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Dear friends, Come closer and I will tell you how Britannia first struck my fancy and made a river through my veins. It began with a secret. I wanted to see what Mary Lennox saw when she pushed her way through overgrown ivy to find an abandoned garden. I wanted to walk on the moors with a boy who spoke to animals, and sneak about a haunted manor with hidden passageways. This was story magic, the most compelling of all wanderlust sensibilities. Then the stories became real while maintaining their mystery. I heard tales of burial grounds thousands of years old, and names like Sutton Hoo or Spong Hill, where ships and artifacts lay mysteriously inside the earth. I heard whispers of stones that stand sentinel in a round while society sped into modernity. Still they stand. I imagined gatherings of communities, rituals, feasts, or perhaps it also became a shroud for lonely souls to find solace in the round of standing stones. A fire was lit. PHOTO BY BRITT CHUDLEIGH

And then the river of words: Beowulf, the Fairie Queene, King Lear and Cordelia, Milton’s garden of Eden, Dr. Samuel Johnson’s adventure to the highlands, Mary Wollstonecraft’s rallying cry to women, the odes of John Keats, the gore of death and dissection in Frankenstein, industrialization and wool, Orwell’s miners, suffragists and suffragettes, the Puck a liar call, and John Donne’s weighty monosyllabic meter. So I gathered the words and I packed my suitcase. I found myself at the oldest university in the English-speaking world surrounded by books, stone walls, and the countryside beyond. I walked cobblestone paths to libraries with ceilings made of gold-leaf Latin and ornate carvings. I explored and observed farmlands and the moors. Lines of poetry united head and heart when I committed lines to memory while overlooking the lakes in the north country. And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it. ( WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE ) It is my hope that our Britannia will catch your fancy, and start a river in your veins.


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on knowing


St. Ives came to me when I could not make sense of words any longer. Yes, I bought the ticket and rode the train to St. Ives, but I didn’t know what St. Ives was. She pulled me to her. I didn’t know. In my professor’s office at Oxford we discussed the symbolism of the Red Cross Knight, how the meter and the form challenged words’ definitions. We poured over the Oxford English Dictionary looking for insight for the word “winged” in John Donne’s poetry. We talked about translation. How translation changed history. Words. It was all so gorgeously overwhelming, but I needed a couple days to find silence so I could re-approach all the words with real knowledge, with intimacy. I thought I had heard of St. Ives in a poem a long time ago. But I didn’t know it was a real place. Childish. Yes. But that’s how I discovered this staggering landscape on my own terms. It came out of nowhere. Nothing was defined. Nothing was certain. Nothing was expected. Blue. Turquoise. Gray. Navy. Mustard. White. These colors greeted me as I walked off the train and up high on the main road. The natural light shocked me with a stillness. With a knowing that I once comprehended in dreams. Later I would learn that the magic of the light in St. Ives is owing to the white sand under the ocean waters. It’s as if the Caribbean waters have met the moody British weather. Bright blues meet darkened grays.




And that’s why artists come here. I didn’t know that. I had been pulled there. So I sat. I sat by the ocean, and I let the words disappear. I sat and I watched the turquoise water crash against the black rocks. I watched storms come in, and I sat at the church on the hill to feel the wind. Intimacy. But I didn’t know. Then there was the aged man who sold me tickets for a boat ride to seal island. He wore a creamy hand-knit sweater and wore a burgundy fisherman’s cap. His back was bent, and his eyes wandered. I hoped he would be our captain. He wasn’t. But I would have bought anything he was selling just to look at his face. I didn’t know. I went to seal island without the aging man. And I watched the boats emerge from the fog.

fierce business woman. Now her son, a life-long surfer, is passionate about giving people a beautiful bed and a good bite to eat. My room overlooked Porthminster, the beach and the sea. I didn’t know. So I gazed until the sun when down and as soon as the sun came up. Then we fell in love. Trevose Harbour House. Oli and Angi met at university in Swtizerland. They both loved jazz and their favorites still played on vinyl in their perfectly cozy and inspiring bed and breakfast. Their goal: good beds and good food. They work hard. Really hard. They once thought they’d settle in Brazil, but St. Ives pulled them too. They didn’t know.

Two years later I had to go back. Probably because Virginia Woolf was about to enter into my life unexpectedly. But I didn’t know it yet. Two years later I brought friends with me. I knew they didn’t know yet what the light would do to their souls. I couldn’t wait to see their faces, to see their hearts lift.

Not only are the beds perfect and the food amazing (their marmalade is homemade and blood, sweat, and tears went in to getting the perfect consistency), but every. single. detail has been given serious attention. When you turn on the shower you notice how pretty and comfortable the hardware is. It’s vintage and new and is perfect with the mid-century furniture. The blues and whites mimic the light of the island. Somehow I wanted to settle in with a book yet go out adventuring at the same time, and I knew that whatever I did would be just right.

We first stayed at a bed and breakfast owned by a man whose mother married the man she shouldn’t have, but she did anyway despite family disappointment. She was a

I walked more. And this time the art found me. Barbara Hepworth’s studio. Who knew? I didn’t know. She died in a fire in her studio. Heartbreaking indeed, especially BRITANNIA 11


after you take a walk through the garden and peep into her studio. It was all like a dance, and I had to look at every detail. Even the plants they continue to grow there.

“My left hand is my thinking hand (image), my right hand my doing hand (sequence).” -Barbara Hepworth

On the way out of town there was Godrevy Lighthouse. The To The Lighthouse lighthouse. But I didn’t know that yet. The wind whipped, and we risked the safety of our cameras against the spitting rain. One month later I found myself back at Oxford, and every conversation brought Virginia Woolf to my consciousness. Virginia Woolf, the woman. Virginia Woolf and her mother. Virginia Woolf and academia. Virginia Woolf and St. Ives. I didn’t know. Í

“What is the meaning of life? That was all— a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.” VIRGINIA WOOLF ⁄⁄ TO THE LIGHTHOUSE




NATALIE RUTH TAYLOR There is furniture on either side of the pavement: a chaise lounge with torn upholstery and a toe missing from a claw foot making it tip slightly, a crooked drawer that no longer fits in its chest, stacked crates that used to hold French wines, and a table where tea bags and chipped mugs sit, waiting to be swirled out and used for another cup of tea, the fifth cup of tea of the day and not the last. This is the maze that leads to another maze that is a junkshop, treasure trove of sturdy wooden period pieces that sell for almost nothing at all. Bath is littered with them — though the ones closer to the city centre are called antique shops if only to raise the prices for the day-trippers from the posh neighborhoods of Londontown — and when I first moved here


I stumbled upon Cleveland Terrace: a row of three junkshops, the middle one fancier than its neighbo with upholstery. The shop is owned by a beautiful, red-headed Austrian. She maneuvers her way th pieces in her shop with practiced stealth and speed. She’s always in a hurry. She disappears behind a and begins to pound tacks into it with a wooden hammer, securing its new bed of cloth.

The shop to her left is chaos, tables and chest of drawers and armchairs stacked higher than their very hair. He speaks only in Cockney rhyming slang, assuming that everyone no matter where they’re fr it. He looks more like a surfer than your usual junkshop proprietor, the typical elderly man with gre hearty chuckle that can turn into an indifferent groan when too much milk has been poured into his

Meet junkshop owner number three — a man known all over town for his pristine pieces of Regency for a good pint of locally brewed ale. He shuts his shop for an hour everyday to take a kip betw roll-top desk. He is a man that has studied art, whose wife makes him a plastic bagful of sandwiches his Cleveland Terrace sidekicks, who smiles and jokes and reassures you that behind those crooked te fingernails is a proper, English gentleman.


ors, combining antiques hrough the 19th century giant, Queen Anne sofa

y tall owner with floppy rom is conversant with ey hair, a red nose and a tea.

furniture and fondness ween a bookshelf and a everyday to share with eeth and polish-stained


In one short year I fall in love with all of them, the familiarity of their accents, the smells of egg sandwiches, wet paint, table polish and molding tea bags, the sounds of traffic that rushes by, and the laughter of the perusers at the dry humor of these three electric and distinct individuals. They took me in, gave me a job and educated me on all things deemed most important to them: how to correctly carry a chest of drawers up the stairs, how to make the perfect cup of tea, how to off-load furniture quickly like they were giving away gold. After my graduate classes I would race back to my little corner of Bath to have a chat with them and talk with an old man named Jack who visited every day to tell us which cut of meat his butcher had given him for supper that night and about the world news that we would read tomorrow. He would never fail to bring me a flower or a kiss on my cheek, calling me Esther, convinced that I looked just like Esther Williams. I spent my days happily here, among the ruins of 18thcentury possessions. I had found my home in Bath, a home that no one but I understood the appeal of. A home that was full of the tattered and forgotten and romantic. Ă?






BY BUS — E. Rhondeau Morgan —

They say we all have a little bit of the obsessive compulsive, individual tics that rarely seem to spring from any obvious history but rather feel elemental to our method, self-explanatory to the voices in our head and baffling on second thought. My husband obsesses over waterstains on stainless steel, a friend can’t climb stairs without counting them by multiples of four, and I have maps. In my head. The unrelenting need to chart out in my mind the most efficient travel plan possible, and I don’t mean travel plans in the way of international connections or even cross-country routes but the daily stuff: walks to the grocery, an errand across town, sometimes merely the flight of three stories and a long hallway. I do it almost subconsciously, the terrain blooming in blueprint between more necessary thinking even as I walk, rearranging and overriding itself as new factors are taken into consideration (the slow of a crowd, a train delayed, the hour of the day), and generally speaking it is not unhelpful and actually in my college days once I cut a ten minute walk down to seven and you really can’t imagine the gift of three minutes in the winter months and a morning class until you’ve known both firsthand but let me tell you, this was victory. Anyway, I map. And then I moved to London. From my flat to the station: .4 miles, 8 minutes walking. One minute on the platform; Jubilee to Baker Street: 11 minutes. Transfer to Bakerloo (one hallway,

the most effortless exchange in the entire system), one minute again. Walk to far end of platform to ensure place on second car, allowing for exact alignment with necessary exit upon arrival (17 minutes) at Elephant & Castle. Two sets of stairs, cross the Northern platform, up stairs, down stairs, line for the lift. 3 minutes. .................... You can imagine the thrill. Six miles of chock-a-block city in a failsafe fifty minutes! It was true, all of it, a marvel of modern productivity, a grand dance, a joy! Even the iconic map parallels this efficiency, completely disregarding any actual topographical or geographical features in favor of a more tidy accessibility. Years of long distance romanticizing gave way to daily affair of a dizzying passion — 270 stations, 11 lines, the inner zip of mastering them all, that tiny flame of smug prowess no matter how many times you’ve waved your Oyster over the reader to skate expertly past the tourists trapped fumbling with their travel cards the wrong way round. There’s a triumph, too, to learning and knowing, to feeling your body adjust automatically to the balance of standing crammed cheek to sweaty jowl in a moving car at peak capacity or remembering from which part of the every station’s platform guarantees swiftest exit at your final destination. Underground, Overground, the DLR; they wooed and won me all.


Which is why I should explain that actually I take the bus. It was strange, how it happened. Suddenly, like a program reset on the new year; I came home from a month away at Christmastime and that morning turned right out of the driveway instead of left. From my flat to the stop: .2 miles, 4 minutes walking. One, two, three, ten minutes waiting on the bench. Priory Road/ Abbey Road to Waterloo: 39 minutes (promised), 47 minutes (usually). Waterloo Station to Elephant & Castle roundabout: one mile exactly, 14 minutes walking (brisk). At black belt level of my mind mapping neurosis it was by all accounts a knife hand strike to the gut, and yet that same afternoon I was at it again, this time during rush hour. With a top deck seat on the front row I spent the two hour commute with a book I’d been meaning to read and the letter I needed to write and even then alighted early with the inexplicable whim to cross Abbey Road and continue straight along the extra mile until home. Of course there were days when this was impractical, when time relegated me to the Underground and a schedule kept me to it. But I came to dread those days, feeling a quiet panic rise up my rib bones at the thought. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the routine. A London day in winter might turn dark by four o’clock, but at least from a bus you could see the night city, watch her people move, connect the confusion of her streets. From a bus I memorized the length of Bethnal Green Road, discovered the Hackney City Farm and learned that men in Bromley have their hair cut late on Friday nights, fourteen barber shops in half a mile, all chairs engaged and a line out the door. .................... Best Bus Seats in Order Preferable: top deck front row (in summer heat: top deck back row); main deck standing; top deck any window. To Avoid: main deck back row right window (engine heat here will make you a hot mess on the coldest day). .................... Soon it became a game: how many days without the Tube, whole weeks of busses, a month, more. I liked the openness of it, the windows, the peculiar center of gravity necessary to navigating the stairs while on the move. It didn’t hurt that my 139 also happened to run the tour route of the working fleet, making a neat circuit through Oxford Street, around 24 LATITUDES LONGITUDES

Piccadilly, past Trafalgar and along Westminster out across the Thames to Waterloo (don’t ever pay the pounds for a Hop-on, Hop-off), but I found myself even more delighted with the sidewinding routes, obscure itineraries into Lea Valley or the long run out to Greenwich. There is a strange intimacy to riding a bus, most especially from a London double decker, a bird’s eye’s watch over a big city made miniature. .................... A lot of people complain about the indifference of a metropolis, and there’s a case for that, I know but I have always felt the opposite in big cities, one count in the crush of humanity. There’s the responsibility to confront more of my fellow men, I guess. To inhabit the same space and breathe the same air. Polluted and politicized, perhaps, but there’s something about proximity, about being smashed up against strangers in a metro station. You start to notice, to respond. The way one woman has tied her hair back under a beadsewn scarf hand-stitched in delicate calligraphies. How a man waits at the end of the platform with his face up toward the sun. When the Italian boy turns in his seat to jabber wildly about the game on his dad’s iPad, expecting you to understand because he is speaking words and it is language and so we are communicating and we can be friends. And you know, in a sense, we are. Í




t is difficult to speak adequately or justly of London. It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy, or exempt from reproach. It is only magnificent. You can draw up a tremendous list of reasons why it should be insupportable. The fogs, the smoke, the dirt, the darkness, the wet, the distances, the ugliness, the brutal size of the place, the horrible numerosity of society, the manner in which this senseless bigness is fatal to amenity, to convenience, to conversation, to good manners – all this and much more you may expatiate upon. You may call it dreary, heavy, stupid, dull, inhuman, vulgar at heart and tiresome in form. [...] But these are occasional moods; and for one who takes it as I take it, London is on the whole the most possible form of life. [...] It is the biggest aggregation of human life – the most complete compendium of the world. HENRY JAMES ⁄⁄ THE COMPLETE NOTEBOOKS



The night closes in around the window-walled room; the view of limestone university rooftops turning to black silhouettes against the pink horizon. My fingers clumsily pick at my guitar strings, trying to piece together “Let Me Be” while my teacher and friend of five years patiently smiles at my inadequacy. He lowers his head, his black, curly hair hanging down, muffling his laughter at my frustrated swearing. “Let’s get a drink,” he says at last. “It’s hopeless,” I say. “I don’t have any rhythm.” “That’s not true, I’ve seen you dance. It just takes time.” But that’s time we don’t have. He’s leaving for Finland in three weeks from this first guitar lesson. We walk down the six flights of stairs from the music room to the Jesus College courtyard, watching the layers and shadows fold and bend outside the window. We make our way across the cobbled streets to the White Horse, a small, very old pub that smells of yeast and hops


and rotted wood — typical aromas of the most charming pubs throughout England. “Lager?” he asks while I settle into one of the cozy corners. I do a shrug-nod combo that he is familiar with. Like I would know the difference. Five years in the UK and I still don’t know the difference between lager, beer and ale. “What did you get?” he says, pointing at my Blackwells shopping bag. He takes out an old, worn hardcover on an expedition up the Nile. “Natalie ... always traveling, even in her head.”

He knows me. Always traveling further and farther. But here, right at this moment, I am content. Here in this small pub of academics and builders, old men with their newspapers and new couples cuddling in the dim light, and us, my Finnish friend and me, spending the last few moments of his time in the UK chatting over a pint and laughing at my incredible inability to catch on to a strumming pattern. This Oxford, the one full of music and conversation and pubs, is vastly different to my Oxford without him.



My other Oxford is full of reading and writing among the silence and the sapele mahogany bookshelves of the Bodleian. I spend my solo time exploring the nooks and crannies of the university’s labyrinth of college courtyards, sitting outside for lunch at the Garden & Vaults Café looking out onto Radcliffe Square, perusing over the household items in my favorite shop, Objects of Use, searching through old books at Blackwells for the ultimate copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets and having the perfect cup of tea at The Rose. It’s a quiet, thoughtful Oxford among the students and scholars. For me, when approaching a city, I focus on the people. They are the ones that change a city for you. Their moods and volumes and motions determine how one experiences a place. How your interaction with them evolves and how your reaction can spurn very different atmospheres in one place. Oxford, a city where I am inspired and motivated constantly, has two-faces, each one separated by the people and the daylight that lead me on different paths each time I visit. And each and every path here is remarkable. So come here without expectations and let the people and the light guide you through the streets and doorways and books of a city made of layers and shadows. Í





Wales: castle capital of the world with 400 on the record and over 100 of them still standing. Here’s the handful you don’t want to miss with reasons to prove it. Left to right, top to bottom.

1. CARDIFF: Roman foundations, Norman keep, and a Victorian revamp with William Burges at the helm, all smack dab in the city’s center. Hunt about the dining room for the carved monkey’s tail doubling as a servant’s bell and, in the nursery (if very quick), the Invisible Prince. 2. COCH: Cardiff ’s wee cousin in the hills, another Burges blueprint built over a 13th c. framework to dollhouse dimensions and kitted out in every romance of Victorian sentiment. In Lord Bute’s bedroom, a domed ceiling in gradient blues and gilded rafters features swallowtail in flight along each panel, the entire space seeming to soar upward with them. 3. CONWY: A Camelot silhouette against mountain and sea boasting two barbicans, eight enormous towers and a grand hall strangely bow-shaped to accommodate the castle’s strangely oblique foothold on a narrow rise of rock against the water. Of all ten of Edward’s castles, Conwy is easily his most magnificent. 4. CAERPHILLY: The largest castle in Wales and most moated in all the world, Caerphilly rises out of a riot of swans and mirrored sky to showcase a host of working siege engines and a turret that out-leans the Tower of Pisa. 5. RAGLAN: One of the last medieval castles to be built in Wales, Raglan is more a monument to monied luxur y than military might and was once famous for its library, housing hundreds of early Welsh texts now lost without explanation. The ruins of third-story windows now steal the show, with views across green country and blue sky.


6. TRETOWER: If Dodie Smith makes your list of literary muse you wouldn’t want to miss this countryside castle, complete with adjacent court house open for walking creaky floorboards. In the garden a grape arbor, fairy ring and poppy field frame the picture, while just past the wattle fence chickens cluck about churchyard tombstones and a two-track road traces the hilltops to valleys beyond. 7. BEAUPRE: In full ruin and well off any beaten path, Beaupre is not so much about the castle itself but getting there in the first place. Slipping between a break in the hedgerow, cross three fields and two kissing gates to where the the castle backs up onto barnyard, hay rolled up along the crumbling stone and sheep grazing amongst the remains of the great hall. 8. HAY-ON-WYE: Not technically a castle, but ruled by a king — from this tumble-down mansion on the city’s central hill selfproclaimed King Richard Booth lords over the town of books from amongst his own jumbled stacks on slanting shelves. With thirty-four bookshops to choose from, make this your first stop. 9. PLAS MAWR: Another impostor on the list, but too close not to count — the most exquisite example of Elizabethan architecture in all of Britain, one tour through this town home is a Shakespearean drama in high relief. Notice the lantern windows like porch lights, a full-color plaster mural above the fireplace, the attic’s fat rafters wood-pegged and ship-sound. Above the doorframe: spes in caelis, pes in terris. Hope in heaven, feet on the ground.




The other guests at Ashness Farm were worried about us, almost alarmed when they heard we wanted to hike Helvellyn, a “razor-sharp” ridge line in the Lake District. “Do you have a map?” Yes. “Did you get your map here in the UK?” Yes. “Good. Are you good walkers?” Yes. We didn’t tell them, but we’re backcountry skiers and mountaineers. They were still concerned. “Did you hear about so-and-so who got lost on the ridge?” No. “Well, everyone gets lost on Helvellyn.” This went on for twenty minutes or so. We were obliging and thanked them for the caution. That night we took a walk up the road from the farm to overlook Derwentwater, a lake at the heart of the pretty town Keswick. I grabbed my Wordsworth anthology. I had to look at the landscape that inspired some of my favorite poets and hear their words on the air, and feel the pulse on my tongue. I would come here too if I wanted to speak and write for humanity. The Lake District is so very personable. I love that there are many working farms where you can stay and get to know the area. The hosts are eager to hear where you’re off to for the day, and make sure you don’t miss that fifteenth century bridge just up the hill. You really do sort of wish you were Beatrix Potter, writing and illustrating whimsical children’s stories while running a farm and basically saving the landscape from overdevelopment and privatization.




We ran out of time and were never able to hike the Helvellyn ridge. Perhaps our new friends were relieved that we didn’t attempt it. So what do we do two years later? We hike to the top of the highest peak in the entire United Kingdom: Ben Nevis. We stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast in Glencoe. Glencoe took my breath away. Dramatic green mountains and cliffs shrouded in a fast-moving fog. How could you not believe in fantastical things just by looking out the car window? Our hosts advised us to go the long way up the mountain, up the backside along the ridge. It was certainly the long way, but it is definitely the way to go. We left the string of people behind, and entered into a more solitary pathway where we could look into valleys below and watch the clouds approach the peak. Once we reached the boulder field just before the summit thick fogs enveloped us, and we could not see far ahead. We had to rely on other senses, and were relieved when we would find trail markers. When we reached the summit it was if apparitions were joining us--figures moving in and out of the fog as we reached the old stone huts built to survey the weather. We had made it to the top, and now we rejoined the throngs of other walkers who had come up the more popular “zig-zag” route. The fog dampened my hair, and the chill started to settle in. We stayed long enough to take a few photos and have a bite to eat. Those stone walls in the fog and the shadowy figures that moved about are all we saw at the summit. But it is a view that I preferred at that moment. I wanted to feel as if I had entered another world by climbing to the highest point in the UK. It ought to feel otherworldly and a bit disconnected. Í





INTO 路 the 路

WEST a scribbled guide to the isle of skye E. RHONDEAU MORGAN



















| tea & coffee


| eat

| sleep

Porthminster Blas Burgerworks The Tea Room

The Old Parsonage Hotel The Ashmolean Museum (rooftop) The Missing Bean The Rose, 51 High Street, Oxford

| sleep

| drinks

| eat

Trevose Harbour House 27 The Terrace

The Eagle & Child The Turf Tavern (13th century!)

The Three Chimneys The Old School

| see Barbara Hepworth Museum St. Nicholas Chapel on the Hill Godrevy Lighthouse lighthouse_list/godrevy.html The Leach Pottery

OXFORD | eat Turl Street Kitchen The Vaults Garden Cafe Chutneys Indian Brasserie The Oxford Cheese Company node/120 Al Andalus Tapas Bar The Trout

| shop Objects of Use Scriptum | view of the city University Church of St. Mary the Virgin | nearby

Scorreybreac Guest House


| sleep The Old Byre | shop Edinbane Pottery | go Misty Isle Boat Trips

Blenheim Palace JUNKSHOPS (Henley-on-Thames*)

KESWICK (Lake District) | sleep Ashness Farm

Henley Antiques & The Ferret 4 Friday Street Tudor Antiques 49 Duke Street * The junkshops mentioned in A Row of Three are located in Bath, but two have since gone and the third is closing within the year,. They were once found at 3, 4, & 5 Cleveland Terrace.




Volume One, Issue One. Travel through Britannia with Ann, Elizabeth & Natalie as they tell the stories that make this landscape come alive.

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