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Saturday 26th July 2014

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I hugged my squirming cats goodbye. They didn’t even seem to appreciate what was happening. We’re going away for a month here, guys. At least try to look anything but indifferent. I am going to miss these two idiots. Loving things only leads to heartache. I hope they’ll survive for four weeks on their own OK.
Don’t worry. We have someone looking after them.
It was my third Saturday in a row without any work! I think you might have to look quite a while back in the diary to find the last time this happened. But we were going to do the lion’s share of the drive north as we were heading to Yorkshire for another family wedding. 
It was worth certainly worth the long drive, a beautiful service, celebrating a long term love, in the idyllic setting of Fountain’s Abbey near Ripon in blazing summer sunshine. Just as the registrar talked about the challenges of marriage there was what sounded like a gunshot outside, so clearly the marriage hadn’t pleased everyone, but in spite of the possible suicide of a spurned lover, everything else ran smoothly. Great to be back amongst  my crazy family again. The younger generation seem somehow quite cool and sorted and normal in spite of their eccentric parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents. I increasingly feel like a lead character in a rubbish Jim Carrey film where someone works too hard their whole life, only to finally realise that it’s family that is the most important thing. These numbskulls have been there for me through all the ups and downs we’ve had. It’s good we’re getting some happy things to celebrate this summer. 
Fountain’s Abbey is amazing. I’ve always loved ruined castles and places of worship ever since I was a really tiny kid and I am amazed that I’ve never been here before as it’s not so far from where I was born or where my grandparents lived. And it’s the most astonishing ruined abbey I’ve seen. Given it’s fallen down there’s an awful lot of it still standing and it was full of staircases leading nowhere and little hidden rooms and an amazing long cloister or cellar almost entirely intact. I wondered what it is about historical places like this that enchants me. Why have I always had this fascination? Why am I still driven to explore? Why do I always feel this connection to the past? Something about my insignificant place in the sprawling timeline of history gives me comfort and makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I was probably a monk in this place in a former life. But then I must have been busy because I feel this spiritual connection to Rome, Pompeii, Fishbourne Palace and most of the fallen down places in the world. But if you’re going to make your mark on the world and you want it to last then helping to build a castle or cathedral or forum seems to be your best bet. The hands that laid these stones have crumbled to dust, but their work lives on. Nothing you or I do will last as long.
I guess humanity has always found this magical and imaginary connection in stones, and where and how we place them. They endure. We touch them and somehow touch those who’ve touched them before. And those who will touch them hundreds of years from now. You’ve got to enjoy being a bit of driftwood in the never stopping river of time.



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