My Favourite Window

January 1, 2012


Hythe Bridge Arm, Isis Bridge and Lock, Oxford Canal, Oxford

Hera stood in the queue in the café at the back of the Covered Market, wondering why she was penny pinching on lunch.  She’d been away all week visiting her cousins in Yorkshire, and as departure from England loomed she was spending freely on clothes, books, entrance fees to galleries and museums.  Money didn’t really come into it.  She knew she was gathering in to herself, along with tangible souvenirs, the secret places that meant Oxford to her.  And this, the other Brown’s café, was one of her favourite places. Dark, student-draped, nicotine-rimed; dons and bridge dwellers huddling together in the fug of cooking vapours and cigarette smoke. The tang of tobacco was edged with the scent of leather coming from the jacket ahead of her in the queue.
            “Next please,” the dour proprietor, was speaking, in his thick eastern European accent.

What next indeed?  My novel-in-progress has been so for five years now: autobiographical it surely is, but as I dig around in memory and hard copy for appropriate passages to illustrate this blog, it feels like my life is following my pen, rather than the other way around. There are delightful twists.  In the opening chapter of Beansetting the heroine watches a mummers' play.  On this return visit I performed in a mummers' play: In comes I, Old Father Christmas...  Far more interesting!

It had not occurred to me when I decided to take the children to England to visit their father's family for Christmas, that I would tread another measure along the path of Bereavement.  We stayed with one of Elwin's sisters, in the same suburb of Oxford that Elwin grew up in. Sisters, nephews and nieces, cousins , all shared memories and I was also able to add elements of Elwin's Oxford to the family knowledge.  I made time to walk the places that he and I shared together, sometimes with the children, sometimes in solitude. How he and I used to walk Oxford, exploring every little backwater and high-walled passage; a perfect way to deal with the early morning tyranny of jetlag, we discovered.  I felt little regret, just the gratitude of having shared that place with Elwin, but the tears came unexpectedly on the very last day, when I took the children onto Christ Church Meadow, and memory of walks together felt most tangible here. Later, the children lit a candle for their father at St Frideswide's tomb in the cathedral. 

Bulwark Lane behind (previously) City of Oxford Boys' High School

This morning I returned home to New Zealand and am filling jetlagged hours understanding that my time in Oxford was a re-setting of my emotional clock; a further freeing-up for forward movement.

Happy New Year


the cuby poet said...

I am so glad that your time in England was therapeutic and maybe you have been able to re-organise some of your emotions. You will always have room in your heart and soul for Elwin which is so right and must always be so. The weeping has a time and the memories do too and with laughter as well. I send love to you for 2012. Oh and looking forward to more book!

Jeneane said...

You are so sweet Claire, thankyou for those thoughtful words. More book? That's probably all the encouragement I need :-)

Owen said...

Already back in New Zealand ?! How time flies... it seems like just yesterday you were drinking coffee in an airport waiting area. I trust your feet have fully recovered now, after the kilometers you walked in Paris...

Sounds like you plumbed the depths of rememberance in going back to old haunts. It seems to have been a rich and moving time, which is surely good. We never know what life is going to bring us on any given day, we can only make the most of it.

I hope the rest of your trip was wonderful in Ireland, and that your trip home wasn't too exhausting, for you and the girls.

Here's wishing you all a wonderful 2012...

Jeneane said...

Yes, no time at all since we drank coffee together, but always too long - the flight home. The soles of my feet have recovered but my arthritis has worsened from forgetting to buy more glucosamine, and now I am about to punish my feet again with a week of dancing! Looking forward to another year of wonderful reflections from you :-)

Being Me said...

"a re-setting of my emotional clock"
Oh how I know what you mean, Jeneane. Welcome home (very belatedly). What beautiful, new and treasured memories for you and the children.