Monday, June 18, 2007

One of those unexpectedly wonderful days

I love unexpectedly fabulous days, days when you get up expecting everything to be normal and ordinary and then somehow it all changes and you are reminded how wildly, passionately wonderful it is to be alive. Take the other day. My son A and I had no particular plans, so were delighted to be invited by G to go along with him on a business trip to Harrogate. A had a day off school, so it was all perfectly above board. I’m not a particularly spontaneous person, but I decided to throw caution and a day full of plans for washing, ironing and sorting to the winds. I’m so glad I did.

I had not been to Harrogate since my first visit to England in 1985. This was the visit during which I decided that actually, I was probably living in the wrong country and really ought to consider emigrating, the visit during which I fell in love with England. I stayed with my parents in a rented terraced house somewhere off St Mary’s Street, with three floors and many very different accoutrements that my Canadian eyes were simply not used to. I loved every inch of the place. Even the grill fascinated me. It was gas, and was mounted above the cooker. Watching the flames leap into life when I pressed the starter got me every time. There was a toilet in a room separate from the rest of a bathroom, and my room had a sink in it. The roof slanted from the corner of the room towards the window, so my ceiling was on a tilt. I had never seen anything like this before. The wardrobe was a freestanding piece of furniture. I was used to wardrobes that were built in. It was different, somehow exotic. Harrogate itself was a brilliant place to explore, with gorgeous gardens, greens and shops I had never visited before. Not to mention the delights of Betty’s Tea Rooms! We spent a lovely week there. Yet for some silly reason, despite the fact I have lived in England for nearly twenty years now, I had never revisted Harrogate.

So I felt quite excited when we set off. The two hour drive passed quickly with lots of good conversation, and the joy of a day unexpectedly spent together instead of apart. When we arrived on the outskirts of Harrogate we stopped at a Sainsbury’s store. To our delight and amazement there was a Starbuck’s kiosk in it. I know Starbuck’s is kind of a love it or hate it thing, but I definitely love it. It is probably because I do not go very often, so a visit to Starbuck’s still has a modicum of excitement about it. I indulged in a hot chocolate instead of my customary latte. I suddenly realised I had not had proper hot chocolate in possibly years. I’m always thinking about calories. This was ambrosia, absolutely delicious, made with seventy percent cocoa solids and topped with real whipped cream. It caressed my tongue with the most amazing flavours. I immediately resolved to order hot chocolate more often!

Aside from the Sainsbury’s on the outskirts and a few yellow signs pointing to new housing estates, it didn’t seem like Harrogate had changed very much. It was still lovely, green and hilly, with gorgeous gardens and trees and lots of fascinating little shops. A and I had one of those days where we really were in sync, and had the most fabulous time just wandering round the shops together. There is something so special about a day spent with A where we really get along and appreciate one another. Fourteen is a difficult age to be and invariably stress, hormones and goodness knows what else cause lots of problems and sometimes conflict. But not that day, we got along beautifully and even walked arm in arm. I am very aware of the passage of time and how quickly A is growing up. I treasure every day that is like our day in Harrogate was.

Miraculously, G finished his meeting just in time for lunch. We went straight to Betty’s Tea Rooms, the most wonderful place to have lunch in Harrogate. There was a queue, but only a little one, and our timing was perfect as within seconds of us joining it, the queue began to stretch out the door, into the street and round the corner!! We just had sandwiches for lunch, but they were exquisite. As for dessert, well, it was a delight for the senses. I have never tasted anything so delicious as Betty’s Swiss Engadine Torte. Layers of beautiful cake, cream and goodness knows what made this the best cake I have ever had. Eating it was a sensual experience and one I am terribly keen to repeat as soon as possible.

After selecting some treats from Betty’s shop to take home, we made our way to the car for the journey home. It really had been a totally unexpectedly wonderful day. Here’s to spontaneity!!

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