I'm back, feeling--as I had hoped--rested, relaxed and rejuvenated. It's amazing how even a few days in a different environment, with lovely scenery, good food and drink, no phone, computer or TV can work wonders. We had a wonderful slightly-less-than-a-week, first at my uncle and aunt's house in Bath for their ruby wedding anniversary party, and then on the Somerset/Devon borders for a spot of R & R and walking.
The party was wonderful; my uncle and aunt had got their cine film of their wedding transferred to video, so we all had a great time howling with incredulous laughter at the ludicrous pom-pom headresses that the bridesmaids (including my mum) had to wear. That aside, it was wonderful to see footage of my granny and grandad (who died before I was born), and even my great-grandmother. It's so strange and amazing to see your parents and relatives before you even were. My mum is younger than my uncle, and she said that she was devastated when he got married and left home. She had just left school, her beloved big brother was gone, and she felt a bit lost--she looked it in the film, too. A few weeks later, my aunt's sister (also a younger sibling) took her along to a youth group, where she met the suave sophisticate (ha!) who later became my dad, so it was quite a momentous time from my point of view. While we were away, it was also my and Mr. Bsag's third wedding anniversary--only 37 more to go until we get to laugh at our outfits with our yet-to-be-born neices and nephews...
Somerset was literally a breath of fresh air. Going to University in Bristol, I've got a great affection for the the deep combes, steep hills and red earth of Somerset. We went on several great walks, but one in particular brought home the whole 'smelling the roses' thing. We had climbed up a long and old green lane to reach the top of a hill, looking down into the combe where we were staying. For those who haven't experienced the joys of Somerset, combes are deep valleys, often containing hidden villages--which you can only describe as 'nestling'--in the woods at the bottom of the valley. I had decided that two pairs of socks inside my walking boots was going slightly over the top, so I took my boots and socks off for a moment. As I spread my toes in the soft, springy grass, sitting at the top of the hill, I looked down to the village, half-hidden in the woods. The walls of the valley were almost surreally steep, with both sheep and trees seeming to cling on for dear life to the precipitous fields. The trees looked as if they had given up the fight and flooded down the hills to form a soft, green pool in the combe.
As we sat, feeling the warm sun on our faces, we heard the unmistakable creaky door call of a raven. A pair of ravens was wheeling and soaring in the blue sky, their calls drifting down to us. I've only seen ravens in craggy, hard places in Scotland before, so it was amazing to see them so at home in soft, lush Somerset. That was the point at which I really relaxed. Well, that point, and the one where we were sitting in a sunny courtyard garden, glass of wine in hand, perusing a rather delicious menu to choose our evening meal. Oh, and while I was luxuriating in a bath full of Radox.
 And nesting on a windowsill of the library of the University of Southern California San Diego, but that's another story.