Arrived back in the Cotswolds on Wednesday night for a few days of rural refreshment before a trip out to California then back again in time for the royal wedding. Enough royal wedding memorabilia to fill a small warehouse had been delivered in the post (tea towels for everyone!), including the Emma Bridgewater mug pictured from which I am currently drinking my morning coffee. I appreciate the way Ms. Bridgewater managed to make the helicopters (emblem of Will’s profession as a search and rescue helicopter pilot) look sort of like flowers if you squint, but it’s too bad the initials of the royal couple are the same as those used to indicate bathroom facilities in the UK.
Also awaiting me was the May issue of Cotswold Life magazine, a periodical in which I had pretty much lost interest when I was living here full-time. I preferred the New Yorker to say the monthly Cotswold Pub Dog column in which, yes, a local pub dog gets his own column in which to inform the public of his favourite pub snack, favourite spot in the bar, and favourite customer. But now that I am back living full-time in the big, bad urban-ness of Berlin, I sopped up Cotswold Life like it was some kind of life-prolonging tonic.
In typical idiosyncratic style, the opening article managed to both bemoan the cancellation for the second year in a row of Cheese Rolling down Cooper’s Hill, a nearly two-century old Cotswold tradition, and extol the virtues of smoking. The second article was a newish (well, new since I stopped reading regularly) column by a woman who calls herself Cotswold Mother. Very annoying since that is obviously the perfect spot for the American in the Cotswolds column. And then there was my favorite, the property pages, which reminded me how very rich this area is and how very rich I am not. The description in one ad for a manor and estate in nearby Withington included a minstrels’ gallery, bothy, and manège, none of which are architectural features with which I am familiar (although the first one sounds disturbingly, to an American, like a venue for a minstrel show). Like the old saying goes, if you have to ask you can’t afford it!
Summer was this weekend, or so I suspect. After some glorious false starts in the spring, our summer so far has seen me to bed with my pajamas topped by the same grubby old cashmere sweater that I wore all winter.
The village on Saturday morning was like a country-themed “It’s a Small World” ride. Pensioners practically skipped into the local shop to collect their weekend papers. Four cats frolicked in the lane (cats! in all my years as a cat owner I’ve never seen a cat frolic and yet…) while white butterflies skittered above. As we set out on a bike ride husband still found something to moan about, but conceded it was an altogether more pleasant sight than the post-Friday night “cider cans in canal” tableau we’d face if setting out for a morning ride in London. (Thank god cider hasn’t made it’s way to the states yet – perhaps just a matter of time until the alcohol marketers make inroads).
In the evening we drove over to a rather grand country house hotel that was hosting an outdoor opera. It was too wonderfully British with elaborate picnics abounding—crystal flutes adorned more than one folding table. I even spotted a cravat. We fit in fairly well with our smoked salmon sandwiches and strawberries even if our plastic tumblers did let the side down (not to mention my husband chasing down photographers from Cotswold Life, the local mag, so he might make himself available for a photo op on the social pages). As night fell I was most impressed by the many tables that set out candles. Well, that and the portable loos which were the nicest I’d ever seen — think drop lighting and Molton and Brown soap. Thankfully the opera itself wasn’t too high brow. Without the aid of a programme husband recognized “the World Cup song” and “the British Airways ad from the eighties” song.
Sunday morning we went for our normal jog along back country lanes. I’ve lost all heat acclimitisation from L.A. I looked like a beet at the end and had hardly cooled down by the time we were showered and heading off with some neighbors to an afternoon hog roast/jazz concert in the field behind the village hall in G. Without aid of a portable marquee (the hallmark of the truly seasoned British picnicker) we roasted to the tunes of Artie Shaw. By the second bottle of cava we resorted to putting up our rain umbrellas for shade. Our collective stamina was as resolutely British as it had been several weeks earlier when we sat through three rainsoaked hours of outdoor Shakespeare under blankets and brollies. This is our summer and dammit we are going to have it.