Saturday, 14 November 2009

Of A Welsh Retreat

I spent last weekend staying with my aunt and her partner in South Wales, a wonderful wintry break. Much as I adore Oxford, it can become a (very pretty) claustrophobic bubble at times, and getting out into the Welsh countryside was a welcome retreat. My aunt has three dogs, who all require a lot of exercise, so I muffled up in layers upon layers and ventured outside to enjoy the autumnal scenery with them, which was lovely even in the rain which stereotypically poured down throughout most of my visit. The walks were a lot of fun, and I almost regretted not taking The Walking Boots with me so they could have another little outing. Almost. Sadly I forgot to take my camera, so I can't share the beautiful vistas, the fallen red leaves, the fern-lined streams, and the panting dogs and woolly wet sheep. Nor the rumbling log fire, glowing candles, cosy cushion-filled window seats, and delicious warming food, which all seemed so much more luxurious thanks to the rain-lashed windows and cold winds blowing outside our little nest.

My aunt's cottage is up the side of a hill, reached by a twisting lane which seems a lot longer, let me tell you, when you have to walk up it in the snow, because the car can't make it ... such journeys are one of the abiding memories of my childhood. Also clambering over the fence into the field which borders my aunt's garden, picking my way over to the cows' water trough, smashing the ice and scooping out a pail of water to take back to the house, so that we could actually flush the toilet when the cold weather had frozen all the pipes. This is also the aunt who used to take me camping as a child, so you can see it is really to her and her partner that I owed my ability to wow my fellow chaletites with my nonchalant (well, more nonchalant than they were expecting, anyway...) response to the Chalet's own basic conditions this summer. As I said, at least there I had a proper bed, rather than a tent floor!

I've been spending a busy week since returning from my trip, with lots of work and lots of socialising, which has been fun if a little exhausting, and has unfortunately left little time for blogging -- hence the late description of my Welsh break. I am summoning up the remains of my energy today however for a friend's birthday party tonight, which should be a lot of fun. Some old undergraduate friends are coming up for it, so I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and catching up on all their news. My friend lives in East Oxford too, so we're going to be exploring some of the restaurants and bars on this side of town -- I can't wait to get to know more about my new area! Talking of which, I must go and prepare for everyone's arrival: washing up, tidying, all those sorts of joyous activities. Thank goodness some frivolity will be returning this evening with the advent of a few cocktails and some good company! But although I am very excited about seeing my friends tonight, after such a busy week I've also been glad of a quiet morning today. I love spending time with other people, but I also need some time alone to recharge and refresh myself. This morning -- even with its chores -- is a good opportunity for that, meaning that today looks to be a perfect combination of reflection and revellry. For, as Sir W said in his 1601 essay 'Of Solitarinesse and Company':

'The vse of things makes things worth the vse, and company by the vse is an excellent instructour, and solitarines moderatly taken, makes vs fit for company'.

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