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2004-04-15 - 10:21 a.m.

Here's my promised update:

Easter Week In France

Part of me feels as though I've been in France for ever, part of me can't believe how quickly it's gone.

We've had a wonderful time. The house and brand new barn is looking superb - the huge, light room on top of the barn, as Tiff remarked, is very reminiscent of Kettle's Yard with its white walls and single wooden beam, decorated with odd pots and curiosities. We worked up there for the first few mornings, together in the cool sunlight snuggled on the sofa, each with our different books,Tiff occasionally with a laptop(or bits of wiring! We were very afraid they wouldn't let us through customs in the mistaken belief that his project was a bomb, but in the end it was my laptop case they wanted to search...)

It being Easter Week, we spent plenty of time in church; we began with the vigil on Maundy Thursday, which was charged through by the new chaplain who evidently had supper waiting at home or something. Tiff and I chickened out of the Good Friday vigil, both being fairly worried about work by that stage, but my mother went and reported that she was the only person in the church apart from my father on the organ, and the chaplain. She had gone with the intention to do half an hour or so and then go shopping, but in the end she felt obliged to wait nearly two hours until somebody else arrived, so that the chaplain wouldn't be preaching to an empty church! No such problem on Easter morning, though - the church was packed to the seams with utterly unrecognisable people, in front of whom I had to read my dire attempts at intercessions. David and Charlotte and their floppy dog Folly came to lunch, and we decorated our egg trees and ate chocolate very cheerily. I worked out how to say "Christ is risen" and "he is risen indeed, alleluia!" in sign language, and Cecily attempted to teach me how to say it in Greek.

The last day was perhaps the best. I took Tiff to Frog Beach - the "kingdom" my sister and I had when we were little, not a beach at all of course, but a little clearing of pebbles by the river quite hidden from view by weeds. With a bit of judicious rock-hopping you can get from there to "kingdom island" - not an island, but a large tree growing in the middle of the river, with just enough grassy earth around it to stand or sit comfortably, but certainly not to make any sudden movements! The river was quite high but with the help of a few sticks laid by Tiff, I made it onto the island nonetheless. Tiff made several attempts from different directions but put a foot in twice, and since he was wearing his sparkling white jeans, decided not to try any further. Then, in the firm belief that he was rescuing me, he fought his way through brambles to a second 'beach' in the bank slightly closer to the island...while I made my way back the way I had come! By the time I had landed, unharmed and bone dry, back on Frog Beach, Tiff was wet to one shin and covered in scratches - and he'd been the one on the land!

We took the rest of the day more restfully and read most of 'Iris' together. We've developed a way of being able to read the same book at the same time without having to read aloud: I sit behind him, one leg either side, while he holds the book, and I kiss the top of his left ear whenever I get to the end of the page. It's bliss to do this with someone who has much the same reading speed as I do - I was only finishing pages, on average, about a paragraph ahead of him, and frequently at the same time. I think I read more carefully than I used to, after three years of having to analyse texts. I've never been able to read over someone's shoulder with much success before, and often find it annoying when someone does it to me, but in fact it's wonderful - our minds run on the same words and we both giggle or feel sad at the same moment. It feels as though we've 'clicked' although we haven't been talking.

Saying goodbye was awful, but we cheered each other up before Tiff's coach drove away. We attempted to communicate in sign language through the coach window, but it got very silly and ended with me doing actions to "I'm a little teapot" watched by numerous amused travellers on the tarmac!

I miss him. And now I'm stuck back here with a half-finished book that I've promised not to read...


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