I took the weekend off from work and traveled to London by train and plane, accompanying Malcolm on his first visit to Arabella Amy Henderson, his newest granddaughter. Arabella is small, having arrived in the world two months ago weighing just five pounds. What she is missing in weight she makes up for in character and she kept us charmed for two full days. Photos tell the story.
Hugo and Ros, the parents of Arabella were our hosts. Those of you who have been with this newsletter since June, saw these two in a photo of a family lunch on my patio here in Cortona. They have a house in Clapham, near the middle of London. Hugo is an eye surgeon and Ros a corporate lawyer.
At midday we celebrated Malcolm's up and coming seventieth birthday with a lunch of grouse (birds smaller than pheasants but larger than pigeons that are reared on the moors of Scotland and similar wild places to be shot by hunters). The grouse were cooked in the oven by Hugo and served along with polenta and spinach.
It was superb meal, made all the more special by the presence of Malcolm's army buddy, Brian Gunton and his wife Jane. Malcolm and Brian have been friends for almost fifty years and have that special camaraderie common to men who have served together in distant lands.
On the Saturday evening Malcolm and I took two of his other London grandchildren out to dinner. Cecily is thirteen and Flora ten. Their parents and older sister, Emily, could not be with us but that was OK because it meant we had them to ourselves.
It was great fun only marred by the camera failing to function so I am sorry you cannot see these two delightful young ladies. I was interested to hear that "Dad's cooking is the pits". The same could be said of Malcolm's.
On Sunday morning, (London is five hours ahead of EST), I watched the beatification of Mother Teresa on the TV.
Ten years ago I wanted to journey to Calcutta hoping to meet Mother Teresa. It is one of my life's regrets that I never made the journey. At that time I did a drawing of her as a personal expression of my deep admiration.
In his homily, Pope John Paul the Second called Mother Teresa "this courageous woman who I always felt was at my side." His words express what many of us have felt. I hope her elevation to sainthood will come to pass quickly. I want to be around for that day.
I don't remember when I last made a long train journey. I had forgotten how pleasant it is to sit back and lazily watch the pageant of the passing countryside.
There are many short tunnels on the line between Cortona and Florence and coming out of each presented me with a new vignette of rural Tuscany, with its elegant green cypress trees standing guard like soldiers around ancient limestone farmhouses.
You see much more from a train than you do from a car. I was able to look down into people's gardens and at one time I spotted a wooden table thrown out that I would have loved to retrieve and restore. The trains run so much smoother on the tracks these days and I found the journey restful.
Before the trip to London I looked in on one of daughter Becky's classes on paper and book making. Becky is teaching students from the University of Georgia who are here on an art semester. Three of my daughters teach. Besides Becky, Ginny teaches art partime in Waynesboro and Mary is a partime substitute teacher in Radford, Virginia. All have a love of children and are patient and caring teachers.
It is back to work this morning. I have a great deal to do before returning in ten days' time to attend the Foundation's Conference and then the dinner at Hotel Roanoke on Friday November 7th.
A piu tardi (See you later).