So, it is now over six months since we left Australia and I was going to pontificate about our journey of discovery, how we were all adjusting to living without vegemite and Timtams etc (yes, I know you can get vegemite here, but why would you, eh? And rumours of Sainsbury's selling Timtams have yet to be proven) but I'm afraid I just can't be bothered.
Suffice to say that, though it has not, by any means, been all Pork Pies and Cider with Rosie, Brisbane itself often seems like a distant memory, though we still miss our friends and my pupils, more than I can say. And the Sitar. And the Ceylon Inn. And the Scheherazade. Not that you can't get a good curry here, of course, but emigrating has been an expensive business, plus I have not yet started work, so luxuries like takeaways are also a distant memory.
But who needs takeaways when living in this part of Buckinghamshire, eh? The longer I live here, the more I realise how true it is that, in England, man can live on bread, (or lentils in our case!) alone, IF one lives in the country. If we lived just twenty minutes away in certain parts of Milton Keynes, or back in Uxbridge or Ealing, where we used to live, we would NEED the takeaways and the cinema trips and the new clothes, especially in the crappy weather we have had up till now. But when it rains here, it doesn't seem to matter so much. The paint might be falling off the walls in the damp, but when there are fields and woods and rutted country lanes brimming with roses and honeysuckle to walk through, who cares?
I have had a friend staying for the last two weeks and we have explored the area even further, going for walks in Ashridge Forest – a magical landscape of green shadows and sun-mottled paths, winding 'neath the whispering trees; where herds of deer lift their heads to watch you (or run out in front of your car as the case may be) and the air is alive with the twittering of tiny birds and purple foxgloves give haven to the wiggling bottoms of bees. The air is full of the smell of green things and leaf mould and sunlight, and as you walk, your ears can't help but catch the echo of pounding hooves and jingling harness, or, from the corner of your eye, you may glimpse a silk skirt or the feathery tips of a quiver, disappearing around the spreading torso of an ancient oak.
Yesterday we took Bonnie/Snoop/Miley Cyrus for a walk through the gardens at Stowe. I had not been before, though they are a ten minute drive from our house, but I will be going there again as much as I can, I can tell you. Stowe is a massive, ridiculously ostentatious old house-now-school with 250 acres of grounds. We had intended to see the house as well as the gardens, but got so sidetracked by a tiny portion of the grounds that we never got that far. I won't bore on with details of the history, as Bill Bryson does it much better in At Home, but the gardens are a sheer delight of old follies – Greek temples set amongst cedar trees, ruined Roman bridges spanning lilied lakes, the towers and archways of crumbling Gothic churches rising atop the brow of a hill. One minute you are walking through a field of sheep and then you find yourself on the shores of a lake, communing with the swans; you walk further, into a manicured garden of irises and roses, and then suddenly you are walking down a path lit by wild orchids and clover. And with membership of National Trust, which I was given when I left Brisbane, this is all free – I think the gardens are free anyway, not sure. What price takeaways for all that eh? I could go on, but I have washing to hang, bathrooms to clean, floors to scrub, before an evening of gossip and Mendelssohn piano trios with more visitors from Brisvegas....