1982: HOME / AWAY
IN THE SUMMER OF 1982 MY PARENTS TOOK A TRIP WITH MY OLDER SISTER, THEN 18 MONTHS OLD. THIS IS THE JOURNAL MY MOTHER KEPT. –OJD, OCTOBER 2012
PART ONE: HOME
What a year! We’re in a house, at last. One with a yard, too, where
In the London on $25 a Day, I found “Lady Hartley,” billed as
I’ve been able to plant my first true garden. This spring, I surveyed
having “London’s most elegant B&B.” She offered accommodations
the small, shaded back yard and noted a splotch of sunshine on
on the cheap in a section called Fulham in southwest London.
approximately a nine-by-twelve foot rectangle. I got Brady to break
Lord knows where that is, but I don’t care; it’s in London so it’s
through the old, worn out turf and tightly packed clay soil while
next to heaven. So I wrote her, told her we had a baby, and asked
I ran out and bought seeds: lettuce, bush beans, green peppers, if she could put us up for two or three nights. zucchini, cucumber, radishes, carrots, plus three six-inch high
She wrote back quickly to say yes, she could put us up and would
Big Boy tomato plants and three six-inch high Romas–for making
provide a “cot” for our daughter. She required a deposit by return
sauce, I figured.
post, which I sent to her forthwith, in dollars, by check. So it’s
I sowed the seeds carefully, in nice neat rows, and waited. settled. We have plane reservations, three night’s booking in London, Lo and behold, they grew! And they’re still growing. (I had help
a passport, and we’re sixty days away from take-off. Four glorious
from little Annie, age fifteen months, who is keen on doing whatever
weeks in Britain! I can hardly wait.
Mom does.) The first thing to appear were the radishes. And they were edible! Amidst all this planting and learning words like “friable” soil, and “cultivating,” which was something Voltaire had advised one to do with one’s garden, I was urging Brady on to other things, as well. I wanted us to do something! Let’s go somewhere, I’d say. Where? he’d reply unhelpfully. Anywhere, I’d say. We can’t afford it, he’d say. Oh, hell, let’s go to England, I’d say. So, after some weeks of this sort of cajoling, we went ahead and made reservations. Next thing I knew, we were having a family passport photo taken and I was writing away for places to stay in London, trying to figure out who would take babies and provide a crib.
At this moment, as I gaze out the window, it is one of those perfect days in late spring. At mid-day, the sky is crystal clear. A light breeze stirs the neighbor’s Mock Orange, pushing its sweet scent into the air, nudging it lazily and obligingly through my open window. It is an exquisite time of year in Baltimore, early June. The raucous Baltimore spring is in its closing phases, having passed through the usual, almost entirely unpredictable periods of excess. This year, for instance, instead of a cold, wet March, it was a cold dry March, featuring a day or two of tantalizing warmth and sunshine, laden with the promise of things to come. Then came April. It rained for days and days without let-up, causing many Friday
gardeners to forestall planting, and turning other, more determined gardeners’ tilled soil to sodden piles of mud. Eliot wasn’t kidding when he called April the cruelest month. April gave way to May and more rain. Then suddenly the rain stopped and the heat ensued. Several days of temperatures in the high nineties force bloomed azaleas, rhododendron, and many other flowers, so that the usual time-lapse sequence of blossoming trees and flowers was thrown out of kilter and occurred all at once. The riotous display of color and scent in springtime that makes Baltimore’s climate almost worth putting up with burst forth quickly and was over, leaving me just a tiny bit disappointed. I look forward
all year to this steady unfolding of spring, to the relatively brief, but
In summer, we would play outside under the great old trees that
lush and orderly sequence of display so characteristic of the Mid- lined our street while our mothers stood about, talking together– Atlantic region. This year’s was entirely too short. But, this year, in
quiet, maternal voices forming a murmuring background music
compensation, I have my garden to watch, to stand over, to mulch,
to our play. They would stage little-girl tea parties for us, which
and to cultivate.
Chipper would attend good-naturedly. And then there were chase
With June comes the honeysuckle, too, which stains the air with
games–freeze tag and hide-and-seek–which we both liked better
its sweet redolence, always bringing me up short to memories
than anything. The honeysuckle climbed around the maple in our
of childhood–and to memories of friends…Chipper, Sandy,
backyard and Chipper showed me how to nip off the green end of
Bobby, and Craig.
the blossoms, pull out the stamen, and sip the nectar. The yellow
For two or three years in my early childhood, I spent a part of
blossoms were sweeter than the white, he assured me.
each day with Chipper. He was a tall, dark-haired, brown-eyed little
The summer I was five and Chipper six, the seventeen-year locusts
boy; the only child of older parents. He was active, kinetic and
appeared, creating a tremendous raucous singing in the trees,
always on the move. But when we played together, he was quiet
leaving behind them thousands of skeletal shells one could pluck
and easy. Together we would spend late afternoons in winter
off the oak bark and collect in jars for future study. I remember my
watching television at his house. He had one of the few of these
mother saying that the next time they appeared I would be a young
marvelous inventions in the neighborhood. Late afternoons, woman, and I remember wondering what we’d be like then–Chipper on cold, blustery days in fall and winter, we would watch Gabby
and I. What would it be like to be twenty-two and a woman?
Hayes shoot cereal from canons and Roy Rogers ride off on Trigger. I couldn’t imagine! Saturday mornings, we were captivated by Howdy Doody and jungle stories about a turbaned little boy, “brought to us” by Buster Brown shoes. Chipper and I would somersault and cavort, or commune quietly. He was a wonderful, perfect playmate.
A GARDEN UNFOLDS, MY BABY GROWS, AND WE ARE GOING TO ENGLAND.
Five weeks to go and counting. We’re to leave from Baltimore on
The beans are sending out string-thin green shoots where the little
an evening flight, which should help Anna to sleep through the
white blossoms had been. The only thing to say about the zucchini
trip. I’ve gotten all sorts of maps and books out of the library to plan
is that I am afraid they will take over the rest of the garden. The
our itinerary. There are several places I especially want to go. I’ve
leaves are huge! And the cucumber! I’ve had to place cages around
just read The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, so I want to go to East
them and hook them on so they will grow up instead of out! Their
Anglia and see The Fens, the flat marshy region in the East of
great yellow blossoms are drying up and I do believe I detect tiny
England. Then I want to head north for the hills, so to speak, and
little green things poking their way out of the stems in their place.
see Yorkshire and Northumberland and the Cumbrian Lake District, A nine-by-twelve foot plot was a little spare for all that I’ve planted. where Wordsworth lived. Brady has been reading up on Robert
Indeed, I should have at least double the space for all this. There’s
Scott’s expedition to the South Pole and wants to go to the Scott
no room to walk between plants!
Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. And then there are the
Anna is enjoying the garden too. I’ve taught her not to pick the
Scottish Highlands. I have been there once, when I was thirteen, green tomatoes, which she calls “memoes.” She capers about the and I want to go back. So mountainous and desolate. Even as we plan our departure, my garden bids us stay. It is taking
lawn, inviting admiring neighbors over to talk, mostly to her because she is so charming.
on real character now. The bush beans are a good foot and a half
She is such an easy child; I’m sure she will travel well. This is
high and the tomato plants are heavy and laden with fruit. I’ve had
a big year: a garden unfolds, my baby grows, and we are going
to stake them, yet they are falling over from the weight of what
would appear to be hundreds of green tomatoes. The carrots are
I love being a mother. Children play one like a musical instrument,
sending up delicate feathered green shoots, but unless you dig them
bringing out the most sublime music, along with the painful
up, you don’t know if they’re the real thing, of the type for which
atonalities. Anna is the best of spring, all year round.
Peter Rabbit risked his life, or not. I’ll have to wait awhile and let nature take its course. Question: How does one know when a carrot is ready to harvest? It’s all going on underground!
This has been one of the best summers of my adult life. Brady and I have truly enjoyed the house and yard. We are harvesting bumper crops of tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans. The flower garden bore lovely, fragrant nasturtiums, a profusion of zinnias, cockscomb and a border of parsley. Two sides of my vegetable garden are a solid hedge of dwarf marigolds. Anna, too, has grown in size and spirit. She is now seventeen months old and gives us so much joy. She has a very definite little personality–spritely, responsive, humorous, and somewhat intense, perhaps. She says many words, including “don’t do that!,” a remonstrance she learned from us, of course. She also says “damn!” She August 4
has a passion for her Blanket and she loves to go out in “Dah’s truck.” She is almost always good company. Most exciting is our upcoming trip. Anna will be a slightly Britainized baby, just as she’s learning to talk. My hope is that it will give her a special ear for the beautiful mother tongue–aren’t I a silly ass! When we return, it will be the middle of September and autumn will be almost upon us. Those hot August days in Baltimore will be gone. But while they’re here I want to praise them. The heat is thick with humidity and causes one to bead in perspiration after only minimal exercise. A simple task like weeding a garden is impossible from 10 a.m. until after dinner.
The cicadas sing, their voices rising and falling in the choruses–true
Baltimore summers. They provide the setting for life in great variety,
antiphonal music, reverberating through the trees, causing the air
in extremes of plenty, for exaggerations of life forms seen in the
to vibrate with life. Vegetation goes mad. If lawns aren’t regularly
more conservative north. It is a sensual climate, with hot, sultry,
mowed, green takes over sidewalks and borders. Weeds grow in
sunny, heavy-laden days. Soon they’ll be gone. The white-hot days
profusion, but so does everything else, so there’s an unremitting
will dissolve into warm, blue-skied ones. And their legacy is a
contest between the Wanted and the Unwanted all summer long.
spectacular autumnal death, in shades of fire: red, and gold.
We have overcast days when it never rains and sunny days with sudden thunder showers. We have droughts and deluges; cold Junes and sweltering ones. Mostly, though, Baltimore summers are sultry. It is tropically humid and the result is a rain forest of luxuriant green, of teaming insect life of bees buzzing their way into flowering trees, barely able to fly away from them, because of their heavy little sacks of pollen greedily collected on their hind legs. Butterflies, mostly of the swallowtail, monarch, and cabbage variety, beat their wings airlessness as they perch on zinnia and marigold. The garden is a riot of color and the butterflies seem almost disguised as flowers until their flat, wide wings move like small fans as they float off to new domains. Birds. You hear them in the trees and see them everywhere. The sound of so many, hidden from view by summer foliage, recalls the phrase “green mansions.” High above the ground in their grand old houses, generations live and die–they play out their little dramas of breeding, nesting, feeding and flight, their little savageries barely guessed at by their human neighbors.
It is time to pack for our trip and my garden has turned to jungle! I’ve harvested green beans continually for a week or so now, serving them hot, cold, fresh off the bush, in vinaigrette en flagrante. We’re up to our ears in beans! I’ve blanched them and sealed them for freezing just to keep up with them. Tomatoes are in by the score, with a few already ripe enough for Anna to pick. They are big, juicy, and sweet. And the cucumbers! They’re everywhere. I slice them and mix them with onions, sugar, and vinegar and serve them as Thursday, August 12, 1982
a salad. I’ve chopped them, thrown them into a blender with sour cream and chicken broth and made a cold cucumber soup. They are wonderful, but alas, I am the only one who likes them! I hope they will keep until I get back so I can make pickles. The lettuce grew well, but not enough for more than a few salads and it took forever to clean the leaves. I shall leave the carrots until we get back in mid-September. How I hate to leave this garden now that it’s ready. I’ve already delivered sackfuls of tomatoes to friends and there’s no end to their ripening in sight.
PART TWO: AWAY
Monday, August 16: London
We have begun our adventure! Our evening flight to Gatwick
Victoria Station. Finally, we boarded a Greenline bus and a little
Airport was uneventful and Anna was a model baby, considering
over an hour later, we arrived at Victoria Station…not in good shape.
the unprecedented circumstances from her vantage point. She has
It was chilly and rainy, and London smelled different. Whenever
learned to say “England,” which comes out sounding like “Inglun.” I am in a new place, I know it by its strange scents. We were lucky enough to be given three boarding passes, though
Luckily, we got a taxi without too much difficulty. (Despite nausea
we had paid for only two seats and the plane was very crowded. and headache, or perhaps because of it, I desperately chased one Indeed, it has been oversold. Next to us was a couple with a fourteen
down a side street behind Victoria Station, while Brady stood
month-old who sat in his parents’ laps for the whole trip. While
firm holding Annie and guarding the luggage.) We were soon our
their baby cried almost continually, Anna slept contentedly between
way to Number 10 Doneraile Street, Fulham, S.W., home
us, with both of us feeling somewhat guilty about our good fortune. of Lady Hartley. I rode most of the way clutching my head while The plane was enormous, seating ten across with three separate
hanging out of the window of the cab, trying gamely not to wreck
cabins so that there were about 360 people. It felt something like
the man’s taxi.
a huge, overcrowded bus.
My first words were “We’re the DuVals. Could you show me to
Just as the plane touched down at Gatwick, however, Anna reacted
the your bathroom, please?” Leaving Brady and Anna still on the
to the unusual motions of the plane by vomiting all over me!
doorstep, I climbed carpeted stairs, taking them two at a time, found
A haphazard cleanup helped very little and I developed my own
the large room “to the right,” slammed the door shut, and threw
nausea and headache as we disembarked. More was yet to come. myself to the floor where I relieved my racking nausea right into We had brought piece upon piece of baby equipment, including
the bowl of a toilet marked “Royal Doulton.” Even as I heaved,
stroller, car seat, and baby backpack. But when we arrived at Gatwick, I knew I was now truly in England. Where else would even the we learned that her stroller had been flown on to Frankfurt. Disaster!
head have “Royal” in the title?
After an hour of going through immigration, we queued up to fill
The sweet, grey-haired lady, looking politely unperturbed, had
out a form for missing baggage, then queued up again to go through
meanwhile shown Brady and Annie to our room, where I soon took
customs. Then we waited in another line to buy a bus ticket to
to bed. Some two hours later I was awakened when a tall, chemical-
blond lady in her late fifties strolled into our room, most improbably “My Christian name is Toni, but I prefer you call me Lady Hartley,” clad in a stunningly bright red shirt and a royal pair of overalls, she replied, looking down her nose at us. Then, as she surveyed emblazoned with an “OshKosh b’Gosh” label. She greeted Brady
the scene of this prostrate, barf-stained mother and baby, and the
with a handshake and then peered down at me in the bed (somewhat
blue-jean-clad mustachioed father with the long, curly red hair,
distastefully, I thought) and said, with great rolling fruity accents:
she added, “Look, there are several excellent hotels in London that
“Helloooo, I’m Toni Hartley. Succumbed to the journey I see.” My head was still aching violently so I was unable to rise for
see if I can find you a room.”
proper introductions, but I attempted politeness and asked her if
I almost threw myself at her feet for mercy. Please, no more
we could do some laundry in her washing machine, as our clothes
traveling, Lady Hartley! Let us lie here, just for a night! Oh, please,
were, uh, in need of a wash.
please, please. We thanked her politely, and just said, well, thank
“Well,” she intoned, “I don’t dooo laundry, but there’s a laundrette 20
are more geared to children. I would be happy to call round and
you for the offer, but if you don’t mind too much, we’d just as soon
at the corner you might wish to use.” Ah, yes, perhaps we shall. stay here, at least for tonight. I tried to reassure her that we would Brady insisted we go for a walk, but it took me the better part of an
not ask for any special service.
hour to get us out the door, because as I unpacked and changed
We all felt immensely better after our walk down the Fulham
Annie and myself and fished around for Brady’s clothes, I was
Road to the laundrette. We bought something called hamburgers
hampered by the constant need to clutch my aching head.
from a “take-away” place called “Fame.” The burgers tasted exactly
One other detail Lady Hartley cleared up for us before we set
as I imagine horse meat would: strong and gamey with the
out on our afternoon jaunt to the “laundrette” (English
consistency of an air-dried sponge. We sat in The Bishop’s Park and
for laundromat) was this: Brady, quite politely, asked her what we
watched some men playing doubles tennis, much to Anna’s delight.
should call her. Only a simple-minded American would ask such
I watched mothers stroll their babies by–enviously, as they had
a question, I’m sure she thought, but after all, is one human being
strollers, and ours was in Frankfurt. Brady carried Anna in the
actually expected to address another as “Lady”?? Lady Hartley?
backpack. I found a dry cleaner and took our newly washed, but
Mrs. Hartley? Ms. Hartley?
rumpled, clothes there for a pressing, which they promised to have ready the next day.
In the evening we walked around Bishop’s Park again and enjoyed a bit of the sun, which managed to break through the clouds, turning what had been a blustery, chilly day into a crisp, clear, autumnal evening, perfect for a stroll along the Thames. The area reminded us a little of Capitol Hill in Washington. It seems to be enjoying a little frenzy of renovation and has taken on the renewed stylish look–as if the neighborhood had once been down, but was now up, and “in.” The evening peace was shattered momentarily by the extraordinarily loud roar of one of the countless planes which seem to fly directly over Doneraile Street, but this one was the supersonic Concorde. It looked like a silver blade with a needle-pointed nose cutting through the sky. A very odd looking bird, indeed.
I am sitting on a bench in the shadow of Kings College Chapel by the River Cam. Anna reclines peacefully in her stroller beside me. Brady is back at the B&B reading The Times. This is one of the most sublime places on earth, I think, with medieval college buildings. The town is tiny, congested, with narrow, winding streets, high walls, passageways, and wonderful little bookshops and pubs. We arrived here yesterday and will leave tomorrow, heading either to Norwich or Peterborough, before going up to Yorkshire. Our accommodations on Jesus Lane meet my minimum standards, in that it is a large and sunny room, but not terribly clean. What gives the place personality is the landlady, Mrs. Holmes, who combines August 21: Cambridge
friendliness with strictness with her rules about when we may run bath water. To further discourage lavish bathing, she furnished us with hand towels. Our stay in London was somewhat hectic. We had to return to Gatwick to claim our stroller, which was, to give the airline credit, flown back from Frankfurt; it took up a fully half of a day to retrieve it. Brady had hauled Anna around in a backpack through the tube to Westminster Abbey, across St. James Park to Knightsbridge, where we found Harrod’s, which we walked through as true tourists, then for a ride back to Lady Hartley’s on the top of a double-decker bus. Next day we visited the Tower of London (my third visit there) in the rain. We were required to leave our newly retrieved “pushchair” (English for stroller) outside and unguarded in the downpour while we toured the interior of the towers.
Most impressive to me was the tower in which prisoners had
her–she was so warm and attentive to Anna. She loved Lady Hartley,
elaborately carved their initials, sometimes with their coats of arms, and whispered conspiratorially at breakfast, “Isn’t it just like staying in the cold stone walls. They bore messages that spoke eloquently
with your aunt? She’s strict, but very nice.”
across the centuries of their frequently unjust imprisonment. The
We came to Hampton Court by train. With its Tudor side and
man to whom Jane Seymour had been betrothed, before Henry
its Baroque side, the palace is an odd mixture of architectural styles.
VIII had claimed her, had carved her name two or three times
The builder, Cardinal Wolsey, had retained it as his residence until
in the wall; a sad relic of a man’s preoccupation and longing
1529 when he lost permanent favor with Henry VIII, who seized
for his love.
the palace for his own and made it the capital seat of the realm, as
The Tower is a haunting place, and, despite the countless tourists, well as his favorite palace. Later, William and Mary had engaged has a power of its own. There is something compelling about those
Sir Christopher Wren to redesign the palace in the modern style
great Norman stone cylinders, with their crenelated watches and
of their day (late 17th century). I personally favor the simpler Tudor
impenetrable portcullises. A somber place that speaks silently of
style. The gardens are a hallmark of Hampton Court and they were
its brutal history. Excavations of the chapel room alone uncovered
extraordinary in their perfect execution–each a careful balance of
a mass grave of more than 3,000 bodies, reminding one of the
conception, form, and color. Most inspiring to a neophyte gardener
atrocities committed in the more recent and notorious times of
such as myself.
our own century.
The Tudor kitchens were, oddly enough, the place I found most
Next day, we joined our quick-found friends–the elegantly
evocative. To think of all those people so long ago cooking feasts
handsome Baxters of Austin, Texas–for a train ride to Hampton
and serving them in the grand style to Henry and his court. Now
Court Palace. The Baxters were fellow guests at Lady Hartley’s,
the feasts are ended and the pageantry over. Yet it was easy to imagine
whom we met over the scrambled eggs and chives–served with
the ghosts of long-dead servants in those great vaulted kitchens.
perfect finesse by Lady H. herself–at breakfast our first morning.
Returning to London later that day, we parted from the Baxters
Helen was the food critic for Texas Monthly for over eight years, and continued on to Picadilly, where we walked toward Mayfair and Ed is a lobbyist for Texas Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I adored
and The Ritz. It was about 6:30 in the evening when we stepped
inside the grand old hotel to ogle those enjoying their glasses of
I later asked my English friend Eva what it meant to have
white wine on the raised platform. The Ritz is all ivory, gold and “Lady” in one’s name, and Eva, ever the egalitarian, Thatcher-hating
rose, elegant in its simplicity, with a long, plush aubusson rug
liberal that she is, scoffed at Hartley’s pretension and said she must
running the width of the hotel lobby. The dining room seemed to
have married a Lord. Now that Lady Hartley is widowed and taking
shimmer, with its soft rose and white colors, illuminated with great
in guests, perhaps she retains her title as a means to clinging to her
glittering crystal chandeliers. Oh, to dine there someday! (If only
more glorious past. What odd people these English are! And yet,
Brady shared such silly longings.)
she was an unforgettable character who made our stay in London
Friday, Brady left Lady Hartley’s, with great apprehension, to
more personal and more memorable than we might have hoped.
pick up our car at Victoria Station, braced for his first-ever drive
Then we were off to Cambridge. Though it was only 57 miles
through London on the left-hand side of the road in a standard-shift
from London on the A1 motorway, it took us three hours to get
car. It took him three hours to return, during which time I did
there–the traffic congestion seemed far worse than New York
laundry at the nearby launderette (now a familiar place), bought
at rush hour.
“nappies” (English for diapers) with “elasticated” legs, and packed.
Cambridge is in East Anglia, near The Fens, if not actually in
We bid Lady Hartley a fond adieu. In the four days we stayed with
them. It is a small, busy little town, noisy at all hours of the day
her, we found her to be a congenial, if somewhat strict, hostess. and night. At night, the apparent absence of mufflers on most of One evening she had very kindly offered to watch Anna for an
the cars that pass beneath our rooms on Jesus Lane keeps us ever
evening so that could meet my old English friend Eva Moore for
wakeful. Cambridge’s colleges are handsome–each surpassing the
dinner and we took her up on it. She had a very silly little dog, other in distinction of architecture, courtyards, gardens, and the hundreds of breakable pieces of porcelain in her sitting room, and
little bridges over the River Cam. It is supremely pleasant to stroll
a photo of herself with the Queen, just to put the right seal of royalty
along The Backs, to see the sweep of lawn linking one college to
on her townhouse domicile in Fulham.
another in a motley line of varying architecture.
It is my third visit to Cambridge and I can never get enough of it. The Kings College Chapel invariably gives me an aesthetic “high”– as the interior fairly dances with a musical rhythm of stonework, light, and stained glass. The best place in the room is up near the great, elaborately carved wood screen, where one can stand with one’s back to it, facing down the long wide room, and gaze upward at the high, wide rose window. The walls of the chapel ascend toward the fan-vaulted ceiling in a perfect concert of light playing off perpendicular Gothic arches. Also lovely are the gardens at St. John’s College and the walk through a magnificent archway to proceed from courtyard to courtyard at Trinity College. The Wren Library, designed by the great architect, is another feast for the eye, as it seems to fairly float above the ground and hover on stone pillars. Since city and town are wearing for both Annie and us, we decided to head north to the country and settle for a few days. Sunday morning, we departed beautiful little Cambridge with our destination the Yorkshire Dales, now famous because of the stories by James Herriot, but given its greatest distinction by the Brontës for their unforgettable description of the brooding moorlands. It was exciting to read the signs on the Motorway with the simple direction “The North” pointing the way.
August 23: Burnsall, Wharfdale, Yorkshire Dales
Now I know why these writers sing the praises of this country.
figure, and perpetual smile, Binnie and her husband Jack–a
We have found a tiny inn, improbably called “The Manor House,” rather nervous, thin, chain-smoking chap–are from Manchester. nestled in the cusp of steep rising hills, or “fells.” Our room is a
Our fellow guests are all English, friendly and chatty, as they are
tiny affair on the third floor, with sloping ceilings and split timber
all on holiday.
beams. One cubbyhole window reveals the foot thick walls of the
The weather has been autumnal all along the way–cool, cloudy
house and looks out on a steep hillside dotted with sheep. The
with the sun occasionally breaking through, and alternating with
other window gives a view of the river rushing cold and crystalline
spates of rain. Brady and Anna are upstairs napping and I’m in the
under a nineteenth century arched stone bridge. Beyond are the “lounge,” a small, over-upholstered, homely room. Binnie just brought fells–great, steep-sloping hills marked by miles of stone-piled fencing. me a mug of hot coffee and has lit the “electric fire,” as they call Burnsall is home to 90 souls, including the surrounding farm
them, to keep me comfy.
families. There is a “public footpath” which runs through farm
Yesterday, we drove to Castle Howard, scene of the BBC television
fields, literally over hill and dale. Sheep and cows are the prevailing
series Brideshead Revisited. Waugh is said to have had this castle
life form here, overseen by hardy farmers.
in mind when he wrote the book. It’s a wonderful old pile, built in
Living next door to the Manor House is the local policeman, his
the eighteenth century by Charles Howard, one of the Earls of
wife, and their slender, pretty, nine-year-old, auburn-haired daughter
Carlisle. It was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, who went on to do
Caroline. This young lady likes to play with Anna. At last we have
Blenheim Palace where he really hit his architectural stride. Charles
a true crib, or “cot” as they call them here, a child to play with
Howard’s descendent, the current owner and Earl, is chairman
Anna, and a kitty in residence. Anna is in her element.
of the board of the BBC. (I learned from our tour guide, in an
Binnie Linguard, our hostess, fixed Yorkshire pudding along with
aside, that he is a widower, undoubtedly a popular guest at dinner
the beef last night. “Just for Phyllis,” she said. We can hear her
parties, much sought after by the ladies.) Our Earl and absentee
singing in the kitchen while she cooks. Binnie is our first host of
host is only in his fifties and is considered both handsome and a
whom it can be said is not strict, but is, instead, genuinely warm
good fellow. He also has several sons, so there are more Earls of
and friendly. Countryish in her ways, with rosy cheeks, a rounded
Carlisle to come.
Anna enjoyed the peacocks and wandered freely about the estate. off against ever-changing angles of hillside and dale. It is a landscape
I did not like the remarks of fellow tourists–mostly English–inside
as untamed and distinctive as any I have ever seen. So this is North
the castle, who made sotto vocce remarks: “really, why must people
Yorkshire, home to the Brontës, and a lonely country it must be in
bring little children to places like this!” We are better off outside
winter. It is at once far more beautiful, yet less forbidding, than the
with our little Annie along. I also did not like the way the tour
Brontës painted it. The people who live in this tiny village must
group was made to exit the Castle by way of a gift shop and eatery.
feel very cut off in winter from the rest of the world. When I asked
The gift shop sported souvenir items of every description, all with
Binnie what it was like here in winter, she replied with a single
the Castle Howard picture on it: Castle Howard soap, Castle Howard
plates, Castle Howard headscarves, Castle Howard ashtrays, Castle
Tomorrow we plan to visit York, the ancient walled city with its
Howard key rings–that sort of thing. Is this what is keeping the Earl
famous Minster, and Thursday we will head northward to Richmond
of Carlisle in his home? We did not buy.
and beyond. I will hate to leave this wonderful cozy village, this
It was a long way back to tiny Burnsall by way of country roads, jewel in Wharfdale. I hope that I may someday return. but well worth it on the bumpy, tortuously angled and narrow country thoroughfares. The dales are even more magnificent than I ever imagined they could be. It is a wild country here, deeply green and dramatically lighted, with the fells creating many contrasting effects of light and shadow, with sun and grey sky playing
Annie developed a cold this morning but we decided to head for
A positively lovely middle-aged English couple came into the
York anyway, as it seemed only a mild sniffling. We thought she
laundrette to do their wash and found all the machines already in
could snooze and snuffle in the stroller while we toured more ancient
use by us. They sized up the situation quickly and by the time
stone buildings. We left Burnsall about 10:30 with a load of laundry
I had returned from the chemist, they had taken control. He–who
and a sense of purpose that we would accomplish much in York
shall be indelibly and fondly recalled in my memory as Mr. Camper–
(side trips to the laundrette between strolls around the Minster??).
had gone to the hardware store and bought rags and had already
As we approached the dale village of Pately Bridge, we descended
cleaned off the car seat. Both he and his wife, Mrs. Camper, were
another steep declivity of dale land and suddenly Annie began
extraordinarily cheerful people who kept referring to Annie as a
whimpering. The next thing we knew, it was a reenactment of “poppet.” Annie, meanwhile, had fully recovered and was capering the descent on the airplane. Anna had vomited. Everywhere. Poor
about the launderette charming the Campers to an extreme degree.
baby! Poor us!
The Campers are so named here because they were camping on
So we pulled into a parking lot in Pately Bridge in search of the Pately Bridge Laundrette (there is always one in every village, no
a nearby fell and had come in from the wilds to do their laundry. How fortunate we were to have met them.
matter how small). We found it just over the bridge, the one for
With laundry done and folded neatly, we exited the launderette
which Pately is undoubtedly named. The view from the front door
an hour and a half later with many thanks and fond farewells to
of the launderette was very spectacular: we were high up on the
The Campers. Further up the High Road, we bought some “take
ridge of a fell looking down into the dales. We were, however, too
away” food, and stood by the car eating our lunch. Anna polished
distracted to give much notice. Carrying our dripping baby, pillow
off the entire contents of a 12-ounce can of 7-Up, restoring her
case-load of laundry, and barf-drenched car seat through the narrow, fluid balance while simultaneously appalling us. By this time, it crowded, picturesque High Street, we entered the laundrette and
seemed futile to head for York, so we decided to visit Fountains
threw everything but Annie and ourselves into the waiting machines. Abbey, near Ripon, instead. While I dashed up to the local chemist (English for “pharmacy”)
Here I might say a few words about the roads. England has “A”
in search of cold medications, tissues, and more elasticated nappies, roads, or main motorways, “B” roads, which are the secondary Brady supervised the clean-up operation.
routes, and what I call to myself the “X-rated” roads, which dwindle
from, say, C-road status to single-lane, highly dangerous, two-way
The ruins are haunting places that bring home to the visitor the
paths no wider than a single car. You literally take your life in your
tremendous impact Henry VIII had on his times and on the course
hands to drive on them. It takes about an hour to drive ten to twenty
of history following the Reformation. Before him, the great Roman
miles and you often have to stop altogether, applying the breaks
Church held undisputed power, glory and vast wealth. After Henry,
forcefully, to pull over and let the oncoming, heedless, death-dealing,
the wealth shifted to the King of England and was never the same.
lunatic-Enligh-driven traffic pass you by. In the Yorkshire Dales, These great ruined abbeys bear silent, eerie witness to the past these little X roads, or pistes, or paths, or whatever you want to call
glories of the church and the rapacious determination of a King
them, are flanked on both sides by charming, picturesque, and
who seized that glory for himself.
entirely lethal stone fences. It is a first-class adventure to drive on
As we wandered along the wildflower path at Fountains Abbey,
them, especially when some of the down-grades are “1:4.” i.e. quite
the quiet peace of the afternoon was rent at odd moments by the
steep! Add to this the fact that we are inexpert drivers on the left- deafening roar of low-flying fighter jets, made famous this past year 32
hand side of the road with steering on the right and four-on-the-floor
for their performance in the Falkland Islands. The English are very
requiring constant shifting on these roads with the left hand and
proud of the Falklands victory, and to the visitor is appears they are
you get a boggled mind.
still flexing their air power muscles for the benefit of the local
Fountains Abbey was a spot of tranquility and beauty–an
citizenry, as if to show them that British might is not just a thing
unexpected and restorative place following our harrowing morning. of the past. We are always surprised at these sudden noisy air displays, It is a magnificent, eight hundred-year-old ruin of many buildings
particularly in these pastoral settings, but realize it is there to
set on beautiful parkland with two or three miles of walking paths
capitalize on the recent boost to British pride and morale
marked by countless species of wildflowers. We spent the afternoon
accomplished so resoundingly in the South Atlantic Ocean.
there with Brady carrying a napping Annie in the backpack. The sun shone, the sky was blue, and the grass was a glistening, velvetperfect emerald color, closely cropped by the ubiquitous sheep the English use instead of lawn mowers to take care of the grass in churchyards and around bare, ruined abbeys.
Yesterday morning, we bid Jack and Binnie Linguard a fond–even sad–farewell, and the only way I could stand to leave was to make an absolute oath to myself that I would somehow, someday return. We left Burnsall, heading first east and then north toward Northumberland, by way of Harrogate and Richmond. Harrogate appeared a handsome, nicely-landscaped town that we passed through in something of a hurry to get to Richmond, the mother town at the northern head of the Yorkshire Dales. This beautiful and ancient town is distinguished for its Norman fortress, its cobbled streets, and its town center which features an ancient and lively Thursday, August 26: Corbridge, Northumberland,
indoor farmers’ market. Richmond appears prosperous, old and
near Hadrian’s Wall
masculine. I liked it and enjoyed the visit to the stone castle with its commanding view from the tower watches of distant hills and dales. It was our last view of Yorkshire before we entered Northumberland, a landscape of very different shapes and hues. Tonight we are guests at an exceptionally nice–even elegant–small hotel overlooking yet another river, this time the Tyre. We are about 16 miles west of Newcastle (where the coal is), in a small, ancient village which dates back almost literally to Year One. The Romans established a town here and last year Corbridge celebrated its 1900th birthday. When we arrived, we were quite fatigued from the driving and sought out a tea room to restore ourselves. Annie was hungry and even a little cranky, as was I, so we did not take much time to
look the town over. Later, however, after we had settled in our hotel
It is noteworthy that at all of these English guest houses there
and eaten a superb dinner of fish freshly caught from the Tyre, is a television conveniently placed in the public lounge. This we took some time to walk around and found Corbridge to be an
has the effect of relieving English guests on holiday of the
exceptionally elegant town with the characteristic grey stone
unpleasant necessity of speaking to one another. The television
buildings piled close together along a handful of streets. The shops
also accomplishes for the British the added advantage of keeping
are well-stocked with expensive-looking items and made me want
curious, open-hearted, talkative American types–such as myself–at
to go in and buy, although I did not.
bay, so that we cannot break through the stiff British reserve that
As I sit here writing in the lounge of this small hotel, the television
they regard as a national asset. When forced to speak, they respond
is on and guests are glued to the tube watching the BBC evening
with surprising warmth and friendliness, but then, just as quickly,
new report. There has been a ghastly murder in Yorkshire! Some
they retreat back into their turtle-like shells.
old lady was beaten to a frothy pulp by a band of young hooligans. Now, Dame Thatcher has come on the screen and breathes down on the viewer like a raging dragon: “We will simply not tolerate this manner of behavior in this country,” she said in her most arch, grocer’s-daughter-turned-Oxonion accent. I try to imagine Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan coming at us across the videowaves with this sort of national reprimand, as if all of us were responsible for this heinous crime. We have misbehaved and our leader must address us severely. And I, for one, wouldn’t want to have to face down Mrs. Thatcher if I had been naughty. She could incinerate you with a look through those piercing blue eyes. Even on television she is a daunting figure. I’m willing to bet those hooligans have now beaten a retreat with their tails between their legs and will never again beat up any helpless old ladies.
Saturday, August 28: Melrose, Scotland
We are moving apace! Yesterday, we visited various sites along
Sir Walter Scott. We stayed at a B&B owned by a very generously-
Hadrian’s Wall. We climbed up a half mile to the top of a very high
proportioned, friendly woman named Mrs. Sugden. Her home
hill, where an extensive Roman fort looks out over miles and miles
is a huge, unlovely, one hundred twenty-year-old granite block of
of hills and valleys. It was a beautiful day: clear, sunny, but with
a house, and our room was enormous. Mrs. Sugden had three
just enough clouds to cast interesting shadows over the landscape, daughters, including the important one, four year old Victoria, who which up here in the north is more golden than green; more
played with Anna, and even more important, “Tittles” the cat, who
rolling than steep. Hadrian’s Wall runs east to west as far as the
gave Annie a good chase about the house.
Solway Firth and was built by the Romans to keep the Picts
After Brady and Anna had gone to bed, I remained up, drinking
from coming into Britain. (Can’t say I blame them. Who’d want
tea and reading a very compelling mystery by Josephine Tey called
anyone with a name like “Picts” invading their territory? They
The Franchise Affair. This is the perfect house in which to be reading
sound very unattractive.) Housesteads, the high Roman fort, involved
this book. It is slightly creepy, rather inhospitable, saved only by its
quite a climb, especially as I had told Brady to go on ahead while
tenants: the cheerful and hearty Mrs. Sugden, her daughters, and
I gave Annie lunch in the car and even considered staying behind. Tittles the cat. Mr. Sugden is absent, out on some very hale and I had second thoughts and decided to go up with Annie in her
outdoorsy business expedition, probably having to do with hunting
pushchair. So I pushed that chair a half mile up, along a steep, and fishing. I would say “hale” and “hardy” are the key words to gravelly path, finding at the top that it had been well worth the
describe this family, whose favorite vacation is skiing or fishing in
climb. The view took in many miles in all directions. Annie enjoyed
the alpine areas of Scotland.
the sheep and the free, open expanse of hillside, which she ran
Since Melrose was our first stop in Scotland, I asked Mrs. Sugden
about having a grand time in her new fisherman’s knit sweater and
to help me with our itinerary. We went over the maps together with
my proposed trip and she assured me that it was not too ambitious
Then we crossed through the Cheviot Hills and through the
given the time we had allowed ourselves. So we can make it through
Boarders country to Melrose, Scotland, home to a nice, ruined
the Scottish Highlands after all, but it does not look as though we
abbey, some very lovely gardens, and Abbottsford, the abode of
will have time to visit Wales, which is disappointing.
We visited Abbottsford today, built in 1812, and found it a handsome, stately old house with an exceptional library. Sir Walter lived the good life in his own time and enjoyed both renown and the personal attention of numerous distinguished writers and thinkers who visited him here. The house is situated on the River Tweed and is enviable by any standard. It is inhabited today by some of his descendants, and fortunately for us, is open to visitors. Annie had a tantrum today, poor thing, perhaps the very first of her life; a little tempest in a tea room in Melrose across from the Abbey. This is actually her second tantrum, both occurring around Saturday, August 28: St. Andrews,
lunchtime. I know it is because she doesn’t get her morning nap
Kingdom of Fife, Scotland
and becomes overtired. Then she doesn’t want to cope with eating odd foods without even a high chair to sit in. So we decided to forego a visit to the Melrose Abbey in favor of calming Annie down and letting her sleep. We bid the Sugden’s farewell and took off for St. Andrews by way of Edinburgh. Our drive through Edinburgh was quick. We did not stop, but viewed with some regret the great granite-grey avenues of buildings and the Castle that reminds one of that described in Kafka’s novel. We passed over the Queensferry Bridge that spans the Firth of Forth, headed for St. Andrews by way of the coastal route to Kilcardy, and entered the Kingdom of Fife. It was a spectacular trip and we can’t help but notice that
the weather ironically improves as we move north. Melrose was
always blue,” she brags. “It never gets hot and it doesn’t get very
all sunshine and colorful displays of gardens and tearooms over- cold,” she adds with emphasis. She requires us to be prompt for flowing with tourists.
breakfast and careful with our plates. Don’t let the child break
We arrived in St. Andrews at about 4:30 this afternoon. It was
them, was the unspoken, thinly-veiled warning. I feel nervous here.
sunny, clear, and crisp. This city possesses much more than the
As we walked along the streets this evening, I heard the distant
Royal and Ancient Golf Course, which incidentally, was founded
melancholy strains of a bagpipe wailing in the night air. Now
in 1754. The Old Course presides over the sea and is the favorite
I know we are truly in Scotland.
playground for sentimental golfers. St. Andrews is a handsome, distinguised-looking granite town rising high above the North Sea. There is the requisite ancient ruin of a castle dating to the 13th century, sporting dungeons and secret passages, perched on a cliff over the sea, providing the visitor with a breathtaking view. St. Andrews University dates back to 1411 (the oldest university in Scotland) and is woven intimately into the life of the town. Our hosts are Mr. and Mrs. Neill at this particular B&B. She is, again, rather strict, and looked quite doubtful when she saw Anna. She’s not used to taking in children, she told us, and warned us to be very careful of the carpeting in our room, which she had just recently had laid down. When I remarked on the wonderful weather in St. Andrews, she warmed up immediately and began to talk of it as if it were Camelot. “It rarely rains here, and then only briefly in the afternoons,” she claims. “We are in a protected area in the Bay of the North Sea. The sun is always shining, and the sky is
Brady woke up feeling poorly this morning, so Annie and I breakfasted alone in the Neillâ€™s lounge-turned-dining room for mealtime. By lunchtime Brady was feeling up to a walk, however, so we strolled out into the town where we found an interesting lunch room set back behind some stone walls. Annie and I shared Sunday, August 29: St. Andrews
various salads, while Brady restored his equilibrium with a full carbohydrate load of pastries. They were excellent, he reported. It is Sunday and the well-behaved Scots take their day of rest seriously. Though the town is swollen with tourists, they seem to be resting quietly within its walls, as the streets are quiet and peaceful. We have repaired back to Chez Neill to take naps, write postcards, and read the paper.
Thursday, September 2: Mallaig, West Highlands
Departing St. Andrews, blue skies, and sunshine, we’ve made
past blooming and is a brownish purple at this time of year. In fact,
our way north. We passed through Braemar on Monday, where
our timing is a bit off in other ways, as well, as the Royal Highland
we slogged through rain and mud to visit a castle owned by the
Gathering was just last week. The Prince and Princess of Wales
Farquersons of Invercauld. Referred to as “The Laird,” the owner
preside over the games in Braemar. It would certainly have been
is chief of his clan. Braemar Castle was a charming and rather cozy
fun to see them.
old pile, with small rooms, winding staircases, little turrets, and
As we penetrated deeper into the Cairngorm Mountains the
lots of nice antiques, but the present lairdship’s wife has awful taste
gloomy mists persisted until we reached Grantown-on-Spey, around
and pink is the prevailing color throughout the building. Worn- dusk. Grantown is a distinctly alpine town which serves as a ski looking, frayed, and tasseled pink slipcovers covered everything, resort in winter and a salmon fishing haven all year round. It was including table tops, and I felt strongly that the place was in need
cold here. Our hosts were the Sheddons, who not only possessed
of a decorating make-over. I wondered idly if her lairdship wore
a kitty for Anna’s amusement, but a small dog which was, approp-
pink and was as upholstered-looking as was her home. It was at this
riately enough, a Cairn terrier. Both Sheddons were wonderfully
point that Brady said he was getting tired of paying to go into peoples’ gracious people and she was a marvelous cook. Mr. Sheddon seemed homes to subsidize their castle-keeping. I agree. It seems an odd
to enjoy the role of matire d’ and waiter and served our haddock
national custom in the U.K.
with a great flourish, complete with an immaculate white cloth
We vacated Braemar in the rain and drove by Balmoral Castle, draped carefully over his forearm, and poured our wine with care. where the queen and her family are currently in residence. It was
Cooked by Mrs. Sheddon, it was indeed the best fillet of haddock
a charming-looking place, but we could only glimpse it, distantly
we’d so far sampled in Scotland. The Sheddons’ rooms were
and wistfully, from the roadside, mere commoners that we are. comfortable and attractive and they made us feel welcome. We met Weather was gloomy, rainy, and misty. I am mystified as to why the
a young veterinary medicine student in the dining room who was
Royal Family chooses this location for their summer retreat. The
doing a summer internship at a nearby large-animal practice. As
Cairngorm Mountains, part of the Grampian chain, in north central
we were up on Herriot and his All Creatures Great and Small, it
Scotland, are thickly carpeted in heather, but unfortunately it is
was fun to talk with him about his work and, of course, superimpose
on him imaginary adventures gleaned from the readings. In fact, As this was the northernmost point we had intended to reach in he was a very rosy-faced young man who looked more than up
Scotland, we then drove south, along the west side of Loch Ness
to the task of practicing veterinary medicine in the deep mountains
toward Fort Augustus, the southernmost point of Loch Ness. We
of Scotland where life in a large-animal practice undoubtedly
paused by the Loch hoping for a glimpse of Nessie the Monster,
requires great reserves of physical endurance.
but she did not surface for us so we pressed on toward Fort William,
Leaving Grantown-on-Spey next day, we headed for Inverness, gateway to the western Highlands. There we had a devil of a time
where we arrived about lunchtime and headed for the nearest Wimpy
finding a place to stay. We tried the Book-A-Bed-Ahead service
Bar–the British version of McDonald’s. Wimpies taste wimpy; not
(called “BaBa” in these parts), usually an excellent and reliable way
worth describing, really, and I wonder what possessed this particular
of finding a nice place to stay, but failing us this time. We booked
British food magnate to come up with such a word to describe his
a room in the tiny village of Ballachulish, a place I had visited once
pièce de resistance. Following our wimpy lunch, we walked around
as a child and remembered with great fondness. When we arrived
the town, which is most attractive. Positioned at the north end of
at the B&B, however, we found the room that had been booked by
Loch Ness, Inverness seems oddly Swiss to me, though I’ve never
BaBa so tiny, we couldn’t have fit both ourselves and our suitcase
been to Switzerland and can’t exactly say why. Perhaps it is the
into it. So we somewhat embarrassedly declined to take it and went
neatness of the town, which flanks the fast-flowing and chilly Ness
searching on our own. We were turned down at the next three
River. Beautiful mountains surround the city in the distance, and
places we stopped, as they were full of Britons on holiday, but found
Inverness seems bathed in crisp, alpine air. I imagine Switzerland
hospice at a B&B near the banks of the Loch Linnhe, run by a very
would be like this. A beautiful setting for this bustling northern
upscale-looking young matron in a very nice house. We arrived
port city, which is the capital of the Highlands. As we stood on
frazzled and hungry and were given a room, but no lounge, to
the banks of the Ness River, we were fortunate enough to witness
repair to. The hotel where we had dinner had closed the dining
a fisherman reel in a salmon from the icy water, a sight which
room and served food in the bar, which had low-slung tables over
enthralled Annie as well as her parents.
which we were forced to crouch to get at our food. Our B&B hostess
would not allow us the use of her living room, even though she
but rocky outcroppings, steep glens, icy rushing streams, stormy
and her husband were going out for the evening, so we were confined
skies, and brooding mountains. We drove by Glenfinnan, where
to our room once we put Anna down for the night. Next morning,
there is a monument to “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” the Stuart prince
our hostess served us very efficiently–if not warmly–a breakfast of
of the 17th century who tried (unsuccessfully) to restore his line
oatmeal and oatcakes and sent us on our way, loaded with oats.
to the throne. (The Scots seem incapable of referring to this prince
I feel a little out of my depth here in Scotland. Every time I hear an English accent, which sounds so silken and elegant compared
without the epithet “Bonnie” at the front of his name. He must have been quite the good looking chappie.)
to the Scottish burr that grows rougher and more clipped as we
We have arrived in the town of Mallaig, a fishing village which
head northwesterly, I grow nostalgic for the south. Scotland is lovely,
boasts a commanding view of the Isle of Skye and other islands of
with dramatic scenery, and nice people, though not as warm and
the Inner and Outer Hebrides. As we perch in the hillside home
gracious as we found the English to be. Also, once we got outside
of our B&B hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Henderson, we may watch the
of St. Andrews and the influence of Mrs. Neill presiding over her
sun set over the Atlantic’s horizon, casting golden tinted shadows
Kingdom of Fife, the weather grew cold, windy, and rainy. The
on the purple Hebrides, cloaked in their evening mists. Skies are
terrain is rugged and somewhat desolate. Perhaps I am suffering
stormier than ever, while the mountains appear dark and uninviting.
from a bout of traveler’s loneliness.
Brady is in his element here. Shortly after our arrival, he learned
The drive on the way to the west Highlands took us through
from Mrs. Henderson that there was to be a fish auction down in
much magnificent terrain. Ben Nevis is outside of Fort William,
the village, so he sprinted off on foot to the town to see about it.
and is Britain’s highest mountain, with its peak standing 4418 feet
Does he plan to return with a bargain haddock?
above the sea. This does not sound very high, but with the country
Actually, he returned later to tell me excitedly that tomorrow we
primarily at sea level, the rising mountains of the Highlands appear
may board a boat bound for the Kyle of Lochalsh where we can
steep and rugged. If the Cairngorms seemed desolate in the mists,
get a ferry to convey us to the Isle of Skye. There we may take a
they are nothing when compared with the Northwest Highland
touring bus across the island to Armandale. Then back again the
country. Here there is no thick carpet of heather to soften the earth,
same day! Sounds exhausting to me.
ANNA IS THE BEST OF SPRING, ALL YEAR ROUND.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Henderson runs a tight ship. She is a middle-aged, While Brady attended the fish auction, I attempted to relax and bespectacled, no-nonsense woman who moves about as if on speed
read in the lounge, warmed by the glow of the electric fire. Annie
skates. A fisherman’s daughter, she is very “Scotch,” not just in her
was upstairs, napping fitfully. Every five minutes or so, I had to
accent, but in her manner of running her lodging. I spent a good
check in and try to calm her down, and each time I returned to
fifteen minutes this morning searching in vain for the tub stopper,
the lounge to take up my book, I found that Mrs. Henderson has
which I thought Anna had found and misplaced, so I could have
come in, silent as a cat, and turned off the light and the fire. I turn
a bath in her beautiful, commodious tub. Mrs. Henderson’s was
both back on, run back upstairs, and return to find both light and
the most beautiful bathroom we had encountered in all of Britain. fire extinguished once again. Mrs. Henderson and I carried on this
The room was large, carpeted in a thick, furry shag rug, and the
running, silent battle, she against the high cost of electricity, me
tub was outsized and proportionately inviting. After my fruitless
against the chilly, stormy Highland air, both inside and outside
search for the stopper, I made inquiries and learned that she had
the house. Finally, we meet in the lounge and lock eyes just as I
removed the stopper from the bathroom deliberately, because
am turning on the light and the fire for the fourth time. We call a
“people were using the tub so much.” She explained: “It was
truce. She discusses the high cost of electricity, while I marvel at
unbelievable! Two, sometimes three baths in a night! I had to put a stop to it!”
the arctic temperatures. We discuss childcare and childbirth, subjects she warms to
But Mrs. Henderson, I whined, may I please use it? “You may
immediately. “Ooochh, childbirth is terrrrible,” she intones. She
use the shower downstairs, upon request,” she replied firmly. This
points to the wall by the fire, at the portraits of her three children.
was a tiny stall to which I repaired meekly, after making my formal “See that one? I almost died in childbirth with her! The worst time plea, clothed in a towel, only to find Mr. Henderson already inside
of my life,” she told me. “And the second one! I had to be shipped
and showering away. He emerged moments later and I was stunned
to Inverness. The labor lasted for four days!” “The third one was
to see a man of extraordinary handsomeness. Tall, strongly-built, even worse! Terrible, terrible thing, childbirth. Thank God it’s with the face of a movie star. A fisherman, with the high color and outdoors vibrancy of a man who spends his time at sea, hauling in only the most gigantic haddock the Atlantic has to offer, I’m sure.
over!” It turns out Mrs. Henderson has this wildly funny sense of
humor. Or, at least, I thought she was being funny. She had me
It has caused Brady to think of a new marketing idea: the eight-day
falling out of my chair laughing while she detailed, completely
disposable diaper, or nappie, as they insist on calling them here.
deadpan, her harrowing experiences of motherhood.
(Note to the dowdy American traveler who contemplates bringing
I remarked on all the haddock we had been served in Scotland, a baby: bring a month’s supply of your own nappies with you, no and she said, “Yes, we’re a nation of haddock and chips!” Something else that is a specialty of Scotland is haggis, a sort of
matter what the inconveniences of bulky baggage at the airport pose. In the long run it will be worth the brief harassment.)
Scottish egg roll made up of a concoction of sheep’s stomach mixed with various other chopped bits of unrecognizable organic matter, rolled in a light batter and deep fat-fried. It was tasty and rich in flavor, far more memorable than a Wimpy, but not something one would savor often in this era of warnings over the dangers of cholesterol-laden foods. I am certain more than one haggis a month would lead to cardiac arrest. While we are regaling ourselves with the flavors and sights of Scotland, we are also contending with the vicissitudes of eccentric guest house hosts and poorly designed British paper diapers, called Snugglers. Once damp, they fold into funnels which convey the flow of Annie’s pee pee right down her legs and into her shoes. Without “elasticated” legs, these British nappies aren’t worth a damn. At other times, the tape tabs adhere to her thighs, causing nasty looking skin abrasions. At still other times, the darn Snugglers simply fall off without warning. Yesterday, I caught a Snuggler emerging from Annie’s left overall pant leg bottom, at ankle level.
Friday, September 3: Mallaig, Northwest Highlands
We have made our trip to the Hebrides amidst grey skies and stormy
little too spare of points of interest to generate in me the right level
seas. Morning dawned chilly, dark, and fearful, with the black, of enthusiasm. I liked being on Skye because then I could boast to hulking outline of the Inner Hebrides emerging threateningly from
my friends that I had been in the Hebrides, which sounds very
their morning mists. We made our way to the dock in Mallaig to
romantic and adventurous, but, in fact, Skye was just a nice, rural,
board the steamboat bound for the Kyle of Lochalch, Scotland’s
sheep-ridden island; attractive perhaps to the camper or trekker,
jumping off point for the Isle of Skye. The boat cut through white- but not to those on a touring bus. Sparsely populated, Skye offered capped, storm-tossed seas, while I remained inside with Annie, not much to do, nor much to see–at least from the window of away from the cold blasts of wind, praying that she would not
a bus; indeed, it was a rather featureless landscape for one who
respond to the unusual motion of the boat with an encore
had become somewhat spoiled by the dark drama of northwest
performance of our descent into London and Pately Bridge. After
the boat ride, we waiting at the dock in the Kyle of Lochalch for
So we returned to Mallaig and the warmth of Mrs. Henderson’s
the ferry to transport us to Skye. It was about a two hour trip to the
electric fire some six hours later, happily anticipating a nice haddock
Kyle, and perhaps another 45 minutes to Skye, where we landed
and chips dinner and an early bedtime. I caught another glimpse
at Kyleakin for the bus ride to Armandale, another couple of
of the magnificent Mr. Henderson, heading out the door into the
hours on the road.
damp and chilly night air, aptly clad in a fisherman’s knit sweater
I hate to be a critical tourist, always expecting great things on
woven from wool, no doubt, courtesy of the sheep on the Isle of
every tour (which, in truth, I don’t), but frankly the trip to Armandale
Skye. He was most certainly heading for the dock to hobnob with
was a washout. Skye was obviously not created with the tourist in
fellow fishermen, and perhaps to flex his muscles for the next day’s
mind. It was, in fact, far more interesting looking out at it from the
catch. I watched him depart, rather wistfully.
mainland than it was in person. The bus took us along a country
Meanwhile, Mrs. Henderson advised us on where to find the
road where we passed many sheep, the very ones who provide
best cooked haddock in town and we found it in the restaurant of
discerning buyers with good wool sweaters and kilts. The outer
a small hotel. The meal provided us with no surprises: chips and
Hebrides Island of Harris is even better known for its tweeds. But
haddock were both fried to a turn.
other than the sheep and the wool supplied therefrom, Skye was a
We have found here at Shundraw Farm, lifelong home of our sixtyish hostess Mrs. Harrison, a quaint, comfortable old farmhouse four miles east of Keswick (pronounced Kezzick). Part of the house (the part our room is in) was built in 1712. If sloping floors, lowhanging split timber beams, and wavy walls is a sign of early 18th century quaint, this is quintessential quaint. Our window, set deep in the wall, is tiny, with glass panes that slide from left to right, giving us a view out across the valley to a high massif called Threlkeld Common, where one may see sheep nicely arranged on its slopes. Tonight, the wind is blowing, causing an eerie low Sunday, September 5: Shundraw Farm, St. John’s in the Vale near Keswick, Cumbria (Lake District), England
whistling throughout this wing of the house. I like it here, though it lacks the Linguards’ atmosphere of bonhomie, set by the irrepressible Binnie. Our fellow guests at this wayside farm are a young Australian couple who have been traveling since March all over Britain and the Continent. All I can do is envy them their seemingly limitless state of freedom. Other guests are two middle-aged men from Cambridge who form an odd couple: the one tall, lean, deaf, and a witty eccentric who his friend calls “Collie,” short for Colin, I think; the other chap round, charming and handsome, in a slightly mephistophelean sort of way. He is extremely intelligent and well-spoken and seems able to speak knowledgeably on just about any subject one could imagine. Well-read, sophisticated, and a gifted conversationalist,
he makes pleasant after-dinner conversation with us, while shouting
Alloway. It was a very long drive that took us through landscapes
every so often to Collie to bring him up to date on what we’re
far tamer than the wild western Highlands, but lovely in their own
discussing, as we sit in the thickly upholstered sitting room of Mrs. right: empty, rolling countryside that was most notable for having Harrison’s farm house.
been denuded of trees. A tremendous deforestation of this part of
We are having bath troubles again! This time, we may use the
Scotland had taken place during World War II and efforts to reforest
tub, but only in the evening, between 8 and 10. Mrs. Harrison
the area are well underway so that there are many young pine
is sweet and demure, and loves to ask us about our day, but she
forests sprouting up. But the absence of trees in this area gave the
is strict on the subject of bath time. Here we are in this nation
landscape an oddly neat, well-kept appearance at variance with
of steady rainfall, at this the farmhouse where there are six adults
what one expects in the countryside.
and one baby as paying guests, all of whom are spending their days hiking various strenuous trails in the Cumbrian mountains. At the end of the day, we all look forward to our baths, Collie and friend, Mr. and Mrs. Aussie, and us cum baby. We all try very hard to be chivalrous about who goes first, and try to go light on the hot water so there will be enough to go around. I may now state a principal of traveling in Britain: As you move north, baths become somewhat harder to come by. I am, therefore, sanguine about our journey’s end: by the time we reach Oxford, we should be up to our eyeballs in bath water. I should close the chapter on Scotland. We departed the fishing village of Mallaig, the northern skies, the redoubtable Mrs. Henderson and her handsome husband, and headed southeasterly toward Glasgow by passing the city to swing southwesterly toward
AND HERE THE JOURNAL ENDS. EYES READJUST TO THE PRESENT DAY AND THE PAST IS ONCE AGAIN PAST.
Designed, Printed & Hand-Bound by Olivia J DuVal
All photographs were taken by my parents, Phyllis and Brady, and were nervously loaned to me by my mother. The text is entirely based (with some minor edits) on a journal my mother kept and subsequently typed in 1982, and is set here in Electra LH & Letter Gothic.
Printed on Moab Entrada Rag Natural 190 on an Epson Stylus Photo 1400 Inkjet Printer. Cover is printed on Arches watercolor paper.
Thank you, Mom, for suggesting this project and for entrusting me with the raw materials necessary for its completion. Thank you, also, for making me laugh, and even cry a little, through your writing. This was a long time coming, but better late than never. Much love, Olivia
Published on Apr 23, 2013