Last Tuesday I scrubbed, tidied and primped our little home all day long in preparation for visitors the following day. Whilst my wonderful little man played happily in his imagined world of cowboys and indians, interspersed with a few bawdy pirates and the odd monster, I put away anything that could be put away and shoved the rest straight into the shed out of sight! I sucked the dust out of every crevice and polished to a shine. As the afternoon closed I skipped down the stairs smiling with an air of self satisfaction and promptly slipped, falling to the bottom. Our stairs are wooden, steep and very shallow and I am always warning others to be careful on them! Luckily I escaped with two grazed elbows which are now black, blue and scabby and a very sore, bruised back, which made sitting painful for a few days. Just what I needed!
On Wednesday I was to meet a very dear friend for the first time. A Russian called Elena, from the tough industrial city of Volgograd, with whom I have been corresponding for just under 20 years. In the early days of our friendship life was not easy for her and her family. Elena was an English teacher in the then Soviet Union and was often unpaid for months on end, and her husband, a crane driver, also worked for several months with no payment. I always remember one letter when she told me prices had risen so steeply that her monthly wage was equivalent to the cost of 1kg of butter. Elena remained ever optimistic, always dreaming of one day visiting the UK to put her English into practice. She survived extremely cold winters and very hot summers with her two little girls in a very small house with tin roof, no running water or heating and an outside toilet. I sent clothing parcels and sleeping bags, although the gifts did not always make it to her. Lines in her letters were sometimes blacked out.
In recent years life has changed in the new Russia and become more comfortable and Elena now runs her own private English school. This year she was asked to chaperone a little Russian girl to an English school in Bournemouth and so we were finally able to meet and Elena came to stay with us for one night. I collected her from the station on Tuesday (still hobbling!) and showed her the town of Sherborne, we then lunched at Ham Hill, followed by a wander around Montacute House, all of which she loved. I took some photos of gorgeous Montacute House before my battery ran out of charge!
|Elena and little man|
|VJ, who seconds later had a misty shower as the wind blew the fountain spray all over her!|
|I would love to live in the little Lodge House|
That evening we had a little party with the Russian, the Slovaks (who had a sister visiting for the first time), the Maltese, the Mancunian guy, three little ones and us … all eating a Moroccan spread! The Mancunian guy played the guitar and sang tender love songs dedicated to his beautiful Maltese lady. Different views, different cultures, different accents. All of us so different ... but all the same.
The next day we headed for Bath – the city that never fails to impress. She captures me every time with her grandeur and style, sedate and charming, never blousy, always dignified but still fun. Parks to escape to, streets to be seen in, people to watch. The Russian was captivated too.