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I am a writer. And this is what I do. I examine what I experience. I silently catalog each moment and then fall in love with externalizing what I've found. This is a journal of the most recent things I've collected.

Last day of the trip, overlooking Watership Down.  There’s a story there, and maybe one day I will tell it…

Yesterday, my cold won a major battle in the war for my health, but it was just as well. As this cold caught up to my body, the rain caught up to the sun. The day was grey, chilled and dreary and so we sat inside chatting and reading, with one brave foray next door for tea and cake. Without a country tromp, a manor stroll, or a long hike in the woods to experience and document, I had some space in which to reflect on the more personal side of this trip.

Each morning, I watch the goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, blue tits, robins, blackbirds, and sparrows flapping and flitting between the bird feeders in my mother-in-law’s garden. The sound of their chittering and warbling mixes with the snap of small seed casings in tiny beaks. I watch crows, magpies, jackdaws, and wood pigeons try to do the same thing, hanging upside down from tiny perches before moving to the lawn to wrestle with fat, juicy earthworms. Each afternoon, we go for a walk or out on some adventure. Each night, we sit down for a meal, usually fish, potatoes, vegetables and wine. We talk about our lives, and we share our stories, both the large and profound and the minuscule and mundane. We laugh frequently. We have dessert, a crumble or fruit with ice cream and milk cream, and we finish with a cheese and biscuit course accompanied sometimes by port.

We retire to the sitting room and at some point the classical music begins. We read our books and our Kindles, occasionally interrupting the lack of conversation with some reaction to a particular piece or movement or nuance, or share some random thought which we follow until the nearest natural pause.

This routine is comforting to me. It’s the stuff of family. I have sorely missed it. Since my father died in 2002 and my mother just two years ago, I’ve at times felt adrift in my life. I have a close-knit chosen family, for which I am thankful, but I occasionally feel a lack of and longing for parental figures. As we near the end of this trip, I find myself struggling with sadness.

Sometimes I feel guilt for taking my wife away from it, from the in-person moments with her mother that show me the strength of their bond and their friendship. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to live here instead of our chosen home. But we have our lives back in Seattle, our jobs, our friends and a land that we love.

So it was one more afternoon today. My wife and her mother played a violin concerto together in the music room and shared in the joy of that common passion and their deep connection. It was one more walk in the park. The wind was fierce against the lines of yellow-green birch and the ground was soggy with fresh rain. And soon, one more dinner.

Tonight, the symphony, tomorrow one last stop for a full family gathering before we begin our long journey home. I came here last in 2008, nervous, younger, wide-eyed. This time I sense both the amazing family I’ve gained through marriage and the strong friendships I’ve grown on this side of the world. It’s a poignant mix of emotions I feel tonight. But mainly, I feel very lucky.

Yesterday, the cold that had chased me from friend to friend and public space to public space finally caught me, despite all the frantic hand-washing and ninja-like avoidance moves over the last few weeks. So, with a pocket full of various British-sounding lozenges and a few gallons of orange juice, I joined the rest of the family for a gorgeous day out at Charlecote Park near Wellesbourne. Charlecote is a 12th century estate that features a 16th century manor house, famously visited by Queen Elizabeth I, on a vast acreage fed by the River Avon and its tributary. Legends say that a young Shakespeare was arrested there in 1583 for poaching deer. This no doubt influenced such great plays as “King Deer”, “Much A Doe About Nothing”, and “The Merchant of Venison.”

Once again, my interest in the house paled in comparison to my love of the countryside. The Avon at Charlecote is a narrow, slow-moving river as compared to its size in Stratford. It gently babbles along, delicate wildflowers springing from its bank, verdant fields stretching out in all directions. Swallows swooped in the dozens over its surface in intricate, acrobatic flight that took them through clouds of gnats congregating above the grasses and over the wisteria-covered walls of the manor.

We walked across the requisite crumbling stone bridge, under which children were playing troll, and down a path that glittered in the sunlight, lined with spreading lime trees, gnarled trunks like fairy tale creatures. A volunteer from the National Trust showed us through his telescopes where grey herons were raising chicks in massive, tangled nests near the river bank. Again, the songbirds were vocal and numerous and completely enchanting as the sun continued to emerge from the clouds.

Going in search of the fallow deer herd that still roams the property, we found them munching on grass in the shadow of an old church, antlers new and fuzzy, cloth ears twitching at flies and rotating towards every sound. At our approach, and as the crowd around them grew, they suddenly rushed down the gentle hillside in a thundering stampede and sproinged one-by-one over the wooden fencing to the adjoining field, white tails flashing as they vanished in the tree line.

We finished our visit with a short tour of the house and the outbuildings where the servants lived and worked, much more interesting to me than the posh surroundings of the upper classes. Each of us tried and failed not to overlay Downton Abbey onto what was around us, especially since we learned the shocking fact that the female cook was paid significantly much more a year than the butler. We wandered around a bit, poking our noses into each of the buildings until I began to imitate Falstaff in the old brewery, calling for “sack!” It was decided that the best thing to do, then, was to have a pot of tea and head home.

Took one of usual meandering treks yesterday, the kind where we walk for miles talking and exploring and then get ready to turn back and realize we’ve accidentally gone much farther than we’d expected and are faced with a long, long journey home again. Sutton Park, at 2,400 acres, is the largest urban park in Europe and has been in use since prehistory. There’s a gated entrance just a few blocks from my mother-in-law’s house, and so it makes for an irresistible daily attraction.

We set out for Longmoor Pool on a windy, cool, cloudy afternoon and walked among the oak and birch, stopping often to listen to the songs of robin and blackbird. We strolled through the heathland, past huge stands of gorse which had just come into bloom with vibrant, coconut-smelling yellow blossoms. Rabbits darted at our approach, a few water voles leaped into the safety of thick grasses, but the family squabble between crows, jackdaws, and magpies continued undisturbed. Small copses of trees dotted the largely open meadow with its criss-crossing paths, and marshy creeks wound under footpath bridges. In the shade of boughs, we heard a lone cuckoo off in the distance counterpointing the songbird chorus. Along the boggy wetlands, we dodged the roaming herd of cattle that make the park their home and visited with a shaggy Bernese Mountain Dog who lapped at the mud puddles along the main path.

We reached the pool very late in the afternoon, sat for a while gazing at swans and gulls, and then slowly turned for home. The journey back became a lost and wandering adventure mainly in trying and failing to find the Roman Road that still passes through a portion of the park. Instead, we squiggled our way, checking the map at every crossroads, stumbling from path to path, until we found ourselves back at the gate, achey, sweaty and tired, but happy.

That evening, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 77th birthday and 7th wedding anniversary with a posh dinner at New Hall, a medieval, moated manor home that dates back to the 13th century. We were granted a brief tour of the manor, through its creaky wood floors and tapestry-laden walls, peered out of 800-year-old stained glass and read the inscriptions that George Sacheverall had scratched in their surface in 1689. Poor George was imprisoned in the great hall by his father in punishment for an ongoing love affair with a maid. Kids back then…

We enjoyed our multi-course meal, then retired to a sitting room for late coffee, tea, and well-fed conversation before the short car ride back home.

Spent the afternoon at Compton Verney, an 18th century mansion on the edge of the Cotswolds that has been converted into a gallery of fine art. It includes a sizable sculpture collection by Rodin and Moore so large that it spills out of the stately home onto the sprawling lawns. There, children climb over the invaluable twisting shapes and figure eight around 100-year-old statues until my wife glares at them with her Hard English Stare.

The mansion is surrounded by luscious green, rolling hills which were lit by golden shafts of sunlight trying to break though the mist and fog of the morning. Pheasants strutted and erupted in pterodactyl cries and little puff ball lambs galloped off on lamby adventures and then bleated back to their mothers. Tall oaks and sequoias shaded wildflower-lined paths and the breeze smelled fresh and new. The small lake next to the house passed under a beautiful, gently-arching bridge guarded by four Victorian-looking sphinxes which seemed as confused as I was about most of the Moore pieces on view.

The gallery itself was interesting enough. I enjoyed the Rodins, but felt as I often feel about modern art that Moore was just pulling one over on everyone. His large abstracts were very impressive, but I was left cold by his misshapen interpretations of anatomy. We inadvertently and accidentally split up and toured other collections for what seemed like months until each us was so full of art that we suffered oil paint nosebleeds. Later, we reunited out on the lawn just as the deep, low thunder rolled through the valley and crashed upon the mansion.

On the way home, we passed a gypsy caravan complete with grazing horses and caged chickens. Clare is spending a fortune hiring these English elements to entertain me.

As you might have gathered, Friday was a day of rest, which turned into a day of little exercise - a walk in Sutton Park amidst the robins, blackbirds and chaffinches and the clever flash of the long, blue iridescent tails and black-and-white suit coats of magpies - and a day of much napping, eating, drinking, and reading.

Yesterday we visited Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon and attended “Henry IV Part 1” at the Royal Shakespeare Theater as performed by the RSC. I feel like my Shakespearian bucket list is nearly complete, now having seen the best Falstaff (Anthony Sher) I could ever imagine.

Stratford itself was a mix of disappointing and truly beautiful. It says volumes about a tourist attraction when the gift shop is larger than the attraction itself. Shakespeare’s birth home was such a place, very little information, barely interested guides (one grunted to us as we entered, “This is the birthing room,” and then fell back asleep), but with a gift shop that spanned a few thousand miles. Shakespeare’s grave, however, I found much more profound. Churches have a way of doing that.

I’m realizing that my soul is filled much more easily by nature than by crowds and attractions and placards and activities. The River Avon, the old trees lining the banks, the swans and geese making their way from feeding tourist to feeding tourist, the lush green parks (Sorry, rest of the world, but England has perfected the color green), and the fresh chill of the breeze brought me so much happiness.

Finished the evening with a three-course meal at the top of the theater, overlooking the river as the sun set. Fantastic conversation, flowing wine, and family.

Yesterday saw a fond farewell to Brighton and a journey by cab, train, subway, car, kayak, water buffalo, junk, mule, TARDIS and hot air balloon to Sutton Coldfield where my wife was reunited with her mother. As I watched fields of neon yellow canola flash by, lazy canals carved into the landscape, sheep dotting the lush green, cows settling in to the hillsides to greet the approaching rain, I thought about how different it must be to grow up in and be a citizen of a civilization that has existed as a strong and vibrant force for many centuries and even millennia before the industrial revolution. These little thatched-roof farmhouses and country villages are older than anything I encounter daily, even older than anything I could plan to visit for a day trip in the Northwest. I’m constantly craning my neck looking at ruins, or remnants of ancient presence, or reading dates off well-worn walls. Everything around me breathes with this sense of history and yet has merged, sometimes side-by-side with modern technology. Generations and generations of change are overlaid on top of one another - so different from the “raise it to the ground and rebuild” sensibility so often found in America.And now, I sit in a garden at my mother-in-law’s house nearly two years since my own mother died. There’s nothing to do other than what we as a family want to do. I’ve already been fed and cared for and waited on and feel myself finally able to relax into silence. Birds are flitting around the feeders, crows calling overhead, laundry drying in the breeze and the sunshine. Life is good indeed.

Yesterday saw a fond farewell to Brighton and a journey by cab, train, subway, car, kayak, water buffalo, junk, mule, TARDIS and hot air balloon to Sutton Coldfield where my wife was reunited with her mother. As I watched fields of neon yellow canola flash by, lazy canals carved into the landscape, sheep dotting the lush green, cows settling in to the hillsides to greet the approaching rain, I thought about how different it must be to grow up in and be a citizen of a civilization that has existed as a strong and vibrant force for many centuries and even millennia before the industrial revolution.

These little thatched-roof farmhouses and country villages are older than anything I encounter daily, even older than anything I could plan to visit for a day trip in the Northwest. I’m constantly craning my neck looking at ruins, or remnants of ancient presence, or reading dates off well-worn walls. Everything around me breathes with this sense of history and yet has merged, sometimes side-by-side with modern technology. Generations and generations of change are overlaid on top of one another - so different from the “raise it to the ground and rebuild” sensibility so often found in America.

And now, I sit in a garden at my mother-in-law’s house nearly two years since my own mother died. There’s nothing to do other than what we as a family want to do. I’ve already been fed and cared for and waited on and feel myself finally able to relax into silence. Birds are flitting around the feeders, crows calling overhead, laundry drying in the breeze and the sunshine. Life is good indeed.

Another stellar day yesterday exploring the gardens of Virginia Woolf’s home in Rodmell, a quiet village a short train and bus ride away from Brighton. It was a perfectly sunny day in the English countryside with Clare, complete with 12th century church, small children lawn bowling on the green, and pheasant strolling and strutting in the background, randomly expressing their pheasantness with the squawking of a deranged and outraged chicken. Winding our way through the narrow streets that led to Monk’s House, robins and blackbirds and all manner of unidentified songbirds sang from flower beds, atop tree branches, and among the magnolia blossoms.

Later, we wolfed down sandwiches and chips in the pub nearest the village. This was a long and continued heartspace meeting and sharing that eventually spread into tea time and the orgasmic enjoyment of scones with jam and clotted cream and steaming pots of tea. Among other wide and varied topics, had an inspiring talk about writing with Miss Clare, which has reignited my interest in getting back to and on with it.

That evening we held court in a pub in Brighton for five hours while old friends stopped in, reconnecting with each other, chatting with us and in general basking in the glory of how good life can be. Heart and stomach is full.

Such a great day yesterday walking around London with Debz (monument to the London fire as a particular high point) and later taking a long trip down the Thames by boat to Greenwich complete with our cockney amateur tour guide. There are rare moments when you are experiencing something that you know will end up being written strongly and deeply in your long-term memory. My time on the river (among other things passing by the launch and return site of the Mayflower) and visiting the observatory (and standing next to Harrison’s longitudinal H1) were such moments. I fell in love a bit with the lush green lawns of Greenwich and its winding streets. These things only strengthen my immense fondness for this country. Followed this up with a late gourmet vegetarian dinner and wide-ranging conversation with Clare. More cream. More sugar. Brighton, you are going to kill me at this rate.

Yesterday had some alone time, so took a walk up to Queens’s Park and got to do something I’ve been wanting to do all trip - sit in silence and listen to the bird song landscape. I’ve been spending time in Seattle and environs on the monumental task of identification, and it was amazing to me just how foreign the calls were when I finally had a moment to immerse myself in them. Apart from our beloved blackbird, the rest of them were completely unknown to me, apart from some obvious bird family recognition. So I sat in the park in the sunshine and started a Very Good Book. Later met up with Catherine for drinks and cake and much basking in her amazing energy and open conversation, interrupted at times by her gorgeous two year old daughter, Martha. Finished the day with a visit to Hove to see our Clare’s new flat, and had a late dinner with her and her boyfriend. So happy to see old friends doing so well. Also may die from ingestion of cream and cheese. Today, a visit up to Olde London Town.

Yesterday had some alone time, so took a walk up to Queens’s Park and got to do something I’ve been wanting to do all trip - sit in silence and listen to the bird song landscape. I’ve been spending time in Seattle and environs on the monumental task of identification, and it was amazing to me just how foreign the calls were when I finally had a moment to immerse myself in them. Apart from our beloved blackbird, the rest of them were completely unknown to me, apart from some obvious bird family recognition. So I sat in the park in the sunshine and started a Very Good Book. Later met up with Catherine for drinks and cake and much basking in her amazing energy and open conversation, interrupted at times by her gorgeous two year old daughter, Martha. Finished the day with a visit to Hove to see our Clare’s new flat, and had a late dinner with her and her boyfriend. So happy to see old friends doing so well. Also may die from ingestion of cream and cheese. Today, a visit up to Olde London Town.