year's travel plans include a trip in February to Australia to see David's family, and camp meeting in California next summer. But I don't think it's going to be as intense as this year. That's probably a good thing. I'm kind of exhausted!


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