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Sorry, due to having bought an old house (NEVER AGAIN), I am so busy and nervous getting it ready to be able to move in, that I have not had the time to continue on this blog.

But I am just taking a break. Should you want to me to continue and want to know when my little trip continues, send me a mail via the comments. Your e-mail will not be displayed and I can get news to you as soon as I am up and writing again.

Good Night and Good Luck

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There is so much to write about. It makes my thoughts confused. So, one, I decide to write more. Two, I must take one step at a time, talk about, write about one thing at the time.

Here I am in my little England: Familiar places, names, things, thoughts. Let´s sort it out. Use a pencil box, one box for the red, one for the green.

I hear voices – different accents. The open words, sounds like songs, british, indian all amix.

Here I am. This is Kenwood. I am sitting on a bench that is so closely surrounded by bushes, that I have to bend down to sit down. There is just enoug headspace to sit straight. People that walk past, just see a pair of legs on a bench. It is a private place in a public park. Here I am. I am writing. But I find it hard to shut out the noise, to meditate on what I am doing. Now I am here and I don´t  know what I want. Doesn´t matter. I trust the process and I will find out. This afternoon I am at Kenwood, part of the Hampstead Heath loveliness. Let me start here.

Kenwood House sits at the top of a slope and is surrounded by woods. Looking down or up this slope is one of my favourite sights. The “House”, really a Villa, is almost entirely white and sits in a sea of green. This green slope invites you to stop and remain, to contemplate, picnic, look at the lake below, to be here completely and watch your children run, to experience the here and now and talk to the trees that have stood here forever. It is perfect and it will stay that way.

Everybody is so friendly. Everybody is happy. I envy the man that lives nearby since many years and teasingly scold him for never visiting Kenwood before today. How can you stay away? The thick hedge, a roof above our heads, protects us from the sprinkle of rain. So many children are out. It is summer and a week-end during holiday season. Why am I surprised?

Kennwood – simple joy and precious paintings. I stand in my favourite room, the long library. Books upon Books, leather bound beauties of varied great ages. I long to pull them out and start reading, but the sign says “Do not touch, no actually it says “Please do not touch.” We are in England. What is a book if it is not read?

I look out of the window and see my favourite slope and its trees, the bridge, that pretends, on the lake , the concert shell floating on the lake and remember the sound of music floating across the waters during the enchanting summer evening concerts.  The smell of grass, freshly cut, will be expecting me outside, clean air to refill my lungs and recharge my soul. I look down that slope and I hope those before me were happy in this house. How can they have been anything else here?

Kenwood House and its paintings

Visitors wonder if the Rembrandt is real. Protection seems casual, but it is tight below the surface. In the painting he is an old man, his brush freed by wisdom.  I like all the paintings of the children. They are so beautiful, sincere, real. Children of another century. Were they well protected? I want to hope they were. The women are regal, pretty, proud, serious. The men, some eyes so real, I think they will speak any moment. At one I wonder if he was a good man, if I could make him come to life, if magic were possible or if one day I will meet his reincarnation. Maybe I should remember his face. They write they don´t know who he was.

What do I feel? Could it be peace? It is good to be surrounded by beauty and harmony. Every piece of furniture, wall, floor, painting and wall covering is chosen with care and purpose for the mind as well the soul. Is that true? Maybe I am just dreaming. But maybe it is true. Maybe time and history have made all these objects blend and harmonize.  They are messages from our past.

I walk past the politely nodding guards in their blue suits and wonder if they still see the wonder of the time pieces in all the rooms, as they see them every day. I envy them the location of their job.

I know Kenwood houses many secrets and rooms I will never see. Do I have to be an expert to see the collection of wallpapers? I don´t dare ask. Time to leave the premises. The last visitors shuffles out through the door, after purchasing delightful items from the shop. We try to buy a piece of this place to take home some of its magic. Will it work?

@Francesca

Kenwood House

July

The voyage began yesterday. I will speak of that day in the past then. I will write slowly to allow my handwriting the possibility of being legible (at least that is the plan and already I fail).

Where to begin? The moment the alarm sounded I jumped from the bed to shut it off and face the fact that at four in the morning I was getting ready for a trip to England. Sleepily, yet quickly, I emerged from my room and splashed cold water on my face. From then on my mind ticked off lists. Dress, get the car, load the luggage. The feeling that I was forgetting something interesting or important was nagging at the back of my brain while I checked windows were closed and to dispel it I ran my checklists through my mind over and over again. But that, despite the effort, never seems enough.

At some moment, and so it was yesterday, I just had to decide it was good enough. I locked the doors and forced myself to believe I had brought more than enough items to enjoy and survive the holiday (the fact that the car was full, should have helped me in that belief)  and that I had done all to safekeep the house during my absence. (As I write this I wonder if I REALLY locked the house.)

Then, unbelievably, I rode off into the morning. A friend was by my side and we were both wondering aloud. We were actually on our way. We were going to England.

Was this going to be an adventure, a discovery tour, an escapist holiday, a moment of peace or a working holiday? We were and are not sure. We  kept our expectations in check, now that we were really on our way.

When this idea planted itself into our heads we were more excited about it than yesterday. We did not even know if we would actually do it. Now we were on our way discussing work, the world , our worlds and all that we saw on the way.

On our way through continental Europe it often rained. We had no hope it would be any different in England. but while we crossed the channel and I fell asleep in a chair, the weather changed. The clouds, grey in the sky, lightened up to soft white. The sea glistened, as sunlight paired with drops of water to dance and we started hoping.

“Drive on the Left”, this silent mantra echoed through my head and I remembered other crossings, 20 years ago, harbour workers waving emphatically and huge signs painted on the road that repeated this mantra pleadingly. Okay, I will.

Walk where Kings and Queens walked at Dover Castle

Walk where Kings and Queens walked at Dover Castle @Francesca

We headed for Dover Castle to take a break from the travelling. Spectacular views greeted us from its hilltop perch, across the cliffs over the sea, along the rolling hillsides back into the green slopes which grace this countrys´ inland. The light had changed. It seemed as if we could touch the clouds, which raced across the skies and the blue was so much brighter, the sky so close and we had time, while we travelled back through time with a castle that has seen the rise and fall and battles of kings and their people. We stepped across the flagstones like so many before us, smelled the cold damp air, the walls that have stood for hundreds of years and I speak in the present instead of the past because I see it now.

Time stands still when you look through a window set into walls that are as thick as two of my arms are long. I see what Kings and Queens, officers and soldiers, maids and tourists have seen, the merciless sea on a good day, hear the relentless wind pulling at walls, bending the grass, howling through cracks making itself heard more than felt as long as you remain in the safe arms of thick walls.

We make an appointment with Time as we descend into tunnels inside the cliffs where people, soldiers, armies have hidden, planned, worked, lived for a  hundred years. We hear dialogues, noises, smell food and other undefinable things that accompanied life down tunnels. We hear about hero worship and heroic efforts, a cats life in the tunnels. We are led on, in a labyrinth and I ask myself so much effort, near genius, determination in times of dire straits. Do we feel it in our bones? And I think, “What if heroism happened during peace time?”

If we all pulled at  the same rope how much further we would get, but nowhere there seems to be true peace.

We wander back out into fresh air, sunshine. This is England. Life seems so simple when you are on holiday. We talk about what is, what could be, because time has stood still for us long enough to reflect,  so maybe, maybe we change what will be.

I am a bit lost about what to write. I want to write about everything I see, feel, hear, smell and touch. We are at the beginning and suddenly there seems not enough time. We are so tired, when we leave Dover. I drive down familiar roads. Seeing them soothes me. I find my way, which almost makes it feel like home. Sometimes even I need that.

@Francesca

More about Dover castle here:

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.14571

My England

Wikipedia, amongst Entries about the failed suicide bombing in London of the 21st of July 2005:

On 26 July it was reported that police had seized a vehicle abandoned in East Finchley, north London. The BBC reported that the vehicle was a white VW Golf which was not owned by any of the suspects but which was thought to have been used by them.

26th of July 2005, heading back to our holiday home in East Finchley, London, England, Suburbia:

It is the first day of our vacation.

We have just been diverted from the High Road on to Summers Lane, a shortcut I use sometimes. It is a small road, with many roundabouts, recognizable only by the painted white dots in the middle of the road and now this small road has to hold the traffic of a three lane road in its entirety. The police give no explanations and politely but resolutely wave puzzled drivers on into a humble residential road, past hastily erected cordons. I assume there to be trouble on the Motorway again, which runs under the bridge leading to East Finchley. I turn on the radio and am informed that our corner of the world and its High Road unbelievably are in the middle of terrorist investigations, connected to the July bombings and would-be bombings on the London Underground. While we were at lunch Police found a car with traces of explosive material.

I concentrate on the task of getting my two boys home. A ride that on a bad day takes 10 minutes, turns into two hours of snails travail. The picturesquely named road  is lined on both sides with parked cars and two-story terraced houses built too close to the road. They are nothing more than doll houses, leaning together as if for support. Peeling paint, cracks and grime belie their tutti-frutti colouring and regal architecture.

“When are we there, what is happening, why is it taking so long?”, the children quizz me through the air that is ripe with car fumes. We cannot keep the windows closed as the car heats up under the sun.

“We can´t go any faster. Please understand, be patient, it will take as long as it takes!”, I answer, with increasing impatience towards them and the situation.

Outside no claxon is impatiently sounded. Drivers temper their emotions with a stoical English resolve, so as not to show they have been inconvenienced by something negligible as terrorists. Car motors hum patiently in moral support.

I feel guilty relief as the children finally sink into a sticky slumber. They are only 6 and 11 years old. They don´t understand my panic, the moment, the weight.

I curse the arrogant assumption that after the attacks there would be no safer place. I should have stayed away.

And yet this city belongs to me. This is where I know my way around, where unknown ladies call you darling, where Sundays are spent on a Heath. A Heath, like Wuthering Heights kind of Heath! I long for its green from this cemented moment.

We squeeze across the bridge over the tracks of the Tube, moving ever closer to our safe haven. I try a stoic face.

I worry that my parents will worry. Little do I know that amongst the barrage of news about tracked down would-be assassins the crawl down Summers Lane is not even a shadow of a sigh in world events. It feels so much bigger as I live it.

@Francesca

Published in VHS Frankfurt – Literary magazine – Pandora Fall Issue 2009