Recently, I was reading Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men In A Boat when I came upon the following passage:
“What we want is rest,” said Harris. “Rest and a complete change,” said George. “The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium.” George has a cousin, who is usually described in the charge-sheet as a medical student, so that he naturally has a somewhat family-physicianary way of putting things.
I agreed with George, and suggested that we should seek out some retired and old-world spot, far from the madding crowd, and dream away a sunny week among its drowsy lanes—some half-forgotten nook, hidden away by the fairies, out of reach of the noisy world—some quaint-perched eyrie on the cliffs of Time, from whence the surging waves of the nineteenth century would sound far-off and faint.”
As I’ve recently been feeling the strain of a maternal broken hip, and as the exact meaning of the phrase “beck and call” has been made crystal clear to me in recent weeks, you can imagine the effect the above passage had upon my fatigued psyche. I agreed with every word I’d read, save for the bit about putting the nineteenth century far off.
Needing to get away, the three men in question eventually hit upon a fortnight’s boat trip as the answer to their problems. Unfortunately, rowing myself and my husband up and down the Thames held no appeal for me, so it became necessary for me to come up with an alternate itinerary. Naturally, the words “some retired and old-world spot” put me in mind of London. While the City might not, nowadays, be universally described as “far from the madding crowd,” I felt sure that my little bit of Mayfair and St. James’s would prove as soothing as ever. And nothing manages to calm my nerves more than a visit to Apsley House.
“Drowsy lanes – some half-forgotten nook . . . ” You may be sure that I gave this turn of phrase some thought. If I were a pipe smoking sort of lady, I’d have fired up a bowlful whilst ruminating on the myriad English places that fit this description. Where existed drowsy lanes? I must admit, I got caught up on this one for a time, since there are endless possibilities. However, I then re-read the passage and saw again the “half-forgotten nook.” By Jove, we’d go to Bath! Half forgotten, indeed, as so much of the City remains as it was in a long forgotten time, said time being the Georgian period. Yes, Bath would do nicely, I thought.
Finally, I considered “some quaint-perched eyrie on the cliffs of Time,” which proved easily deciphered, as Windsor Castle, whilst not precisely on a cliff, is as quaint an eyrie as anyone might want. And practically speaking, if we circled back round for a stay in Windsor as the last leg of our visit, we should be ideally placed for the flight home.
Having determined our itinerary, I then informed my husband that we are going to London, Bath and Windsor at Christmas time. My husband is a study in understatment – so dignified, so reserved. And what a sense of humour! Where you or I would, upon hearing this marvelous news, have gushed and, at the very least, jumped for joy, my husband managed, no doubt by Herculean effort, to contain his excitement and offered me instead an admirably conservative, “Oh, eh?”
I could tell that the husband was giving the proposed itinerary a goodly amount of thought. He tried to play it cool by keeping his eyes glued upon the t.v. and Pardon The Interruption, but after a time he turned towards me and asked what Bath was, what was there and why, exactly, we were going there. What a card!
I did get a rise out of him after I’d explained that we’d be doing a full Wellington day whilst in London – Apsley House, the Wellington Arch, Horse Guards and the daily 3 p.m. parade inspection, a stop by the Wellington Barracks and the Guards Museum, tea at the Langham, dinner at the Duke of Wellington pub and a night cap at the Grendadier. After hearing absolutely every last detail of my plans for a day simply steeped in Wellingtonia, my husband was so overcome with anticipation that the only words he could muster were “Oh. Joy.”
I can only imagine what his response would have been to my proposing that he paddle us up and down the Thames for two weeks.