I love it here -- we're in Naburn, a little village on the outskirts of York. Starman is working on his blog posts on the New York Times crossword, I'm writing this, then we'll have breakfast, and eventually we'll be off to York for wandering around time and lunch at Bettys. Bettys is so English that you know the mind behind it is Swiss: a tea room/lunch spot where the wait staff (almost all women) are dressed in a variation of a parlor room maid from an Edwardian costume drama. Like, say, Atonement. The food is divine--don't-tell-your-nutritionist fare: Rosti potatoes, Welsh rarebit, cakes, biscuits, and lashings of tea. You don't want to leave, until you pay the bill and then you're a bit queasy and not sure you want to come back, but that's not a problem for us: It's been over six months, so we've forgotten (or rationalized) the costs. Besides, we're travelling -- it's all Monopoly money!
The most amazing thing happened at the Manchester airport -- I got through the Immigration queue faster than Starman! Last fall, it was the worst -- I went through his EU-passport-holders line with him, only to be told off by the Man for having an American passport, albeit one with a Marriage Visa in it and accompanied by my Brit husband. So back I went to the end of the Non-EU queue, while Starman went off to collect the bags. Yesterday, all the planes that landed just before ours were returning from known-holiday spots -- Jamaica, etc. -- so the queue for EU-passport holders was enormous. My queue? Two people ahead of me. Only one immigrations officer (and she was a trainee with her supervisor behind her, so super slow) but still. I got chatting with the couple behind me. They live near Kennett Square -- in the heart of duPont estate country -- and they were there to visit their son who lives in Wetherby. That's right in the general vicinity of Harrowgate, where Starman and I got married last year. Only I was stunned when this rather soignee American woman announced, "He lives in York-shyer." Um, really? Are you sure he doesn't live in York-sure?
Don't worry I didn't say anything. I don't think I even rolled my eyes. I've been there. I know to say "skahns" instead of "skowns" for those yummy clotted cream receptacles. But I can remember one occasion when I'd been away for almost ten years and, in front my my former mother in law, I told myself to say "skahns" and what came out of my mouth was "skowns." I don't think that's why, years later, she wasn't happy that I married her son, but it didn't help.
I thought about that as we drove southeast to Oxford to see Starman's mother. Fiona is in her late 70s. She has Parkinson's and some form of dementia; three years ago she had a bad fall, and since then she's needed full time care. She's been lucky to be able to stay at home. But she's not who she was before the fall, and certainly not who she was before the Parkinson's. In a sense, I never really met her -- the first time Starman brought me to see her, she was in a nursing home following her fall, and although she was more mobile than she is now, she wasn't a lot more - - well, herself.
If I were a lot younger, this might bother me. Who a beloved's parents are is important. But at our age (Starman is almost in the same age range as me), the identity and significance of the parents-in-law is blunted. His dad died over 25 years ago; I know a lot about Roger, but he's been gone for a long time. My parents died in 1997 and 2000, so they've not been factors for a while. And Fiona, well, there may be a connection between Starman's readiness to be in a committed relationship and her deterioration but I rather doubt it. He'd been on his own for a long, long time -- he was ready.
What matters is this house I'm in at the moment -- Starman's brother and sister-in-law are so wonderful, so charming and friendly, so welcoming and accommodating. We're thrilled to be here, and they sensibly don't allow their lives to be disrupted by our visits. That way, we're welcome any time. And believe me, this is a damn fine place to be. I'm looking out at milky sunshine in the front garden. Daffodils are up, the grass is green, birds are singing -- what's not to love?
Come to Yorkshire -- there are gorgeous place all through England, but this place is special. Just be sure to pronounce the name correctly!