Sunday Morning ~ Old Year-New Year, Old Friends-New Friends
Mlendo ndi mame ~ Guests are like dew.
~ Chewa proverb
January 1, 2023
Has it really been only a week since I wrote? I’ve lost track of time and I feel like I’ve been gone from Maine for months. This trip involved a lot of moving parts, and I’ve met many new people. It feels so good to travel again. The mojo is coming back.
I’m now with friends in Woking, not far from London, my second to last stop before heading south to Malawi and a different world. There’ll be sun for one thing.
The weather here is dreadful. Grey, grey, grey with rain off and on. It’s not too cold but very dreary. Ireland was more varied. It would be dark grey at times, then bursts of sun, then dramatic clouds, then driving rain, then rainbows. As I was warm and dry and observing all this through windows, I found it beautiful. In England it is more of a steady gloom, though, being with friends brightens it up.
After Christmas in Manchester, I flew to Ireland and spent three days in Pomroy, a small village an hour west of Belfast where I met more cousins of my future daughter-in-law than I could count. Every passing car was driven by an aunt or uncle, and we spent a good portion of the days visiting or being visited. On my last night, Uncle Aiden arranged an evening at the pub which was the most fun I’ve had in ages. God, they know how to enjoy themselves. Two young teenagers played Irish music with super-human fiddling. We all bought rounds. There was laughing and all kinds of conversation I couldn’t understand; this accent will take some getting used to. I understand Chichewa better than some of their English. And, I get to do this again in August! We visited the church and the castle where the wedding will be, imagining a fairy tale event and planning my outfits. It was fabulous.
On Friday, family drove me back to the airport, refusing to let me take a bus. Holiday travelers were all heading home and the airport was a mob scene. I was grateful my flight to London was delayed or I would have missed it altogether; the security line was massive. I took comfort in the fact that I did not have a screaming child in tow, empathizing with those who did, and inched along. I was afraid I’d miss my train to Woking, already having bought the ticket. Needn’t have worried, though, as the tickets are interchangeable and there are trains all over the place. I just hopped on the next available, checked the app to see which platform, and sailed on to a big hug from a friend I haven’t seen since leaving Malawi in 2019. Yay for train infrastructure! I slipped into his waiting car (still going for the wrong door) and have been comfortably ensconced in their gorgeous home being fed and watered ever since. Luxury.
On Saturday we did a long muddy walk into nearby hills with beautiful views, ending at Shere, a sweet little village, and lunch at the pub. Sunday began with a lovely mass at a local Catholic Church, which my friends kindly attended even though they aren’t Catholic. The priest was great and connected with the congregation in a genuine way; he was funny. He talked about family, what it means, and how many of us have an unrealistic fantasy of the ideal. It was very meaningful to me as I let go of what I imagined my family would be at this stage of my life. It was a perfect gift to end the year. From there we met other friends from Malawi at the Wisley Botanical Gardens, meandered through winter landscapes and caught up on lives and travel. We had lunch at one of the restaurants then were treated to dramatic sky and glorious rainbow before heading home where New Years Eve dinner was planned.
Guests arrived and the feast commenced with French 75s and canapés in front of the fire: very civilized with robust conversation. From there we moved to the dining room and a lovely french onion soup, followed by seared salmon with vegetables and potatoes. Wine flowed. I demonstrated ignorance of English table manners when it was pointed out I’d improperly placed my cutlery across my empty plate signaling I wanted more instead of being finished. I thought this was a joke and couldn’t possibly be true until I looked around to see everyone else had the fork and knife placed exactly the same on their plates. (Is this in the travel books?) I have lots of British friends and have not been told this before. Now I’m wondering how uncivilized I have appeared over the years visiting this country? Have people been too polite to point this out to me? After listening to stories of boarding school, however, I can understand how customs must be obeyed and adhered to. It seems like the placing of cutlery is the least traumatic thing they endured.
After dinner we played a few games that brought us to midnight when we joined hands and sang Auld Lang Syne while fireworks boomed on the television. I congratulated myself on making it to the new year and planned to say goodnight when there was insistence on playing Pictionary “for just a little while”. What are these people made of? Incredible. Even in my college days I’d be in bed at twelve o one. It’s been years since I made it to midnight. I made it for one more hour before almost falling asleep on the couch and had to say goodnight. Which, broke up the party. I hated to be the first to quit but it was getting to be a life or death situation.
Now I’m off to London where I’ll spend two nights with my friend Ruth before heading to Malawi on Wednesday. I’ve shed most of the clothes I brought for UK travel, I’ve booked a temporary place to stay while I look for a house to rent, my taxi driver is still in business and he’ll pick me up at the airport, and I can’t wait to feel that tropical air on my skin.
Happy New Year everyone.
Love to all,