I have been away again, this time on my first trip to England. A great friend, whom I met while writing for an earlier blog, invited me to celebrate his and his wife’s birthday by visiting the famed Wild Hare Club in Hereford. The club is not, as the name might imply, an actual physical space, but is a club nonetheless of rambunctious spirits who enjoy a good tune. And Richard puts it all on, here, there, and everywhere, with a little help from his friends.
The gig that prompted the trip included Little Rumba, Talulah’s Goat, and the DJ Daniel Jaye, and was a fun evening at the Green Dragon Hotel–an revamped venue that had for a long time been a shabby lodging for reputably shady adventures, but now was a rather elegant old hotel in the center of town. The music was a spirited mix of influences, from a sort of cajuny, French feel, to the rhumbas and general dancing sort of accordion music that often makes me happy. The DJ provided some tunes that had everyone dancing, and it was a fun night for this jet-lagged soul. I felt at home, and happy, and loved everything about it, from the pre-show cocktails to the late-night kitchen table talk after we came home.
Hereford is a lovely little city, but I was completely enamored by Richard’s home and the surrounding countryside. The big house where his 97-year-old father lives reminds me in certain ways of our house in Craftsbury, Vermont–not because the houses look alike, but because they both have the sort of grandeur from times passed, but the mystery of hidden passageways and rooms, and garden spaces. The gardens were beautiful, even had an archery lane (which I had never seen before), and I could have happily wandered around outside for my entire trip there. But the people were the best part of the trip. Though we had never met in person, I felt as though I had gone to join old friends. Sure, we had talked for years, but it was more than that–perhaps my upbringing. My mother, who had more German in her than English, was a devout anglophile, and passed much of this love to her children. So, much of what I found on my trip was familiar, in ways that I can barely explain.
Last fall, I found myself immersed in Ken Burn’s documentary series about country music. While the show left out a few pieces of history, it was a startling reminder to me of my father’s love for the music, and his own history, much of which I had stored in the deep recesses of my mind since he died in 1985. Losing a parent at a young age is a strange thing, especially when that parent has destructive tendencies that make love difficult when the parent is still alive. I had a deep disdain for most of the music I heard from my dad’s radio, and yet, I knew all the words, and feel the twang running through my veins as much as I know that the opera my mom loved flows through my arteries. My memories of my dad’s preferences revolve primarily around this music, cars, and a love for nature. My mom lived much more in her head, and had a broader list of things she loved. She never traveled in body to England, but she spent a long, long time there, in books and music, and in spirit. We were raised like little British children, with all the stories and rhymes, galoshes and gentle coddling, but without the accent.
I have returned to America this week, days of coddled cream and Marmite past. But I’ll return to the merry olde soon enough, I am sure.