It has been a wonderful day today. A bit of gentle pottering indoors and out while the washing machine performs its one hour and 53 minute eco cycle. Washing hung out to dry I scoot down to the allotment and amazingly find enough to do to fill three hours, including planting out new strawberry plants, sowing seeds, collecting manure and weeding, always weeding. Back home I wash and sort a small mountain of produce before realising I’ve left the seed tray containing raspberries, sweetcorn and runner beans somewhere on the plot. A quick call to my husband and he agrees to look for it (successfully) on his way home. I eat a very late lunch, prepare supper and sit down for half an hour to add a few more rounds to my latest distraction – a crochet shopping bag.
Soon it is time for a quick trip into Kingston to collect a new phone (belated birthday present) for my son from the Apple store. Did I say quick? It took an hour to drive 10 miles in nose to tail traffic, an hour in the shopping centre to realise that there was nothing I need or want and half an hour to drive home in sticky traffic.
Kingston and its environs of Teddington, Hampton and Twickenham used to be my old stomping ground. I grew up, went to school, learnt to sail and row on the river Thames, learnt to horse ride in Bushy Park, competed in Triathlons and had Saturday jobs while a schoolgirl and holiday jobs during university all within a five mile cyclable radius from home. In my early thirties I was even a part-time student at Kingston University, completing two out of three years of a MBA before motherhood intervened.
I was a late convert to the motor car and went from passing my test after 10 lessons (and a couple of all day practice drives with my mum – my mum was a star and a very good driver having been taught to drive by my dad in the 1960s and buying her first car – a green Austin 7 with red leather seats – with the proceeds of pin money from knitting for Patons) to driving abroad for work and clocking up tens of thousands of miles in a matter of months. Marseille in a day and on to Genoa, Milan, Venice and Trieste was a regular 3,000 mile jaunt for me. Weekends were spent slowing down swimming in Lake Garda, exploring Verona and eating delicious Italian food. My first visit to Venice was as a guest of the port authority and when they heard it was my first visit I was given a tour at daybreak by special launch. I stayed in some wonderful places but in those days we didn’t record every moment by phone camera so I only have my memories. I would come home from Italy in the summer months via the Alps just for fun. I used to take the overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and hit the ports and terminals of Antwerp and Rotterdam in time for breakfast. (One of my first acts on starting this job was cutting my long hair very short so in the mornings I could wash and go. I have never bothered with make-up and my working wardrobe was a uniform of very smart suits and comfortable shoes by Bally and then Bruno Magli. I had a trench coat and a cashmere coat and a summer wardrobe for the south of France and Italy and I always made time for a shopping trip when in Milan.) Hamburg and the Baltic countries were fly/drive trips and I used to fly and drive up and down the east and west coasts of North America. (I loved driving in the States, it was always so civilised, even downtown Chicago where I was warned not to go felt safe.) Paris, Berlin and Geneva have all been negotiated by car for work. I can hardly believe that my first visit to Paris for work meant staying just off the Champs Elysee and negotiating L’Arc de Triomphe every morning. In those far-off days before the advent of Satnav I should stress that I have always loved reading maps and working out my journey in my head was essential. I never got lost.
Looking back now it sounds like hard work but it never felt like it. A string of eighteen hour days was not uncommon but I think I survived and thrived because I was young and having fun. Every day was different and I am so glad I had the opportunity to explore the world. In truth I should say that I only travelled for work for about 10 weeks of the year and three or four of those weeks would be spent in the confines of a conference centre. Add in holiday weeks and almost three-quarters of the year was spent commuting to an office and working as a team. Unsurprisingly I had great support from my colleagues. And my best colleague became my best friend and then my husband.
But I’m back home now and so happy to be here. For supper tonight we had butternut squash, chorizo, chilli and borlotti bean stew (an old Waitrose recipe now available on-line) followed by retrieved raspberries and cream and then falling asleep on the sofa watching “Who Do You Think You Are?”. Does life get any better?
I began writing this post late last night. I reviewed it this morning and wondered if it is too much information. But I’m going to post it. I had no time for journal keeping during those heady days so this may be my only record of those mad wanderlust years.
If you have been, thank you for reading.