London 1999
revisiting visits of the past

19 March 1999

I started the day with a long weird dream that was all tangled up between the narrow, corner-y, brick-sided roads here and the various thoughts about lit crit I've been stuffing into my head. Further fits and starts of it came and went as I wavered between falling back asleep and giving up, while Anandamayi cleverly got up early and washed her hair. Steve (not very surprisingly) forgot to call, so I have to remember to give him a call tonight, or I won't be able to mail him his letter.

After a nice breakfast of toast, peanut butter, marmelade (made by Iris, put up in an instant coffee jar & apparently originally sealed with some mysterious paper hermetic thing), blackberry jam, and coffee, we walked to the post office and pondered again whether the super-cute tea shop will ever be open. There was a menu in the window and the tables seemed to be decorated with fresh daffodils, but we saw no sign of when it was open. A lot of places don't open until Easter, so it seemed possible that it just wouldn't be possible to go there, though the flowers gave us hope.

As we were taking this walk, my grandfather was kindly starting our dark clothes in the washer and Nanny was washing up. We got back at just the right time, and we all headed out for Woodbridge, the nearest town of size to the place N & G used to live. First a brief stop and the cobbler's, wher the show mending while you wait was decreed to require a bit too much waiting for our needs. Boots was still the distinctive place I remembered, with an extensive wine and beer making section in this one, which was actually a fairly small branch. The contact solution Anandamayi bought included a contact case with the Boots logo--very classy. I'm not sure why Nanny and Grandad shop at the Budgons (how can you not call it Bludgeons?) instead of the Aldeburgh co-op, but they do, and we went there next. As well as some classic British groceries, it included a novel type of photo booth--pick from two shots and it will print you one portrait-size, four normal, or sixteen mini. We selected the last.

After some bartering... no, wait, not yet. First we went across the street to The German Coffee House, a cheerily saffron and royal blue little restaurant where we had our lunch. Entertainingly, though we'd carefully bought baking potatoes for dinner, in the end we all selected that for lunch. A. and I had ours with coleslaw, while Nanny and Grandad had prawns. Nanny had the sauce that went with that, which was some really nasty-looking pink stuff. Earl Grey tea went alongside, and a shared rhubarb crumble with custard for dessert (underdone).

We bartered 35 minutes in which we could run around Woodbridge. First we went into several little shops, including a fancy foods place where we finally bought some candy. We've been planning on stocking up on exotic Easter treats, but since the Nestle's and Cadbury stuff is pretty ubiquitous, we've held off so far. This was a fancier and more unusual selection, so we got a few things, including sugar mice. Most of our time we spent in an antique store, bemoaning the fact that almost anything we wanted to buy was made of glass or china. Since I've been fairly good about spending money thus far, actually I found this as comforting as not. On the other hand, it's pretty cool how cheap some stuff of moderate age can manage to be, especially if it's on the plain side. Earthenware dish, circa 1830, for example, was selling in Aldeburgh for £4! Anandamayi was tempted by a petticoat, but especially by an impractical 35-piece tea set. In the end she got a cute old tortoiseshell-looking comb that bears a strong resemblance to the wafer cookies people stick in ice cream.

When we returned, we fell down briefly and went into town again. This time we finally took a digression from our usual route and poked around the local churchyard. It was quite excellent and even had a section that had been turned over into a tiny (very tiny) wildlife preserve. They were cultivating local wildflowers and letting the various plants grow free to encourage butterflies, birds, etc. There were already a generous quantity of birds, as well as a couple of rabbits. While most of the graves were still kept fairly groomed, there was an assortment of quite, quite old stones in various in various stages of falling down. Many had flowers growing plentifully from the graves themselves, which was quite charming. The more recent graves had fresh flowers, often--one so recent that it didn't have its stone yet was absolutely covered. The local, friendly orange-and-white cat followed us around in a most hospitable fashion.

Into town once more--first to our favorite stop, the post office, where I got a new pen. (I'm afraid the nice extra-broad feature of this one is going to make it run out of ink extra quickly.) Then to the grocery next door, where Anandamayi got an ice-cream bar and the mini cream eggs she's been searching for. We took a long way around going back, finally going up the public steps we'd been wondering about. Good choice--it was a very pretty walk, taking us behind some big houses in the classic upperish-class vein. A man who was seeing his friend off asked us what we were studying--he thought we were student musicians taking a master class in Snape. I thought that sounded like a lovely alternate identity and entertained the idea for most of the walk home.

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