Recent trip – Gladstone’s Library and Rye

Over the last week or so I’ve been gallivanting around parts of the UK, specifically spending three nights at Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in north Wales. Then on to the south of England – Rye in East Sussex for a couple of nights before going on to Ashby de la Zouch in Staffordshire which is around about the English midlands. Lastly one night in Gateshead in the north of England to visit friends. I enjoyed being away and having a change of scene but it’s lovely to be back home again. Of course, books were bought, but I’ll tell you about those later.

I must admit that I had never even heard of Gladstone’s Library when I was given the mini break as a 60th birthday treat, but since then it seems to be popping up everywhere, even being on TV’s Flog It apparently. Our bedroom decor leaned towards the spartan and the rooms don’t have a TV but they do have a radio if you can’t stand not knowing what’s going on in the news. However as a resident you do get access to the books in the library. I was disappointed when I realised that about 80% of the books are on theology – not a favourite subject for me. However as it turned out there were a few books about the sedition trials of 1794 so I was able to do some interesting research on William Skirving, that distant ancestor of mine who was transported to Australia. As a bookworm it was quite a thrill to be given my own key to the library which is locked at 5 o’clock and when I was in there after hours I was the only one there! Most of the other guests were acquainted with each other and seem to have been church groups or choirs. In the blurb on the place it says that clergymen get a discount. I wonder how much as it’s quite a lot more expensive than places of a similar standard accommodation wise.

I’ve wanted to go to Rye for years as I love E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books and Rye is the setting although in the books it’s called Tilling, named after the River Tillingham which flows through Rye. The town is as quaint as you could wish and it’s easy to imagine the place being awash with smugglers as it was in times past. The American writer Henry James loved the town and eventually managed to buy Lamb House which had been the home of the mayors up until he bought it. He lived there for 25 years and when he died E.F. Benson leased the house from the James family until his death. So the house has been frequented by hordes of writers over the years as they each had friends who also wrote. Lamb House now belongs to the National Trust and the house and garden are definitely worth a visit.

Photos of Gladstone’s Library and Rye will be forthcoming – when I get organised.

Flights of Fancy

I’ve got into the habit of paying calls to favourite blogs late at night, just before I get ready for bed. You do this at your peril because it can be really bad for your sleep pattern. Sometimes an interesting post just grabs a hold of your brain and you can’t stop it from wandering around. This happened to me the other night when I read this post from Karen at Books and Chocolate.

Before I knew it I heard the clock downstairs striking twice and I don’t know when I actually did get to sleep. The upshot of that is this list of places I would like to visit, or books I would like to be in. Karen, I hope you don’t mind me ‘nicking’ the idea.

1. I would have loved to have been a woman lucky enough to escape to the small mediaeval Italian castle, San Salvatore, which features in The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim.

2. Cornwall. I wanted to visit Cornwall for years after reading Rebecca as a young thing and eventually did get around to it. Many Cornish books later, it’s Winston Graham’s Poldark books which, set in Napoleonic times, I would love to be able visit. Minus the “morbid sore throat” obviously.

3. In a punt on the Isis at Oxford during the Brideshead Revisited era. It would have to be a gorgeous day for a picnic and ideally Aloysius the bear would be my companion – he doesn’t have a big appetite and he is teetotal!

4. On a Mississippi riverboat with Mark Twain as my companion and the smell of good cigars.

I found this riverboat photograph on Wikipedia and almost swallowed my tongue in surprise, (honestly) when I read that the Delta Queen was built in Dumbarton, the town I grew up in. I love the internet!

5. In Neverland telling stories to the “lost boys” and giving out lots of “thimbles”. (I’ve obviously got empty nest syndrome.) Sadly, few people read the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

6. In Newfoundland around about the Quoyle’s Cove area, as featured in The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. Lots of warm clothing required.

7. An inhabitant of Tilling in the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson. I would love to contribute to the gossip.

In reality, we have a little list of places which we hope to visit one day and we are working our way through it.

1. Stratford upon Avon. To see the sights and whichever play they have on at the theatre there.

2. The City of Bath. I know that Jane Austen wasn’t keen on the place but I would love to walk in her footsteps and visit The Pump Rooms and generally soak up the Georgian atmosphere.

3. Derbyshire. For Jane Austen reasons again.

4. Norway. Ideally on a ship so we could sail up a fjord. I did this when I was 12 and remember it as being magical.

5. A certain French farmhouse in Normandy again, close to the D- Day landing beaches.

6. Cornwall again, especially the atmospheric Tintagel area which is steeped in King Arthur lore.

7. American Civil War areas. I’ve been interested in the subject for a long time and have the Ken Burns film with that great character Shelby Foote. This isn’t likely to happen as I don’t want to fly or have to go through all the security stuff. Still waiting for that “Beam me up Scottie” thingy.

I could go on for a long time, especially with the book ones, but seven seems like a good number to stop at.

I’ve just realised that I forgot to mention The Orient Express, minus a murder of course.

If anybody would like to share their ‘wish to visit lists’ with me, please leave a comment or a link to your post on the subject.