What I miss most about home are the people. I wish my friends and family could just all be here in this magical place with me. This week, two of them were. My sister and niece got out of JFK a day early, after learning their flight had been cancelled due to the impending “bomb cyclone.” And it’s a good thing they did. Had they tried to reschedule, the awful weather would likely have cancelled their trip.
They have both lived in England for a time, and visited often, so their return to London was like coming home. I have been to London many times, as well, but not once since I’ve arrived here. I happily took the opportunity of their visit to make the two-plus hour train trip down.
First stop, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I have never been there, and having spent this last term immersed in Shakespeare and early modern English culture, I could not wait to see it. It is not the original, nor is it on the precise site (the pesky London Bridge occupies that), but it is meticulously, historically close enough. A faithful reproduction, it attempts and succeeds at recreating the original faithfully. Small details have changed, like the use of Kashmir goat hair instead of cow hair in the wall plaster mixture (it’s more readily available) and the concrete floor (the crushed hazelnuts and dirt of Shakespeare’s time had to be oft-replaced and made quite a mess in the oft-falling rain). I stood in the place where the Groundlings would have stood and rested my hand on the wooden stage of the Wooden O. Pretty magical.
I walked through the sights, sounds, and smells of the bustling Borough Market to catch the tube at London Bridge, riding to meet my sister at Knightsbridge. I don’t think I realized how much I’d missed her until I saw her. It was surreal to hug her steps from Harrods, but so nice. We had lunch in a quaint, quintessential London pub, ironically named The Wilton Arms ... so close to home, but so far. My niece joined us in the ever-fashionable Harvey Nichols’ Fifth Floor Café, where we enjoyed tea and the smallest scone with the biggest price tag that I’ve had since I’ve been here. Along with some delicious people watching. Any one of the tall, slender, impeccably-clad, and carefully-coiffed wait staff could have been models.
A few days later, they took the train up to the West Midlands to spend a couple of days here in Stratford, and I very much enjoyed showing them around our little hamlet (pun fully intended). The weather was typically dreary and damply chilly, but that did not diminish our intrepid Meyer sight-seeing determination: we visited all the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust homes in Stratford, as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre, Holy Trinity Church, the Shakespeare Institute, as well as numerous shops, cafes, pubs, and bookstores. We covered a lot of ground, and even stopped in to The West End to meet Cooper the enormous Great Dane.
Like when my boys were here, their visit gave me a much-needed rejuvenation. After the boys left, I sunk into the miasma of nonstop essay writing, and I’d finished just before they arrived so I could spend the time with them. Their familiar, familial presence lifted me up and out of the doldrums that the hermetic month had engendered. There’s no place like home, but if you can’t be there, it’s pretty good to have home come to you.
Photos by Diane Lowman