October 21, 2010
Today is my father’s birthday, bless his dark soul. He would have been 89, if he’d lived, but that would have been too much for him or anyone else in his orbit. Anyway, happy birthday, Dad - I hope you found peace.
I’ve been in Norwich for almost a month now, and am feeling much calmer and more confident. I’ve stopped losing things (touch wood), and I’ve lost that deer-in-the-headlights look. A nice rhythm has taken over my days – up (not early because I don’t go to bed early), coffee, write, read, take the bus to the UEA on the days I go there, lunch, library, seminars, coffee, home again. The reading is heavy in more ways than one. I was happy to leave behind Plutarch and Suetonius, but they’ve been replaced by Aubrey, Dr. Johnson, and Boswell. Thank god most of these books can be found electronically so I’m not having to lug them around in what has become known as “my office” – a sweet square bag on rollers I got for half price at Debenham’s that perfectly holds my laptop and books. I look and feel a little like a flight attendant, but it does the job. My neck was complaining to my shoulders and I didn’t want to end up looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
I’m amazed at how much I’m still enjoying the solitude of my life. I talk to other students and contribute at the seminars, but other than that, it’s back home to this wonderful flat and the refuge it offers. I can look out the massive windows to life going on outside, but I don’t have to be there. Yesterday there was heavy wind and hail, but I sat happily tapping away on my laptop while it lashed at the windows. And there is nothing to distract me from the required reading for the courses, because there’s no TV. Night before last though, I felt the need to come back into the 21st century, so I browsed through iTunes and downloaded “Sex in the City.” It was just the ticket – pure eye candy (in more ways than one!).
Last weekend I ventured out and took the train to Hampshire to visit Pip and Selina. It took four hours, but I read the whole way there and back, so didn’t feel I’d lost any valuable time. They were their usual wonderful selves and we had an evening with their friends for dinner, then a fabulous lunch the next day that Pip prepared – roast pheasant with red current jelly, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts (my favourite – no, really), washed down with lots of red wine, followed by apple crumble for desert. Kim and Kalid, old friends, were there, as well as a new couple I hadn’t met before, Rosy and Richard. Pip got me back to the train at Basingstoke JUST in time for the return trip to Norwich. Literally, I got on the train, sat down, and it left the station. Geez.
Nan is arriving in two weeks’ time, which is perfect because it’s reading week at the university and we’ll have some time to visit. In fact, she’s renting a car so we can drive not only to Hampshire but to Cornwell as well. I’m very excited about this because it means I can meet Stella, Anthony’s first and only wife. I’ve pretty much decided to use Nancy Patterson as the subject of my dissertation, and she's agreed. She’s had a fascinating life and it will make interesting reading. Not only that, but the way I came to stay at her place was positively prophetic. She and I now keep in regular touch by email and she's invited me to come to Morocco for Christmas and stay in the desert with her and her husband Daoud. I thought at first, I can’t do that, I don’t have any money. But then gave it a little more thought and concluded I couldn’t not do it. The flight there is cheap - $300 – and when I get there I can spend ten days with Nancy, interviewing her and working on my dissertation. It should be quite the trip. These are the instructions she gave me to get from Marrakesh to her place…
The cheapest way to get to DSB is by the CTM Bus. It costs 200 dirhams each way and leaves Marrakesh at 11AM each day from the CTM Terminus which is on the outskirts of Kesh near the Rail Station. It is about 50 Dirhams by taxi (10 dirhams= 1 euro) and takes about 1/2 an hour. Buy a ticket to M'HAMID. BOUNOU is 4 KM before M'hamid and is a “request stop” so you tell the driver to stop at “BOUNOU" when you get on and also later on just to remind him. The Bounou Bus Stop is right opposite our front Gate.
There is a good enough restaurant in the terminus so give yourself enough time... and if you are early have a coffee and a relax. It is a good modern coach, but does not have an onboard toilet. It makes several “comfort stops” on the way where there are loos. There is a lunch stop of about 1/2 hour in the mountains at a place in the High Atlas called Taddert just before the Tichka Pass. There are restaurants that have nice individual tagines ready for serving and plenty of time to eat. The Driver always counts head carefully at each stop so never worry about being left behind. The Bus then stops halfway at Ouarzazate where there is a loo and a lot of people off and on the the Bus. Then on to Agdz where there is a coffee stand and a loo. Then through the Draa Valley to Zagora (where a lot get off) and another loo. Then onward to Tagounite, the last “town” of sorts before the desert..... I am not sure about loos but there is a “restaurant” which probably has one. About 40 minutes later you will get to Bounou where we will be waiting with a drink and delicious supper at about 9.30 to 10 ish....................and some welcoming music.
So I’m all set then. Must remember not to leave my bag on the seat of the bus when I go to the “loo.” One of the things I will do when I’m there is take a camel trek across the desert at night and gaze over the undulating dunes illuminated by the moon and coruscating stars. Not a bad thing to do at Christmas.
Here’s a photo from Nancy’s terrace at sunset, Dar Sidi Bounou, Morocco: