12 August 2010 - London en route to Scotland
Written by Haber, a 62 year old retired male, living in Central Scotland.
12 August 2010 My partner, Jaime, and I are staying with friends, Ana and Stefan, in West London. They are very good friends of ours, married and retired, and we’ve known them over thirty years. Jaime and I are travelling via London from our wee flat in Spain to our home in Central Scotland.
At 8.00, Stefan makes tea, which we drink in bed. Ana and Stefan have lived in this house, together with their two cats, for about 15 years. We are all sad because one of the cats died of old age just two days ago.
We all go out for a walk along the river, looking at birds, picking fruit, reflecting on life. Stefan and Ana are shocked to learn of the adverse reaction of some of my family when they had first heard of my civil partnership with Jaime in 2006. It reminds me how important friends are as sources of support. Our friend, Kimie, who died in 2008, used to have on her table a picture of Jaime and me, accompanied by the words “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves”. I reflect on how strange this part of London is with its stately homes and super-wealthy residents along the river bank. The Englishness of the suburbs seems foreign to me even though I was born and brought up near here. I left London at an early age, partly because I disliked the rapid urbanisation of my town in the outskirts of north London. Since then I have lived in Scotland and northern England, and most of my work has been abroad, in over 40 different countries. However, although the suburbs now seem foreign to me, I feel very comfortable near the centre of London, which has become so cosmopolitan, diverse and open to the world.
We all return home for lunch. Jaime and I have a brief siesta cuddling up on the sofa, while our friends prepare the meal. I try, but with only partial success, to identify all the birds that we have seen today. We are all so happy to see the surviving cat being so active. He is almost 20 years old and had been ill for some time. Although he has lived with his sister all his life and must be missing her, he is still showing a healthy interest in life.
After lunch I go out for a walk with Jaime; just us two. We have been together 40 years and have always found that we need to have frequent periods of time alone together; time to open out freely to each other. We talk about being in London, about friendships and private finance initiatives, while identifying the tufted ducks in the pond in the nearby stately home, which has recently been renovated with capital from the lottery fund, local council and private sources. We move on back to the river, along streets recently flooded by the river; seeing more ducks. Only millionaires can afford to live here, overlooking the river, but still they cannot solve the car parking problem. Parked cars are often blocking the pedestrian pavement and we have to take our chances on the muddy, slippery road, amongst the occasional moving cars and even more frequent cyclists. I wonder when I shall find time to write my diary today. Not now because we have to get back to our friends to help prepare dinner. Life is so busy in retirement. But we feel very privileged to have such a life.
We return too late to help with the meal. In any case, our friends prefer us to sit and talk with them in the kitchen while they chop the vegetables. We are all vegetarian, to one degree or another. We shall eat a Balkan-style bean stew, and even the cat may decide to join in.
Ana and Stefan ask us what kind of meals we prepare ourselves, and we go through our list of vegan dishes based on the traditions of half-a-dozen or more cultures around the world. They try to convince us that it seriously harms the environment to import food from other continents. We only agree to a limited extent.
At 2315 we receive a telephone call from our Spanish friend, Jose. She lives near us in Scotland and we shall meet up with her tomorrow at the opening concert of the Edinburgh International Festival. It seems that so many of our friends, including Stefan and Ana, speak Spanish. Before going to bed Stefan shows us some of his photos taken on a recent tour of South America. We are especially interested in the desert regions of Bolivia and Chile, which we want to visit someday. For many years Jaime and I have been learning Spanish and we are looking forward to making our first-ever visits to South America in the future.
By 0100 we are all getting tired and have to stop looking at the photos. We have to be ready first thing tomorrow for our return to Scotland.