Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The last thing I do each night after switching out my lamp is to open up one of the Venetian blinds.  The window is a bay and as I awake in the morning the first thing I can see are trees along the top of a hill on the golf-links and one large pear-tree lacy with white blossom.  I can kid myself I am somewhere in the country even though the sounds of the awakening city intrude.  Sometimes I can catch the most glorious dawn light, the sky slowly flushing from pink to deepest rose, and even the sound of occasional traffic cannot interfere with the serenading birdsong. I can think back and place myself aged fourteen leaning from a casement window in Wiltshire, feeling the crisp cool bite of early morning and looking down towards a damp brick laid path, then out across a meadow to brown and white cows quietly lying in the grass where they had crushed the wild mint beneath their bulk so that its sweet smell permeated the still cold air.
We would drive down to Wiltshire to visit my dads sister when she was the headmistress of a school there,  that's the school-building in my header photograph.  There was also a tied-cottage where she and my Nanny lived  a little way from the school, a perk that went with the position.  It was the end cottage in a terraced row, with a long wrap-around garden to one side, and all that lush meadow out at the rear, and to the front across a lane in the purple distance arose Roundway hill long reputed to be a haunted place.
 There were enough rooms in the cottage for us to stay and I remember mostly the gentility of the place somehow.  Those rooms with soft moss-green carpets, bookcases filled with interesting illustrated books, 'The Yellow Book' with it's racy drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, poetry books galore and all of the Wainwright books, watercolours of the lake-district and mountains, always a copy of The Telegraph folded to an unfinished crossword puzzle on the coffee table or on the arm of Nanny's chair.  I'm trying to think of how to describe the atmosphere that I can still call to mind after almost fifty years.  A shushed quiet, a feeling of time slowed down, even though there were clocks that ticked and hummed,  kettles that boiled, tea that was served in tinkling china teacups brought to the table on a silver-tray, voices that were lowered, movements that were slower, books that were read instead of television watched, good manners and respectability.  A teacher's sanctuary.


Teresa Evangeline said...

What a lovely description of this place so very special to you. I can certainly understand why. It sounds wonderful. I love the image you've painted with words of the cows crushing the mint, releasing its scent. Beautiful.

Books always make me feel as though all is right with the world.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Jane:
It is so strange how the merest sound, sight or scent can transport one back to an entirely different time and place. And, how beautifully and expertly you have whisked us, your readers, to the small tied cottage in Wiltshire so many years ago.

We can see it all, even imagining the dainty cakes which surely would have accompanied the tea at teatime in the china cups.

You evoke a glorious sense of place and a life of the spinster schoolteacher with all the carefully selected paraphernalia that accompanies it. And, all from under the duvet......!!!

Veuve said...

What lovely memories, and what a beautiful description!

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Dear Jane,
Even though you live in the city, you can still see and hear the first signs of Spring. The cottage in Wiltshire sounds delightful and take me back 50 years to my childhood !!
Hope that you are feeling well and it sounds as if you are enjoying the birdsong and the new growth that this season brings. Much love to you Jane. XXXX

June said...

I always feel as though I have just read another chapter of a favorite book whenever I read here dearest Jane. You are able to transport me through time and distance to experience what you experienced in some earlier time. I love that about your writing!!! I can even see the brick path still dewy from the morning and smell the fresh mint in the air.
Thank you so much for your post today.

I do hope you are getting better and enjoying the Spring days.
hugs from here...

Half-heard in the Stillness said...

Hello my dear Friends!

You are all SO kind to write such lovely comments!!!!!

I'm absolutely delighted that you enjoy my little memoires. I think I'm slowly slowly getting there. The G.P. prescribed something that alas didn't help at all and unfortunately as often happens the withdrawal affects are horrible. Still Spring has sprung....and even the rain seems brighter now the cherry-tree's are in full flower.
Love to you my dear Friends!

Hugs Jane xxx

WOL said...

Glad to know what your header picture represents -- not just the school, but all the fond memories attached to it. Those are the kind of pictures I like. (I suspect the building the school was in was repurposed from somebody's house. . .) In the often illogical and whimsical ways of the human mind, your header picture always reminds me of Daphne du Maurier, I think probably because of a film about her I saw once.

Sorry about your having unpleasant medication side effects. Since I can't bring you some to cheer you up, I need to nip out to the back yard and take photographs of my roses which are now all over blooms and post them on my blog for you.

Half-heard in the Stillness said...

Ah! That's so thoughtful dear WOL! x
I'm going over there right now....


Ruthie Redden said...

Jane, I love the atmosphere you conjur up with your words, I almost feel as though I was there, what a wonderful haven for you as a child & beautiful memories to hold dear. I do love books, they are a huge part of my childhood memories, mostly being at my Grandmas house & sitting enthralled by the books she had. I especially loved a beautiful old copy she had of "Bleak House" a deep rich red colour, embossed with gold, ooh I hadn't rememberd that in years! thank you for the memory x x

helen tilston said...

Hello Jane

What delightful and poignant memories you have of gentler and more elegant times. I love how you said "voices were lowered" I do remember that from home.
Thanks for sharing your special memories
Helen xx

Gigi Thibodeau said...

You have captured your memories so beautifully in this passage. I love how our senses and our imagination can conspire to transport us so completely.

And that Beardsley Book--I have the very same one. :)

Thank you for your lovely comment over at my blog this morning. I'm so happy that it brought me here to your beautiful blog! xo Gigi

June said...

It's always so good to hear from you Jane. I hope that you are finally getting some nice weather there. I have heard that it has been very wet there. It has finally warmed up here and getting so nice now.
I want to wish you a lovely week my sweet friend.
sending hugs...

Nan said...

Reading about her house fills me with longing for a place I've never seen. I didn't know what 'Wainwright books' were so I looked it up. Do you mean the walking guide books by Alfred Wainwright?
Amazing that you remember the smell of mint released from the cows lying on it.
Do you have photographs of your aunt's house?
What is a 'terraced row?'
The utter peace of no electronics. Could we do it now? Is it possible to go back?