To paraphrase WH Auden, I have stopped the clocks and cut off the email, and we are on holiday at home. And I am enjoying cultivating time in a different way for a little while, happily doing things I've been wanting to do for ages.
Like going to the theatre. Tom and I went to see All My Sons and found it just as brilliant as the critics said. When we found our seats Tom surveyed the scene and remarked, 'it's all very old'. I thought he meant the beautiful,1901 theatre but no, he was talking about the audience. And it was true, it was a Wednesday matinee performance, so there were plenty of grey heads. As someone who has just realised she is going grey (I did some photobooth photos last week and the evidence was there - much to my suprise), I felt quite at home.
Simon and I saw Tap Dogs a couple of days later. The critics are pretty sniffy about this, but the big, male, booted tappers exude infectious rhythm and energy, and I'm sure they have to screw the seats back into the floor after every performance, as everyone seems to nod and bounce in time. We'd seen the show a few years ago, but without Adam Garcia - I cannot deny that he is a very good reason to watch it all over again...
A pretty train journey through stations that should have milk churns on the platforms and prize-winning roses by white-washed fences was a much better way to reach Oxford than by car. (And who would ever have guessed that Slough station buffet serves good a good pain au chocolat and decent cup of tea - I'd always thought of it as something out of the 1940s or on a par with Carnforth station buffet in Brief Encounter). This was for a Sunday stroll round the Ashmolean Museum to see the new extension and the wonderful collection of art (relatively small but brilliantly selected, with a couple of my favourite Holman Hunt paintings). And I can confirm that the home-baked cakes and biscuits are worth the detour to the cafe.
The main reason for visiting, though, was to see the Howard Hodgkin exhibition at Modern Art Oxford . I've wanted to own a HH for years (Simon is still struggling to 'understand' this, as he says) and while I might not go as far as this assessment, it was wonderful to get a huge blast of incredible colour, even though I feel some of the works were just a little underpainted.
Holidays, even those at home, also mean books and the chance to choose from the pile that has been accumulating. The Hare with Amber Eyes is an intriguing read - one of the very few books that considers the sense of touch - and it's beautifully written. It's part family history, part world history: the world history story shocks, the family history makes me want to read Proust.
Still with rich families, I'm re-reading Nancy Mitford. I've never been a committed Mitford fan but a novel or two now and again is about right. The Pursuit of Love was much sadder than I'd remembered, but Uncle Matthew is still as terrifying as ever and the first part of the book will never lose its clarity, sharpness and marvellous style. I'm following that with Love in a Cold Climate - and depsite the fact that it's warm outside, it makes me feel just as chilly as Linda in Alconleigh.
And still with rich families, I've just been to Waltham Place to see the organic, biodynamic gardens which are filled with perennials, grasses, and masses of self-seeded plants all mixed up together, and butterflies and insects flitting and buzzing everywhere. None of it is tidy, controlled or fussy, and it's a delight to see real gardening, the type that happens often quite naturally when gardeners are relaxed and in tune with a place, on this sort of scale. (The posy of sweet peas above is from the shop there.)
And the holiday goes on for a while longer; there's lots more cultivating of time to do before I return to work.