Saturday, June 30, 2012

The British Isles

On the eve of my flight to Stratford-Upon-Avon and London, to visit with Joseph Mydell, I've been remembering past travels there, from my first visit in 1971 to the visit I made with Mom and the Killians in 1989, to the long stay all over Britain in 1996 when Dar, Joce and I visited gardens, Plymouth, London, Wimbledon, and The West End, before Dar and I took the train all over, from Bath, to York, from the Lake District, to Edinburgh and the Isle of Mull. Here is a post I made on FB tonight:


In 1996 we spent a month visiting friends in Plymouth, going to Wimbledon, seeing plays in London, hiking in the Lake District, visiting a host of gardens and manors, from Hidacote Garden, Packwood House, Stourhead, to ruins such as Kenilworth Castle. We spent time in York and Bath and stood atop Castlerigg again, one of my favorite places. We trained across Scotland from Edinburgh to the Isle of Mull. We visited friends in the Cotswolds as well, stopping by many of the quaint towns, including Stratford-Upon-Avon where I will be in a few days. Since I've covered much of England already, I want to include here just one entry from Moray Place, a house we had to ourselves for a week while our hostess had to travel to the U.S. to visit her mother...

Edinburgh,  July 4, 1996

Steady rain waters Moray Place. It is not yet noon and I am listening to the sweet voice of Kiri Te Kanawa singing arias from Mozart. Darryl has gone to Cyberia to write and read email. Grace Durham, owner of this elegant Georgian house has gone to the post-office and to buy smoked salmon. Her dog Georgia is curled up on her rug listening with me to the arias.
As D.H. Lawrence always noticed, there is a definite spirit of place here; not that Lawrence was ever charmed by Scotland's weather, preferring the climes of Italy and Mexico. Still, as I sit here, I feel that I have entered a sacred space-- the 19th C. landscape paintings, the fine Oriental carpets, the pleasant, comfortable antique furniture, the tall, leaded-glass windows overlooking Moray Place Garden park, the mantles and crown molding, all of which create a Georgian elegance reminding me of living with Jim at 24 West Gaston St. in Savannah, or in our house on Park Ave. near Forsythe Park. Jim, like Lawrence, preferred the warmth of Mexico or other sunny climes, while I feel at home here in this cold, soaked city.
There is a soothing sadness to this place. I feel that this house is haunted. I sensed ghosts or presences last night when I awoke to the cries of exotic birds, half gull and half peacock in sounds almost human, shrill. The birds were the soul sound other than the steady, cold rain.  The long, dark winters must be filled with gloom, rather like Copenhagen as I experienced it last Christmas and New Year's. The thought of sitting by the fireplace, watching the snow fall beyond these tall, floor to ceiling windows is appealing to me.
This morning I read a brief history of Edinburgh. It is a cruel, bloody story from the start. The beheading of the embalmed corpse of James IV so that Elizabeth's courtiers could use the head for a bowl captures the spirit.  The play we saw in London of the imagined  encounter of Mary Queen of Scots with Elizabeth adds to my readings.
This part of Edinburgh reminds me of Savannah's Regency houses and Georgian architecture. Moray Place is more like Bath than Savannah, I suppose, yet it recalls Savannah, nonetheless, making me feel oddly far away and at home simultaneously. Now though, I must break this meditative mood, and head out to Rose Street...