far too much writing, far too many photos

I know, I’ve been mostly MIA this last week. My absence can be explained in part by a formula along the lines of: traveling + the Christmas season = less writing. There being only so many hours in the day. Add to that the effect of simple overwhelment from a long wave of input brought on by the travels. Not a bad thing, that, by any means — just a real phenomenon that had my system on full absorption, a process that leads eventually to writing, though sometimes at glacial velocity.

For whatever reasons, my little bod did not care for the cold and damp that predominated during this last haul around Bristol/Bath/London. Didn’t care for it and let me know loudly and clearly, which led to some strange moments of physical unhappiness that just about overrode the rest of the experience. Just about. In virtually all other respects, it felt so good to be where was I was, doing what I was doing, that the physical weirdness just functioned as static in an otherwise kickass scenario — sometimes intruding, but never wiping out the main event.

First stop at Heathrow: customs, where everyone else from the flight headed toward the ‘EU citizens’ windows, leaving me the only furriner, the single lonely figure crossing the other half of an enormous, starkly empty space. Where, it turned out, the gods of smooth arrivals smiled on me: a tall, bored customs agent asked two or three fast questions then waved me through. My little suitcase was the first to appear on the baggage carousel. I grabbed it, skipped happily off toward the tube where a train pulled in and opened its doors just as I stepped onto the platform.

The sun shone through winter haze as I rode in to Paddington Station where I hopped a train west. A tall, slim 30ish black guy sat across from me with his son, the boy looking to be about three — big enough to talk a blue streak, small enough to be physically corralable. And here I saw further evidence of a change I’ve noticed during recent trips to the U.K.: the little guy’s ongoing chatter elicited smiles from other passengers, even when the volume spiked to challenging levels. Amusement, enjoyment in lieu of irritation or displeasure. The English used to have a reputation for coldness and intolerance toward children — if what I’ve seen is anything to go by, they’re developing an appreciation for their progeny that rivals that of the Spaniards. And the Spaniards love kids.

Dusk began shortly after 3 p.m. By the time the train pulled into Bristol, just shy of 4:30, darkness had fallen. Which brings up yet another aspect of existence in Madrid that I appreciate: at this, the darkest time of the year, daylight lasts until 6 p.m. The kind of detail in the flow of daily life that makes my little bod go, “Ahhhhhhh!” in contentment.

A friend, N. (red-haired, freckled, clear eyes reflecting a sharp, active mind), waited at the station in Bristol, we fell into a waiting cab. A short time later I found myself in a comfy, compact living room, the BBC playing on a small stereo. Nonstop conversation, me pausing now and then to grab a clementine from a basket by the stereo and gobble it down. N.’s two grown children stopped briefly by, the first a lovely young woman, her guy in tow, the second a mid-20s male — both interesting, with distinct personalities, him a bit more elusive, seeming a bit skittish toward the furriner suddenly taking up space in his ‘rent’s house. (Understandable, thought I. In his place, at his age — not so long ago on one hand, feeling light years away on the other — I might have felt the same.)

The daughter maintained a bedroom in the house and at some point I discovered that she’d vacated it so I could sleep there for the next three nights. Apparently not that humongo a deal as she supposedly spent most nights at her sweetie’s place anyway, but still. Generous, and I appreciated it. The room: a nice-sized space painted some color like lilac, festooned with images of Eminem. The wall behind the bed featured an array of teeny white Christmas lights, spread out and tacked down, shining softly when I went up to dump my stuff. I discovered soon after that those lights couldn’t be shut off without also cutting power to the bedtable light, which meant either trying to snooze with 30 or 40 teeny nightlights sparkling away or getting up when ready to call it a night, shuffling to the other side of the room to pull the plug from the socket (stumbling over once again to fumble it back in if I needed the bedtable light during the wee hours). Any time I found myself tempted to grumble about the arrangement, I reminded me that the normal occupant had decamped to provide someone she didn’t really know a place to flop. Immediately put it all in perspective.

Comfortable bed, by the way.

The next two mornings started off nice and slowly, me soaking up the sights, smells, sounds of the environs. The two household cats came and went, one immediately throwing herself at me with coquettish abandon, the other initially resenting the intrusion of a stranger (me), not at all convinced I warranted trust, much less attention.

Conversation, tea, a good English breakfast (N. makes an exceptionally fine fry-up). And finally, around middayish, out into the world.

Saturday’s activity: a field trip to Bath, a short train ride away. A beautiful town, done up for the holidays, much of the city center’s narrow streets lined with Christmas Fair booths. The kind of place that attracts plentiful tourists, and I can see why. Like Como in Italy. A spot that would be easy to pass a lot of time in, easy to adopt as home.

[continued in following entry]

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Seasonal foolishness: The virtual snowglobe, now a yuletide oldie-but-goodie.

Holiday music I’m longing to hear:
‘Have Yourself A Groovy Little Solstice’ by Magic Mose and His Royal Rockers
(from The Dark Side of The Christmas Tree — Performance 393,
distributed by Arf! Arf! Records, now apparently out of print)

Madrid, te quiero.

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