thing 48: ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever’: Blackwell House

Of course, Keats didn’t live in the age of the halogen bulb. If he had, things might have been different.*

I was feeling the need to find somewhere lovely and just be there, with no demands, difficulties or despairs. Blackwell House is only a quarter of an hour away and I had a visitor coming for the weekend. Excellent. That would do the job nicely.

The perma-rain—fairly discouraging as far as getting onto the fells is concerned—was due to lift a bit on the Saturday afternoon, so (more…)

thing 47: ‘immensity taps at your life’: Shap Abbey and Keld Chapel

Bewildered, amongst bewildered sheep, I was blundering around a mud-skiddy fell in the steady, slanting, seeping rain. My legs, however, were having a whole different experience—of sea breeze and wide sky and blue air; of sand sliding away beneath my feet. It was a powerful muscle memory of walking in dunes on Balmedie beach when I was little: how tiring it is; how your feet slip away from you, slowly and sometimes swiftly, at unexpected angles; how hard it is to gain any ground. I felt 52 and 8 at the same time. Very odd.

This grey Sunday afternoon I’d finally managed to lever myself off the sofa, having decided on a small adventure: visiting the Chapel at Keld. Someone had (more…)

thing 46: ‘this, too, was myself’: reading from a book with my name on the cover

At moments of crisis Bertie Wooster often tells Jeeves that he could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up the soul and cause the old knotted and combined locks to do the fretful porpentine thing (or some Woosterish version of that). For Bertie, the problem might involve an accidental engagement with some droopy girl who thinks that raindrops are God’s tears at our unkindness; or (more…)

thing 45: ‘outside falls away’: Gladstone’s Library

I now have a new way to classify the people in my life: those who, informed I was going to Gladstone’s Library for the weekend, glazed over with a sort of envious lust for books, silence and retreat; and those who looked at me with a sort of uncomprehending, slightly pitying wonderment. Admittedly, the most bewildered of the latter group had just told me she was off to Barbados for a week, so I can see that a library in mizzly north-west Wales might seem lesser by comparison. But my goodness, it was marvellous.*

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