(Or You can never go home again)
We flew from Gatwick to Ibiza in the
first week of August heavily overloaded with suitcases and bags. That was mostly my fault for I wanted to be
prepared for the possibility of our spending the next year on the island. We had offers of houses from both Phillip
and Bruce. I had brought clothes for
every situation and climate as well as art supplies, books, music and a
stereo. Fortunately, as soon as we
touched down and cleared Customs, Bruce swooped in to pick us and our luggage
up. He was driving a conspicuously
battered Citroen with the two front lights literally scotch-taped into place
following some accident that he had had.
It was great to see him again and somehow reminiscent of the last time
he had picked me up - at JFK Airport in New York, so many years before. We piled into the car and he whisked us
away along the San Jose road to Phillip's house. I experienced an eery deja vu as the bright sunlight, the
shimmering heat rising from the dusty road and the deep blue sky assaulted my
eyes. Even after so many years, it was
all incredibly familiar to me, the line of the hills, the rows of almond trees
and the bends in the road. I
recognized the very smell of the place.
I've seen this movie before, I said to myself as we careered dangerously
fast along the road, Bruce talking rapidly, waving his hands about and pointing
details out to Catherine who was seeing Ibiza and Spain for the first time.
His driving hadn't changed much either, I noted, as Bruce
accelerated coming out of another dangerous bend. The poor engine screamed in protest as he held it in third gear
just a little too long. "Change
gear, change gear, please", I was pleading in my head as Bruce finally rammed
the gear stick home into top gear. As
my jangled nerves settled back down again, I realized in fact that nothing
seemed to have changed too radically in ten years. There were a lot more low cinder block fincas along the road and
all the tiendas seemed to have grown in size.
As we spun into the road leading up to Phillip's house high on top of
the hill, we passed the almond tree that I'd sat underneath for shelter against
the sun a thousand times. I noted that
at least this part of the road had been surfaced after all those years. Unfortunately it had only been paved for
about half a mile and pretty soon the Citroen was straining and rattling as
Bruce pushed it relentlessly upwards through zigzag bends and potholes towards
the summit of the hill. Suddenly we
were there. Phillip, alerted by the
noise of Bruce's desperate driving, appeared and we were all hugging one
another and commenting on the passage and ravages of time. Wasn't it fabulous to all be together
Phillip had done a lot of work on
his house since last I saw it. It now
had a large upstairs bedroom with beautiful open arched windows and a view to
die for. There was a bathroom and toilet
attached to the house now also and he had terraced his land and made low stone
walls everywhere. Best of all, on the
edge of the terrace by the house, falling away into that awesome view, he had
built a water cisterna. This served as
a swimming pool too and we all tore our clothes off and dived in. In that moment, I couldn't imagine getting
any closer to Paradise than this. Out
here in the country, the old Ibiza magic hadn't changed, or at least so it
seemed that day.
We spent a wonderful first night
with Phillip and Bruce, talking at the top of our voices, telling tall tales
and remembering the past. The house
was incredibly beautiful at night with the light from twenty candles making
flickering shadows across the whitewashed walls. We sat at the long sabena wood table I remembered so well and
ate vegetables out of Phillip's garden.
The night was balmy and scented and after the meal we sat out on the
bench in front of the view and looked down on the lights of the fincas in the
valley below. I could see the car
headlights along the San Jose road, the deep blue gradation of the sky and the
familiar silhouette of the hills spread out below us. We were all much older and much less innocent, I thought, but
here we are, still alive, still active and still out there.
Inevitably, I suppose, we eventually
came back down to Earth but I enjoyed being back on the Island enormously at
first. It was all terribly familiar
and at the same time I experienced a constant rediscovery of views, of spaces
and of the relationship between so many old memories and present reality. I had run a nonstop movie projection of
Ibiza in my head all the years that I had been away in America. I have very clear visual imagery and I
suppose that that had kept it fresh and alive for me. I fantasized about moving back to the island. Bruce would have loved us to live in his
house and we could have had Phillip's house all to ourselves for at least half
the year while he was off traveling.
There was of course the problem of what we would actually do in
Ibiza. I had always been able to earn
a reasonable living there as an artist before and had no reason to think that I
couldn't do it again. But what
Catherine would do there was another issue completely. For now we were just content to look around
the island again and to soak up some sun, sea and sand.
On our second day there, we walked
down that steep winding path to Es Coll Des Vens directly below Phillip's house
where a Spanish family now lived. It
too hadn't changed much, at least not from the outside, although it somehow looked
untidier and less cared for than it had ten years before. The monster creeper with those heavy yellow
flowers which had always looked as if it could swallow the front porch -and
half of Chicago too- still looked powerful and had maintained its tight grip on
the front of the finca. The outhouses
looked as if they had fallen down a little further and there was a nice new
cabin cruiser boat on a trailer at the side of the house.
Bruce's house, Can Rafaela, was
looking very much the worse for wear unfortunately. On one trip to the house a few years before, he had arrived on
the island with lots of money and plans to make big alterations to the
building. He had started to build an
extra bedroom up on the roof and an outside bathroom where the goat pen was
round the back. He had closed off the
passageway between the kitchen and the entrada room before he had run out of
money. So he had abandoned every
project and gone back to New York leaving the poor house in a very transitory
state. Bruce was seeing a Dutch lady
called Ellie who lived down the road and would not be staying at the
house. He offered us his spare
bedroom. We decided to do some work on
the house and move in there when we could.
We all spend an ecstatic week, naked in the bright heat of August,
repainting the house with many layers of whitewash, cleaning it out, clearing
out the overgrown flowerbeds and ordering the kitchen. In between coats of paint, Bruce drove us
all over the island, into Ibiza town, to Santa Eulalia and to the beach. I saw a lot of old friends like Lance and
Patsy, now rich and established on the island and seemingly a long way from the
precarious existence that I remembered them living in the Seventies. Robin and Janna were still there and I ran
into Lou whom I'd last seen in California when I lived in Grass Valley. Lydia and Peggy were still in Ibiza, both
quite unchanged and Bruce took us to Sandy's Bar in Santa Eulalia where I saw
Denholm Elliott, the actor and a lot of other familiar faces. It was a wonderful trip down Memory Lane
but I couldn't help thinking that most of the really exciting and creative
people from the old days had packed up and moved on. Most people still living there seemed to have settled into a
rather sedate and decadent sort of lifestyle.
There was a lot of drinking and drugging going on and probably there
always had been. But we had all been a
lot younger and more active when I had lived there and the energy had been
better. I thought that our actions
had been more directed and somehow clearer.
At least that was how I remembered the past and how I perceived the
present. Since leaving the island so
precipitously so long before, I had lived another lifetime -or several- and I
had a perspective on the life there that I didn't have before. I felt a little alien and alienated and
didn't know who I wanted to spend time with and what I wanted to do there.
None of which stopped me from
unpacking all our bags and settling into country life somewhere between Bruce's
house and Phillip's entrada. I thought
that living in the country up on top of our hill with two of my dearest, oldest
friends was absolutely wonderful.
There was nowhere else that I wanted to be at that moment.
One of my first visits was to see
Marie Luz who was living on the land that she and I had bought together up
above Bruce's house. Memories of our
life together came flooding back as I climbed the steep path that went straight
up the hill from Bruce's road. I
turned sharply to the right and walked along to the terraces that we had chosen
together so carefully. They were as
lovely as I had always pictured them in my head, protected by the hill behind
and yet high enough not to be overlooked from any other point. Through the almond and fig trees, I could
see the single decker country bus that Marie Luz had moved onto the land soon
after I left. It was old and rusty
and had been driven down a lot of dusty roads before it had come to rest finally
up on this piece of land. It didn't
blend in very well with the landscape.
Walking along the terrace, I came across Marie Luz sitting in a bright
red deck chair, smoking a cigarette as she looked out over the Valley below. Our reunion was definitely awkward. We had seen each other last in New York
when she had shown up for my "Travels in America" Show. I had lived several lifetimes since then
but I always carried a residual feeling of guilt that it had been me who had
left her and our life in Ibiza. I
remembered the commitment that I had made to her so long ago and felt bad that
I hadn't been able to keep it. In the
end, Marie Luz and I had slowly drifted apart and the burden of the family had
been too heavy for me. The difference
in our ages had been too great and we had found ourselves taking different
directions. Or perhaps it was the lack
of a sense of completion that had left me feeling that I hadn't behaved as
kindly as I might have. I, after all,
had moved onto other relationships whereas Marie Luz, as far as I knew, had
stayed single ever since. In fact she
had come to America several times hoping to rekindle our romance. Perhaps it was just that I felt that I had
come out of the affair in better shape than she had. So our conversation was a little uncomfortable when we met. She covered up any feelings of
embarrassment by showing me around her bus/home and talked about all the
repairs and modifications that she had made and planned to make. Perhaps I noted a trace of defiance in her
voice as she talked about the bus. I
knew from Phillip that several people had offered to help her build a small
cinder block house on the land. A
neighbour who considered the bus an eyesore had pressured her to get rid of
it. But she obviously loved the old
bus and was totally committed to getting it into shape and making it into an
attractive home. Otherwise the land
looked pretty much as I remembered it, with beautiful views in two
directions. I made a second visit to
see Marie Luz before we left when she had a small house-warming party, but
never felt very relaxed with her. I
would see her often in the port of Ibiza at night where she earned her living
doing fabulous pen portraits of visitors to the island. She had always drawn better than I and had
refined and developed her art over the years.
Although I didn't feel very close to her any more, whether for reasons
of guilt or because time had passed and we had gone in different directions,
she continued to be a central element in one of the most important periods of
my life. She will always be a part of
And so we settled into life in Ibiza
that long hot summer. We got Bruce's
house into comparatively good shape but continued to live between his and
Phillip's house. Poor Phillip was
going through a long, painfully drawn-out break-up with Maria after spending
some fifteen years together. To make
the situation more difficult, they had two children who were caught in the
middle but who were to live with Maria.
Phillip, in true Aussie style, was drinking a lot and Maria, always much
more conservative and middle class, had discovered the New Age and its promise
of enlightenment and new freedom.
Actually it seemed as if Maria had only waited for Catherine and I to
arrive before taking the children and going back to her parents' house in Les
Baux in the South of France.
One night, sitting down in Bruce's
entrada, we clearly heard the sound of a drunken Phillip shouting and howling
in his misery and loss. Probably
nearly everyone in the valley could hear it too. The next day, he was miserably depressed and the entrada of his
house was littered with pieces of the wooden chairs that he had smashed. We had long conversations about life and
love and relationships every night with him but only got a sense of some
deep-rooted misogyny, which he masked by avowing a worship of women. A few years later when we were all together
again in Bali, he thanked us for helping him during that most difficult period. Without us to save him, he said that he
might have destroyed himself. At the
time, it felt like he had almost destroyed us. He treated Catherine terribly badly, heaping a fundamental
disdain for women upon her and sometimes treating her like a servant, all the
while claiming to be the original feminist.
I stayed around because Phillip was an old friend in trouble and because
I was still considering coming back to live on the island. But Catherine only put up with this abuse
because of me and she behaved heroically at the time.
We settled into a pattern of life in
Ibiza, working at home in the morning.
was drawing and writing while Catherine made beaded necklaces or studied
Spanish. Then in the afternoons we
would pile into Phillip's battered Land Rover, or Bruce's even more battered
Citroen and make trips to the beach to cool off in the sea. It was wonderful to discover Sa Caleta
again, with its tiny beach, high cliffs and the little fishing huts where we
would eat our picnic after our swim in the crystal clear water. Step Beach, near San Jose, hadn't altered
much either. The impressive paved road
which lead into the abandoned development was a little more cracked than it
used to be, the potholes larger and the encroaching weeds a little higher. But the pebbled beach was still generally
empty during the week and it was still my favourite place to take off all my
clothes and soak up the sun and sea air.
Step Beach reminded me of a hundred full moon parties, of lost days of
my lost youth and of the Ibiza that would always be both accessible and
secret. We helped Phillip at the
various Hippie Flea Markets where he sold the clothes that he imported from
Bali every year. Of course they weren't
"hippie" markets any more but were big business for many of the
island's immigrant inhabitants. They
attracted tourists like flies to sugar.
Phillip had been doing these markets for many years now, went to at
least two a week and did fairly well out of them. But at the same time, they locked him into a lifestyle and
behaviour pattern that he had adhered to for years. Since his arrest and deportation years before, the Ibicenco
authorities had made him reapply for a resident visa every year. He had to go back to his native Australia
to do that. So for at least fifteen
years, he had left Ibiza for Bali in the late Fall and spent a month there
partying. He then went on to Brisbane
where he worked for a few months before flying back to Bali in March. He spent another month there, buying his
clothes stock for the season before flying back to Ibiza to sell at the markets
there. There was a rigidity about his
life that definitely reflected his personality and I wished that he would break
the pattern and try something different.
There were still a lot of people doing what he was doing and they seemed
to me to be the least creative people on the Ibiza scene. These were the ones who were still locked
into the past and who were, for whatever reason, unable to take the next step. Ibiza was still beautiful out in the
country but it was generally outrageously expensive and all the towns had
become merely big tourist traps. I had
seen all this starting to happen back in the Seventies and knew that I had
moved on at the right time, while all my memories of the magic were still intact.
We would often go out into Ibiza
town after dinner at Phillip's and would sit out in the street in front of the
Mar Y Sol Bar and watch the show. It
wasn't quite the show that it used to be, for there were a lot of very straight
English and German tourists who were never there before. But I still always loved to watch the
hordes of beautiful and the not so beautiful people that regularly came to the
island. Drinks now cost almost five
dollars each and the cover charge to get into Pacha's Disco was almost fifty
dollars per person! Fortunately we had
friends who regularly got free tickets to the discos and Catherine and I went
out dancing whenever we could. This
was the Summer of the Balearic Beat, the new English electronic dance music that
was suddenly conquering Europe. It was
a mixture of sampled rhythm tracks and a heavy bass line, which was completely
without form, structure or melody. It
went on until it stopped. It seemed to
me only to make sense if one was heavily drugged and I generally found the
music boring and inhuman. Soon this
music would develop into Acid House music and would be heard in discos all over
the world. It would provide the pulse
to the lives of alienated young people everywhere.
One of the problems in going out
dancing was that none of the clubs opened before midnight, nothing much
happened before one or two o'clock and most people didn't show up until three
in the morning. There was even one
disco that didn't open until six a.m.
It was hard to lead any kind of regular life and keep up with that sort
of schedule and it was with a great sense of relief that we discovered the
Pereyra Theater Bar in Ibiza town. The
Pereyra had been around for years but that summer, a wealthy jazz pianist from
Holland had taken it over. He had
started to bring in great jazz musicians from all over Europe to play and jam
together in the evenings. Pretty soon
it was hard to get into the door at night for the music was great. We thought it was the most interesting and
exciting scene on the island.
Another place that we used to go to
at night was Phyllis' Bar along the far end of the port in Ibiza. The little village of Talamanca had grown
out of recognition in the years I had been away. It was now a string of condos, restaurants and clubs. Phyllis, from New York, had previously run
an ice-cream cafe in the Old Town and had found a gypsy family who played great
pop flamenco music. Two brothers
played very rhythmical acoustic guitars through a small funky amplifier and
speakers while various other members of the family either sang or danced to the
music. Perhaps the stars of the show
were the younger children who all danced with great seriousness, dedication and
grace. The whole family was natural
entertainers and the bar was normally packed at night.
Catherine and I walked all over the
Valley and visited Mi Casita as well as Pepe and Esperanza's tienda on the main
road. They weren't fazed to see me
again in the slightest and merely asked me how I'd been and if I wanted Tulipan
or some special goat cheese that they had on sale that day. They both looked a bit older and the shop
had expanded like Pepe's waistline.
Their horrible son, Pepe Jnr., now played with a motorbike instead of a
toy truck. But Tia Josefa, the
grandmother, was completely unchanged and seemed overjoyed to see me.
I borrowed Bruce's car and we drove over to San Antonio to visit Maria,
a German woman who ran a boutique there where I had sold clothes years
before. We made a couple of lovely
trips out to Cala D'Hort to have a look at Vedra, the rock jutting out of the
sea just off the beach, which we could see from Phillip's house. But we both had a sense that we were
drifting without any direction in Ibiza.
I couldn't focus on any serious work.
We found ourselves socializing with people we didn't really want to see
or hanging out with an unhappy Phillip.
That felt pretty heavy and drained our energy most of the time. Occasionally we'd get to spend time with
the old Phillip I remembered from the past.
He could still be the charming, witty raconteur of tall Ibiza tales who
was dedicated to his Ibiza lifestyle and to the building of his dream house up
on top of the mountain. More often we
spent nights around the candle-lit entrada table, watching him getting
progressively drunker from the cheapo wine in cardboard cartons that he bought,
while listening to him talk about transitory love and the infidelities of
We managed to sell the return
portions of our plane tickets to London, thus committing ourselves to staying
on in Ibiza for at least another couple of months. But we regretted doing so almost at once. Maria was back from France and she and
Phillip were arguing once more up the hill.
I felt that I couldn't leave him alone at this time. When she took the kids back to France once
more, we moved back into his house with him.
In mid-September, Catherine and I
took the big ferryboat to Barcelona.
It was an eerily familiar trip and we spent the long day out on the deck
in deck chairs, sleeping and reading.
We got into the port in the evening and walked up the Rambles to get a
train out to La Floresta to spend a few days with my dear old friends, Josep and
Angela. It was fun to see them again. In the intervening years they had made a
family, had four young children now and seemed more established than
before. They were still living in the
same house in the little village north of Barcelona that I remembered so
well. Josep was still in the
publishing business and commuted to the city every morning to his office. He was currently publishing magazines like
"Chromo Y Fuego", dedicated to souped-up motorbikes and customised
cars. He also produced the Spanish
supplement to the well-known French magazine "Art et Decoration" and
immediately offered to do a couple of features about my batik paintings. Josep had long been a patron of mine and
had bought batik from me steadily over the years. Long ago I had made curtains for his living room and a bedspread
and lamps for the house. This time he
bought my painting "Two Figures on a Beach", a picture of Catherine
and young Joshua walking together on a beach in Florida. Angela had always been a great friend of
mine and we had a lot of catching up to do.
She seemed happier than she used to be, had a job in the city also and
adored her children whose room we were sleeping in for the duration of our
I was surprised how much I enjoyed
being back in Barcelona, the scene of my early relationship with Marie
Luz. This was the city where I had
started my long strange journey as a batik artist. When I had lived there before, I had constantly been missing my
house and friends and life in Ibiza.
I had always associated Barcelona with the struggle that we had gone
through over Marie Luz's children. But
I had remembered it with some fondness and nostalgia over the years and now
found myself loving the old streets, the art nouveau hallways and houses, the
cafes and the street life. Of course
Spain had changed a lot in the intervening years. Franco had died shortly before I left and with him had died the
terrible repression and the fear that went with a fascist regime. At one time it seemed as if there were four
or five different branches of the police to be seen all over the city and that
wasn't counting the plain-clothes division.
Now Spain seemed to be doing well and what had once been a country of
great art and culture, had become one again.
We walked all over the Rambles, up and down the tiny streets of the
"Chinese Quarter" and went to see the Picasso Museum.
We met Guiomar, Marie Luz's best
friend with her journalist boyfriend at an open-air cafe at the top of the
Rambles and found it easy to catch up with one another's lives. I went to visit Sr. Gancedo, our batik
patron of the early Seventies, who offered to mount another show of my work but
wasn't interested in buying any of my current work. And we went to see Jose Ramon, my old flat mate and visited some
old Spanish friends of Catherine's whom she'd known in Boston as a child.
On our last day in Barcelona we went
into town with Angela and Josep and had a look at Gaudi's Sagrada Familia
Cathedral, still largely unfinished after so long. We also walked around his Parc Guell. I've always loved his fantastically shaped Art Nouveau
architecture. We said loving good-byes
to the Verges Family and took the night ferry back to Ibiza. It had been a pleasant trip to the Mainland
although I came away feeling strangely dissatisfied and ultimately dispirited
from the experience. I think that it
was another experience that reminded me that one could never turn back the
But it felt good to be back on the Island after the trip and we
spent some days resting up out in the country at Phillip's. He was still very unhappy but for awhile we
were able to deal with his nightly outpourings without getting too involved or
stressed out by his anger and pain.
Poor Bruce was going through it too, by this time. His relationship with Ellie wasn't going
too well. She was a very directed
woman with a family who ran a thriving clothes business and probably wished
that Bruce, who was pretty directionless, had something of his own to get
As Fall came on and the nights grew
cooler, we began to think of our next move.
By now we both knew that life in Ibiza wasn't what we were looking for
and the nightly sessions, with both Bruce and Phillip drinking a lot, were
getting to be a strain. A friend from
the old days, Catherine, showed up in Ibiza for a visit with her friend
Linda. We enjoyed running around with
them for a week but I knew that our days there were numbered. The lack of purpose to our lives was
bothering us. I remembered that I had
worked incredibly hard when I had lived in Ibiza before while everyone around
me seemed to be playing.
Strangely, it was Phillip, ever the
armchair traveler, who suggested that we make a trip to India. It would be inexpensive and above all, it
would be new and different. My friend
Lou told us about his adventures ten years before when he went to Poona to
visit his guru Bhagwan and we began to think seriously about going there.
I called my mother one night from
town and she told me that she'd just heard that my father had been diagnosed as
having inoperable intestinal cancer.
Of course I knew of his earlier bout with cancer and so I wasn't really
surprised. I felt terribly sad
nevertheless but glad that I had managed to come to England when I had.
On October 23rd, Phillip and Bruce
took us to the airport and we all said loving good-byes. It was time to go and all of us knew
it. I was really glad that I'd come
back to Ibiza and had checked it all out again. I had been able to lay some ghosts to rest in the process. I'm sure that Catherine was happy to have
been able to see the island and to have checked out that part of my life. But I know that she had probably only
stayed around to be with me. Our life
with Phillip and our nightly sessions around the table were a great strain on
her. Again the message was written
pretty clearly. You can never go back
home again, it said.
Catherine and I celebrated an
amazing one year together on the day we got back to England. We spent a further three weeks there while
we got ready to go to India in mid-November.
We went down to Rye the day we got back into Britain and had a nice
reunion with Joy. We were both pretty
out of it for a few days and spent a lot of time sleeping and watching BBC television. We interspersed our inertia with walks
along Rye Beach and excursions to our favourite spot, the bird Sanctuary. It was somehow always soothing and restful
to sit in the dark little wooden blinds and to peer out through the slit window
at all the different water birds as they went about their daily routines,
nesting and swimming and fighting together.
Perhaps it was because the Sanctuary was a microcosm, which both
mirrored and contrasted with our own human lives. I could definitely identify with the birds' territorial and
mating squabbles, if that was what they were, for within a couple of days, the
lack of space and our intrusion on her routines caused arguments at Joy's.
It was time to go back up to London
where we stayed at Bill's flat near Notting Hill Gate. It was always soothing to see him. The spare room was chaotic with its huge
houseplants and unfinished art projects but we always felt at home there. Portobello Road was nearby and we could
easily walk to Hyde Park, to the Victoria and Albert Museum or into the West
End. I've always done lots of walking
when I'm in big cities, whether New York or Barcelona or San Francisco. London was no exception. So we would take off early in the mornings,
walk nearly everywhere we wanted to go and cover huge distances, ten miles or
more, before staggering home at night.
I think I found that staying out on the streets and walking instead of
taking buses and trains was the only way to stay grounded in such an
environment. Besides, you got to see
the city that way too.
We were in London again to arrange
tickets and visas for our India trip and went to see my friend Ramesh. I'd met him in West Virginia at the
Gesundheit Institute where he had spent a day cooking together and had been
corresponding with him ever since. His
restaurant, The Mandeer, consistently won awards for the best vegetarian and
Indian food in London and was situated near the junction of Oxford Street and
Tottenham Court Road. It was great to
see him again and after treating us to one of his fabulous curries, we
discussed India with him. He showed us
how to eat using only one's right hand.
It would be considered unclean and inappropriate in India to use one's
left hand, which should be kept only for washing one's private parts. Ramesh even demonstrated how to drink soup
using his right hand and we dutifully followed his lead although I can't ever
remember seeing anyone actually do that in India. Long ago I had discussed the possibility of my showing some
batiks at the little gallery attached to the restaurant and we decided to go
ahead with that show and leave the work up while we were away in India. So I bought doweling rods, mounted the work
very simply and managed to hang about a dozen pieces in the space
available. The restaurant was very
popular and a lot of people would see the work while we were away. Ramesh also operated a travel agency from
his premises for he was the complete Renaissance man, a restaurateur, musician,
poet and businessman. We bought
tickets to India and applied for visas through his company. I was interested to note that whereas
Catherine's visa, as an American, only cost her about five pounds, mine, as a
Brit., cost me nearly twenty five pounds.
This was because the British, presumably in an attempt to limit the
number of Indians holding British passports who applied for visas to come to
England, charged exorbitant amounts for their visas. This was a way for the Indians to retaliate and recoup some of
these costs. As it was, my visa took
much longer to come through than Catherine's did. I was English with an American address and was presumably
checked out thoroughly before my visa was granted. This held us up in England for some days and was a nuisance.
We met our friend Richard from Ibiza
at a pub on Portobello Road where Ibicenco refugees often congregated. He whisked us off to his flat in Freshford
near Bath for a couple of days. The
countryside nearby was absolutely lovely even with winter on the way. We spent two days walking along the river
and across fields and exploring England at its most classically pastoral. We even drove down to Bristol for a rather
tame party one night and enjoyed that too.
Richard was due to bring us back to London but we decided to take him
down with us to Rye where he was at his most charming with my mother and stayed
Suddenly England was experiencing an
Indian summer. We walked down to the
Bird Sanctuary one morning, just in time to see a most extraordinary
thing. As we sat inside the blind by
the side of the little lake, a small prop plane swooped in low in front of us
in the middle of the afternoon. It
dropped a large oil-drum canister on a small parachute, which fell into the
tall grasses between the water and the fence. It all happened very quickly and I wasn't even sure that the
event had really occurred. Rye Harbour
had long been notorious as a smugglers' port and haven. It crossed our minds immediately that this
was a daring daytime drop of cigarettes, alcohol or even of drugs of some
kind. I was all for going and
investigating the contents of the canister.
As we debated the wisdom of that move, two men entered the blind behind
us dressed in straight clothes and raincoats, not looking at all like bird
lovers. We left the blind rather
hurriedly and walked around the lake to the blind at the other end but as we
reached it, two men came out of that one too.
We realized that the whole scene was being carefully observed. So we slipped away discretely and decided
to leave well alone. But I felt amazed
by both the careful planning and the sheer brazenness of those smugglers who
dared to smuggle so fearlessly.
We found ourselves hanging out in
London waiting for my visa to come through and watched the fireworks on Guy
Fawkes Night from Bill's back garden.
This was a truly English experience and celebration complete with hot
baked potatoes, mulled cider and a bonfire.
And we also watched a truly American event on television when George
Bush thrashed Michael Dukakis to win the US Presidential Election. Ah well, I remember thinking, the American
public will get exactly what they asked for and probably what they deserve.
Back in Rye and nose to nose with
Joy again, I reflected that it was definitely time to be on the move once
more. A mother/son relationship is an
intense and complex thing at the best of times and I had been away for a very
long time. I felt that my mother was
both loving me and feeling angry and abandoned by me at the same time. And I, for my part, couldn't give her an
inch of slack. I found myself watching
her constantly and jumping on her for any inappropriate behaviour at once. We did very well for about three days but
in the very limited space available, needed to be apart after that. Long walks on the pebble beach along to
Winchelsea helped. We went to Rye town
quite often and explore the little twisted streets and visited the Art Gallery
there where Catherine had a lot of her jewelry on show.
Mercifully, my visa finally came through and it was time to be on
our way again. We packed up our bags
once more and went over to Lewes to spend a final day and night with Maurice
and Patty. There was no mention made
of his illness while we were there. I
think that it was just too difficult to talk about it but Patty looked deathly
pale and was terribly tense. Maurice
took us out for a last meal at a nearby Indian Restaurant on the last evening
where we finally had quite an insightful talk about his marriage with Joy and
the family life we had all had together.