Well, I'm back. Not without a little trouble I might say, 24 hours later than planned. I seem to have left one snowy landscape and re-found another. As I sit at N's desk in the window (I couldn't face my messy, tiny, viewless office today) I'm looking out at an altogether less benign landscape to the one I last described. All is white - white fields, white sky, white lanes and a harsh northerly wind is whipping up mists of whirling snow like spray off a windswept sea. If I'd been in the mountains skiing I would be finding shelter in the warmth of a vin chaud and cosy restaurant by now. Instead I am in a cold house, hunched against the elements, the detritus of Christmas washing around my ankles and confusing my mind and emotions. I have done so much in the last two weeks that it was weird to return last night to a home abandoned on December 27th, the adornments of that festive family time a strong reminder of that happy week which had receded while away into some strangely distant memory. Now here I am again, forced to unravel the chaos we left behind as we shut the door barely two weeks ago, yet feeling like a lifetime.
Those who travel will recognise this sense of time suspended. You leave with expectations and excitement, you return with a mind full of images and a heart full of experiences. They adjust your vision, they confuse your emotions, they enrich your life. The return that stands out most in my memory is coming back from Delhi. I had been on a short press trip in the long ago days when I was young and worked in travel PR. The intensity of what I had lived in the labyrinthine streets of old Delhi will stay with me forever as anyone who has ever visited India will understand. A mesmerising maze of passageways teeming with life in all its forms - a life so extraordinarily different to our own. Dark boney figures with ivory eyes and dusty clothes crouched beside piles of rice and spices, vegetables and meat, watching wordless as you pass, as alien to them as they to us. Pushbikes and tuk-tuks swerving to avoid people and cows, a cacophany of sound, an assault on the senses, an extraordinary world where life throbs and is reduced to the barest minimum. The night I got back I went straight to a party in Fulham, west London, with a load of mates I'd met on a big ski trip. We'd been having a ball ever since we'd got back from the holiday - endless get-togethers, drinking and dancing. But that night my mind was full of other images, more real and essential than the place I now found myself. I stayed a while but it didn't quite fit that night. I left soon after, taking my suitcase of experiences with me, to allow them to settle themselves into my soul and psyche in quieter circumstances. I needed time to adjust.
So here I am now, trying to adjust again, though less dramatically it's true. From windswept beach to snowy mountain; from snowy mountain to snowy peak; from fun and friendship to lonely domestic chores. N is back at work: the girls are back at school. Just me and the cat, a pile of washing, a heap of happy memories and the view. The stuff of life - my life.