When we arrive, my grandpa greets us with a blue hand. As I hug my grandparents, I scold them teasingly: ‘Have you two been at it again?’ and my friend from the far East notices quickly how in this house, almost every line contains a joke or two.
Over the next few days we listen to my grandpa’s hand, blue and swollen from blood being drawn, dancing across the piano like a ballerina, evoking the sweet romance and slapstick comedy of silent movies. We eat my grandma’s scrumptious home made meals and cakes, drink coffee, witness my grandpa’s balloon creations, chew, talk, listen, translate back and forth, laugh. We visit my aunt and feast on Egyptian dishes whose names we’ve never heard, 5 choices of dessert, make attempts to re-create the Japanese tea ceremony. I play nose whistle duets with my father, who has driven here especially from Poland so we can be together. Traditional German canons, Mozart, Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz. We listen to my father’s violin play, visit my mothers old town apartment, share visions of her new country home. We cycle along the Lake, walk through the empty vastness of a sunny autumn day at the Baroque Gardens, grace statues and fountains, flower beds and bins with yoga poses, walk through crisp cold nights with cans of Hefeweizen in our hands, past the fish of the forest and the lions of the lake. We stroll through the city center with my mother and beautiful sister, posing with Friedrich Schiller and Martin Luther, buying souvenirs at the 1 Euro shop, eating sausages at Bratwursglöckle and buying fish sandwiches at Nordsee for later.
Hannover is a sparkling expanse of the European coffee table. But another is beckoning, off the continent, decked with tea, scones, clotted cream, and jam. P. is just around the corner. How could I pass by without visiting? Daisuke, a true traveler and fellow student on the path of ichidaiji greets the idea with ‘Let’s go.’ So as I sit in front of my computer for an hour, our trip grows a new leg.
Another evening train, another airport. In the morning, fluorescent bars fluttering at the back of our eyeballs, we hover over to the airline desk. We find out our tickets have been cancelled due to late booking and buy the only tickets available, which take us to London Stansted instead of Bristol. It sounds close enough. When we arrive we message Lawrence.
We call him Bond and turn him into legend. Not only because he bears a slight resemblance with Daniel Craig but also because he is everywhere - always - and we are grateful for a coherent plot of entertainment throughout our lengthy trip. We beg him to save us and pick us up from the airport. He informs us that we are at the other side of the country. The plot thickens. We imagine him with a Bond girl, her hair sandstone gold like the buildings of Bath, sipping martinis in a subterranean Roman jacuzzi as he types his message. Bond does not disappoint. He has the answer, instructs us to take the National Coach - affordable and fast - at about ₤ 40 each it only takes about 5 hours to reach Bath. We’re on.
Eating Boost bars and crisps and sipping apple tango from a Stansted vending machine, we watch velvety morning mist turn silky and lift, giving way to a splendid day of honeysuckle sunshine brightening lush green grass, rolling hills, hazelnut colored rabbits frolicking in due-decked meadows, little rows of chimneys on homes, quaint, and charming square figures squatting along the roads, docile and useful like the sheep dotting the pastures between them. A different island, a different world. An old home. What I eat in the morning is called a continental breakfast here, although I allow myself to gorge on sausages, bacon, fried eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns, baked beans, and toast while here - the British morning’s tested way of dragging the farmer into the field, the tourist into town, and the pub crawler out of of his hangover.
We change busses at London Heathrow. Another 2 1/2 hours, and we arrive in Bath, waiting for Bond. It was probably a good Bond girl. Or a bad one, and he had to kill her, which caused unforeseen complications and cost time. That must be it. Will he arrive in an amphibian vehicle hiding its fins in sports car camou? Send a Limousine and have us brought to a secret mansion in the country? Is he already at the heart of his mission stealing a miracle drug to save P. from a bunch of dangerous dealers at Southampton port? Our imagination is so thrilled with his secret quests, we spot him about 3 times before the actual Lawrence walks across the street, apologizes for being late, and greets us warmly, reinstating his actual personality through the coat of fiction we have thrown on him: lover of aikido and shiatsu, classical guitar player, upholder of friendship and loyalty, facilitator of complicated friends’ visits across countries, supplier of information and rental cars in strange cities.