June 16th – Cotherstone

So strange to be back here… it’s been 7 months since I was last here, and now over 5 years since mum died and we sold the house – hard to believe, it feels both very far away and only yesterday…. for the first time, I start to feel like a stranger here… and yet the cottage, and the landscape, offer me both succour and a sense of security – as I type that, I look out the window in front of me and see the sickle of the new moon – what is it they say, never look at the new moon through glass?  I will try not to be superstitious….  I love this place, and find myself dreaming of making it more comfortable – a glassed in back porch as a utility room, to give storage space (now that the potting shed is a bedroom) and a small place to sit in the sun, when it comes out… a bathtub, something I miss more than anything, to ease my aching bones… even, luxury of luxuries, underfloor heating downstairs, in the hall and bathroom, to take the chill off – in the winter it is ice-bound down there, especially since Jeff tore down his workshop and I am now totally open to the north… but there is no point in spending money I don’t have on upgrading the place if I’m not going to live here, and in all honesty, could I?  It’s lovely to visit, but… two things continue to draw me back – the sense of family, continuity, which, without kids of my own, is very important; and the love of the landscape, and walking in it. But my bum knee makes me realise that if I cannot take advantage of the wilderness, the idea of being here is a lot less attractive… and at a certain point, a bathtub is a younger woman’s game … what am I thinking of?  I managed two walks before admitting defeat – from Wynch Bridge to High Force and back, and Abbey Bridge to the Meeting Of The Waters and back –  by the end of the second one, my knee was killing me, and I was done… ice pack and paracetamol…

In lieu of long walks, I have once again been trying to purge, this time box files from the attic, full of old financial records of mum and dad’s, plus the unsold shoes from the Great Collection that came back from Tennant’s, and that lay in Moppet’s barn for 4 years until Diana brought them back here.  I had already pulled all the real beauties of the collection, so was not surprised to find almost nothing worth keeping in all the bags of returns.  I tried to take them to to a 2nd-hand shop in Barnard Castle who had said last year that they would take them on consignment, only to find they have since gone out of business – naturally… a shop in Darlington that Moppet told me about said they only dealt with current fashion, not vintage… so I was about to consign them to the charity shops when Moppet called to say she had a size 5 friend who woud take the lot – hallelujah…. the furniture in David’s storage in Winston also has to go – I took photos, and hope I can interest Luke Jordan (whose father owned my mandola), altho’ so far he has not been answering the phone and the shop says “closed” – et tu, Brute…

I had drinks with the Royles in Saltoun House this evening – they continue to slowly renovate, and the place looks and feels great… I have no problems living next to the old house, it feels good… but it’s a tug of war… part of me wants to divest completely and move on, part of me is still deeply attached…  I haven’t been here at this time of year since I left after selling the house… it is such a beautiful time of year, everything so lush, and such beautifully long evenings – sun doesn’t set til 10pm, still light in the sky at 11… it’s the Cotherstone Fun Weekend (village fete) and I watched the duck race this afternoon with great glee – such a fabulous event… but I truly felt like an outsider, for the first time… [later: that said, the following day I bumped into 4 or 5 people during the course of the day, who were all very welcoming and seemingly very happy to see me – go figure…]

On a lighter note, my cultural weekend down south was an astonishing feat… I flew into Gatwick Friday midday, trained up to Tufnell Park where Jan met me and whisked me straight up to the opening of the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk… a 6pm critics’ dinner in the big house with the bigwigs, a 7 pm concert followed by a 9.30 opera – and that was just day one… this year’s festival is celebrating Britten in America, coinciding with Bernstein’s centenary, so the concert, with the astonishing BBC Scottish Symphony, included Britten’s Simfonia da Requiem, which I LOVE, and the Michelangelo songs which, orchestrated by Colin Matthews, made so much sense; then Copland’s Quiet City and Bernstein’s 2nd symphony, the Age of Anxiety – a truly great concert.  The opera, a commission and world premiere, was disappointing – or maybe just not my cup of tea – Emily Howard’s To see The Invisible – I don’t think it was just jealousy that made it feel unsuccessful – but a brave attempt…

Day Two included a morning spent on Aldeburgh beach (replete with old fishing boats drawn up on the shingle, very Peter Grimes) while Jan interviewed the head of the festival, then off for coffee with friends of hers about 20 minutes into the countryside, from whence we went to an art gallery cum clothing sale even deeper into the countryside (I fell in love with Suffolk), and then to a concert in Blythburgh church – guitar and consort of viols, all Bach, including a bunch of the Art of Fugue – heaven… back to London in time for a late supper, including a visit with the newest member of the Dalley family, Marlow, aged about 6 weeks.  Sunday saw us in our glad rags down to Glyndebourne for Handel’s Julio Cesare – a really memorable production, flawless cast, absolutely fabulous – and a glorious day, so the picnic in the gardens was everything it should be… what’s not to love about Jan’s job?  A LOT of driving over the 3 days, but totally worth it.  Up at sparrow fart to catch the 7.30am train north, but it gained me a whole day, so no complaints.  The cottage was remarkably dry and not cold upon arrival – they’ve had lots of sunshine over the past couple of months, what a difference it makes…

The job in Houston with Moscone is set, and I have bought flights to Toulouse and Sicily for my August vacation – reckless, but hey ho the wind and the rain, one mustn’t forget to carp the diem… life is short…