25 Oct 2014
The two brothers hugged in reunion. My heart swelled as I watched. Since arriving, David has been looking forward to catching up with his younger brother. It’s been six months since we said farewell to Jon and his girlfriend Zara, as they embarked on their European adventure. Jon, was looking dapper in a ruby-red velvet jacket and Zara with her red hair, it was great to see them again, and a little weird seeing them outside of Brisbane.
Dave was keen to introduce Jon to a corner of London that he hasn’t experienced yet, and Richmond with the riverside and huge park seemed like an ideal place. The weekend engineering work complicated our journey but we happily chatted and caught up on their new life in London between negotiating the trains and rail replacement bus.
Soon enough we were strolling through Richmond village, past the Green and down to the banks of the River Thames. We had a giggle at the high tide marks and the houses that have permanent water damns at their front doors.
“Why did they build so close?” Asked Jon somewhat incredulously.
“That’s a good question.” I agreed. It’s not like it’s a new thing, surely? I made a mental note to look this up one day.
Further along the river walk, checking out the pubs, boathouses and a small flock of Canadian Geese, we continued up-stream until we reached the a terraced Gardens. From here we climbed up to Richmond Hill and turned back to take in the view down to Thames Valley.
“It’s such an English view, isn’t it” David said gesturing towards the bend in the river. He turned then and pointed out Mick Jagger’s townhouse, which looks out across the same view.
From here we walked through our old neighbourhood from 2001-02, pointing out things like “Our go-to Chinese take-away.” And “That is a great Little Pub”. Outside David Attenborough’s house, we slowed down and tried not to look like creepy stalkers. He has a charmingly English country-style house, much more modest than you might expect. Painted a duck egg blue, with a small rose garden at the front; it is a significant property. Once we saw him pruning the roses in the front garden. I didn’t photograph it.
At the end of the same road is the apartment block where we lived in 2002. It’s strange how the perception of time is altered with age: Jon was surprised to hear that it was only two years we lived in London the first time. To his eighteen year old self, it felt like much longer.
Twelve years later, we had forgotten much of Richmond Park’s layout yet at the same time, everything looked familiar. Autumn was in the air, the bracken was dying off, and the trees were a motley shade of amber. Jon was thrilled that we managed to find some of the deer. It’s mating season so we came across a few lone stags who kept to themselves. We couldn’t help thinking and chuckling about a viral YouTube video of Fenton: http://youtu.be/3GRSbr0EYYU
We circled through an old forest heading back around to the main park gates, stopping at King Henry’s Mount. There is an extraordinary 10 mile view cut into the hedge and forest trees straight through to St Paul’s Cathedral. Very surreal.
By now we wall staving so made our way the Lass O’ Richmond Hill, where we whiled away the afternoon chatting and catching up. We can see that they’re finding life difficult while they’re starting out. We’ve been there too. I found myself trying to walk a line between wanting to help by offering encouragement and advice, but without sounding like a domineering big sister-in-law. We each have to find our own path.
We think it’s a good thing that they’re in London, for a while. Living abroad is a rite of passage. Life experience: learning about what’s important to you in a relationship, in a career, about where you live and how you travel, and experience the world. Everyone can benefit from living abroad for a period of time, and we should never take for granted the opportunity to do so. (I’m thinking back to the Czech girl who grew up in a communist society and was forbidden to travel; and the retired ladies who wished they would’ve traveled when they were young, but couldn’t due to the war.)
Walking down through the village a cheese shop caught Zara’s eye and being a bunch of cheese lovers, we knew we had to go in. Dave pointed out some of the cheeses he’s known and Jon bought us an Epoisse to say thanks for lunch.
Another great day, I could tell David really enjoyed it. That evening Jon texted to say he’d enjoyed the day too.