On Tuesday night, I read a line in Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum, a copy of which I found at our last B+B: “Albert collected good days the way other people collected coins, or sets of postcards.”
Albert also had a “gift for happiness.”
It’s fair to say, I don’t have a gift for happiness and it’s never occurred to me to collect good days, but Albert was inspiring and I got up on Wednesday and said to Mark, “Let’s try to make this a really good day!” He looked at me like I’d sprouted antlers.
But it was a good day, a really good day, the kind of day that justifies the expense and hassle of flying halfway around the world with teenagers. The four of us walked around Conwy, the walled town in North Wales where we’d been staying, and stopped at a bakery to buy Welshcakes, which are essentially dense, flat scones, floury and severe and much relished by me, if no one else. We had tea in a cafe where they served bara brith, a sweet, fruity brown bread that I want to try making at home. We toured an Elizabethan house with a hearth big enough to roast a mastodon and wandered around a ruined castle where there were pigeons everywhere -- perching atop walls, hopping around and pecking up bits of debris, cooing and nesting in crannies. At one point, Owen burst out: “Pigeons are so cool! I love pigeons.”
Owen has a gift for happiness. That, or he’s crazy.
Later, Mark and I took a walk through the countryside and in the course of an hour encountered sheep, hedgerows, a medieval church, meadows, pheasants, Peter Rabbit, forest glens, and gurgling brooks. It was almost sickening, how beautiful it all was. I always thought I had an overly romantic image of the English countryside from poetry, novels, and Masterpiece Theater, but no. Very realistic.
After our walk, the whole family went out for fish n’ chips at a pub. Did you know that fish n’chips are often served here with a plate of bread and butter? Along with deep-fried fish and a pound or so of fried potatoes, you will be served a couple of slices of downy white sandwich bread and a few foil-wrapped packets of butter. As an American I’m in no position to cast stones, but it seems like there’s room for improvement in the British diet.
It would have been a day for a collection of good days, if I had one. We fly home today.