Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Thursday, May 22, 2003  

Oh to be in Virginia

Coming home to a beloved place is a little like putting your skin back on. There is a stretch of arm and leg, an arching of back, a tilting of head as you reconnect with all that is deeply known and loved: the own bed; the scent on the staircase, when the weather turns warm, of whatever sweet woods which make up the treads; the vista from a window that your widening eyes take in, absorbing the entire peripheral scene - Oh, to open a cabinet and see the soft fluff of angora wound round the shaft of a spindle - the little pile of papers you took from your wallet to make it lighter, the satisfaction of the sparkling refrigerator because you had the foresight to clean it before you left - these are the things that make up a first day home after long absence. This - and sleep.

I had not realized how much nervous energy was keeping me erect while on my voyage, although I suspected an accumulation of sleeplessness would eventually catch up with me. I averaged about 6 hours of sleep per 24, on this trip, and though I would drop to sleep immediately my head touched the pillow each night, the long bright morning and the singing birds ensured that most days found me up between 5 and 5:30, sometimes as early as 4 but never later than 6.

And so - after carting 16 rolls of film to town to be developed, and stocking up on food, doing the odd bit of banking, and lugging home a post office bin full of mail, I spent the chief part of yesterday sleeping. We are still all full of England and the book list of must-reads is piled high.

At the moment we are reading Wil Durant’s Age of Reason Begins; the chapter on the English civil war called The Great Rebellion. I’ve always been a Royalist, not because I am so conservative I think the peasants should be kept in their place - but because I am enough of an artist to be horrified by the actions of the Taliban-like Roundheads with their smashing of stained glass windows, their bans on art and drama and their utterly hopeless belief in predestination. Durant, that consummate Frankophile, is not going to give the most favorable view of Cromwell, but he does his best at being unbiased and you can see the great strides that were made for the common man in this seventeenth century struggle. And of course, because the last and decisive battle of the war took place in Colechester, ancient town of the East Saxons, we are both agog with History.

And we are reading the biography of John Constable.

And I have gone over the MasterPlots summary of both the Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch - I believe I shall tackle Middlemarch first.

And in Spink’s book on Coins of England and the United Kingdom there is enough history to rivet the eyes.

And we must go to the city today and pick up a book on how to draw for I hated my limitations and lack of skill and am sure both can be improved upon with a good book and practice.

Books have been the foundation of all my love of, prejudices concerning, and curiosity about England. I have been lost in love all the way from the first Virginia History book in 4th grade, with its tale of poor Virginia Dare and Sir Walter Raleigh and his sweeping cape cast before the Queen, and the long connection between homeland and colony, not unlike the struggle of adolescence between parent and child - through those first novels - The Secret Garden, and I blush to admit, the sillier Little Lord Fauntleroy - to my heroine, Jane Eyre, and that other Jane - Austen. Later there was the fun of Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes - who doesn’t want to see a dark blustery moor with a slavering, glowing-mouthed hound looming? And what of Lorna Doone? Rob Roy? Ivanhoe? Then there are the modern popular authors, my beloved James Herriot in his Yorkshire Dales - I read that book out loud to any 10 year old making an overnight stay, always skipping first to the chapter about TrickyWoo and then going back to the sad opening chapter - Agatha Christie - R.F. Delderfield, though I will admit, I was a little disappointed in Kent, for it seemed pretty industrialized to me - Georgette Heyer, the only Regency Romance writer who can come close to J.A. (imho), and the main reason I wanted to visit Bath and the Pump Room and to taste the waters - which are satisfyingly bad. In fact, the costumed fellow dispensing glasses of the sulfurous liquid will drink a glassful each time a guest drinks one - poor fellow he did not know of BigDarling’s iron stomach - More recently I’ve walked the castle walls with Stephen of Blois painted by that queen of medieval battle scenes, Roberta Gellis (see if you can pick out the theme from the ballad Geordie in her novel The Sword and the Swan - and do ignore the trashy-novel cover, if that sort of thing puts you off. That novel and her murder mystery Masques of Gold, set in the time of the signing of the Magna Carta are as skillfully put together as you could want.

I’m pleased to report that none of these authors led me astray. The castles, cathedrals, footpaths, tea rooms, villages, shops, dogs, canals, dungeons and ballrooms are all there, just as promised by your favorite authors. Perhaps the most valuable thing one can take on a trip abroad is a vivid imagination and a rich fantasy life - the very best of traveling companions.

When the photos are developed (which won’t be till Sunday) I will begin posting daily entries from the diary, with illustrations. In the mean time I promise not to rhapsodize about England any more - unless I can’t help myself.

And on a fiberly note - I had some washed locks from the fleece Jen and I bought at MdS&W and I combed a few and carded up 2 rolags to spin on the Golding. I prefer the carded rolags better when using the drop spindle, but I’ll perform a sample on HeyBaby too, since I plan to do the actual spinning on the wheel. Beautiful beautiful yarn. And I swear I will never, never knit 2 socks on 2 needles again! working on two heel flaps for Ben’s socks. harumph. not fun.

posted by Bess | 7:24 AM