So, been a few days. 19 March I had a few meetings, firstly with the Eisenhower President (who, it turned out did non-proliferation while I was in RELEX/A – I knew I recognised the name!) and then at Rohm and Haas, inventors of Plexiglas. That evening we had a progressive dinner laid on by the parents and teachers of a Philadelphia school. But niiiiiiice Philadephia. You will all appreciate quite what it means when I say this was one of the most chi-chi houses I’ve ever been in. Gorgeous early 19th century place. Fabulous works of art on the walls. they had a wine merchant serving us proper French wines (including a Madiran!) and a gorgeous buffet. Philadelphia at its colonial finest. Not Rocky’s patch, let me tell ya! (Only found out that day that Rocky was set here – apparently the thing to do is run up the steps of the Museum of Art like he does in the film!). That night was also the first chance I got to meet any of my fellow Fellows, apart from the dinner with Irina. So that was the best bit really. Anyway, got home not too late so we could get up in time to head off for the real bonding exercise that was Fallingwater.
Early start the next day (6.45. SIX FORTY FIVE!!!!) to get in the cars to drive to Western Pennsylvania. Now, if I got in a car in Brussels and drove for 5 hours, I’d be in a different country, probably even have passed through another in-between. We drove for 5 hours without even leaving this state! We headed west to go to visit two Frank Lloyd Wright houses, one from the 30s, one from the 50s, both marvellous. The funniest thing about that day was the food. You’d hardly called me a dyed in the wool mediterranean, but even I balk a bit at lunch at 11.30 and dinner at 5! Especially when dinner is in the only place around which is the most amusingly small-town restaurant where everything is fried. The people were totally delightful, but clearly non-plussed by their quiet rural diner being invaded by this party of 11 different nationalities! We must have made quite a stir! After dinner we headed to our lodgings, which was a very nice country lodge. We were all billeted in different bits, and four of us girls were in a cottage with a lovely sitting room and four bedrooms – a bit unexpected but very welcome. In fact the place was so cosy and nice, we invited everyone to come there and had a lovely evening talking and getting to know each other.
I woke up at 7.15 as had a semi-arrangement with Sam Thenya to go for an early morning walk, only he didn’t turn up. Had a pretty yucky experience before that though. As I put on my jeans I felt a kind of scratch or something. I put my hand down and pulled out what seemed like a thorn. But still my leg was really stinging. Remember it was early so forgive me for being a bit slow. It was only when I looked down on the floor and saw the many-legged insect crawling along the floor I realised that a) I had been stung and b) the insect had been lurking in my jeans! So then I went through a momentary “oh my god is this a funnel-web spider scenario” thing in my head, then calmed down when I realised that I hadn’t dropped down dead and so was probably OK. Still, all a bit bleagh. And no, Ilse and Abi, I hadn’t left my jeans on the floor, they were on a chair!!!!
After a breakfast of the best pancakes I think I’ve ever had, we got into the cars and drove to the memorial to Flight 93, the flight on 9/11 where the passengers and remaining crew overcame the hijackers. Very moving. There’s a temporary memorial there at the moment, and something permanent planned. Difficult to express really. We then went to a farm nearby owned by a guy who is linked to the Eisenhower thing, works for an aerospace company, but grew up on the farm. His 90-something parents still live there. He showed us round his land, then took us to a local dairy farm, one of the biggest in Pennsylvania. really interesting to watch the cows being milked and hear how something like that is run, especially having seen how things are in Hautes Pyrenees.
We then had a (late! Hurrah!) lunch at a chain that was surprisingly good and then the long drive back. I checked back into the same room, but in the meantime they seem to have stuffed up my internet, so I’m now in the lobby at 1 in the morning using the wireless. Was out with a couple of the new arrivals, David from New Zealand and then joined by Peter from Hungary later. Whatever else happens, we’re going to have so much fun getting to know all these people from around the world.
There was a little black kitty at the farm. Significantly scruffier than my baby, but made me realise how much I miss them both. Hope Simona sends word of them (or better still pictures!) soon! Wish they were here now for many reasons, not least the fact that there is a mouse running round the hotel lobby!