Barders’ Christmas 2003

Barders Christmas 2003

We marched against Suez in 1956 Law not War and Eden Must Go. We didn’t march in February 2003: trust in the British prime minister still prevailed. But by November 2003, 47 years after Suez, we were on the march again, or Brian was. (Jane felt one of her attacks coming on.) Brian marched with other ageing British ex-diplomats. Trust has evaporated and disillusion dominates. The euphoric bubble of May 1997 has burst and the young Masters Twigg and Leslie wear suits and develop paunches. Its now young LibDems who are astonished to find themselves MPs when they thought they were just having a trial run at campaigning. Michael Howard, of all people, has been resurrected and Tories seem to believe he will win back their lost votes. No wonder that apathy is gaining adherents.

Against a background of slaughter in Iraq, the horrors of Guantanamo, neglect in Afghanistan, the tragic spread of Aids among the vulnerable, and worry about what the old men in Washington will persuade their front man to do next, we know that our moving house was a trivial event, but it was a hideous experience. The combination of ailments we have now accumulated meant that we needed to move to a smaller house with fewer stairs. We therefore had to dispose of a huge number of possessions: 600 videos went to the dump, but pre-recorded videos, 35 boxes of books, a roomful of china, glasses, linen, clothes, pictures, and ornaments passed to the Notting Hill Housing Trust, the only charity which would collect. Every book and every video required negotiation, often heated. Despite all this we still turned up at our new house with three pantechnicons, and our admirable removal men managed to squeeze everything in by filling each and every room with boxes up to the ceilings. We climbed ladders to unpack the top layers. We had shelves and cupboards built on every available wall surface and commissioned a custom-made dining-room table. Like the garage, too small for a car but perfect for a bike and storage, the dining room is really too small for dining, but we’ve solved that with the help of an excellent carpenter. Now that the bad part is over, we are delighted with our new house and its location, five minutes on the flat to the unsung attractions of Earlsfield its railway station, its many buses, its shops and its restaurants.

We recovered from the strain of moving by cruising on the Aurora, just before she became famous as a plague ship. It is about as romantic as you could imagine to sail into Istanbul (just before it became a terrorist target) and Yalta and to moor at the foot of the Odessa steps. There were other ports Lisbon, Piraeus and Palma but we’re blas about such as those. We’ll certainly sail on Aurora again and squander even more of our children’s inheritance on our now preferred choice of cabin with a queen-sized bed and a private balcony.

We’re spending Christmas in France again with Virginia and Owen. This time we’ve chosen Lille, European city of culture for 2004 and only 2 hours or less by Eurostar train. We did a dawn recce last month and booked restaurants which will be open on both Christmas Eve and Day and which will cater for a vegetarian.

We were last in New York in March and in a mere five days caught Lily (12) in the New York City Opera chorus in both Carmen and La Bohme. She is now one of the presenters of a weekly TV show broadcast on over 50 channels in the States. Florence (10) has a sense of humour worthy of a 25-year-old (probably needs it). Louise and the girls were in Paris for July and managed to stay with us either side of our move. We’ll hope to be back in Manhattan in the spring unless Brian has been blacklisted: the New York Times, unlike the London Times, never publishes his letters but perhaps somebody reads them and notes his subversive views.

We hope that all those within travelling distance will come and see our new place. The only thing which worries us about it is that Prince Charles would probably approve of the architecture.

Happy Christmas!

Jane and Brian

December, 2003

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