I am ridiculously pleased when friends take the time out to come up and see me. I saw one girl fresh from London's city fields on Saturday and promptly cried. My husband pretended not to notice. Unless he was not pretending. I am not sure which is the more disturbing. The friends who really matter to me and to whom I matter, have done their bit and travelled to see me. Even if they really did not want to. And some of them really did not want to. One urban diva hates it up here. She spends the entire time shivering; looking "shoot me now" miserable. Even more miserable than me. She still comes. Another, this one a Midlander, arrives and plants daffodil and tulip bulbs for me. As she brushes off soil from capable hands, she says: "You are definitely doing the right thing. God. Who would want to live in London?" Time is such a valuable commodity to all of us, that being given a gift of someone else's time is like being given a bit of what is best in each of them. In return, I can offer little more than "thank you for coming" and hope they do not ask if I am happy.
I am trying to fit in but sometimes a visit exposes you adrift in poppied mud, caught between camps. The other night I had a Northumberland neighbour round to dinner with my Londoners. I instinctively spoke out against a town I find grim, grey and forbidding. I have only been to this town once in sunshine. Usually, knowing that I do not like the place, it has chosen to rain on me there. At the very least, it pushes me around with chilly winds. My local friend, offended, immediately leaped to its defence; describing the town as "historic". I shut up. Later, when we were talking about what to do the next day, I invited my Londoners to a fete in a village hall. There was a silence of some seconds as they struggled to find a plausible reason not to go. I now look forward to the village fetes. A recent coffee morning with lemon cream tarts, tea and a tombola where my six year old picked up a bottle of Bailey's Cream, was a high point of the last month. I am a creature caught between two worlds.