Our house has a slightly forlorn air about it this week. We have had a run of visitors over the past few weeks and waved the last one off on Sunday night.
It has just dawned on me that we are moving back to the UK in under two months. I am pretty sure I need to do something in terms of preparing for the move. I’m just not sure what. So while I ponder on that point: a post.
Back in early April, we welcomed a collection of Coopers from Bermuda to Rye: Annabel, Guy and their three children.
We spent a magical Easter with the Coopers last year so it was great to be able to have them to stay with us. There was excitement all round when we were reunited. Annabel – a friend of 32 years – and I are godmothers to each other’s sons and our four boys are similar ages. Sofia, nearly three, is a classic easy going third child who has no qualms about getting stuck in with an army of boys.
It was early April, but it felt like midwinter. I had warned the Coopers that they would be relinquishing blue skies and bright sunshine for a New York winter, so they came prepared.
We had the happiest of times with the Coopers – we did beach trips and coastal yomps, a trip to the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport and had a delicious early family supper at Rye’s winning organic burger eatery: Bare Burger. Barnaby and Alasdair, both 7, made straight for the bar, behind which some sports game was being screened. They sat silently like a couple of teenagers before being prised away by their parents.
I am not sure that there is any restaurant better than Bare Burger. I’d never considered a sunny side egg on a burger before moving to The States but now I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We obviously love our children dearly, but it was quite pleasing tucking the scamps up at night and having unadulterated adult time to catch up over dinner.
Shortly afterwards, we opened our doors to a flurry of Philips. There was Henry’s aunt Anthea, her son Jim, his wife Bella and Daisy, a divine, smiley little creature of nearly one. Poor Anthea had been infected by a monstrous cold by a friend of hers so spent much of the trip battling grisly symptoms, while stoically marching around Manhattan seeing the sights.
Soon after the Philips arrived, so did spring. Blankets of daffodils (which I have rarely seen in America) appeared, the magnolia trees proudly showcased their lavish, elegant flowers and clouds of blossom exploded in the trees of Rye.
We flung the French doors open and dined al fresco, the hot sun bathing our pallid faces and making us feel like we were on vacay. Not a word I enjoy but one that increasingly seems to pop up. Barnaby danced around like a loon making Daisy laugh while Rory got cross with her for destroying his Lego creations.
We have lived abroad ever since Bella has been on the scene so had never previously spent much time with her. This girl is a winner and it was such a bonus to enjoy some qwalidy time together. While Anthea kindly babysat one night, the four of us rolled down to Bare Burger (where else?) for a delicious and fun evening away from cooking and kiddos.
A few days later, Henry’s jovial godfather, Anthony, came to visit us for four days. He coped expertly with our exuberant/ exhausting boys and was a most affable guest.
Anthony is also what my dear departed grandfather would have termed a good trencherman. I had remembered that Anthony loves the Indonesian stir-fried rice dish Nasi Goreng, so embarked on an ambitious plan to create it for him, realising all too late in the day that I had almost none of the crucial ingredients. Anthony vanished, reappearing as if by magic, brandishing buckets containing shrimp the size of small oranges. The Nasi Goreng was complete and disappeared rapidly. It is so gratifying feeding good trenchermen.
We then enjoyed a fleeting visit from Henry’s younger brother Charlie who swung in to stay with us for a night after a long session of partying in New York. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to snap any pictures of my brother in law during his trip, but Charlie did share this shot he took on the streets of Manhattan.
Shortly afterwards, my old university friend Clare Bethell (fondly known as Betty) arrived in the middle of a wild, unexpected storm. At 6 pm last Tuesday we were basking outside under clear blue skies and a roasting hot sun; by 7 pm the sky had turned black and demented gales were hurling trees from side to side and blasting sheets of horizontal rain across Rye. Driving to collect my friend from Rye station that evening, I was forced to take three detours to avoid endless trees which slumped lifelessly across the roads.
Unfortunately the weather continued in this vein for the duration of Betty’s trip. She is a hardworking London girl with limited holiday allowance, so this was more than a bit annoying, particularly when Blighty was basking in a heatwave. Nevertheless, Betty made it into the city to see the 911 Memorial and Museum and the Frick Collection and treated herself to the delights of the malls of White Plains.
It gave us all a great thrill tuning in to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get married at St George’s Chapel in Windsor on Saturday. While we sat huddled indoors, hiding from some distinctly British weather in New York, Windsor roasted under cloudless cornflour blue skies.
It was certainly no average royal wedding; American Episcopalian priest Bishop Michael Curry shook things up with his impassioned sermon, The Power of Love, royal reactions to which were most amusing. The Kingdom Choir delivered a spine-tingling rendition of Ben E King’s Stand by Me and by the time Rutter’s The Lord Bless You and Keep You arrived, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. The newlyweds looked ecstatic and the footage of all the pomp and ceremony put quite a pang of patriotic pride in my chest.
During her trip, Betty and I managed a few solo outings away from the boys, always crucial to ensure conversations are completed and sanity retained.
We managed a walk around the Edith Read Sanctuary during a rare break from the rain and then a run in a biblical style downpour.
There was the all-important dinner at, guess where? – Bare Burger…
Then there was Greenwich Avenue, where we headed for a sodden shopping session on Saturday morning in a quest to find an outfit for Betty’s forthcoming trip to Ascot.
As a mother of two boys, neither of whom can be trusted to be let loose in a retail setting, I rarely set foot in a shop. Greenwich Avenue was an eye-opener. Several of the boutiques along the Avenue were charging upwards of $2,000 for their garments. Needless to say, Betty didn’t find an outfit and I came away with a pair of shorts for Rory from Zara.
Henry left for a trip to London on Saturday afternoon and the house was so cold that we each piled on several layers of wool and lit a fire.
By the time Betty departed the following day, the sun had appeared. The boys began complaining that it was too hot and we were forced to crank up the air conditioning.
Such a treat to see my old friend, but I wish I could have arranged better weather for her.
And now, I really must address this move. But there has been a setback.
Barnaby, who has been known to exhibit kamikaze tendencies, has broken his arm.
He rushed onto some monkey bars following a sweaty session on the soccer pitch last week and plummeted seven feet to the ground, breaking both the ulna and the radius in his left arm. The bone protruding from his forearm at a particularly eye-watering angle told me all I needed to know and we raced to the Emergency Room at Greenwich Hospital. The poor boy was fed a cocktail of Morphine and Ketamine, before having his arm re-broken and re-set in a fat cast up to his armpit.
It’s tough for a seven year old who rarely sits still to remain stationary at recess at school while his friends tear about playing games. But that is exactly what he is having to do. Fingers crossed the arm will heal quickly.