It’s the 4th of June, a Sunday morning, at 7:25am. I have been awake for a few hours and no one but the dog is yet conscious. Magic, though sleepy right now, is pretty much well except for fatty lumps all over his torso. A cursory google suggests it is quite normal for an old overweight dog to be this fatty lumpy, though he has a particular massive one which is coming out from his chest and feels and looks quite Ripley in Alien – it keeps growing and seems to be straining to come out through the skin. So we will take the old fella to the vet. A vet, hopefully called Evette. Colin gag right there – it’d never happen in real life though, right?
May was quite a month. Mark and I went with our friends Ben and Gaby for a few days to Valencia, apparently the third largest city in Spain. We went to celebrate Mark’s 60th birthday. When your husband turns 60, you have to take stock for a moment. 60 is the kind of age you expect your own parents to be. 60 is greyish and sore back-ish and comfortable shoes and free public transport. It is high blood pressure and no getting up ladders. Forgetting things more often and glasses. Various pairs of glasses. Hearing aids. Flat caps. Slacker jaws and age spots, funny little skin tags and unexpected dry bits. Wiry geometric hairs that come out of ears and noses. Sciatica, bulging discs, MRIs and pain specialists. A fondness for early nights and sleeping. More snoring.
It’s a bit weird, all this. So we went to Spain to elevate the man and to make the birthday feel more like an event (Evette) because 60 is a milestone. After all, I went to New York at 30 and Portugal at 40 and so it is quite right that the milestones coincide with a trip on an airplane.
Here’s what eating things in Valencia looks like: tapas at every opportunity, a big old glass of Agua de Valencia which tasted like very nice fresh icy orange juice but was enhanced vai the medium of cava and gin and some kind of mysterious herby Valencian spirit. Tortillas and ham ham ham! Such ham. Warm melty salty ham. Ham that makes all other ham feel pallid and imposter-ish.
A saint’s preserved forearm and some monks. General religious battiness was everywhere and a’plenty. Also, a photo of us at the City of Arts and Sciences complex after walking our 25k steps with niggling sciatic pain. One of us trying to smile through the pain fug:
We stayed at a lovely hotel in the middle of the old town with an impressive buffet breakfast with proper coffee and green juices and more meats! So many meats. Mark was insistent on paying a little more for the buffet breakfast though I tried to weasel out of it because I was being all thrifty and budget conscious and decided the buffet was a bit of a hotel ‘have’ and we would be better off finding a little cafe down the road. I was wrong – the Valencians didn’t really do breakfast other than a coffee and a pastry so PHEW we were locked into absurd feasts every morning. Fortified by meats, we could march through the day on only a little bit of extra strong ibuprofen and a keen eye for the next tapas place with another tray of ham and a fried cheese croquetta.
The whole weekend coincided with a religious festival which saw, on the last day, a march through the town of about 1000 maidens dressed in lace followed by their mamas and grandmothers in serious widow garb:
It was a Spanish-y dream and made me remember when we went to evening Spanish classes with Amber and Glenn at a night school in the olden days, in the olden country. Twenty-five years ago, surely. I do not know what has really happened since, or how we all got so close to/actually reached 60.
So that was May Part One.
May Part Two.
A few days after coming home with my packets of chorizo and nougat, pleased to see the children hadn’t burned the flat down in the powercut, I flew home to see my parents, brothers, sister, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law. It was a gathering of some importance, urgency, and of note, as Dad and Mum aren’t well and we felt we needed to see them soon. We managed to settle on a date and all flew in around the same time to spend a week together. For me, the trip was so long overdue that the not-going had really crystalised into a normal thing. The thought of the trip back home was always dismissed because of all the reasons – babies, breastfeeding, pregnant, covid, money, Mark’s turn, Mark’s turn, Mark’s turn. The ost of the trip back home, in all of the senses, always seemed too high. I was scared, I think. But the call home this time was clear. So I found a cheap flight with an 8-hour layover in Shanghai, and I got onto the Heathrow Express and 40 hours later, found myself with my family, at home, a long way from home.
The last of the guavas and feijoas from Dad’s garden:
All together at the Fat Camel drinking very good coffee and snafling very good ginger crunch:
Mum and Kerry
Actual burial plot – Mum and Dad took us there so we would know where they were. A funny old excursion to have, but a good one. Dad is talking in a typically animated way:
Me and Dad on a walk past our childhood home. It looks much greyer and smaller than I remember. That’s a tree he planted:
All together for dinner at the old butter factory:
Most excellent sister and sister-in-law:
At the airport, about to leave on a windy day on a very small airplane:
So. We were together for a week, and talked and went out and saw things and laughed and ate jammy doughnuts and crusty rolls with ham and butter and crisps inside. I remembered what it is to have family just beyond your own, and it felt good. I know what we have been missing.