UK Musings

IMG_9351The church bells, clanging through the viscous blackness of the chilled night, their peals travelling through the mossy graveyard and over the rolling back lawn of the Walpole’s house, have just announced the start of a new 24-hour cycle, and, coincidentally, the end of my 36th birthday. I’ve been here in Norfolk visiting my extended family for over a week now, with another few days ahead of me before I return home to the plummeting sub-zero temperatures of another prematurely frosty Montreal autumn. As I get ready to go to sleep at the end of this latest birthday, I find myself more than ever aware of the irrationality and fleetingness of time, and how intently I find myself holding onto the moments and events that are taking place around me. Doing so also serves to offer up a different slant on the life that exists for me here in England, one that lies waiting patiently, yet anxiously for my inevitable return, year after year. I come to England to reconnect with my oldest friend Helene, her husband Kerry, and their two sons Freddie and Wills, the latter of whom is my godson. It seems like whenever I come over to visit, I end up getting sick, whether it be from missing a night of sleep on the plane over, or from being immersed in a household containing two young boys building up their immune systems with bacteria and germs solely on offer on the floors and doorknobs of the local daycare. Regardless, my inevitable decline into feeling less than robust succeeds in setting the tone for my stay in this breathtaking country, one whose history of gothic and medieval tales can easily be forgotten in the light of the blazing mid-day sun, but which takes microseconds to regain its position and influence with the return of a single charcoal-edged cloud. Spending months of my life in this history-drenched corner of the country has allowed me to understand what it must feel like to live among spirits, as every turn of the ultra-narrow roads that wind their way through the English countryside reveals another centuries-old church, cathedral, or cemetery, usually complete with a detailed history retold on a tablet nearby for passers-by. As fortunate as I am to be able to have this magical land as part of my make-up, I’m even luckier to have people here who I feel close enough to to refer to as extended family, and, in turn, whose respective families have become part of that extended network of mine. I’ve been treated, this birthday of mine, to a visit from more UK friends who drove from the other side of the country to spend my 36th with me, to a gorgeous meal in a Thai-themed country pub as well as a pub birthday lunch, all topped off with a full, home-made Indian feast that Hel painstakingly prepared over two days. The food, the company, and, ultimately, the network of lovely people and the mutual affection we hold for each other has left me feeling like the luckiest guy in the world, and I feel the need to acknowledge that…to appreciate how blessed I am in this life knowing how much light I’m surrounded with, and to understand the responsibility I have to reflect and pass on that light to everyone else around me in the knowledge that it will travel the globe through the actions and words of like-minded individuals. Thank you to my UK family for leaving me speechless, for making me laugh until I can no longer catch my breath, and for loving me so generously…I am more grateful than these words can ever express.

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