23rd July, 2016
This is an experiment, this idea of writing a journal as I travel to London to attend my daughter’s graduation and then continue on with my holiday from London to The Netherlands, to Yverdon-les-Bains in Switzerland where my husband’s twin brother and his family live, and finally there will be two nights and one day in beautiful Rome before flying home.
I haven’t written a journal in awhile and I have missed the regular practice and the space it offers to tune in and find out what is really going on in my head. All year I have been busy teaching, mentoring, presenting, interviewing and researching my new book ‘The Writing Life’ based on the oral histories of twelve elder New Zealand authors, all of which I find stimulating and engrossing, but there hasn’t been a minute to do the writing that I love — writing in the moment about what engages and delights me and also because I don’t think it’s possible when you attend to your inner world, to avoid writing about the things that perplex and haunt as well.
Day of Departure
23rd July, 2016
When I was showering this morning with the warm water pouring down my back I was suddenly taken with the notion of doing one last round of exercises in the pool before I go. The water temperature at the moment is between 13 and 14 degrees, like ice, and I had been forced to avoid my daily exercises not wanting to catch a chill before the trip. Now the departure is close I’m going to risk a quick session, so I can say goodbye to the water and goodbye to the garden.
So I swirled a towel around me, left my shower cap on, to avoid losing heat through my head, and rushed down the stairs, passing my husband on the way. ‘What are you doing?’ he asked. ‘Going into the pool,’ I said as I reached for my blue fins and yellow bells and began strapping the fins to my calves. His eyebrows lifted, that's all. Reaching the pool I stopped. The cherry tree has suddenly lost all its leaves opening up gaps and holes in the green curtain that gathers protectively around the pool. I looked up the hill to the neighbour’s house. He is a writer, too, for the New Zealand Geographic and has published deep and thoughtful books on nature and the environment. Was he in his kitchen? Could he see me through the holes? I climbed quickly down the wide steps into the pool and dropped my towel at the very last minute.
24th July, 2016
As we were walking towards the departure gate I spotted a screen saying ‘NZ2 London,’ and my heart leapt. The day has arrived. After months of waiting and a mad flurry at the very end packing up and securing the house, giving the two cats a firm loving stroke, on the way out, ‘I’ll be back before you know it.’ They were eating their biscuits and didn’t even look up. ‘Stay safe, please.’ And after several anxious pangs in the car on the way to the airport, wondering what have I left behind, what have I not done, we are finally on our way to London, the city where both our children were born, in two separate sojourns, nearly seven years apart, when my husband was a surgeon in training.
LA to London
24th July, 2016
We’re on the final leg of the journey now and my mood has dropped. I’m losing things. Leaving behind important items necessary for a smoother flight.
Before we left Auckland we bought the Flight Drink made by 1 Above that eases the symptoms of jet lag. My husband swears by it. And so I bought my own beautiful glossy blue bottle with its quirky shape, for grasping and a packet of 50 tablets for dissolving in water so I could drink my way to London and arrive there feeling reasonable. But I have managed to leave the box behind in the other plane. Fortunately my husband has another one and has given me four tablets to last me to London. He was very good about it. But worse, I have realised that my plastic bag of pain drugs has been mislaid.
The London Wetlands — Day Two
27th July, 2016
Second day in London
Today, our second day in London, our daughter had planned a visit to the London Wetlands in Barnes. What better way to adjust to a sprawling, hectic metropolis in the midst of the full-blown symptoms of jet lag than to start with a full immersion in Nature. I’m sure the human brain was not designed to accommodate such an abrupt shift from one hemisphere to another, from the shortest day in winter to the longest day in summer, or thereabouts, in the space of 24 hours. The effect is of being turned upside down.
Highgate Cemetery London - Day Four
29th July, 2016
We had visited Highgate Cemetery years ago when my daughter was a developing embryo in my womb but only viewed the east side, where the huge head of Karl Marx, philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist, with its sculpted wavy curls and chunky beard rests without a neck on a square plinth that is dedicated to the great thinker.
The sculptor said he wanted to evoke ‘the dynamic force of his intellect‘ and his sense of energy and dedication to his purpose. And you do get the feeling from the sculpture that he was a considerable man. But we had never visited the locked up west side, across the road, the older, more derelict, more dreamy of the two sites. You have to take a seventy-minute tour to gain access to the enchantment.
Graduation London - Day Five
31st July, 2016
My daughter, Cleo’s, graduation ceremony was held at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank on Wednesday 27 July.
The University of Roehampton is one of the 'modern' London universities, only 175 years old and was first established as a women’s teachers’ training college in 1874. The theme of higher education for women was very much the theme and colour of the day, with a very writerly and beautifully enunciated opening speech, a pleasure to listen to, by the chancellor, Jacqueline Wilson, who is a well-regarded author of youth fiction.