What are Sundays for?

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I often have mixed feelings about being back in the countryside. Whilst I do enjoy the break from routine and the beautiful surroundings, I am a city boy at heart and find myself missing the hustle and bustle of London life. I even miss the sound of traffic at all hours. But the one thing I can never get used to is Sundays. Back at home in Kensington, there is always something to do, somewhere to go or someone to see. But out here, in the back of beyond, I often find myself at something of a loose end. If the weather is fine then I can always take a turn around the grounds, maybe even have my old camera with me and try to capture the landscape or the local wildlife, but by and large, I find Sundays in the country a little dreary.

Of course, the churchgoers amongst the local population have their own routines, drifting as they do between the parish church and the local public house before returning home to the traditional Sunday lunch with the family. Of course, life in the City is very different. Whilst there are still plenty of Londoners who regularly make their way to the local churches and watering holes, they do so with a greater sense of urgency whilst battling against a tide of non-believers heading towards the miriad of other venues that offer up Sunday afternoon entertainment of some very different flavours.

I remember my mother was always very involved with the local church, but I don’t think my father ever set foot in the place, except for the obligatory weddings, funerals and occasional christening. Personally, I never been one for organised religion and preferred to spend the time at home with the newspapers or listening to the radio.

Of course, just working one’s way through the Sunday papers can be quite a challenge in itself. I know some chaps who only get the Sundays as it takes them all week to read them. Personally, I like to settle into a comfortable chair, with a large pot of coffee beside me, and work my way through the various sections and magazines, with a little Bach or Mozart playing in the background. And there is almost nothing better than doing this in front of a roaring open fire. Now that is one of the benefits of a house in the country, having a real fire to keep you warm and cosy.

I must just say that yesterday’s little excursion to the local restaurant that Nigel was so keen for me to visit went down very well indeed. I was very pleasantly surprised, not only by the atmosphere and situation of the place but also by the impeccable service and truly wonderful food. The menu is simple and based largely on local produce, with just a hint of the more exotic in their desserts. And Nigel was not exaggerating about the wines. We had a couple of bottles of a particularly exquisite Nuits St Georges that I must say complimented the local steaks extremely well.

 

Home on the range

I have been at the old family home now for a couple of days and I must say I am quite enjoying the change of scenery. They say there is no place like home, and that may very well be true, but I have very mixed feelings about the old family home. I have lived in London since my early twenties and my visits here have been regular but infrequent, especially since my parents’ deaths. I wouldn’t say it holds particularly bad memories or even particularly good ones; I just think that I am more at home in the city than the country.

Having said that, being here, surrounded by all the family nick-nacks is often a comfort to me when life begins to feel a little too intense. Although my visits have been infrequent, I do find that when I am here it gives me an opportunity to relax and put my city woes and stresses into some kind of perspective.

I will be the first to admit that it is a grand old place. The main parts of the house are about two hundred years old, but some of the out-buildings and surrounding cottages go back almost four hundred years. It is quite an impressive structure, although maybe in need of a little work here and there – a little like myself really.

For most of the year, my Aunt Sara lives at the house. Sara is my Uncle Adams’ widowed second wife and is actually younger than me. She married the old sod when she was barely sixteen and according to most of the family, she did it just for the money. But we have always got along quite well and I let her stay at the house whenever she wants. Otherwise, the old place would be unoccupied so in that way she is actually doing me a bit of a favour.

Often when I am at the house it can feel a little like stepping into a Jane Austen novel, all plotting matriarchs and houses bursting with sisters. It’s actually quite amazing when you get right down to it how little has changed in the country. Marriages continue to be arranged for convenience, family connections and money. The country set might not have the kind of balls that Miss Austen would recognise, but family parties and dinners are generally organised with the same ulterior motive – matchmaking. I generally try to avoid them if I can, although Aunt Murdock has a totally different view of things. In fact, she only ever makes an appearance when there is a party to attend, and will often as not try to force me to go along with her.

Most of the families around here have been part of the county set for generations; my own family have been here for a very long time. There is a long-standing expectation amongst many people that your’s truly will cement the local ties by marrying one of the more eligible single ladies that frequent the various parties and dinners around here. It’s not that I have anything against any of the young ladies themselves. Many of them are nice enough, in a country sort of way, but they are not really my type. Not that I am sure what my type really is anymore. I can think of two women of my current acquaintance who I will admit to thinking of in a more than casual way. Unfortunately, one is my gay cousin, whilst the other seems to be avoiding me.

Anyway, Nigel came round this afternoon and got me set up on the computer so that I could keep up with my journal. Mind you, I also have a sneaking suspicion he comes here to see Sara, but that is up to him. This evening he is taking me out to try a new restaurant that he assures me is every bit as good as any in London. Whilst I find that hard to believe, I am prepared to go along with him.