i am happy with another sunny sunday to enjoy japanese winter, though we’ve had a freezing morning: the temperature fell below zero overnight. i don’t mind the cold as long as the sky is blue.
i guess you, if in some christian country, are about to go frantic for christmas shopping (take it easy, everyone!!). i know how you feel right now. as for me, i’m not christian. i’m neither a kid anymore nor one of young twosomes in love (japanese christmas is adopted commercially and adapted exclusively for them!), so christmas is no big deal. still, i’d truly miss the english festive mood as soon as i turn the last page of my calendar. in fact, this december is no exception. i’ve begun to long for the festive mood of england i used to take it for granted. i wish i were back in london, my 3-time second home, just for yuletide.
staying in london for a week would be great even if its winter sky is gloomy, but spending a few days in the country would be fantastical. i had a chance to do that. exactly 5 years ago when shion, my daughter, flew from tokyo and stayed with me in london, mr dreamer took us to newbury in the west of the county of berkshire, where he was at the time taking care of his friend’s home while the entire family (except their furry little creatures) was away on holiday.
english countrysides feel so welcoming while the english winter is infamously bleak. and the house, converted by his friend, jonathan, himself from a grade 2 listed barn, is luxuriously but not ostentatiously decorated with english elegance by his wife, sue. it is as if the house embodies my favourite images of country life just like pictures from the glossy magazine “country living”. in their house, there were two pianos: mini-grand and upright. shion and mr dreamer amused themselves by playing the piano or a guitar in the music room, and i sat back by the fireplace in the lounge with a whiff of burning logs.
whatever we did or wherever we moved within the house, we were surrounded by the ambiance of classical englishness. it is, though, a typically modernised country estate with a barn-turned huge family house and a farm building-turned cottage for guests. several months later, i also had an opportunity to stay at the cottage. jonathan and sue had kindly put up mr dreamer and me for a little while before we moved together to buenos aires in the spring of 2004. (but my decision to quit work for the new life there was a big mistake, by the way.)
the house set in a tranquil rural setting was like a dream. i had such a lovely time there being under the apple blossom in the spring. but staying in the winter was more than that. it was quite an experience to me. i yielded to the sheer serenity as much as i could, looking at the misty meadows and woodlands adjacent to the newbury racecourse and a golf course. the only thing i regretted was i had no proper footgear. it wasn’t that easy to step into the meadow. i’d never trained myself to stomp on that soggy english ground. pity. that’s the downside of the english countryside, i’m afraid.
(i’ve learned that shuichi kato 加藤周一, my intellectual hero, passed away on friday. he was 89. he was japan’s leading critic and the greatest generalist crossing over many different cultural spheres. i ever sent him kind of a fan mail when he wrote on sarajevo in his column for a japanese daily. he wrote me back with his home address. that meant something special to me. so i wrote him again. may his soul rest in peace!)