I’m in England, land of cream teas, cricket and dreadful weather. To be fair, Wimbledon’s on at the moment, and it always rains during Wimbledon, but it’s been beyond a joke so far. I left Sicily in blazing sunshine early on the morning of 27 June. Approaching Paris 24 hours later it was grey and miserable. The rain started in earnest just before we boarded the Eurostar. The people were sunny, though. Considering Eurostar staff spend their time either on a rainy platform or in a tunnel 75 metres below sea level, they smile a lot. It’s nice.
Against all expectations, I arrived in England to glorious sunshine. I should have known by the looks of delighted surprise on everyone’s faces that it wasn’t the usual state of affairs. Sure enough, the next morning it started to rain and hasn’t stopped since. If it’s not raining it’s just about to. To add insult to injury I’ve picked up my first cold in ages and have been blowing my nose constantly for the past three days. I look like a coke addict and sound like a teenage boy going through puberty. Only close family and animals could love me at the moment.
Tiny Cat barrels in through the window with her squeaky mew. Hello! I’m here! She whirls around the table leg, rubbing her head against it and hopping up and down in her excitement. The purr starts as soon as I put a hand down to stroke her and she winds at lightning speed around the chair, the table, me – anything around her – all the while purring and squeaking. She soon gets bored of my languid attention and leaps up to the chair behind me where she continues to purr like a steam engine while chewing the brown, spiky leaves of the dessicated plant that used to live in the pot on the table. I look round at her, which she takes as her cue to leap forward onto the desk and rub up against anything in her way. She crosses back and forwards along the desk under my chin as I work, wrapping her tail around the back of my neck and every so often licking the back of my typing hands. She’s cute, but it’s distracting. When she knocks one of the speakers over, she freezes, denying responsibility, before taking a flying leap off the table and out of the window again. Peace at last.
Realising that the coast is clear, Black Dog tip taps her way in and sits looking up at me. She’s got rings of white hair around her eyes which make her look as if she’s got glasses. She blinks owlishly, then races out of the room after something unheard by human ears. Cows, maybe?
Returning from a party the other day, my ma walked into the house to find 11 cows rampaging through the garden, gouging divots in the lawn and munching their way through the vegetable patch. The dogs were silent – probably they had barked all night with no-one to hear and were by that point either hoarse or bored. As both the wife and mother of farmers, Ma took it in her stride, pausing only to drop her suitcase before heading out to shoo the cows back to where they should have been. And all this alone, before coffee. England: it’s a different country.