ENGLAND MY ENGLAND (Just Passing Through)
We cleared Customs without any
trouble or delay and took a train down to Rye to stay with Joy again. I always liked Rye Harbour but by now had
recognized that short visits there were the most enjoyable. Adjusting to England in mid-March after the
beaches of Southern India wasn't easy.
Catherine caught a cold immediately and we tried to keep busy while we visited
with my mother. That meant lots of
walks to the sea and the Bird Sanctuary, trips into Rye itself and long talks
with our friend Tony the journalist who lived nearby. We made a day trip over to see Maurice and Patty in Kate's
little old Morris Minor and had a pretty good and surprisingly frank talk about
the family with Maurice. He was
clearly very ill with his colon cancer.
While we were at Lion's Green, we made a wonderful walk through the
winding high-hedged lanes to look at the church in Chittingly where we sat and
listened to the organist at his practice.
These moments of stillness and timeless serenity seemed to me to be the
best that England could offer.
Unfortunately, one lane looked pretty much like another and we got lost
on the way back to the Toll. Once
again we had to ask Patty to come and rescue us. We drove back to Rye in a late rainstorm and I wondered how many
times I would see Maurice again.
After a couple of weeks of Rye, of
excellent English television, hours of walks by the sea and increasingly heated
family rows, I knew that it was time to head back to London. We went up to stay with Bill in Nottinghill
Gate. The following day, we went to
Oxford Street to visit Ramesh at the Mandeer Restaurant to see how my Batik
show had done. Ramesh gave us a
fabulous lunch and told us a sad and strange tale. Two batiks had sold as soon as the show opened but later in the
week, unnoticed by his staff, someone had slashed one of the batiks with some
kind of sharp implement. It was my
portrait of J.J., an entirely inoffensive and harmless piece showing him
sitting in the garden reading a book.
Perhaps the slasher attacked the batik for its innocuousness for there
was surely nothing provocative or controversial about the piece. Perhaps he really wanted to destroy the
Mona Lisa and found a painting by Jonathan Evans a little less protected. Anyway, he returned the following day and
this time destroyed a study of rhododendron flowers. Whereupon Ramesh had the show taken down before another piece
was destroyed. He was terribly sorry
about the whole affair and even bought a piece for himself, a view from the old
schoolhouse window in West Virginia.
He also commissioned me to translate a slim book of his poems from
English into Spanish for him. It would
soon be his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and he wanted to present his
beloved wife with a book of his love poems translated into various
languages. So we spent a few more days
at Bill's, visiting various friends whom we'd met on our travels, Maria in
Westbourne Park and Howard in Brixton.
I worked on my poetry translation at night and soon finished Ramesh's
commission for him. My oldest friend,
Chris Kennedy came over from Holland to hang out with us for a couple of days
which was excellent and we took a train back down to Rye for our last days in
England. There I found a letter from
Simma and Jeffrey telling me that my old Ibiza friend Gene was ill with
Aids. It was very chilling and
Catherine and I drove over to Lion's
Green once more to spend a rather melancholic, cool and wet day with Maurice
and Patty. There was a lot of eating
but not much talking. Patty seemed
frightened and Maurice looked very ill.
I knew that I would probably not see him again. We spent our last day in Rye packing up and
doing last minute errands. Brother
Phil came down to see us and we all took a long windy walk along Rye's pebble
beach and sat in the hide at the bird preserve to watch the ducks. The following morning, Kate drove us to
Gatwick and we caught our afternoon flight for Washington. We were suddenly back in America once more.