The sun finally found its way through the dreary clouds that have pressed upon us these past 30 hours in London. A whirlwind of tourist attractions have kept us busy, walking over 8 miles just yesterday alone on nothing but fumes and a couple espressos. As I gratefully sit for the next few hours on the train as we make our way southward to Cornwall, I can finally gather my thoughts and take a moment to reflect.
This has been a much needed trip with my family, as this year has seen nothing but studies, work… and more studies. It has been five months now since my admittance to the Master of Wine program, whose birth was but a mile from my hotel just this morning. It has so far been the most unique kind of study I have ever really undertaken. Back in both undergraduate and graduate school, it was mostly reading (lots), thinking (lots), theorizing (lots) and then making an opinion about something seemingly insignificant… something teeny tiny, perhaps the prevalence of a closed door or the relevance of aestheticism to divine truth in late 19th century literature. Whatever you wanted to discover, you could. Just pick a word, a theme, a character… and begin overanalyzing it.
Now, it is about taking seemingly harmless looking questions and fleshing them out to a much larger, interconnected picture of the industry. Questions like “What matters more, what’s in the bottle or what’s on the bottle? Does the wine industry take packaging seriously?”, as my latest practice exam question for the Institute states. You look at it. All the words make sense. The language is fairly simple. But then you stand back and read it again, as these questions always force you to do. Suddenly, that sentence stares back like a 1980’s collection of Encyclopedia Britannica, the kind my mom was always suckered to upgrade year after year. In just a moment, those two sentences seems like a foreign language, an epic novel, which translation fails to approximate. And it is my job to illuminate the great big world from which it was begotten.
So each week, I dangle an enigmatic sentence or two over my head from previous exams. I marinate in terms, seemingly simple words like ‘yield’ and ‘value’ and ‘brand’, and attempt to make them my own. I research, read, write and digress. I go out of context and try to find my way back to sensible relativity. I complicate them, just to attempt to simplify them once they go through the refinery of my brain. And then I submit hours of this incessant exercise to my mentor in outline form.
And often I am told (quite appropriately)… I’ve much work to do.
And so, my incredibly supportive husband and stepson have watched me week after week, as I scribble, read, taste, spit, and occasionally break down. But for a weekend, I (kind of) promised to pause (except on transport!), to give myself permission to just hang out with them on Spring break sans study.
We decided to check out the sites from the heart of the city to the vast open country… in five days. Yesterday, we knocked out a walking tour around Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tower of London, HMS Belfast, and the Shard. We ate at Hakassan in Mayfair, enjoying creative cocktails to start and sharing a bottle of 2008 Roxanich Antica Malvasia Bianca from Istria, Croatia. It was fermented in an orange style, whereby the white skins are left with the must to impart a bit of tannin and give it an amber tone. This allowed a perfect catch all wine for the much-varied Cantonese cuisine bites we were having.
Today, we spent most of our time at the Imperial War Museum, reflecting on the past century’s world wars mostly. It was probably the most moving and well-curated museum I have ever been to honestly. It was interactive, engaging and wonderfully thoughtful in its execution. I could have spent hours more had we the time.
Which brings me to this page, on a train that works its way to Cornwall, where my husband’s ancestors lived long ago when granted land for their service to William, Duke of Normandy, when he invaded England in 1066. Here, they built Trematon castle and dwelt for a few centuries anyhow. Many ‘Vawters’, ‘Valtorts’ and other such spellings are said to still be in the area. We’re coming cousins! A wonderful hotel on the property was fully restored called Hotel Endsleigh, where we will be staying.
The warm, golden haze of dusk is settling on the gentle spring green hills out the window. The soot-faced ewe are enjoying their newest additions to the family, as their babies hobble along the open fields with certainty in their steps. Without a care in the world, I envy for a moment their blissful ignorance. Their fresh young eyes.
The farther I get away from the city, the freer my mind always feels. Uncluttered and stripped of the excesses that threaten daily life. Here, it is still possible to feel your identity… to feel like you are not merely a cog in a machine, a puppet with well-rehearsed lines, taste and thoughts. Here, you are just you. Plain and simple. But it feels so good. So real.