‘Sorry, I’m a bit pushed for time today,’ I said to my friend Robert twenty years or so ago. ‘I’ve got to think of something to say to a large assembly of the Women’s Institute tonight. Their invitation asks me to speak on ‘any subject that takes your fancy’ and I’ve come a bit unstuck.’ ‘Nonsense!’ said Robert (and RSC will know exactly who he is!) – ‘just go and tell them about one or two things that really light up your life.’
So for an hour and a half or so I told a large gathering of women my story about what it had been like to live and study for a month on the very edge of Bethlehem, wandering into Jerusalem in the early mornings to buy my daily newspaper, about the colours of the souks, the sounds of the calls to prayer, the scent and the sound of olive groves, of sunrise, and of sunsets over the Judaean desert, of ancient history, and of contemporary youths singing together in groups outside, in late evening warmth, eating ice cream.
Many further such invitations followed. ‘You speak with stars in your eyes and in the telling’ one kind soul told me after an evening during which I’d thought I’d wittered on too much. How often, since, I have thought of Robert’s ‘tell them about one or two things that really light up your life.’ How very often since then I have noticedthe things that light up my life.And though aware that tonight you won’t be able to hear me, I can nevertheless show you – as quickly or as slowly as you decide – some such recent lights in Barcelona, Cataluñya, España … with stars – and gratitude – in my heart x
We’re off to meet up with cousins for supper tonight – about sixty miles away from home. We’ve set off more than an hour before we’d normally expect to because, hot on the heels of Thursday’s UK heatwave, we think it perfectly possible we may need to swim for at least part of the journey down the motorway. Ah, but it will be a good dinner 😉
We had tea this afternoon in a Quaker Meeting House built by its own tiny hamlet community three hundred and fourteen years ago. Pretty much unchanged, and the distraction of coffee and an enormous slice of chocolate cake notwithstanding, it’s the kind of place where one is quickly lost in daydreaming reverie. Who were these people? What did they look like, sound like, work at? What did they wear and how did they conduct themselves? And not for the first time in this place I wished for the transport convenience of Dr Who’s Tardis to rocket me there and back between this afternoon and July of 1702. In the real world we heard wind in our wheels again as we cycled back up the hill and home. But I shall dream on …
Cycling along twenty-five miles of spectacular coastline we celebrated the ease with which it’s possible to enjoy blissful days in Croatia. Great food, coffee and ice cream, warm sun and sea, international mix and ready friendliness. Gorgeous natural beauty – and roadside fruit stalls that sell huge bunches of fabulous grapes and thirst quenching slices of fresh-cut watermelon. What a way to spend a day!
A friend wrote, just before we left for Croatia, “please greet the olive groves for me. I dream about them”. We do too. And on this warm first evening’s return the Adriatic is royal blue and turquoise, just feet away from the deep orange-red soil and the loud chorus of cicadas in the olive trees. Just a couple of hours in we’ve already enjoyed wonderful bread and olive oil, and the cherry strudel that is just one amongst so many good reasons for coming back here. The bells of the sixth century basilica are sounding just outside our window and many dozens of swallows are circling the spire. The Poreč Festival of Life is in full swing. There’s music in the ancient streets and peaceful strollers of all ages and many nationalities are delighted by Paddington Bear’s antics at a perfectly fabulous outdoor cinema. This is a vision of something good and right and wholesome. I’m immeasurably thankful for it.
The cool corridors of Bishop Euphrasius’ glorious sixth century basilica complex in Poreč are welcome relief from the heat of the day.
The bishop lived here from the sixth to the twentieth centuries informs a notice at the door. But not any more. A 1500 year old tradition has come to an end and I wondered why. And then went on to ponder this UNESCO world heritage site’s place in the scheme of 4.2 billion years.
Time … like an ever flowing stream. Yes, indeed, welcome relief from the hot-house whys and wherefores of our twenty-first century day.